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2Moons Interview - Part 1
Distinguished developer David Perry on entering the online world sector in conjunction with Acclaim and GameHi
August 21, 2006 - Over the past decade or so, we have seen a number of developers gain international recognition through their work in the online world category, while others have entered it after establishing their names and reputations in the single-player space. David Perry is a recent addition to the latter group. Having begun his career at the tender age of 15, he already had over a decade of experience in 1993 when he formed his own studio, Shiny Entertainment and began work on its first hit, Earthworm Jim. Subsequent releases included titles such as MDK, Messiah and Sacrifice, the last of which won dozens of awards in the strategy genre. The team's latest projects, based on The Matrix property, reportedly sold over six million units, generating an estimated $300 million in retail sales. Earlier this year, Perry left Shiny and started GameConsultants.com.
In this role, he's involved in 2Moons, the intriguing persistent state endeavor announced two weeks ago by publisher Acclaim. The initial press release served up some very interesting pieces of information. For instance, it stated that the game will be free, violent and aimed at adult players, with the focus being to become a high-level combatant in a world characterized by the tagline "No mercy for the weak, no pity for the dying, no tears for the slain." The way in which development is being handled also piqued our curiosity. Although based on GameHi's Dekaron, a massively multiplayer offering that has been a success in Korea, 2Moons is described as a "re-make" rather than a translated or even localized version. Naturally, we were immediately keen to know more, so we were very pleased for the chance to question David Perry.
Jonric: To begin by introducing 2Moons, what kind of online world will it be, what forms of gameplay will if offer, and what's the target launch date?
David Perry: 2Moons is targeted for early 2007 and has a pretty epic story. Hehe, I guess we should make it lead up to the sequel, 3Moons! :) The story is being written by a guy called Henry Jones, based in Hollywood (however he's actually cool and doesn't wear sunglasses in meetings), and he's been given enormous freedom that many MMO writers might not normally be given - the main one being that this is a 'mature' title, so there's no problem with profanity, innuendo or strange goings-on.
My goal has been to try to balance the game with four main components... that would be fighting, quests, exploration, and hanging out, with some trading. We expect people to spend a majority of their time seeing how far out into the world they can penetrate. You start from one of two cities, and work from there; unless you work for the developer, at some point, you'll be handed your ass, and that's when it's time to join a party or guild. Then, with good backup support and a passionate need to return the favor, you will start to reach deep into some of the 20+ lands this game has.
Jonric: Since we know 2Moons is based upon Dekaron, a game that has been successful in the Far East, how did you become involved in the North American audience?
David Perry: Well, I was invited to fly to Korea by the CEO of Acclaim, Howard Marks. He was one of the key guys that built Activision back up from bankruptcy back in the early 1990s. He had relationships with many Korean developers, so I got the grand tour of various studios. Interestingly, we were almost at the end of the trip when we visited the offices of GameHi. They have the #1 game at the moment - so I'm told - in Korea; it's a FREE first-person shooter called Sudden Attack, somewhat similar to Counter-Strike.
So of course, we looked at this game, then I was shown Dekaron, and I felt it stood out from most of the MMORPGs I had seen that week due to the really nice engine (light blooming off armor), the massive amount of quests, the huge range of creatures and the almost arcade-style fighting - with giant numbers coming off the enemies when you fight. The more I saw, the more I liked it. So, I offered my services to help get it released in the USA.
Jonric: What led to your interest in massively multiplayer games? What do you feel you can bring to the category, and what do you regard as the major barriers to a successful entry?
David Perry: I've really stayed away from MMO games, so it's actually fair to call me a novice. I've been a console developer for quite a while, with some PC games too. My team's toe in the multiplayer online water was in a game called Sacrifice. What was strange was that I found that I played that game more than any of our other in the past - not by a little, by miles. So, there's always been an allure to work on a PC online title again.
Then, when playing World of Warcraft, it reminded me of just how potent this stuff can be, like when it's 4am and you just can't go to bed. The twist is that the world doesn't need 10 World of Warcraft clones. So - to be really clear - I'm not heading in that direction at all. I'm hoping that with the help of my closed beta testers, we can together shape a game that Americans will enjoy. I think the biggest hurdle by far will just be the language barrier -annoyingly, I don't speak Korean - and so talking about design ideas in detail through translators is something I'm still learning to master.
Jonric: How are you handling development? What is being done in the US, and how are you dealing with GameHi being in Korea?
David Perry: Well, we have me as the Design Director for the USA. So if anyone has an idea on this side, it passes through my filter. Then I can work out what's important and what's not. It's a new kind of relationship where you take a game from someone, and cut it back - removing the story etc. - then build it back up adding new features. It means we will have two versions of the game that need to be maintained, one for the rest of the world and one for North America. The latter will contain all the latest features of Dekaron, but with all our additions and changes for our audience - a pretty major hurdle for the programmers - sorry guys!
On a day to day basis, we have a translator working on the text conversion to English, not to re-use, but to understand the meaning of everything they did and how the game functions. Then, the writer uses this to give him ideas as he re-writes it all. We have two great producers, Jinnie and Choi, at GameHi, and they both speak excellent English, which helps communication and sharing of assets.
It's funny - you hear about outsourcing, when people get artwork done overseas, etc. This is outsourcing on steroids, where the whole project (pretty much) is being made overseas. So, we need to communicate a lot. To do that, we use Skype (free phone calls), MSN (IM is great as it allows the other end to translate and think before replying), Wiki (all our documents are kept in the form of a Wiki so the Koreans and our USA team can edit the documents together without any time-zone issues).
This plan nearly worked, but I find myself still working to at least 2am every night.
Jonric: What's the setting in which 2Moons will take place? What has happened leading up to the start of play, and will there be ongoing story lines?
David Perry: In the land of Haran, there are two kings. Rictus is defeated and banished by Tirus. There is a door called the Ebon door, which was once sealed shut with the blood of the White Lady Trieste. It's held fast, but Rictus knows the leader called Abaddon on the other side. Rictus hopes a deal with Abaddon will give him control over the army of beasts he leads, allowing him to overthrow Tirus. Once the gate is opened, however, Abaddon immediately kills Rictus, and his beasts wipe out most of the people of Haran. King Tirus, after seeing the carnage, self-sacrifices, feeling he's failed. This leaves two towns behind; they're the final outposts trying to survive until the prophecy about the two moons reincarnates Trieste and she can seal the door once more.
Our support team will continue to add content constantly once we ship - new items, quests, maps, story, characters, classes, etc.
Jonric: How large will the gameworld be, and will it include many different environments? Will it be possible to travel around more rapidly than by running?
David Perry: There are about 23 maps right now, with new ones being added all the time. So, I imagine we will have around 30 when we ship. These are very varied; you can be in snow, or on a volcanic island, in dungeons, a desert, a cemetery, or even fighting underwater. The point is that you have NO IDEA what's next, and that greatly improves the enjoyment of exploration. There's always something to look forward to.
To get from map to map, we use portals, and to get from somewhere to somewhere else really fast - or to get out of trouble - we use teleports.
Jonric: How does the game's system of player characters work? What's involved creating one, and how much latitude is there for customization?
David Perry: The six classes are Summoners, Magicians, Knights , Hunters, Warriors and Healers. I'm a fan of the Knights and learning the axe skills; my friends like to play with the Hunters for range, or Summoners for the pets. We have over 150 skills to learn.
When you start the game, you pick which class of character you want, and which outpost you wish to start at, then the rest is up to you. Danger awaits you outside these initial locations.
As you level up, you get to spend your skill points and craft your perfect warrior. If you change your mind, you can always reset the skills, get back the skill points and try again. The trees of skills are quite large, and many of them have multiple levels.
Interestingly, as this is a free Korean-style game, the first thing we spotted was there was no system to make your own avatar, meaning you pick your class, and off you go. That seemed too simple until we saw just how varied everyone looked in the game. This is due to the massive item store that gives the gamers complete control, so if you want Giant Devil Wings, go on ahead. The engine will handle it just fine.
So, another innovative thing we are planning with advertisers is to let them purchase items for you. Say you choose the Devil Wings; we then see if an advertiser is willing to buy it for you. If so, it would offer something like "Coca Cola has offered to buy this for you", and if you accept, you get it for free. That's it! Thinking of ways to let you benefit from advertising has been a major focus. I've filed a lot of patent claims in this area as I think it's going to be very important in the future. The last thing I want to hear is a publisher telling me they have the patent, and now we can't do something.
Jonric: What kind of scheme is there to determine how characters advance and improve over the long term?
David Perry: The game focuses on abilities (strength, dexterity, etc.), and skills (learning fighting moves, making pets etc.) You get both ability and skill points when you level up, and you spend them as you see fit. As with any good MMO, the need for another skill point is always present as there's a nice reward waiting in the form of a cool new weapon or armor. There are some other proficiencies like fishing that take skill points too, but the reward is high for doing it, so those can be points well spent.
Jonric: Given the announcement that 2Moons will have a high level of violence, how will the combat element function?
David Perry: Along the bottom of the screen you set up your control bar for your skills. During a fight, you can attack an enemy and keep hurling major attacks at them while managing your potions at the same time. We also have 'auto-potions' that you can buy, so if you are lazy and don't want to have to tap F1 to use a potion, you can let the auto-potion do it for you. That's generally how the items in the game work; they make you look cool or save you time. They don't, however, help you cheat.
During a fight, you can step up the aggression by tossing in some of your skills - at the expense of mana. That commonly will end up with you slicing an enemy into pieces and the bits hitting the floor.
Jonric: At this time, what would you like us to know about the enemy NPCs and the AI that controls their behavior?
David Perry: The enemy AI goes from easy to hard based on how far away from the safe outposts you go, meaning that initially, when the players are learning, the enemies are more like those in a tutorial. But once you are far out, you will be chased and mobbed, so you need to bring friends to survive. We also have plenty of bosses, which are commonly linked to quest progression.
In terms of the progression of this interview, our expectation is that we will have the chance to learn a great deal more about 2Moons in the near future when we see what David Perry has to say on other features and elements of the project he has undertaken in conjunction with Korean-based developer GameHi and North American regional publisher Acclaim. As we await the opportunity to bring you more, we also thank him for this substantial and informative initial segment.
-- Richard Aihoshi - 'Jonric'
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