JeuxOnLine: Questions to CEO of Masthead Studios

Atanas Atanasov, CEO of Masthead Studios, has answered to the questions of the JeuxOnLine Earthrise Section. We already know a lot on the game and many details about gameplay are regularly discussed by the dev team on the official forum (see the Question of the Week child board for example). This interview is the opportunity to introduce the game in general, to the community and to know a bit more about this project which would come on the front of the MMO scene in a few months.

JOL: Thanks for the time, Atanas. Most of us know Earthrise since the beginning of this year, but can you tell us about the genesis of the game? and how Masthead Studios has decided to take part into this MMO adventure?

AA: We started work on Earthrise back in 2005 when Masthead Studios was founded. We wanted to make an MMO, which would have unique feeling and gameplay based on skill system, PvP and player-run economics. In addition, we wanted to build an open, non-instanced world with great visuals and many different locations to explore.

JOL: What are the main references for the creation of the game and the Earthrise universe? (other games, books, movies,...)

AA: The gameplay was mostly inspired by Ultima Online and EVE Online. The creators of the universe drew inspiration by numerous sources. Players will visit locations such as barren lands and post-apocalyptic zones like Fallout and Mad Max. Sal Vitas, the capital of Enterra, and headquarters of Continoma, has a very futuristic Sci-Fi feeling much like Aeon Flux. The government of the island in the face of Continoma resembles the Equilibrium movie and the communist regime. Our Art team got some its inspiration from Gears of WAR and Crysis.

JOL: By developing your own engine there is freedom in creativity, what are the main aspects that can explain this choice to make your own engine? What will your engine bring the game that MMO players have never experienced before?

AA: We wanted Earthrise to feature realistic graphics unlike the illustration-style graphics that many MMOs feature. The engine supports several per-pixel lighting models with normal and parallax mapping, many dynamic lights, detailed soft shadows and post-processing effects, using floating point HDR pipeline. It runs with both DirectX 9.0 and 10.0.

Earthrise will feature advanced physics and AI, which will not only provide rich visual effects over animations on the client, but also will run physics models on the server so all player actions will be governed by real world physics.

One of the challenges of a large open world environment such as ours is how to stream in necessary content while keeping load time and memory optimal. Earthrise’s engine is especially designed to address this concern, keeping immersion-breaking loading time to a minimum.

JOL: Will Masthead Studios also publish the game?

AA: Our plans are to either self-publish the game or work with a major publisher.

JOL: What is the targeted audience for Earthrise and more precisely, what profiles of gamers do you except for Earthrise?

AA: Anyone who wants to try something other than a class based fantasy MMO will find their place in Earthrise. The game will be attractive to both the hardcore and casual player. Hardcore players will spend a great deal of time maximizing their character attributes trying to find the best template that suits their style of gameplay. They will also most likely be involved in PvP, territory conquests and making their guild the most powerful in the game world. Casual players will find it easy to enter the action and all of the fun parts of the game. While offline, their character will gain income and other material and non-material benefits.

JOL: Will Earthrise be made for different gaming styles (FPS, RP,...) and if so, will there be different dedicated servers at launch?

AA: The gameplay mechanics of Earthrise are very flexible and allow for easy modification to allow for different gameplay experiences. For example, the LAW system used to provide players with security throughout the populated areas of the island can be weakened or strengthened without artifical limitations on what the player can do. Therefore, a strong Law presence throughout the server will greatly discourage PvP while weak security will turn the whole server into a free-for-all battlefield.

JOL: You already answered that you plan some localizations for the game.
Does it mean a translated client? Or more, such as servers for each languages?

AA: Yes, we are planning for localization and translation of the client. It is too soon to tell whether this will be available at launch and how many servers the game will have. We will definitely make the announcements when the time comes.

JOL: How big is the Enterra island?

AA: The world of Earthrise is quite big compared to the popular MMOs nowadays. If someone is walking by foot, he will need hours to cross the entire island. There is plenty of territory to be conquered.

JOL: As a new player, will I have to join an organization or have the choice to be neutral? How important will the guilds be in Earthrise?

AA: All players will start as neutral, but their first choices in the game world through real events will determine whether they will lean towards Continoma or Noir. This "leaning" however does not mean that you actually choose a side and stick to it - it only provides you with initial standing towards each of the two major Factions. Later in the game the player can become a fully accepted member of each Faction and can change his affiliation at anytime, if he chooses, though such treachery has it's consequences.

JOL: Will the community actions influence the universe of the game?

AA: One area where players will influence the game is crafting. Because item availability is based on player's actions on a grand scale, players will decide which new technology becomes available first, what resources will be most widely sold, what items are common and what items are rare because no one yet has made them. While this will not change the universe of the game, the NPCs or the quests, it changes the meta-game environment in a huge way, making each server a game of its own. As for the sandbox experience that Earthrise strives for, player's actions will shape the game's player-to-player interaction.

JOL: Will it be possible for my character to get a room in Sal Vitas?

AA: We don’t plan to implement player housing upon launch, but it will be one of our priorities when working on future expansions. However as you probably know, guilds can capture territories and build their own headquarters there.

JOL: Can you give some examples of futuristic technology that players will use in Earthrise?

AA: Players will have huge amount of futuristic weaponry, from energy weapons to nanite swarms and focus arms that are controlled by character's emotional state. Armors in the game will provide essential protection through transparent shielding and resources such as servo-boosted stamina and energy generation used to power player's abilities. Players will have access to teleportation, as well as resurrection points where they enter their genetic code to be cloned later. Vehicles are also an important part of the gameplay used for transportation over the vast expanse of the game world. Mechanized exoskeletons are used for harvesting in hazaradous envinronments and the combat and transportation of large amounts of resources or items likely to take many players’ inventories.

JOL: Talking about the future make me think of the beta! When do you expect to invite the first fans on Enterra island?

AA: We plan to enter beta in Autumn this year, but we cannot give a specific date when we will start inviting players.

JOL: Many thanks Atanas. We wish all the best to Earthrise.

Answers collected by Meliagan , head of JOL-Earthrise section
with the help of Emily Carter, Media coordinator of Masthead Studios

French translated version of this interview



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