Mark Kern is the CEO of Red 5, a relatively new company formed by ex-Blizzard and World of Warcraft alums, with aims to create a new type of original MMO. The company was founded in 2005 by former WoW team leader Mark Kern and former art director William Petras, and signed a deal
with Korean-headquartered publisher Webzen for the exclusive worldwide
rights to publish and distribute the company's as yet unnamed MMO.
Shortly after the announcement of an $18.5 million investment from Benchmark Capital and Sierra Ventures, Gamasutra interviewed Kern about MMO success factors, deal specifics, the Project Offset engine, and what it would take to beat World of Warcraft.
Gamasutra: How is the partnership with Webzen working?
Mark Kern: It's working really well. I think Webzen shares a lot of the same focus that we have in terms of the quality of the experience, and pushing MMOs and different genres. We've been really happy with Webzen.
Gamasutra: And they’re partially financing the game? I guess that’s in addition to venture capital?
MK: They're not doing any equity based financing. So basically they're publishing the first game and they're funding development of the first game.
Gamasutra: Ah, okay.
MK: Benchmark and Sierra are basically allowing us to build our infrastructure, and I mean that in two ways: One is from a technology perspective, where we're building a reasonable client server platform, and then the other is in terms of creatively, where we're building, hopefully, one of the top studios with the best talent in the industry to build on-line entertainment.
Gamasutra: So are a lot of your people going to be in Korea, or...?
MK: No, we're based out of Aliso Viejo here, though Webzen is in Korea.
Gamasutra: Yeah, and I noticed that one of the people mentioned as forming this was from Blizzard Korea, so that's another reason I asked.
MK: Yeah, Taewon Yun was director of operations for WoW in Asia. He co-founded that office in Korea. He came and really had a lot of influence and input on our business model for Asia and how to adapt World of Warcraft to be compatible with an Asian audience. So we're really grateful that he's on board with us. I think it makes us one of the few companies outside of Blizzard that knows how to do an MMO and make it appeal globally.
Gamasutra: So you're also using the Project Offset engine, right?
MK: That's right.
Gamasutra: Are you the first?
MK: I believe so. We are the first to license the Offset technology and we're actually using it as a jumping point to create a highly customized version of the Offset engine that is able to work well with MMOs because, as you know, MMOs have pretty unique requirements on the graphics side of things.
Gamasutra: Right. Is your game going to be coming out before the one that they're making?
MK: I don't know. Have they announced a release date yet?
MK: And neither have we, so I have no idea.
Gamasutra: It's a mystery.
MK: Given that they're not doing a MMO, then I assume that they would be out before us.
Gamasutra: The stuff they're doing with it looks really nice. I haven't seen it in motion though.
MK: Oh, the motion blur is incredible. So, we're using that in a couple of places in our game and it really helps sell certain effects.
Gamasutra: What made you choose that engine as opposed to any other?
MK: Well, primarily they were local to us, so that made cooperating from a technological standpoint very easy to do, and also, I think that the offset engine, unlike the Unreal type engine, is a little earlier in development and we're kind of early adopters. But what that allowed us to do was to really sort of take it in a direction that works with an MMO for our needs versus having to dismantle something that is big and monolithic and already complete.