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How do you integrate story into MMO’s? It seems like a really difficult thing to tackle, and in general, people kind of don’t outside of, say, single player quests. It's very hard to actually have people feel like they’re affecting the world.
BC: It’s a tough job.
RS: It is.
BC: And that’s it. [laughs]
RS: The way I’m beginning to understand what’s going to happen -- because, a lot of this is a learning experience for me -- I never realized –
BC: Actually, be careful not to say too much here.
RS: – is I’m learning is I really shouldn’t say too much, and so we’re gonna leave it at that.[laughs] I can say that one of the things that’s helping is taking different characters, and different parts of the world, and writing little short stories about them. I have a friend, the printer friend, who's printing one copy, a leather bound short story, of a character in our world. That copy circulates through everybody in the office. The goal is that the art team, the design team, all of the people will have the feel of that area, of that character. Then they can work from there, and build it bigger and better.
It’s great to have the time to be able to do that, but most people don’t have that luxury.
RS: We’ve had a long pre-production phase. [laughs]
BC: We’re privately funded. We’re in a spectacular position, this combination of being able to have the freedom to create the intellectual property, and choose how we want to present it. We're not be driven by a publisher that’s breathing down your neck, and can be very careful about – back to your point – how you do this right, how to avoid crunch. We're driving a lot of that risk up front by taking a long preproduction cycle to figure out what you’re going to build before you build it. I apologize for cutting him off earlier, but you’re kind of getting into one of our “secret sauce” areas, which is critical.
This all seems very character focused both from your side, and with Todd McFarlane creating things for the universe as well, it sounds at least very character driven. Is that true?
RS: No, I wouldn’t say that. I would say that it’s going to be character focused in the manner that it’s going to be focused on the character you create, but you want to have iconic characters. You want to have people in the world that you know, or you get to know, and can say “hey cool, I just read about this guy”, or whatever, “and here he is!”
I’ve been playing MMO’s for years, I love them, and the one thing I know as a player is that I don’t want anyone to hold my hand and walk me through something. I want to write my own books with my character. I would never – as a dungeon master and as now a game designer – I would never want to take that away from the player.
BC: If anything I’d say it’s maybe event-focused. In terms of the larger world what’s important to the –
RS: I’ll just cut you right off here, he’s getting into areas we really don’t want to discuss. [laughs]
I don’t know if this is too “secret sauce” oriented, but how are you going to make a game that is not trying to compete with World of Warcraft. How do make it in a different arena? Because obviously you can’t compete with World of Warcraft, right?
RS: Oooh, ooh, ooh. How do I write a book that's not going to compete with J R R Tolkien?
Well, that’s a good point, and maybe that's impossible, but it seems with MMOs, it is possible.
RS: We always look at everything that’s out there as the giants upon whose shoulders we will stand. Not the grave we’re gonna dance on, the giant whose shoulders we’re gonna stand upon. I have an attitude about it, when other games do something that’s really amazing, there are two things I like about that. One, I get to play it. And two, it makes us feel better.