When you say newbie, on one hand, yeah, but you also have people who have probably been playing World of Warcraft for six years starting your game, so they kind of have a rather grounded understanding of that endgame that they've just been experiencing for most of that time. And what they want out of a game might be different. It seems like it might meet audience expectations in an interesting way.
SH: Yeah. And that's exactly it. Our biggest challenge is, how do we make a game that's interesting enough for somebody that doesn't really play MMOs, but does get games? For starters, I should say that this game is not targeted at people who don't play games. We're not going after the gamer newbie. That's just not it.
I think in the year 2011, there are enough hundreds of millions of people that have played games in the world to where we don't really need to worry about going after the FarmVille crowd. FarmVille takes care of them just fine. So, we are going after gamers and giving gamers new experiences.
So, yeah, if you look at a game like World of Warcraft, how many tens of millions have touched that game in its life? If you look at EverQuest, how many gamers have touched that over its life? You can build a really ridiculously healthy business by just making that group of people happy. If nothing else, we definitely know the audience that we're going after.
One thing that just intrigued me was this concept that you're not going for good versus evil -- which is like, it's about time somebody said that, I think. [laughs]
SH: [laughs] Good.
Because, you know, that sort of stark morality... It has its own appeal, but I think it very quickly became done to death.
SH: I agree. Again, a lot of it goes to the average audience maturity level. People get it these days. They understand that... You don't have to paint a black and white picture for them to understand or be interested in something.
And I definitely think there are some interesting story possibilities. ... For example, the back story on our Guardian side... Some people will take the shallow look and go, "Oh, they must be the good guys."
So, you've got this series of gods that realize their own universe is being screwed with. The gods need an army, and it finally got to the point where they didn't need to care who they took. They couldn't afford to be picky and only take the pious. You were the best assassin in your neighborhood and you got killed? Guess what? The Guardians want you. We actually do tell some stories in-game, about people, their fall from grace or their reascension. There's all kinds of good fiction you can build up around that, because we really don't want to turn it into like a bad cartoon.
And "good versus evil" can really be wallpaper in MMOs. I don't think that Alliance versus Horde... I mean, people do role play, but in general, with World of Warcraft players by and large, I don't think that really has much influence on the people who pick what side. It's what side your friends are playing.
SH: True, exactly.
Do you think that the back story will affect people's decisions on which side they're interested in?
SH: It has so far. It really has so far. If you wanted to hypothetically role play a person that was the overly pious type and/or the overly oppressive type, lots of people would choose Guardian. We see lots of people who want to be the free-spirit rebel types getting very attached to Defiant.
We have been very, very fortunate in that the actual balance once we started throwing, you know, hundreds of thousands of people at our beta, that the populations were staying even enough for the game to still work. Because we were very bluntly afraid for quite some time until we started really explaining who the Guardians were and why they were cool that everybody was going to want to be a Defiant. But once we started getting it out there recently, it's been remarkably even, which is great.
How do you tell story in a game? What is your thought and approach on telling a story, and how story should be approached in an MMO? How much story should be thrown at people in an MMO?
SH: There is a lot of ways to try to tell story in MMOs. I worked on one MMO that was 100 percent fully voiced. That's not the way to do it because people will skip over all your voice. Click, click, click.
That you spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on.
SH: I wish it was only hundreds of thousands of dollars, but yeah, that you spend millions on. They'll just click all through it because they don't care. And so our take on it is we want you to play through the story.
So, for example, when I say these events that are designer [created]... The events are all hand-crafted by designers to tell a story. They're just system-triggered. So, they're not procedural events. The first one that we showed people was in a zone called Silverwood. The overall story of Silverwood is Prince Hylas has his keep at the center of the zone, which is where culminating zone event for the solo quest content and the storyline content takes place.
The event that gets triggered is Prince Hylas, his pact with the Plane of Life, he has now channeled hundreds of rifts opening up, dozens of invasions now spewing out of the world, and you're getting little bite-sized bits of story through his broadcast through the event, which I think is a hell of a lot. And those little broadcasts, yeah, those are voice, which is fine because it's like 10 lines.
It's not, "voice a whole game and upend the way you do content development." And so that seems to be, for us anyway, a really good way to do story because, pardon me, I guarantee you that if you're sitting there questing in that zone, A, you'll know that Prince Hylas, there's something wrong with the frigging guy because he's trying to kill everybody.
You'll know that the Plane of Life is involved because the entire zone just changed. You'll understand where he is in the zone. Then that will make sense when you go to those quests. And you'll understand who he's allied with and why it's bad. That's then also reinforced through our storyline of updates that we'll be rolling out over the next couple of years.
So, yeah, for us, we want you to play through the story. We don't want to sit there and tell you a story. We don't want you to be forced to read a story. We want you to play through the story.