Earthrise: The QJ.NET Interview

Earthrise - Image 1Masthead StudiosEarthrise is an ambitious new skill-based MMORPG that seeks to blend together sci-fi elements, PvP action, and a sandbox approach to gameplay and turn them into something different, something compelling. We recently had the chance to get more details about the game straight from Masthead CEO Atanas Atanasov.

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In the aftermath of the Third World War, mankind has managed to survive and build a new society: the prosperous city of Sal Vitas. Cloning, nanotechnology and quantum engineering are part of a new reality. Thanks to these technological advances, the human species has become immortal; each individualÂ’s consciousness is stored in a data vault, ready to be uploaded into a cloned body as necessary. New energy sources have been discovered. There is a unified government that takes good care of those citizens who abide by its strict laws.Paradise, it appears, might really have come to Earth, and the people have embraced it.

But not everything is as perfect as it appears. By exercising full control over the cloning process, Sal Vitas’ government decides who will live and who will not, playing the role of God on Earth. Insurgent forces have accused the city’s rulers of crimes against humanity. Armed factions fight for resources and power within the new system. And from the waves of discontent, a rebellion has fomented and formed a shadow government: Noir.

Thus starts Masthead StudiosEarthrise, an ambitious new skill-based MMORPG that seeks to blend together sci-fi elements, PvP action, and a sandbox approach to gameplay and turn them into something different, something compelling. We recently had the chance to get more details about the game straight from Masthead CEO Atanas Atanasov.

Why did you decide to come up with separate character progressions for the game? How will you describe each type (offline and online), and would one necessarily have more benefits in terms of development than the other?

We wanted to reward all of our players, even those with very limited time to play the game. Offline gameplay allows every player, no matter his playing habit and time allowance, to come up with a safe, constant influx of money or rewards needed to fund his adventuring in case he is being killed and robbed of his belongings. This allows us to emphasize on the gear and inventory looting in PvP without having to worry what happens if a character is driven broke by an unfortunate chain of lethal events in the wilderness. Players will strive to gain rewards, advance in the corporate ladder and ensure better income. Because such gameplay is best represented by real time rather than play time in order to balance players who spend their whole day online with those that login occasionally, we made such progression offline.

Aren’t you worried that Earthrise’s level-less approach would alienate those more used to the traditional gameplay in games like WoW?

Lack of levels makes Earthrise a less predictable game and more challenging and ultimately exciting. PlayersÂ’ level of power is measured with flexible rating that takes into account their gear and abilities and it will be used to measure their survivability against their opponents. Unlike level-based games that either enforce rules that discourage attacking characters too weak or too powerful for your character, in Earthrise we implement a much smoother power curve that allows new players to have a chance against a veteran who isnÂ’t using his full combat potential. However, true power lays in the special abilities that the veterans have accumulated and allows them much more powerful and flexible combat tactics. Ultimately, this gives more freedom to the players and rewards skill and well-thought gameplay.

Since Earthrise has no levels, then it follows that there’s no level cap. Is it possible to obtain all skills and tactics? Is there a sort of skill cap, as in a given player can only have a total of so-and-so skills?

It is possible to obtain all of the skills and tactics in Earthrise, but a player cannot use all of them at once in play. Most abilities are limited by the equipment worn and the wielded weaponry, as well as interface devices that allow weapons to utilize smart electronics available in the protective gear. The variety of learned abilities and tactics allows a character to be flexible – by changing his gear a character can gain access to new abilities that work best against a deadly opponent or in a specific situation.

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Do you feel that Earthrise will bring in a significant amount of players that are new to MMOs?

While Earthrise was initially conceived as a game trying to attract already established players who have been either disappointed or bored with the status quo in MMO games on the market, it also has a lot to offer for new players to the MMO genre. Those players who seek a more dynamic combat system akin to a shooter and want the additional challenge of player-driven economy in a sandbox environment can find Earthrise an interesting proposition for their online gaming needs.

What is the coolest feature that Earthrise will bring to the table?

While player-driven economy has the potential to be very exciting, IÂ’d say territory conquest is hands down the best part of the game. The strategic layer of planning, building and defending your guildÂ’s own base against other guilds on a complex geopolitical map while given the opportunity to mine rare resources that enhance the technological tree for your guild, your allies or the whole server population finally fulfils the promise of giving players unprecedented control over the game.

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Tabula Rasa seems to creep into most people’s minds when thinking of Earthrise. What sets you apart from other MMO games and, more importantly, what measures are you taking to avoid running into the pitfalls of other MMOs and ensure that Earthrise will indeed set a longstanding footprint in MMO history?

The sandbox nature is probably the most important aspect that defines Earthrise and sets it apart from Tabula Rasa – its complex player-driven economy and conquest territories allow players and guilds to literally change the game. Support and communication are two of our strengths that plan to really excel with. A major pitfall of many MMOs, not just Tabula Rasa in particular, is that changes come “too late, too little”. Instead, we plan to actively listen and work with our community prior to and after launch, and support the game with steady flow of content to keep it fresh and rich of options for all our players.

So Earthrise is going for a bit more of a sandbox approach – how will you balance this with story progression? Will players get to experience or learn the whole of Earthrise’s rich back story?

If a game is a sandbox environment, it doesnÂ’t mean story and depth should be lacking. Earthrise will place players in a tense political situation among two powerful factions, planning to take the next logical step towards a conflict, unaware of other dangers that might be looming from the depths of the wilderness. The game storyline will offer tons of quests to the player, but it will not try to enforce PvE gameplay on the player, instead it will be one of the possible directions that a player could take once he enters the island of Enterra. He can associate with any of the Factions to seek glory and fortune, or he can remain neutral and forge his own path in the economic and political map of the game population.

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About the endgame, how open is it going to be? Does it leave room for… an expansion, perhaps?

The unwritten rule of game design: always leave the door open for an expansion or two!

So players get to have their own pets in the form of customizable robots. Will we also see biological/mutant pets, maybe customizable through some form of DNA altering?

No, not at release, but we have plans to expand the pet skills in new directions after launch.

What’s the current state of the game?

We are currently finishing another stage of closed beta tests, with many new additions implemented in the combat and abilities system. Visuals of the game are also being enhanced with lush particle effects that complement the special abilities our testers are getting their hands on. We are adding quests and all kinds of content into the game.

Any word on when public beta will hit?

It is still too early to give details on this at the moment but we will have more information in the near future.

What will be the minimum specs to run the game?

The Minimum Requirements are 2 GHz CPU, 1024 MB RAM and 256 MB VRAM video card supporting shader model v3.0

Any Earthrise surprises for us at E3 this year?

We will not be attending E3 because we are entirely focused on adding maximum amount of features and content. The first public Earthrise event will be announced later this year.

Thank you to Atanas Atanasov and everybody at Masthead Studios for their time!

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