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Etherea: Dark Genesis
Etherea: Dark Genesis Interview E-mail
Thursday, 09 March 2006

The MMOG market seems to attract more and more gaming companies, willing to invest large capitals with the hope and objective to repay the effort and getting at least a part of the wonderful income that Blizzard, SOE, NCSoft and the others are getting from monthly fees.

In this money driven sector, something different is rising. We interviewed Robert Lee, Project Leader of Etherea: Dark Genesis , a fantasy based MMORPG developed by a team of gamers, with the only purpose of creating something fun to play, something to be proud of, without being conditioned by investors and companies.

OGRank: Hello Robert, welcome to I have to say that from the informations I have, Etherea: Dark Genesis looks very promising. But probably for most of our readers this is the first time they read about it, so can you please give them an overview of your game?

Robert: Etherea: Dark Genesis is a Mythical/Fantasy MMORPG that is currently in development by an indie development team. The Mythical/Fantasy part of that statement means that the game will have normal fantasy creatures like giants and dragons as well as mythical creatures like gorgons, centaurs, and minotaurs. There will also be influences in the game from the fantasy and mythical side in the form of quests, architecture, weaponry, etc. Indie refers to the fact that we are independent developers and do not have a corporation or group of investors watching over the team. MMORPG, of course, refers to the fact that the game is played online with hundreds or thousands of other players (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game).

Concept Art of Etherea WorldAccording to the story line , the game takes place around a hundred and ninety-eight years after the opening of the "portals" that connect each race's homelands to the mainland of Etherea. The players now exist in a world where the four races are meeting each other for the first time in centuries. War is inevitable but there does exist groups from each race that just want peace, it is the player's choice to partake in the war or peacefully go throughout the game. There aren't set factions, other than each race being it's own faction, and players will have the ability to go to war, or PvP, with certain races or all of the races. Like mentioned before, players may just decide to take up a crafting profession or do quests and PvE peacefully throughout the game never taking part in PvP.

Throughout the game there are elaborate secrets and mysteries that flood the world of Etherea including the "mage" and "dark shadowy figure" who exist in legend and fairy tales as well as the involvement of each race's Elders in a world they have sworn to keep out of. There are many things that players will have to figure out and uncover for themselves and quests and events that allow players to literally change the outcome of this everlasting story. The story line is vast and will play a large role in the game but like I said before it's not set in stone.



OGRank: The strong point of the game is that it is developed not by a corporation with the intent of making money from it, but from gamers with the dream of building their own MMORPG. In which way do you think this will make Etherea different from other games?

Robert: Well first of all I'd like to go into a little more depth about the team, not only is the team not making the game for the intent of making money but no one on the team is getting paid for their work at all. We have over thirty developers whose only goal is to create a great game. I find that this is a great benefit to the game because the team won't settle for anything less than our best while not having to worry about investors.

Many large MMOG's are sometimes pressured by investors, and the amount of money that goes into making the game, to not branch out to far on ideas and new features as to make the game an investment risk. You can't blame them either, if I was spending 10 million dollars on an MMORPG I'd stick to what I knew worked and just try to create the best game with what I had while gaining thousands of players. If an MMOG branches out from the mainstream to far they run the chance of either succeeding greatly or utterly failing; the risks just don't outweigh the costs. In a smaller MMOG like Etherea: Dark Genesis where the money investment is much smaller we can branch out farther without much concern, actually we are forced to try new things so that we become noticed and create our own niche. That would be the first benefit to having a team such as ours.

The second thing that comes to mind is the fact that we don't have an investor standing over us demanding the game be released by a certain date or that we must make certain changes to our game that we don't agree with. This has been the case with a few MMOG's and it is sad, the focus of a lot of games has become more of a profit return than a fun experience. I personally don't want to have to do a complete overhaul on my game so that we can fit certain criterion that seems to be popular at the time; Etherea: Dark Genesis will be a game that you either like or don't, it's as simple as that. We won't change our game to try to get new players, we'll always be content with whatever we have and if we are lacking on people we'll advertise more, not make our loyal players suffer.

What is, instead in term of gameplay, the main difference between Etherea: Dark Genesis and the majority of MMORPGs currently available?

Robert: Well besides the fact that the team is different from most MMOG teams, the Etherea: Dark Genesis team, and specifically myself, loves to interact with the player community. I've played many MMORPG's and I hated it when the developers seemed to be some powerful force off in the distance that only talked to us through other websites or hired correspondents. I understand that for many developers the day simply consists of working on the game and that is good, but I feel that making the player community feel at home within the game is a wonderful experience. The Etherea: Dark Genesis team will always be in contact with the players and post and talk to them personally as well as attending or hosting player run events within the game.

OGRank: Creating PvP content means keeping each class different but still balanced while making PvE content means populating a world with monsters, quests and dungeons. Which one do you think has been harder during the development?

Robert: We are still pretty early in development but I would have to say that it is and will be balancing PvP content and classes. To most, if not all, of the team it is a very fun process to make the game and populate the world with quests, dungeons, and monsters. To be honest with you fixing bugs and balancing professions is something that's not as much fun as coming up with new areas and monsters. However, it is a great feeling when you get something balanced or a certain annoying bug fixed. I would have to say that balancing is harder simply because it's more work than fun, but it is rewarding.

OGRank: Still about PvP: risk Vs rewards. What can you accomplish engaging in PvP and what can you loose dying?

Robert: As of right now our final decision on PvP death penalties has not been reached and we have actually thought about opening it more to the players later in Alpha and letting them have input on the subject. The general feeling around the team though is that it should not be too tedious. I know the term that floats around for light death penalties is "carebear" but I honestly feel that it's just to unfair to punish players for dying by taking risks in the game and ultimately having fun, or simply dying because of latency. However the whole team agrees that you should not be able to simply die and go back into combat with full strength and no consequences. It'll be a tough call to balance this aspect of the game but in the end it'll probably be more in the middle than carebear or hardcore.

Concept Art for the Kobolds The PvP rewards on the other hand will be vast. For example, we are wanting to have a ranking system in the game that can show who the better PvP'ers are as well as reward them and inspire others to participate more in PvP. The biggest rewards right now to PvP would simply be the race rewards. There are four races in Etherea and each act as their own faction, through PvP you will be able to work your way to an opposing race's homeland and steal artifacts of power that benefit your entire race. However, this will be incredibly difficult and require a lot of strategy and teamwork. The feeling of success will be the ultimate PvP reward but there might even be additional rewards such as a permanent place in the game by being listed in the Hall of Heroes or an actual change in the storyline.

Which aspect of Etherea: Dark Genesis makes you most proud?

Robert: This really is a tough question as there are so many things that make me proud about the game. However, the biggest thing is probably the team that is behind the game, I never thought we'd get so many great people willing to work for free just out of the love for gaming. I started this development team with a storyline and two friends and we have already grown to thirty plus members. I wish the community could come in and see the development team and how it operates because the people on the team are so dedicated and just want to make this an awesome game for players to enjoy. The goal of the game has never been to make money and it never will be, if we simply get a few hundred players (nothing for an MMORPG) that truly enjoy the game, I would be more than thrilled. I honestly have high hopes for this game though and feel that there will be a large number of people playing Etherea: Dark Genesis, nothing to the comparison of WoW but enough that the world will be an active and lively place.

OGRank: Does your team believe that it is more important to be effective as a solo gamer, or do you prefer in some way to strongly encourage group playing?

Robert: The game is a MMO so we do believe groups are important and will be a vital part of many aspects of the game including large PvP battles and difficult dungeons. However, a player should be able to come on line and go out, level, quest, or just explore without being forced to enter a group. That being said there will be plenty of solo game content as well as group content.  You won't be forced to group, except in difficult areas of the game, but you will be encouraged through group benefits.

OGRank: And still about group playing, which role will guilds play in world of Etherea?

Robert: Guilds will be a very important part of the world of Etherea.  We have plans for systems that allow Guild vs. Guild combat on multiple levels.  For instance, your guild may decide to war with a guild from another race, your first option would be a free for all where at anytime your Guild members are attackable by and can attack the other Guild's members, the two guilds may set the war so that only certain members of the Guilds are participating, you may set time limits, set victory conditions, or even just set it so that you war until a side surrenders.  Guilds will also be able to put things of value, even ingame money, as a reward for winning the war.

Guilds will also play the normal game roles of gathering friends, having guild events, Guild groups for dungeons, etc.  Guilds play a very important role in MMO's and Etherea: Dark Genesis will help Guilds and the benefits of joining a Guild, like Guild run events, as much as possible without hindering those who do not choose to join them.

How fast or slow paced will combat in Etherea: Dark Genesis be? Let's say, would it be more similar to DAOC or Everquest system with time enough to make your strategical decision, or more something like COH or UO, where fast fingers really matters?

Robert: Most likely it’d be classified in the more WoW, EQ, DAOC, method but this is another aspect of the game that will really have to be balanced, we don't want fights to end to quickly but anytime you've had your life reduced to half or less in one hit in another game you've realized it was annoying. Once again Etherea: Dark Genesis will be taking more of the middle ground on this and making it so that fights are action packed but require great strategy. There will be obvious strategy in building your character up depending on your play style and then implementing that in combat. The choice of your skills and group members will be a huge aspect of combat and when done efficiently combat will be fairly fast paced and heart pounding.

How is the game graphic? Something like the isonometric view of some other independent games or fully in 3D?

Robert: Etherea: Dark Genesis will be full 3D as Ever Quest, SWG, and WoW are. However, as a smaller team, and because of our game engine, we will not be able to provide next generation or cutting edge graphics. Our main goal is making up for any lack of graphic quality with high amounts of content.  That being said though the graphics still look good and like stated are in full 3D.

OGRank: When can we expect a beta playable version of the game?

Robert: Well Beta is usually a term that is thrown around lightly in the MMORPG community. Beta is when everything you have planned for launch is in your game and you are only testing bugs and the servers. Alpha is when you are testing the systems, features, etc while still adding content and areas to the game.

As I mentioned earlier we have not really been setting deadlines for things like launch and Beta as we don't want to rush the game to the point that it hurts development. That being said we cannot promise any firm date but the team has decided that we want to start bringing in the first round of Alpha testers around May-June of this year. We already have a game server running 24/7 but much of the focus of the team right now is populating and building the world, so there is not too much to test in terms of features and systems at this time.


Thank you again Robert. We don’t have anything to add for now, but everybody come back soon to, we will continue to keep you informed on the development status of Etherea: Dark Genesis. In the meantime, check the game website and forums, when you would find more information and participate in the development discussions.

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