Summary: JCal talks to Flagship Studios about their upcoming game. No, not Hellgate: London. The other cool game.
FiringSquad: First, how did the idea come about to form a separate Flagship Studios team in Seattle?
Phil Shenk: Travis Baldree, and the rest of the team were all based there already, and they had worked together in the past. It seemed like a good idea to keep them there, since they were already settled with their friends and family. It also has worked out well to have them somewhat insulated from the core Hellgate development, just avoid any problems with focus. We know from experience that when the schedule gets tough, and crunch schedule starts, it’s hard to resist the temptation to pull folks over onto the project that’s feeling the heat. Having them up there avoids that temptation.
FiringSquad: Why was the decision made to create a game that would be developed in part to test Flagship's online network?
Phil Shenk: The decision came about on two fronts, and they both kind of came together at the same time. I’ve known Travis for a long time, and knew how insanely talented he was… just a powerhouse of drive and talent and creativity. When he showed me Fate, and said that he’d be interested in doing something on a larger scale, the wheels started turning in my head. We tried to get him to move to San Francisco, but it just didn’t work out. We kept throwing ideas around though, and we knew we wanted to work together again.
FiringSquad: How would you describe the gameplay in Mythos?
Phil Shenk: Mythos started with the idea (obviously) that the core mechanics of Diablo are insanely fun, polished, and addictive. We all love that brand, having created it and all J That game is so much at the core of what we believe in as developers that it informs everything we do. That said, we wanted to take it a step further, much like we’re doing with Hellgate. We wanted to add more persistence to the world, to make it feel like a living, breathing place. We also wanted to just have fun, crank up the leaf-blower of crazy ideas, and see what comes spewing out. It’s a much “lighter” world, and that lends itself to trying weird things. We have tons of things planned, and lots more we’d like to try once we get the core game fleshed out. It’s a great project to experiment with, since it’s pretty easy to add new things.
Phil Shenk: Right now we have two races, the Gremlins and the Elves, with more on the way. The Gremlins are little punks, extremely clever, and a little snarky. They love life, love to have fun, and love to be “cool”. They have weird slang phrases that nobody else really gets… it’s hard to know if they’re giving you a compliment or they’re teasing you. They never shy from a fight, but they also won’t hold a grudge; they are just too fun-loving for that. They are extremely handy with tools and gadgets, and they love to make complicated, crazy contraptions.
FiringSquad: What sort of enviroments and locations will the game have?
Phil Shenk: We will eventually have a wide assortment of dungeons to play in, and also some kind of feeling of progressing through the world. We’re still working on the exact mechanic for this, but we really want you to feel like you are moving around and traveling from place to place. Most likely, some of the dungeons will be tied to the monster races. For instance, you’ll be fighting through the Goblin country, and encountering different races and clans and accompanying quests.
FiringSquad: What can you tell us about the combat system in Mythos?
Phil Shenk: The combat is a lot like Diablo… you click where you want to go, you click on a monster to attack. You can put abilities into your right and left mouse slots, and you can also line up abilities in a hotkey bar. You’ll be able to fire off most of your spells with just one key or button push, so the action is both fast-paced and tactically challenging. It’s a strong feeling with us that a game like this should be easy to play, and it should feel fluid and natural. That concept worked well for us in the past, and there’s no reason to change it. We look for places we can improve it all the time, but that core idea is always there.
FiringSquad: What kind of enemies and monsters will the game have?
Phil Shenk: Lots :) Right now, we have a race of Goblins, with some more tribes on the way. We have another race called the “Fangosaurs” that are lizard-like. Some are intelligent, some are beasts… there will be different clans of these also. We also have some undead (we call them the “Graven”), and some exotic beasts, like the “Tongue Lasher”. There are lots more races that aren’t in the game yet, and they all have a place to play in the world history. Some of them like each other, some of them don’t. There are some very old and powerful races that know more about the history of the world than anyone else. There are some dark secrets that are perhaps better left unknown!
Phil Shenk: We will obviously have party-based cooperative play, complete with loot-sharing systems. We’ll have some kind of PvP, although this will always be voluntary. We have lots of ideas for other game types, including short competitions, or arena-style play. Like the rest of the game, we plan on building and improving it for a long time, keeping it fun and alive for both us and the players!
FiringSquad: What other unique features will Mythos have?
Phil Shenk: As in Hellgate, the adventure areas are instanced, so you don’t have to worry about other players cleaning out the dungeon before you. The town areas are persistent, and we will most likely have other persistent areas as well.
FiringSquad: What can you tell us about the visual style and graphical features in the game?
Phil Shenk: The visual style is much brighter than anything we’ve done before, more colorful and exaggerated. For one reason, we wanted to make it appealing to a wide variety of players, and a style like this has a very open, inviting feel. The second reason is just because it’s a nice contrast for us. We spend so much time working on dark, somber worlds, and this is a nice change! I personally find it refreshing! Technologically, we’re using the same engine as we use for Hellgate, although we optimize where we can for performance reasons. We want this game to be playable on a wide variety of systems. We also keep the art a lot simpler than Hellgate, again, partly for performance, but also to make it easier to add new content. One of the keys to this game’s success is going to be our ability to respond to what players are doing and asking for, and try out new ideas of our own.
FiringSquad: Will the game be free to download and play or will there be a fee involved in playing Mythos?
Phil Shenk: Yes! It will be free to download and play. We want as many people as possible playing Mythos and having fun. Anyone will be able to play the game free, for as long as they like, and have access to most of the game’s content. Beyond that, we’re still considering economic models. We have some ideas, but one thing we know for sure is that we are committed to a significant free-to-play model. We want for lots of people to have fun playing this game, and we think the best way to do that is to offer up a huge chunk of it for free.
Phil Shenk: The game is currently in “friends and family” alpha, meaning that everyone on the list is either someone we know personally, or a family member. VERY shortly, we will start adding people who have signed up for on www.mythos.com. We will also implement an invite system, so that testers can invite their friends to play. We have an aggressive schedule for ramping up the player-base, mostly since we need to test the system that Hellgate will use (and we expect that to he pretty huge!). If you want to play soon, the best strategy is to sign up on our website. The ultimate release date, we’re not saying yet. I’ll just say again that our plan for rolling this out is pretty ambitious!
FiringSquad: After Mythos' release, what will Hellgate Seattle's future plans be like? Will it continue to support Mythos after Hellgate London's release?
Phil Shenk: Yes! We have big plans for Mythos, and we’ll continue to grow it for as long as people are playing, and we’re having fun. The game is designed from ground up to be extensible and alive. When we stop calling it “beta” we don’t think of it as “done”… it will just keep going and going.
FiringSquad: What can you tell us at this time about the online network that will be set up for both Mythos and Hellgate London?
Phil Shenk: The online network is being built by Ping-0, a company jointly owned by Hanbitsoft and Flagship Studios. Ping-0 was formed with the express purpose of building the best online infrastructure in the industry. Obviously, the first two games using this technology will be Mythos and Hellgate, but we’re building it to last far into the future. It will utilize all of the expertise we brought with us from Blizzard, and we’re adding many new features to take it to the next level.
FiringSquad: Finally is there anything else you wish to say about Mythos?
Phil Shenk: We are so excited to have this out there, and see people playing it. The response for sign-ups so far has been incredible, and people are already telling us that they are addicted. The team up in Seattle is super-energized, and we can’t stop coming up with ideas that we want to try. All signs point to a very fun beta, for both our fans and for us! Sign up, and join the fun!
With our FiringSquad Editors Challenge sponsored by Intel moving into the Challenge round, it's time to get to know our contestants a bit better. Therefore we'll be
In no particular order therefore, here are the Matrix homepages of our contestants.
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