While it may not always be public knowledge, there
are dozens of MMOs in development around the world. However, most of
these titles are still in their “quiet” stages,
with development teams putting together the game without much fanfare
or public attention. One of these companies happens to be NCsoft
West’s Carbine Studios, a development team that has been
working on a “WoW-sized” MMO for the last several
Recently, Ten Ton Hammer’s Cody Bye had a chat with
producer Eric DeMilt on his role in the Carbine Studios’
project and where everything stands with the upcoming triple-A MMO.
Eric talks in-depth about his previous work at Interplay, how working
on an MMO compares to single player titles, and Carbine’s
focus on quality. Enjoy!
The Carbine Studios Logo
Ten Ton Hammer:
What’s your responsibility as the producer of the Carbine
Eric DeMilt: Overall,
I manage the day-to-day operations of the studio. The nice thing about
the way we’re set up here is that we’re purely a
dev studio. All of Carbine Studios works on just this one game, a lot
of the normal operation stuff is handled by our parent organization,
NCsoft West so most of what I focus on is the day-to-day management of
the project. Things like; making sure that all the department
heads have the resources that they need, ensuring that people are
talking, dealing with the small minutiae that people need covered,
keeping the content pipeline flowing, relaying the latest build
information to the right people to make sure its tested and people are
getting the feedback they need. All of that is my
It’s very hands-on, which I like a lot.
Ten Ton Hammer:
You’ve been working on games a long time, and you were at
Interplay when they were putting out games like style="font-style: italic;">Baldur’s Gate,
Fallout, style="font-style: italic;">Stonekeep, and
other notable titles. How does working at Carbine compare to your
previous work at Interplay?
on an MMO is way bigger than anything I’ve ever done before.
The scope of the project, the resources we’re being given,
the size and caliber of the team; everything is just much, much larger
than anything I worked on over at Interplay.
The problems that we ran into while working on a single player RPG were
big. Fallout 2
was definitely a really big project, and we had to worry about getting
people through a test run of the entire game by a certain date so you
can get it off to manufacturing and things like that. It was still
orders of magnitude smaller than an MMO.
In an MMO, you’re going to find people that are playing solo,
grouped, in their guilds, as
tradeskillers….there’s just a zillion games inside
of one MMO. On the other hand, it is still similar to single player
games. There are just things that are the basic tenets of an MMORPG
that aren’t any different than making quests for games like style="font-style: italic;">Fallout or style="font-style: italic;">Stonekeep. These
are things that engage the player and develop the player over time. I
mean, the reward systems and that sort of thing are exactly the same.
It’s kind of weirdly different and similar at the same time.
We have a really powerful scripting system on this game, and it reminds
me a lot of when I first worked on the original style="font-style: italic;">Stonekeep. We had a
bunch of junior programmers that were the content guys and could do
CRAZY stuff that we never imagined. I mean we had one guy in style="font-style: italic;">Stonekeep scale
down a couple orcs so you had one normal orc come out then three mini
orcs come out and stand on the heads of the others. It was a really
funny thing that no one ever expected.
Now we’ve got the same sort of thing, except it’s
in an MMO. Our scripters are doing crazy stuff that you
wouldn’t even expect. There’s a lot of power there.
Ton Hammer: What drew
you to Carbine Studios? What initially drew you to the project?
Many of the original Carbine team
members worked on World of Warcraft.
I’ve been with Carbine since a few months after the studio
was set up, which was June of 2005. What originally drew me here was
the fact that some of the guys that had founded Carbine had worked with
me before they went on to work at Blizzard. I was contacted by the team
when they started looking for a producer and I was just blown away by
the set-up. It is an incredibly talented team of people, some of whom I
worked with before.
On top of that, I was definitely impressed with the success of WoW. The
chance to work on a project with a similar focus really drew me. There
are so many elegant little things about WoW… it’s
just an incredible game. The quality is fantastic. They nailed so many
little things and then choose the right problems not to fix, like
character collision. It seems brain dead in hindsight, but
I’ve worked on games where we had characters getting stuck in
doorways and had to deal with that for months.
So the chance to work with a team that had made such a high quality
product and learn from those guys was incredibly exciting. Doing it for
a company like NCsoft that’s committed to this as a business
is interesting too. When WoW was as successful as it was, a lot of
companies thought it’d be good to try building an MMO, and
they had no clue what it would take. NCsoft had been doing it for years
before WoW came out, so that’s definitely a positive thing. I
mean, they were generating huge numbers in Asia before WoW came in and
showed that it could be done in North America too.
Ten Ton Hammer: I mean, style="font-style: italic;">Lineage had an
ungodly amount of concurrent users in Korea on the original Lineage.
I remember being at Interplay when we were working on games like style="font-style: italic;">Baldur’s Gate,
when UO came out. We were all saying, this is as good as style="font-style: italic;">Baldur’s Gate!
But it was way beyond the scope of anything we were doing. I
mean you were online all the time and you could get killed!
Ten Ton Hammer: I
don’t know if it was as good as the original style="font-style: italic;">Baldur’s Gate…
Eric: style="font-style: italic;">Baldur’s Gate
was a great game, but UO was light years ahead of anything we were even
thinking at Black Isle. It floored us, y’know.
But then it was repeated by the EverQuest guys, and you heard stories
of them digging up landlines because they were sucking up as much
bandwidth as the whole San Diego metro area. It was just a crazy, crazy
Also, it has just been a great experience working on an MMO title with
a group like Carbine, and it feels great to be back in the PC market
after working on consoles for a few years.
Ten Ton Hammer:
What’s your major focus in the development process at this
We’re creating and iterating the early content of the
game. Once we have processes and our content bar set where we
want it and feel like we have the ability to spread that knowledge
across multiple content teams, we will do our final staffing and move
into full production. It’s getting close!
Ton Hammer: Are you
getting close to revealing the project?
The Carbine developers are waiting
for just the right time to formally announce their project, much like
what BioWare did with SWTOR.
We’re waiting on the timing of it, really. One of the things
that Blizzard, Bioware and Valve have always done brilliantly
– and one of the things we’re set up to do at
Carbine – is showing the game when it’s ready. So
the timing for releasing information and the friends and family and
that sort of thing; we want to do all that when we can talk openly
about the title and show you hours of gameplay that stands up to the
promises that I’m making.
It’s more a matter of proving to ourselves, that we can do
all the stuff that we say we can do, and that’s when we can
take it to the next level and announce the game.
Ten Ton Hammer: How can
your game – and other MMOs in development – find a
space in the market to succeed?
think there will always be room for successful products. I think if we
deliver a successful product and bust our butts and stick to the things
that are important to consumers – a pile of high quality
content – I think we’re going to be successful.
Ten Ton Hammer: Do you
think timing plays a factor in the success of a game?
is a component, but it’s a minor component. I really think if
you have a great game, you’re always going to be better off
than if you have a partial game or a sub-standard game that released at
the right time. It’s really all about the great game.
Ten Ton Hammer: Final
question: Since the game is still really early in development, how can
gamers and fans really get involved with the team and the title at this
this point, the best thing is to keep track of us in the news and by
checking out our site, target="_blank">www.carbinestudios.com.
Ultimately, it will be our fans that make the game successful or not,
so we’re eager to have their feedback. Since we
don’t have a lot to say about the product just yet, we
haven’t put up any forums or message boards that people can
However, once we do start actively soliciting feedback from the
community, we hope that everyone takes part in that. That’s
what our forums are there for. Participate in friends and family and
alpha and things like that. We want honest, unedited feedback.
Ten Ton Hammer: How does
a person know to hit that button in the first place?
Exactly! Just like anyone else, you get close to something for long
enough, and you lose track of what’s easy or difficult for
the average gamer. We’ve hired Troy Hewitt on as our
community lead (formerly of href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/52"
of the Burning Sea) and he’s going to
do a great
job gathering that valuable feedback from the gamers. We want people to
be honest and open with us on their thoughts about the game. When we go
live, there will definitely be lots of ways for players to get in touch