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An Interview with ZeniMax Online's Matt Firor

Updated Sun, Dec 20, 2009 by Cody Bye

Questions by Garrett Fuller

As gaming companies go, few are as well-known for producing quality products as the team at Bethesda Softworks. Continuing to produce additions to the massively popular Elder Scrolls series along with the upcoming Fallout 3, Bethesda has a following that will continue to purchase their games well into the future. When it was announced that ZeniMax Media, Bethesda's parent company, had started a online gaming studio, many Elder Scrolls fans shouted with joy. If ever there was an opportunity for an online iteration of the Elder Scrolls series, the arrival of this online studio, dubbed ZeniMax Online, certainly marked it. 

On top of all that, ZeniMax also announced that they had hired a big name in the MMOG industry, Matt Firor, to head up the new studio. Firor originally made his name in the MMOG industry as one of the founders of Mythic Entertainment, the developers of Dark Age of Camelot, and as a general MMOG expert. Since the Ten Ton Hammer staffers are equally fans of the Elder Scrolls series and Dark Age of Camelot, we had Garrett Fuller write up a series of questions for Matt Firor to answer to sate our curiosity concerning ZeniMax Online.


Matt Firor, Co-Founder of Mythic and current  head of ZeniMax Online

Ten Ton Hammer: Matt, you have a long history in the MMOG business with Mythic, what is it like to now be working at ZeniMax?

Matt Firor: It's a great time for me. There are only so many occasions in your career where you get to do a project like this from the ground up, and this is probably the most fun, most exciting time in the entire project. Everything is possible! Seriously, we have a lot of great ideas and are looking for the perfect team members. We can't wait to get started with development.

Ten Ton Hammer: How has the relationship been with ZeniMax’s parent company Bethesda? What is it like working with such a strong game studio?

Matt: Actually it's the other way around – I know this is confusing, so I'll spell it out. ZeniMax Media, Inc. owns Bethesda Softworks, and it has started ZeniMax Online Studios. So think of Bethesda and ZeniMax Online as sister companies, both under the ZeniMax Media umbrella. Of course in terms of accomplishment, Bethesda is miles ahead of where ZeniMax Online is right now – they have a great track record and a very solid team – with my group I only hope to emulate their success.

And, as I'm getting Zenimax Online off the ground, the Bethesda guys have been fantastic – they have a lot of great tools and procedures that I'll probably take from them, and their leadership has been extraordinarily helpful in accepting the idea of an MMOG studio and helping me settle in.

Ten Ton Hammer: Can you tell us a little about the direction that ZeniMax plans to take in regards to an MMOG? Are there any game concepts in the works already?

ZeniMax Online Studios Logo

Matt: I've only been on the job a little while, so we're putting our strategy together right now. We've kicked around some concepts and ideas, but nothing concrete yet. We'll announce those when the time is right.

Ten Ton Hammer: MMOGs continue to rise in the gaming landscape, how do you see the industry changing over the next few years? Where does ZeniMax fit into that change?

Matt: Instead of trying to “game” the market by figuring where everything will be in a few years and develop a product that will fit in an unused niche, we're just going to try to make the best MMOG possible.

Ten Ton Hammer: Starting up a new studio can take a lot of work, where are you in that process and what goals have you set for the next few months?

Matt: I'm still going to the ZeniMax/Bethesda corporate headquarters in Rockville, Md., every day right now, which is about an hour from my house. Soon we'll move up to Hunt Valley, Md., where the studio will be permanently located. We have some key staff that I've already hired, and we're looking to build up a core team over the next few months. That alone will be enough to keep me busy for the rest of the year.


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