Questions by Cody Bye,
Managing Editor of Ten Ton Hammer
Answers by Cinco Barnes,
Creative Director, and Gary Gattis, Executive Producer
Massively multiplayer online gaming publishers are on the rise. With
Electronic Arts jumping into the foray with both feet, the market just
became a lot more crowded, yet several older companies still hold an
incredibly formidable upper hand in the grand scheme of things. Out of
all the publishers, NCsoft is experiencing the largest amount of growth
in such a short amount of time by opening up development studios all
across the United States. Recently, the ever-growing MMO publisher signed a deal with Space Time Studios, an independent studio that is set to release its first game with the help of the Austin-based company.
Featuring a prominent line-up of veteran developers, Space Time Studios
is set to create an MMOG world that combines both science-fiction and
fantasy for what the developers have called their “dream
game.” To learn more about this up and coming studio, Cody
“Micajah” Bye sat down with Space Time’s
creative director, Cinco Barnes, and executive producer, Gary
Gattis. In the interview, both men talk about the future of
their upcoming MMOG, why gamers should be interested in their
development studio, and how potential employees can join the Space Time
team. As some icing on the rhetorical cake, the Ten Ton Hammer team
also managed to nab three exclusive
pieces of never-before seen concept art - the first of its kind
available for public consumption!
Ten Ton Hammer: First
off, can you give a brief description of Space Time Studios and what
you’re currently working on for MMOG fans that may not be
familiar with your development team? Where have you worked previously
and how experienced is your crew to the MMOG market?
Cinco Barnes and
Gary Gattis contemplate Cody's questions.
Space Time Studios is working on what I’d term my
“dream game:” an epic science-fantasy MMO with fast
real-time combat, wicked weapons and vehicles.
Our team has a great history… Cinco and Anthony (Sommers)
have worked together since QA/ CS waaaaaay back in the old Origin days,
Jake (Rodgers) and I both worked at Digital Anvil many years ago, and
all four of us worked together on various aspects of Star Wars:
Galaxies and SWG: Jump to Lightspeed. That’s just the
founders… our team has an amazing amount of experience
building, shipping, and running MMO’s as well. Collectively
we have shipped three MMO’s under our belts (Ultima Online,
Shadowbane, and SWG) as well as a vast multitude of single-player
Ten Ton Hammer: Where is
the Space Time Studios MMOG in its development phase? How long have you
been working on it? Will we see any announcements regarding game
information in the near future?
prototyped for a year and have been in pre-production for about a year.
This means that all of our processes, tools and pipelines are complete
for any and everything you need to make content. We’re a very
tool-heavy shop, and making one of these things requires
mass-production capabilities as well as intense collaboration. We love
working with NCsoft, and at the same time we are an independent studio.
We have to know in our hearts we can pull off the job, and not just
produce a lot of smoke and mirrors. It’s not sexy at times,
but it is damn powerful when you figure out how to push vast amounts of
assets through the pipes.
Ten Ton Hammer: In a
February 2007 interview with Gamasutra, Richard Garriott talked about
the background of Space Time Studios and how you guys are predominantly
from the old Origins and Star Wars: Galaxies teams. How much have you
leveraged your previous experiences in making your new sci-fi MMOG?
What are the advantages and disadvantages to bringing together a team
that has worked on previous sci-fi projects?
The Space Time team
is thrilled to be working on their own independent IP.
were always aspects of previous intellectual properties that we wanted
to change to better-suit the realities of gameplay. An existing sci-fi
universe can have rules and regulations that must be held above the
needs of gameplay – and thus, if you come up with something
that would really rock, but it doesn’t fit with the existing
fiction… the idea’s dead. At Space Time
we’ve given ourselves the opportunity to prove out lots of
things we always thought would be awesome. Although we start out by
developing fiction for areas and activities, we let bad-ass gameplay
develop on its own and then integrate the ideas back into our fiction
when we’re satisfied.
– we love the freedom of doing our own IP.
Ten Ton Hammer: The
description of your undisclosed MMOG states that the game features
“a unique combination of space flight and role-oriented
(RPG-style) combat.” Does that mean in-space dog-fighting
will have an “auto-attack” mode? Or are you
suggesting you’ll have both face-to-face RPG style combat and
Dog-fighting with real-time weapons is the cornerstone of our combat
experience – and it is balanced with a suite of
character-defining abilities (similar to what you might expect from
your favorite online RPG). There is no
‘auto-attack.’ Instead, we have a really innovative
navigation system that has yielded a cool mixture of raw player skill
and strategic abilities.
Ten Ton Hammer: When
players look at the broad spectrum of sci-fi MMOGs, the games typically
fall into two camps – space-oriented and ground-oriented.
Even Star Wars Galaxies has limited off-planet scenarios and their
spaceship combat isn’t an integral part of the game.
You’ve stated that the game will have a space flight option
– does that mean the game takes place primarily in outer
space? Or are you going to have ground and space based adventuring?
flight and space combat will be an integral part of our
game… it is what we are passionate about and what we know
best. It is safe to say that the game will take place primarily in
outer space. At the same time, we feel that a strong avatar component
is essential as well. In a vehicle game, you don’t want to
think “I’m that tin can” … you
want to think “I’m the guy IN that tin
Space flight and
space combat are an integral part of the Space Time MMO.
We’ve got some very nice surprises up our sleeve to help with
Ten Ton Hammer: After
perusing several of your blogs, the Ten Ton Hammer staff happened upon
an interesting notion in the design blog, “Mouth
Money.” In it you stated that each idea the team comes up
with must go “too far,” meaning that it’s
got to be fun at its core but absolutely eccentric in practice. Why was
that route decided upon when you were creating your fictive universe?
Wasn’t staying in the realm of “hard
sci-fi” enough to entice players? How has the fiction and
design changed since that notion was implemented?
whole point of directing the team to go “too far”
is so that we all focus on delivering vivid illustrations of emotion
and dramatic points-of-view, instead of detailed mechanical predictions
of the future. Our game is not about explanations of technology but
about manifestations of raw emotional energy. Going “too
far” is a great tool for breaking the bonds of what has gone
before and establishing what you, as an author / game-developer, really
feel in your heart. This method continues to work great for us!
Ten Ton Hammer: In your
estimation, how will the Space Time Studios MMOG differentiate itself
from the other MMOGs on the market? What about the sci-fi based MMOGs?
What sort of overall goals do you have for the game?
from the combat, which is radically different from what you see in
other MMOGs on the market today, some of our biggest differentiators
are the incredible sense of freedom and the fun of flight. We also have
a very special combination of avatar and vehicle gameplay that is most
definitely new for MMOs.
Ten Ton Hammer:
It’s been said in a number of interviews with prominent
developers that the fantasy MMOG is dead; yet there continues to be
development studios that are interested in that genre. How was it
decided that Space Time Studios was going to make a sci-fi MMOG? Do you
truly think fantasy MMOGs are coming to the end of their lifecycle?
interested in working for Space Time Studios, check the link below.
pitched a couple of different IP’s to our publisher, this was
the one that both they and we were most excited about. I think fantasy
MMOG’s will be around forever, because the genre is such an
ingrained part of our cultural experience. Our game is not pure sci-fi
either… science fantasy would be a more accurate description.
Ten Ton Hammer: You
recently announced that you’d hired David Levy as your
Visuals Director for the MMOG project, but it was also noted that
you’d increased the size of your team by 25%. Why was the
expansion necessary? Are you still looking for qualified individuals?
Are there any other notable hires that you can tell us about?
: We are
ramping up for production, so our studio will continue to grow for
awhile. We’ll probably max out around 65-70 folks. So yes,
we’re always looking – please check out http://www.spacetimestudios.com/jobs.html
for the latest roles we are seeking to fill. I think every
hire is notable… we are so proud of our team, they are
amazingly creative and professional and we feel very fortunate to be
able to continue to hire and grow at a time where it is extremely
competitive in the marketplace.
Ten Ton Hammer: Finally,
is there anything else you’d like to share with the Ten Ton
Hammer readers regarding your studio and your upcoming MMOG?
that we are more excited about this project than we have ever been in
our lives. We truly feel we are on to something that is going to knock
your socks off, and we can’t WAIT to show you more!! Thanks
for the opportunity to talk with you guys a little about it.
Does the future MMOG
marketplace have room for another sci-fi MMOG? Are you excited to see
another “dog-fighting” MMOG coming down the pipe?
your thoughts in the forums
Ten Ton Hammer is your unofficial source for Space Time
Studios’ MMOG news and articles!