Updated Thu, Apr 03, 2008 by Aelryn
It’s been more than three months since Scott “Gallenite” Hartsman shocked the industry with a surprise announcement that he was resigning his position as the Senior Producer of EverQuest 2 and ending a 7-year relationship with SOE that spanned from the early days of the original EverQuest all the way to the Rise of Kunark expansion for EverQuest II. When he left the company, he brought two friends and team members with him to start work on a mysterious project at a brand new start-up company. Ten Ton Hammer’s Cameron Sorden had the opportunity to sit down with him at the recent IMGDC 2.0 conference for an interview, and we now have some of the very first public details about what exactly it is that Scott is working on, as well as getting his unique perspective on starting a company from the ground up after years of working at an established industry giant.
TTH: So, how have you been? What’s it been like to leave SOE and start up your own thing?
Scott: It’s been a lot of different adjectives. Everything from fun, to scary, to exciting—mostly exciting. There were three of us who left SOE together, and we only had kind of a vague idea of what it was we wanted to do, so we wanted to take some time to explore it and do our own development since we could all afford to do it. None of us live extravagant lifestyles and we’ve been saving up our money for the last few years. We thought, “Hey, this could be a great time to do this kind of thing. Lets take a chance and worst case, we’re all on good terms—we could still go get jobs elsewhere.”
We got together and said, “What is it that we think the next big thing is going to look like?” Sony is a lot of things, but really Sony is what Sony is. You know their next line of products as well as I do: Free Realms, Agency, DC, and whatever else they’re going to do. I have no doubt they’re going to do just fine with those, but I don’t think those are going to be the next big thing that I’m going to be excited about, personally.
TTH: It sounds like you have some theories about what might excite you, though.
Scott: Well, what we’ve basically been doing so far is exploring little bits of development. We have experience mostly with EQ, EQII, and Planetside. We’ve also been working with people who have worked in social networks and lighter download games.
TTH: “Lighter download games?” Do you mean casual games?
Scott: I don’t like the word casual because they’re really not casual. I use the word approachable. People tend to equate a presentation style with a game style. If I say “flash,” for example, people say, “Oh. Rinky-dink online games.” There’s no reason you can’t do a world like EQII using flash. The only thing that flash really means is that now you can play the game on every device. To me, the presentation and content are two totally different things. That’s going to push what we’ve been experimenting with—different presentation technologies.
In our time at SOE, we really only got the chance to get good with one of them. That was the PC, retail, heavy, big-box, large download, playable on your high-powered super-computer game. But, again, content is one side and presentation is another. You can do good, compelling content in a myriad of presentations. Bluntly, I really don’t know what the final presentation of our game is going to look like. The cool thing is that right now, I don’t have to.
TTH: You didn’t have that opportunity to explore new presentation technology at SOE?
Scott: One of the problems that would happen when we were doing development for SOE is that any time we wanted to experiment somewhere, it always felt like we were stealing time from something that really needed the time more—whether that’s an expansion, or an update, or fixing bugs. There’s not a whole lot of time to say, “Hey! Why don’t we go play with flash technology for a day, or a week?” That environment really doesn’t exist on a live game. If we did, it felt like we were cheating the users. You can’t really go to a Fan Faire and tell people, “Yes, we’ve been doing our absolute best by you. Oh, and Eric’s been playing with flash for a week.” If we’re going to be experimenting and doing stuff like that, we should be doing it on our own nickel.
TTH: So you started your own company.
Scott: I truly, honestly believe that the next big thing in the online entertainment cycle has just as much of a chance at coming from the independents as it does from the major publishers. EA is dabbling in new stuff. Sony is too. But the only difference between them and indies is that publishers have more inertia. I think that we’re about to embark on another generation of online entertainment, whatever that happens to be. So, I get excited by that and think, “Well, all of these people probably have as much of a chance to figure it out as the guys with 100 million dollars.”