Catching Up with Scott Hartsman at IMGDC 2.0
ItÂs been more than three months since Scott ÂGalleniteÂ 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 HammerÂs 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? WhatÂs it been like to leave SOE and start up your own thing?
Scott: ItÂs been a lot of different adjectives. Everything from fun, to scary, to excitingÂmostly 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 weÂve been saving up our money for the last few years. We thought, ÂHey, this could be a great time to do this kind of thing. Lets take a chance and worst case, weÂre all on good termsÂwe could still go get jobs elsewhere.Â
We got together and said, ÂWhat is it that we think the next big thing is going to look like?Â 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 theyÂre going to do. I have no doubt theyÂre going to do just fine with those, but I donÂt think those are going to be the next big thing that IÂm going to be excited about, personally.
TTH: It sounds like you have some theories about what might excite you, though.
Scott: Well, what weÂve basically been doing so far is exploring little bits of development. We have experience mostly with EQ, EQII, and Planetside. WeÂve also been working with people who have worked in social networks and lighter download games.
TTH: ÂLighter download games?Â Do you mean casual games?
Scott: I donÂt like the word casual because theyÂre really not casual. I use the word approachable. People tend to equate a presentation style with a game style. If I say Âflash,Â for example, people say, ÂOh. Rinky-dink online games.Â ThereÂs no reason you canÂt 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. ThatÂs going to push what weÂve been experimenting withÂdifferent 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 donÂt know what the final presentation of our game is going to look like. The cool thing is that right now, I donÂt have to.
TTH: You didnÂt 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 moreÂwhether thatÂs an expansion, or an update, or fixing bugs. ThereÂs not a whole lot of time to say, ÂHey! Why donÂt we go play with flash technology for a day, or a week?Â That environment really doesnÂt exist on a live game. If we did, it felt like we were cheating the users. You canÂt really go to a Fan Faire and tell people, ÂYes, weÂve been doing our absolute best by you. Oh, and EricÂs been playing with flash for a week.Â If weÂre 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 weÂre about to embark on another generation of online entertainment, whatever that happens to be. So, I get excited by that and think, ÂWell, all of these people probably have as much of a chance to figure it out as the guys with 100 million dollars.Â