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Exclusive Gatheryn Interview with Isa Stamos

Posted Mon, Feb 16, 2009 by Cody Bye

A few months ago, the Ten Ton Hammer staff had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with the creative minds behind Gatheryn, an upcoming MMO set in a steampunk type world where everything from flying dirigibles to steam-powered monkeys is possible. With their recent hire of Game Studio Director Isa Stamos (famous for her work on The Force Unleashed), the Gatheryn developers are revving their engines and getting closer and closer to the beginning of their beta testing phase. We sat down with Isa to get an update on this upcoming MMO and see what's next on the horizon for Gatheryn!


Soon you'll see steam-powered monkeys next to these avatars.

Ten Ton Hammer: First things first. You promise steam-powered monkeys in Gatheryn. Pics or it didn't happen!

Isa Stamos: We will have pets in the game, and there will be both steam powered robotic pets as well as animal pets. And YES there will be Steam-Powered Monkeys. Don’t worry, the pics exist and they’re on their way.

Ten Ton Hammer: In the first Gatheryn interview with Ten Ton Hammer, you mention that some areas of the game will have combat and even PvP. Will combat be another skill players can learn (something that can manifest in the type of character progression gamers see in other titles), or will it be one-and-done scenarios like a 100-yard dash?

Isa: A focus for players of Gatheryn will be the completion of minigames, which are familiar, fun and engaging games that range from simple, world-interactive activities to more complex games that will feature several levels of complexity and difficulty. Some of these minigames will be PvP, and we are planning on a combat focused game at some point.

Ten Ton Hammer: You allude to a robust character creation system for Gatheryn. Let's test that out. Can I make my character a heavyset, balding man who is short? What about a tall, malnourished-looking guy? Can I adjust my character's age during creation?

Isa: All three of those scenarios are possible. Our system is very flexible and allows players to come up with a lot of unique looks. Combining the powerful customization of the character, there will be great options for hairstyles, clothing and other equipment so each player can look unique and have fun changing their look.

Gatheryn developers are taking a deparmental approach to development.

Ten Ton Hammer: Another aspect of Gatheryn you've revealed that really intrigues me is your compartmental approach to development, where the team focuses on creating a few areas of the world at a time to get them to the public sooner. Tell us about the areas that will be ready for the closed beta.

Isa: Newcomers to Gatheryn during Beta will be introduced to one of the islands. The first island seen is very much in a classical Victorian style with city areas and countryside. Islands that will open up in the future will have different styles of architecture and other geologic features to create very different atmospheres and environments. The development process doesn’t stop for the team when the first island launches, and by the time players get through the content of the first island a whole new area will be ready for population.

Ten Ton Hammer: A press release near the beginning of December revealed that Gatheryn uses the HeroEngine. It seems you are getting close to going to closed beta, so how long have you really been working with the HeroEngine that you have enough content ready for (limited) public consumption to even think about a beta?

Isa: We actually started development two years ago, but switched to the HeroEngine once we saw its capabilities. Normally I would not recommend switching engines, but the HeroEngine has ended up saving us an enormous amount of development time in the long run. Basically, the technology enabled us to take our previously developed content and optimize it into a playable experience very quickly.

Ten Ton Hammer: The benefits you suggest with the piecemeal creation of Gatheryn are an ability to react to the interests and habits of your player base and more frequent infusions of content. If the player base expresses a strong desire for more combat missions, will Gatheryn deliver that even though it deviates from the overall philosophy of the game? Also, what steps will you take to ensure that old areas, quests, and minigames don't become ghost towns or useless under such a hectic development model?

Isa: Open world combat is something that we’re avoiding, but if our users request it, minigames that are combat-centric will be added. WoW’s arena system, for example, is a great way for players who are focused on combat to experience that type of gameplay and get rewarded for it. But generally, we’re planning to stick to our philosophy of keeping the combat and violence away from the general public areas.
As for the foundation areas of the game, we’re definitely not planning on abandoning them. With the server-side development capabilities of the HeroEngine, it’s very easy for us to add in-game events, quests, minigames, NPCs, buildings, etc. that will entice players to come back and experience the previous content in new ways.

The Gatheryn developers are using the HeroEngine to build their game.

Ten Ton Hammer: A relatively recent Gatheryn interview landed on the WarCry network on January 12th. In that interview, you note that the "first island" has all of the assets in place and will be tweaked based on feedback in beta. Does that mean that future installments of the game will come in the form of new islands? And how will players travel from one island to the next?

Isa: Yes, adding islands will be the basic avenue for introducing new content, patches, or whatever you want to call it. Travel between islands will have several forms depending on the island distance. Those lumbering airships you’ve seen in the concept art will be a common mode of travel.

Ten Ton Hammer: You also told the interviewer that the player's character is from another land. How "other" is this land we come from? Is it a part of the Gatheryn world? Will we be able to learn more about it, or is the back story of our characters something you want to leave to our imaginations?

Isa: There is a framework of backstory about the OutWorld that players come from, which will be revealed in time, but the rest can be up to players. To really invest the player in the world of Gatheryn, we want to provide them with the means of creating and documenting their own backstories and sharing them in the game.

Ten Ton Hammer: You've said that the team is designing Gatheryn to have major appeal for female gamers, an audience not marketed to by most other games. Tell us what you think will help Gatheryn achieve that goal.

Isa: While there are not many games of this type that are attempting to attract a female audience, we believe there are a lot of female gamers that want to play MMOGs, but are scared away by the “hardcoreness” of the genre. Minigames and casual game portals are popular among the female audience, but there are very few portals out there that tie the experience together in a way that encourages community development and exploration. By combining that genre with the Victorian sensibilities of Charles Dickens and H.G. Wells, we were able to create an open-world experience that blends exploration, romanticism, story and games into one complete package.

The Gatheryn devs are hoping to have some major appeal to female gamers.

Ten Ton Hammer: What does gaining Star Wars: The Force Unleashed producer Isa Anne Stamos mean to the Gatheryn team? You have a pretty popular game on your resume. Has anything changed because of your arrival?

Isa: Aside from contributing new ideas that will make Gatheryn a hopefully more unique experience, I get to apply my years of production experience to help streamline the development process, resulting in a more focused, efficient development team.  

Ten Ton Hammer: Finally, can you give a hint about the timing of closed beta? Q1? Later?

Isa: There has been a lot of interest on when the closed beta will happen, and we plan on announcing the start as soon as possible.  In the meantime, folks can sign up at our website (http://www.mindfusegames.com) so they will get an email when we announce beta sign-ups.
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