Earth Eternal Interview with CEO and Creative Director Matt Mihaly

Questions by Jeff “Ethec” Woleslagle Answers by Matt Mihaly, CEO and Creative Director of Sparkplay Media Earth Eternal first caught our attention as a unique take on the newly emerging...
Questions by Jeff “Ethec” Woleslagle
Answers by Matt Mihaly, CEO and Creative Director of Sparkplay Media

Earth Eternal first caught our attention as a unique take on the newly emerging browser based MMOG genre. We were able to continue our conversation with CEO and Creative Director of Sparkplay Media, Matt Mihaly, and get some more answers about what has been going on with EE since our last conversation. The company was able to raise some venture capital last year and has fleshed out their game even more. We discuss those additions as well at look at what makes Earth Eternal different from other free-to-play games on the market today.

Earth Eternal will be a 3D MMOG in a browser

Ten Ton Hammer: We’ve seen a few browser based MMOs pop up since we did our first Earth Eternal interview in 2007, most notably FusionFall and Free Realms. How has the concept evolved in the past few years, and what would you say are EE’s most unique attributes?

Mihaly:  Well, I’m thrilled EE’s scope has evolved immensely in the last two years. We’ve been able to create a much larger world with more features than we had originally intended, due to raising venture money in early 2008.

We differ pretty significantly from FusionFall and Free Realms in that we’re creating a ‘real’ 3d fantasy MMO in a browser. I don’t mean that as a slight to the other two games (both of which I admire), but those who play many MMOs will find Earth Eternal more closely resembles the sophisticated MMO experience they’re familiar with. .

Our most unique attributes are probably the range of customization available in a browser MMO, and the potential in our Groves feature, which will launch a few months after we go into open beta. Groves will let players control and customize private areas, either alone or with their clans, with options from placing buildings and forests to altering the terrain itself to populating it with monsters or NPCs.

Ten Ton Hammer: Earth Eternal is billed as a free-to-play MMO with paid-for benefits. Typically among F2Ps, these benefits are consumables (potions, etc.) and cosmetic items - things that don’t affect gameplay. Are you sticking pretty close to these guidelines, or will players be able to buy more with their Earth Eternal buck?

Mihaly: I don’t agree with the premise of the question, but don’t want to appear to get in an argument or disagreement with you. Most F2P games do allow for things that affect gameplay, from health potions to +xp potions to stat-altering potions, etc. 

Happy to answer some variation on this question that doesn’t presume the above though. Here’s an explanation of what we sell:

“We sell a combination of cosmetic and functional items. Players can buy armor appearances which can be transferred onto any item, giving players the ability to really customize what they look like without sacrificing the stats they want.

We also sell some functional items. For instance, larger backpacks than you can buy with gold in order to expand your inventory space or speed potions that increase your running speed. “

Ten Ton Hammer: Do the proposed classes of knight, mage, druid, and rogue compare closely with the typical MMO archetypes we’re familiar with (tank, ranged DPS, healer, melee DPS)? How are they different?

Mihaly: Sort of. For instance, Druid is much more of a jack-of-all-trades than a healer, and because you can take abilities from any class you can customize your build pretty extensively.

Ten Ton Hammer: Earth Eternal boasts an incredible number of races: 22 in all, covering most of the animal kingdom (the land dwellers, anyway). What makes each race different or special, given that none has a gameplay advantage over another?

Mihaly: Nothing is different in terms of functionality. We made the decision to allow players to choose their in-game look and divorce it from their function. We wanted to ensure that if you wanted to be a Mage, for instance, you didn’t have to be one of a few races in order to be an effective Mage. We may implement non-functional differences between races, like race-specific emotes, but we don’t intend to create statistical differences between the races
Ten Ton Hammer:Groves are a unique take on player housing. What are they, and how will players be able to modify them when they’re added to the game some time after launch?
Mihaly: Groves are an entire valley, forest grove, island, etc that can be owned and customized by a player or by an entire clan. They can earn items, place them, customize the terrain and create mountains, valleys, fields, lakes, plateaus, and more. Eventually, players will be able to embed mini-games into their Groves, so they can create their own PvP arenas, create city services like merchants and banks, and more. Groves are likely to be released in stages as well, with more basic functions in first and others added later.

The raid size cap will be five players.

Ten Ton Hammer: Does Earth Eternal have player vs. player combat? If so, is there a story angle?

Mihaly: We’re still tweaking PvP, so we’re not going to go into open beta with PvP enabled. It’s going to be one of the first things we focus on after we stabilize EE post-launch. At first PvP is not likely to involve a story angle, but it’s something that’s near and dear to my heart, so is going to get a lot of attention.

Ten Ton Hammer: What sort of gameplay opportunities exist for groups and clans? Is there something equivalent to dungeons and raids?

We’re more solo-focused than most MMOs, but we have both clans and dungeon raids. What we don’t have though are 25 man raids. That’s just too hardcore for the game we’re making. Instead, our dungeons cap at 5 man raids right now. There are a few dozen dungeons available, ranging from small to very large.

Ten Ton Hammer: It's been stated that Earth Eternal will be released on Mac OSX, but not at launch. If EE is truly a browser-based game, shouldn't it be OS-agnostic?

Mihaly: Browsers are not inherently platform-agnostic, and just like you have to have the Flash plugin installed to run Flash content you have to have our plugin installed to run our content. We would have loved to have built Earth Eternal in Flash, but Flash isn’t powerful enough yet.

We will be Mac-compatible and have been engineered from the ground up for it, but it won’t be ready at open-beta.

Ten Ton Hammer: What’s your target audience? What does Earth Eternal have to offer, say, a hardcore MMO gamer who has over a dozen hours a week to play but expects to constantly have a new carrot on the proverbial stick?

Mihaly: Our target audience is anyone who is looking for a friendly, approachable 3d fantasy MMO, but we’re explicitly not trying to attract the hardcore MMO players. If your idea of pure awesome is Eve Online, we’re probably not for you. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something fun and whimsical with no subscription cost that’s still got a ton of depth, EE might be for you. 

Ten Ton Hammer: What aspect of the game are you most looking forward to, in terms of watching how players take hold of it and make it their own?

Mihaly: One of the most fascinating parts of MMOs to me is watching players start to form their own communities and compose their own jargon. I’m already watching players create clans and start seeding the game with their own stories. 

 I’m also really looking forward to us getting Groves out in the future, and seeing what players do with them.
Ten Ton Hammer: Thanks again to Matt for more excellent information on Earth Eternal!

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