by Cody "Micajah" Bye, Managing Editor
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by Tim Cain, Design Director, Carbine Studios
NC West has been in the news over the past few months. With the
formation of target="_blank">their new publishing office and
official headquarters in Seattle, NC West now has their priorities
squarely target="_blank">set on AAA MMOGs. One of the
studios that has been working on an "epic" project is the SoCal based
Carbine Studios. While they have yet to officially announce the title,
Carbine's Design Director Tim Cain took a moment to answer some
questions that Ten Ton Hammer's Cody "Micajah" Bye posed for the
recently hired individual. For a sneak peek at his upcoming game, check
out Tim's responses!
Tim Cain, Design Director for Carbine Studios
Ten Ton Hammer: To be
honest, I've been a huge fan of your previous work at Troika Games,
especially the Arcanum and Vampire titles. How are you going to use
your experience with Troika and Interplay to help you create the world
that Carbine Studios is working on? Are you keen to try your hand at a
"fantasy" MMO sort of experience, since you haven't touched that genre
since the Temple of Elemental Evil?
Tim Cain: My
Carbine MMO is a brand-new MMO, and we are making both the IP and the
engine from scratch. I’ve done that twice before, once with
Fallout at Interplay and again with Arcanum at Troika. So I feel well
prepared to do it a third time here at Carbine. And its genre
won’t strictly be fantasy, since I think we’ve seen
that done enough.
Ten Ton Hammer: One of
the fundamental aspects of both Arcanum and Vampire was their focus on
story and how a user's experience could truly change with the decisions
they make in the game. Up to this point, few MMORPGs have really been
able to merge interactive storytelling with massive gameplay. Is
Carbine going to try and change this unfortunate industry standard?
What are your thoughts on this process?
Tim: I think
a lot of MMO’s miss an opportunity by emphasizing quests,
raiding and PvP at the expense of any meaningful plot line. One of my
goals with my game is tell a great story, with a different story for
each player faction. And some of the side plots have choice points
where the player can decide whether to proceed in different ways (and
these choice points will be clearly marked, since there are no save
games in MMO’s). We can mix things up with class, race and
tradeskill-specific quests, so players really can explore the world
Ten Ton Hammer: You've
served in roles as both designer and producer in the past. Why did you
decide to go back to the design side of things? Do you have any desire
to work as a producer again?
Tim: I think
my producer days are long gone. I will stick to programming and design
from now on. And I am doing design work because after three years of
working on the code engine, now I get to steer the direction of the
game itself. Who wouldn’t want to do that?!
Ten Ton Hammer: What drew
you to Carbine Studios in the first place? How did you find them and
why did you decide to work at this studio rather than try to start
another "Troika" type company?
Tim: In the
summer of 2005, I was still in the process of shutting down Troika
(which took a long time, btw. Companies are easy to start but hard to
kill) when I heard from an old ex-Interplay friend, Eric DeMilt. He was
the producer on a new game at a new company, and they were looking for
a Programming Director. I really didn’t want to start a new
company from scratch, and Carbine was already established and had a
great team assembled, including a large number of ex-Blizzard folks who
had worked on WoW. I came down and met everyone, and it was a great
match. So I signed on.
Carbine is making a game similar to other AAA MMOGs like World of Warcraft, Age of Conan, Warhammer Online, and Lineage II.
Ten Ton Hammer: Over the
past few weeks, the new crew at NC West has made a point to discuss the
fact that all of their studios are now going to be working on AAA
projects. By drawing some conclusions, it's obvious that Carbine
Studios is going to make a AAA title. What kind of complex problems and
situations are going to arise with making a AAA game? How daunting a
task is it from a design perspective?
That’s kind of a trick question, since I always approach my
games as if they are going to be a AAA title. But I can tell you that
this game has been daunting in terms of its sheer size, both in size of
the development team and in size of the game itself. The team is
already over 60 people, making it almost twice as big as any game I
have ever worked on, and we are still growing in size. We’ll
have many more than that before we ship, and most of those people will
be artists and designers. The sheer amount of content we need to make
for this game is HUGE. We are making thousands of creatures, quests,
dialogs, items, NPC’s and props, and keeping all of this work
coordinated and consistent is a full-time job. My job, in fact. And
Ten Ton Hammer: In the
realm of AAA MMOGs, there's obviously one giant fish that takes up the
majority of the pond. How can other AAA titles like your upcoming game
hope to break into a market that is essentially locked down by a game
like World of Warcraft? What can you do as design director to help
avoid gaming oblivion?
don’t view the MMO genre as locked down by WoW as much as it
has been opened up by it. WoW has exposed millions of people to MMOs,
and they are not all going to play WoW forever. As much as WoW got
right, there are a large number of features that they didn’t
implement, and I plan to focus on those as well as some features that
weren’t as robust as they could have been.
Ten Ton Hammer: Many of
your past titles have skirted the boundaries of Teen/Adult content.
What kind of game are you hoping to make at Carbine Studios? Since it
will be a "massive" game, will you be forced to avoid many of the more
mature scenarios that you posed in your previous games?
Tim: Our MMO
will be Teen-rated, but like all online games, the rating can change
with online play. We certainly want to attract a wide audience, and I
don't feel the need to make every one of my games with Mature
scenarios. I feel like I have been there and done that, so this game is
completely different than what I have done in the past.
Ten Ton Hammer: In your
opinion, where is the future of the MMOG industry? Where should gamers
be looking for their entertainment, and what kind of games should
developers try to create?
Tim: The MMO
genre is still very young, and I feel there is a lot of untapped
potential in it. There has been far less innovation in this genre than
there was been in single player RPGs or in shooters, both of which have
been around for two or three times longer than MMOs. An MMO has
thousands of players on a single server. There has got to be more cool
and wonderful things to do with that size group than just raids.
Ten Ton Hammer: Is there
anything else you'd like to tell Ten Ton Hammer readers and Carbine
Tim: I can't
really say much about the game right now, but I am really excited about
the work I am doing here. I hope everyone checks back for future