2009 was a pretty big year for Masthead Studios and their upcoming
sci-fi post-apocalyptic MMOG, Earthrise.
The team has been working hard in preparation for its launch in the
second quarter of this year. Ten Ton Hammer caught up with Atanas
Atanasov, CEO of Masthead Studios, to see where the game was in terms
of development. We spoke a little about the combat and crafting
systems, the art and technical advancement, and some of the challenges
and highlights of the last 12 months of development.
Ten Ton Hammer: We understand the
combat system had a pretty big revamp last year. Can you tell us a
little about that?
Atanas Atanasov: The last year
brought a lot of changes to the Earthrise
combat system. Our highest priority has always been stripping away any
element that could potentially slow down the pace of combat or cause
frustration in internal testing, as well as making sure combat is as
straightforward and dynamic as possible. The main goal is to provide
maximum fluidity and intense action through fast paced animation and
Early in the game design process we switched from heavily stat-based
combat towards light and immediately accessible third person shooter
style which has allowed us to focus on tactical play with elements such
as use of Abilities and Tactics in combat. Also, we recently simplified
the interface, accelerating decisions such as presenting abilities that
can be used depending on equipped gear. We are currently working on a
full overhaul of Abilities and Tactics, emphasizing further on
hybridization and freedom of choice when creating combat builds.
Ten Ton Hammer: How much of a challenge has balance been and how have
you overcome those challenges?
Atanas: Balancing is an
ongoing process, with more content placed into the game each day. The
biggest challenge to balancing is the fine tuning of Abilities in
combat. With each combination of Abilities currently implemented, weve
established rigorous testing of various combat situations., and that
alone takes a lot of time. The curve of power, defining how power level
increments through various stages of character advancement, is being
currently modified to provide better experience and ensure players
receive significant rewards for their actions in the game. The economy
is also being fine tuned and run through various testing simulations to
ensure balance within Earthrise.
Ten Ton Hammer: When in exploration
mode, players are faster, but more vulnerable. What does this mean
precisely? If they get attacked while in exploration mode, how
easily/quickly can they switch to battle mode to protect themselves?
Atanas: Exploration Mode is
both a serious advantage and a disadvantage in combat. Players who
switch to Exploration Mode will have the Ability to move faster,
meaning they will be able to escape from Battle Mode opponents,
especially melee attackers. If they manage to escape, the generators in
their equipped combat gear will start recovering their Shield, Energy
and Stamina pools, so while escaping, players may get the opportunity
to recover from combat. While in Exploration Mode, attacks will deal
significantly more damage so leaving Battle Mode while in the range of
firearm-equipped opponents may be a lethal mistake. Players will be
able to switch quickly, although not immediately, from one mode to the
Ten Ton Hammer: Crafting also received
a lot of attention in 2009. How large of a role to you expect crafting
will take in Earthrise?
Atanas: In style="font-style: italic;">Earthrise, crafting will be
everywhere and we expect it to be a central point of gameplay,
especially in the early days of server population. We have intended
early launch players to experience a unique opportunity to build the
technological level of their server with their own actions, to choose
what technologies are researched and put into manufacturing first, and
to establish a working economy from ground zero. While some combat
arsenal would be available at the very basic level and with temporary
usage due to fast decay, player-made items would significantly
overshadow them and define the player economy. As the game progresses
and matures, the economy is expected to stabilize, yet collective
player actions will still define every change and fluctuation on the
market. At no moment will Earthrise
make crafting something that can be skipped altogether because if
players stop producing, the world would be hit by a rapid decrease of
available items and that would impede progress creating a global task
for all players to focus their actions. Of course, at no time crafting
becomes the sole focus of the game. Every action from combat to
harvesting materials will provide players with items that once
processed, can fuel the world economy.
Ten Ton Hammer: Will players who opt
not to craft be at a disadvantage? Will we see crafted items be among
the best in the game?
Atanas: Crafted items are
definitely the best items in the game. Players will have a choice of
vendor sold items and crafting items of their own design. Vendor sold
items are intended to be a temporary opportunity to get back into the
game after being looted or driven to poverty as they will not be
recyclable or repairable. Player-made items will be the only ones that
can have implemented designs and can be maintained.
Players who decide not to craft are definitely not at a disadvantage.
While they cannot expect to be able to make items when they need them
or see market opportunity, they can however concentrate their actions
towards collecting resources (either through killing enemies or
protecting mines against the mutant scourge) or looting other players
(either to own their items, or recycle items into resources). Resources
can either be sold on the market or provided to crafters so they can
produce items needed by the player.
Ten Ton Hammer: With the current
system, can players opt to only
craft, neglecting their other, more combat oriented skills?
Atanas: Specialization into
crafting is totally possible. Players who come into the game can
dedicate themselves to providing services from the start, either by
providing recycling services to other players, or through manufacturing
basic items that are the basis of production of more powerful items.
The Earthrise economic model
is built onto multi-tiered, pyramid-shaped chain of item production,
requiring that basic and low-level items are in constant supply. This
makes sure that new players are immediately able to provide the
foundation of the economy so more advanced players can dedicate their
focus into advanced manufacturing. Earthrise
may be one of the most newbie friendly games on the market when it
comes to crafting.
Ten Ton Hammer: Graphics saw a lot of
attention last year too, and we understand the art is now complete,
with animation touch-ups being done. Do you have an idea yet on what
this will mean to required system specs?
Atanas: We are very happy with
the progress we have made with animation changes, however once those
are finished there will be no changes in the hardware requirements
Ten Ton Hammer: Will style="font-style: italic;">Earthrise support DX10 and/or DX11?
Atanas: We have such plans and
will reveal more of them in the future.
Ten Ton Hammer: What are some of the
other highlights of 2009 for Earthrise?
Atanas: A lot of work has been
done through the past year. Most of the visual content and interface
work has been solidified, and a lot of internal issues have been
resolved thanks to feedback from our testers. Aside from combat
overhaul, crafting has been simplified and then further expanded with
many new ideas and content; animations have been improved as well.
Overall, the last 12 months have been great for Earthrise development.
Ten Ton Hammer: Has beta begun, and
how can players get involved?
Atanas: Currently we are in
closed beta, collecting comments from testers and tweaking the system
as needed. We are working to iron out the stability and content
of the beta client, but are on the right track to open beta. We expect
soon to surprise our players who have registered at href="http://www.play-earthrise.com">www.play-earthrise.com!
Ten Ton Hammer: Is there anything else
youd like to tell readers about Earthrise?
Atanas: Just like the style="font-style: italic;">Earthrise fans, we are also eager
to release the game, but nowadays it is really important to focus on
stability and working on the mechanics.
To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Earthrise Game Page.