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September 11, 2007
Stargate Worlds - Interview with Dan Elggren
 

By Jason Van Horn

With Stargate SG-1 ending its historically long run this, its tenth season, Stargate fans are going to find themselves with one less source of entertainment to keep their imagination and sci-fi fantasies flowing. However, fans will still have Atlantis, and a rumored third series is in the works as well. But fans are also going to have a new, MMO based game called Stargate Worlds hitting the PC in the near future, which will take them from the mere couch spectator they once were, and let them actually go through the gate and live their own fantasies. We talked with Dan Elggren, Studio Head to get some info on the game and what we can expect from it.



MPOGD: What was it about the Stargate franchise you thought would transfer well into the realm of MMOs? Why pick an established franchise instead of developing something completely new with no reference?

The Stargate franchise seemed to us to be tailor made for an MMORPG. The story of Stargate is a continual search for new, more powerful gear to fight off increasingly dangerous enemies. The team that is primarily responsible for that search is made up of four characters with a disparate skill set who come together to overcome challenges, defeat enemies and get phat lewt. The show itself is structured much like a typical MMORPG session. The team meets in the SGC to get a quest from Gen. Hammond. With their mission in hand, the team steps through the gate into an adventure. They often discover an unexpected complication, sometimes concealed as something beneficial. At the end of the day, the team returns to the SGC and calls it a day. The Stargate itself is the perfect tool for cutting travel times and getting the players directly into the action.

Working with a franchised property provides a unique set of challenges and advantages that must be factored in from the beginning. The primary advantage is the built-in fan base that comes with a successful IP like Stargate. Another less obvious advantage is the existence of the living, breathing and still evolving story seen in the series. This is a valuable resource that gives the creative team a real jump start in plotting the story behind the game.

MPOGD: We know that Stargate Worlds wants to be more story driven, but is that in regards to the experience of the characters, or will they feel a part of some grand over-arcing story? Is there a major story that players will be following, and if so can you give us an inkling of what that might consist of?

When we talk about Stargate Worlds being story driven, we mean that we want the players to feel like their characters have stepped into the series and that their actions are meaningful in more ways than just gaining XP and cool stuff. There will be an overarching storyline for each faction and each archetype has a major role in. We believe these stories are so compelling that players will want to play through the game multiple times to get the whole picture.

I would love to give some details about the story, but if I did that I wouldn't have anything to tell you later.



MPOGD: Some of the classes won't be strictly guns blazing action heroes, as that isn't how everyone is in the show. We know for the more Daniel type character classes out there, they'll have some new, inherent gameplay like deciphering runes or block puzzles. How are these elements going to naturally fit into the game of exploration? Is there a minigame of sorts that you'll play to decipher a rune, for instance, to actually read them?

There are a number of game play elements that can be made more interactive by adding a minigame interface. In most MMORPGs, if there's a lock on a door, you, the player, click on it and the software determines whether or not your character can open it. You may get some sort of animation while you wait for the "dice to roll," but essentially you're just clicking and waiting. In Stargate Worlds, when the scientist needs to decipher the writing on an Ancient device to make it work, the player will get an interactive puzzle or minigame that keeps him engaged in the game rather than taking the result out of his hands.

In fact, it will be possible for a character to advance from day one to level cap and never take part in combat if that's how the player wants to experience Stargate Worlds.

MPOGD: With all the worlds in the game, will players have to go through a natural progression to reach certain areas, or can you go to any planet you want? How will these planets unlock?

In the show, the Stargate will take you across the galaxy almost instantaneously, but first you need to get the address of your destination. In Stargate Worlds, the most obvious way to get gate addresses is to take missions that send you to other planets. That's not the only way to get an address, but it will get the players started.



MPOGD: You're building the game with the idea of people teaming up in groups of four and larger groups like platoons and commands. How are you looking for these groups to come together to find these larger units? Will they simply have to find each other themselves, or will there be systems in play so you can find other people easier?

That's an interesting question, and it's one that our team has put a lot of work into. Historically, guilds and groups have grown rather organically without much in the way of direction from developers. We even see that on our forums - http://forums.stargateworlds.com/ - with like-minded players forming guilds. We want to give our players a strong set of tools for social grouping, but this isn't an either/or question. Some players will use our tools to group and others will get together without any help from us.

This is a long-term issue everyone in the MMO segment is facing and I believe that we are near a breakthrough in this field that will make grouping far less painful for many people. One of the real priorities for Cheyenne Mountain Games is finding a way to help people who want to play in groups have a better social experience inside their MMORPG. We've got some big ideas on that front that will make their way into Stargate Worlds and future products from Cheyenne Mountain.

MPOGD: How will Stargate Worlds be balancing what fans are familiar with (characters, enemies, planets) versus new content perhaps not seen in the show? Where do you stop complete fan service and look more towards what would make a great game?

This is something we touched on a little bit in question one, but to go into a little more detail, our No. 1 priority is to create a fun game. If the game isn't fun, it doesn't matter how true we are to the source material, no one will play it.

We are currently in negotiations with several actors for voice work, so I can't give you any specifics on that, but I am sure that fans will be pleased when they step through the gate and visit Tollana or the interior of a Ha'tak mothership.

MPOGD: I've heard that you had to change up a few things because of the Stargate SG-1 series finale. One such thing read included the fact that the game is supposed to be set between seasons three through eight. If that is true, how will the Ori factor in, if the plan is still for them to factor in since the cancellation announcement of the show? Because in the mythology of the show, the Ori weren't introduced until season nine?

Stargate Worlds will not be retelling the story of Stargate SG-1. We've got our own story to tell that lives alongside the events of the television series, but allows players to become the heroes and win the field. Our original story allows players to get out of the shadow of SG-1 and become the stars of the show.

We are working side by side with MGM and Bridge Studios - the team behind the Stargate series - to ensure that our story meets the high standards set by Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis.



MPOGD: With Stargate Worlds, are only Stargate SG-1 elements being considered at the time, or will Stargate Atlantis factor into play either right off the bat or perhaps through expansion plans?

Thematically, Stargate Worlds will be closer to SG-1 than to Atlantis, but the story will be original. Players will visit locations familiar from episodes of Stargate SG-1 in the Milky Way rather than in Pegasus Galaxy.

Once the game is launched, our live team will be adding new content on a regular basis, allowing us to advance the storyline up to the point where our first expansion will be released. The content of that expansion pack hasn't been set yet, but Atlantis offers a unique set of possibilities that make it an attractive option.



MPOGD: Another Stargate series is supposed to be in the works right now. Have you talked with anybody about this new series and what it might be about and how you could work that into Stargate Worlds currently or through expansion packs?

The Stargate Worlds team has been in near constant communication with Brad Wright and Robert Cooper, the team behind the success of the Stargate TV series. We are always looking for ways to tie future releases into the series and vice versa. The ultimate goal for all of us is to reach a point where the game is introducing ideas and concepts that find their way into the series as the series introduces new elements that are released in the game. This type of symbiotic relationship is, we think, an important step forward in interactive entertainment and the growth of integrated social networks that meet and play across a variety of platforms.

Much like the MALP in Stargate SG-1, we've sent a probe through and found out what we could about the game. However, much like the show itself, we still only know a portion of what to expect once we finally do jump through that gate. What dangers will await? What ancient ruins will we get to traverse? Will you join the SGC or the System Lords? Get ready to quit just watching the Stargate adventures, and start living them.

For more information on Stargate Worlds please visit http://www.stargateworlds.com/.

 
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