By: Michael Dougherty
Earth Eternal is a browser/client based MMORPG in development by Iron Realms. It
takes place on a fictional earth where humans are extinct and animals rule the
Michael: Thank you for taking time out of your day to answer a few
questions. Firstly, let’s get a little background information on you. What is
your name and position within the Earth Eternal team?
Matt: I’m Matt Mihaly, CEO and Creative Director of Iron Realms. I wanted
to refer to myself as God-King, but someone else in the company – Ben Stirling -
called it first. I was disappointed. I thought about God-Emperor just to show up
Ben but I don’t want to be haunted by the ghost of Frank Herbert. You
understand. Freaking lawyers.
Michael: Excellent, on to the game itself. Could you give us an overview
of the game world as well as a brief overview of the storyline you are
Matt: The game world is a very loosely-inspired version of Earth. We take
cues from all sorts of mythologies and stories (Norse, Chinese, Greek, Roman,
Celtic, Chinese, Indian, American Indian, Nubian, Egyptian, etc) and weave them
together into a story that combines traditional mythologies with high-fantasy.
Michael: So, let me get this straight. Animals rule the world. Humans are
extinct, but the animals (characters) have human characteristics?
Matt: Humans are indeed extinct, having wiped themselves out at the end
of the Age of Man. We haven’t published the history for the Age of Man yet, but
the next chapter dives into it.
Players play Beasts, who are one of many races that are sort of the equivalent,
en masse, of mankind. When we launch, a player will choose from 16 races of
Beast to play, including Lisian (lizard-person), Bandicoon (raccoon-person),
Atavian (falcon-person), and Tusken (boar-person)
Michael: Any concern that this concept will only appeal to a niche
audience or possibly even run the risk of criticism in regards to the animal
models and inappropriate content?.
Matt: Is there a risk that we’ll appeal to a niche audience? Of course.
But Iron Realms currently runs text MUDs. Clearly, we are not afraid of
appealing to a niche audience. ;)
I’m being a little disingenuous, of course. Earth Eternal is aimed at a much
broader audience than our MUDs are.
In terms of the risk of criticism in regardes to the animal models, I’m going to
guess you’re referring to the furry issue. For readers who might not be aware,
furries are people who have a particular affinity for anthropomorphic (animals
walking upright like people, more or less) characters.
Here’s the thing: Most people browsing around have never heard of furries. The
recent Entourage episode aside, it’s just not in the mass consciousness. To most
people, including to all of our team, anthropomorphic animals just means Disney
or Warner Brothers.
There’s an assumption among some hardcore MMORPG fans that enjoying animal
characters is an indication that you’re sexually interested in them, which I
find to be ridiculous. I like Bugs Bunny. I like Puss in Boots. I like Taurens
in WoW. I don’t see anything wrong with that I guess.
Michael: What is your target audience for Earth Eternal?
Matt: Anyone from a 13 year old who wants a relatively immersive
experience but can’t afford the $50+$15/month that WoW costs, to the family that
wants to play together but finds the current free offerings either too extreme (Guildwars)
or are put off by the less-than-pretty environment of something like Runescape,
to college kids looking for a great PvP environment.
We are, however, explicitly not targeting the “traditional” boxed-game MMO
audience. If you’ve played UO, and Everquest, and Planetside, and Eve, and WoW,
and Lord of the Rings Online, then you’re probably not our target audience. Too
hardcore for Earth Eternal (and probably not hardcore enough for our MUDs).
Michael: Since the company’s inception in 1996 Iron Realms has been known
for its development of text based MUDs. What factors prompted your company to
develop a graphic MMORPG? Do you still have plans to develop text based MUDs or
do you feel these are a thing of the past?
Matt: We’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to move into graphical
MMORPGs for awhile now. We actually made an aborted attempt at it a few years
ago but we were aiming at a traditional AAA model. We failed to raise the
initial 10 million we needed to get started….for which I am now profoundly
grateful. World of Warcraft would have crushed us. The time felt right to try
again, and we had no desire to go the boxed-game, AAA model again. When you look
at the most popular online game experiences these days, only one (WoW, of
course) comes from that model.
As for text MUDs, we definitely do not feel they are a thing of the past. We’ve
had 10 years of consecutive growth from them. We’ve got a new one (Midkemia
Online, based on the Magician books by fantasy author Raymond E. Feist) that’s
been in development for awhile now, and that’s probably not the last text MUD
Michael: In the past many companies have taken criticism for offering a
free to play / pay for virtual items business model. What is your reaction to
these critics and do you have any plans to offer gamers other options for
obtaining these items?
Matt: We pioneered that business model 10 years and I dare say that we
have some of the most fanatically loyal customers in online games which says to
me that we’re doing something right. Some people don’t like PvP. Some people
don’t like subscriptions. Some people don’t like the fantasy genre. Such is
life. Anyone who doesn’t like the fantasy genre isn’t going to like EE, just as
anyone who objects to this business model is probably not going to play EE.
Variations on this model are becoming so standard though that I don’t see it as
I should point out though that there is a bit of a misconception in your
question. Although many games have implemented a similar model to what we did,
most of them haven’t taken the next logical step which is to create a legal
in-game currency exchange. This allows players to trade credits (purchased with
real money generally) for gold (gotten by playing the game), and thus it allows
someone who never pays us a dollar to obtain credits and buy anything with them
that someone who does spend real money can buy. In other words, everything is
still obtainable without spending real money, if you are willing and able
to put in the time to acquire enough gold to sell on the currency exchange for
Michael: Will players be able to customize their characters when
created? What level of customization do you have planned and will these
customizations have an impact on the future power of the character or only be
visual changes to make the character unique looking?
Matt: Yes they will. Aside from the 16 races you’ll be able to choose
from a few body types, different faces, and then extensive customization of the
colors for your character. Each race has a number of different areas that can be
recolored on it ranging from basic fur/feathers/skin color all the way down to
eye color. Typically there are 8-13 different areas that can be re-colored on a
character. These are likely all visual-only changes but we’re considering making
body type (hulking, slender, etc) have a minor effect on your character’s stats.
We’ll have to play with that during alpha and see how it works.
There’s a lot of customization potential beyond just your character’s
skin/fur/feathers though. Just as you can dye those, you can do the same with
your armor. So, an individual piece of armor that you get might look one way to
start but quite different after you’ve taken it to a dye shop and had it redyed.
Typically, a single piece of armor (helm, pauldron, chest, etc) has 3-4 regions
on it that can be individually recolored.
Even beyond that, you can attach weapons and items like earrings to yourself,
creating an even more custom look. So, you might decide you want to run around
with a dagger in each hand, a scimitar on each hip, a great sword, a bow, and an
axe attached to your back, and a hoop in your left ear (if you’re a race that
has ears). You can recolor your weapons like you can with armor, so you’re able
to really define how you’d like your character to look.
Michael: Could you give us a little information about the combat system?
Are the developers of Earth Eternal planning anything different or “innovative”?
Matt: The combat system is probably fundamentally familiar to anyone who
has played any of the DIKU-derived MMOs (Everquest, WoW, etc), but with a major
twist: You can multi-class. Frankly, it makes me a little nervous because
multi-classing is a major balance challenge, but it’s just too neat not to
Multi-classing in EE doesn’t mean, however, that anyone can do anything equally
well at any time. You’ll start off with a single class, and after you’ve
progressed far enough in that class you’ll be able to add a second class.
Learning abilities in that second class will be more difficult, however, and you
will be inherently slightly better at a couple core primary class abilities than
you are in the secondary class. After you’ve gotten far enough in the second
class, you can even gain a third, though never a fourth.
We think this is going to make for a very different-feeling combat experience at
the upper end than what most players are used to.
Michael: As I understand it you will be offering users the choice of up
to 16 different races (4 classes) to choose from. This gives gamers a great
selection to choose from; what race/class combination are you personally looking
forward to playing?
Matt: So far I’ve got a couple characters I’ve been playing with. One is
a Feline colored largely black, wearing midnight-blue armor. He’s a mage-warrior
combo. The other is an Anura (frog-person) Druid. Someone on our team recently
created a Lisian (lizard-person) Sneak (rogue/thief class) that looks really
sweet though. He’s got this deathly pale skin color going on with almost
colorless eyes and grey and red armor. He’s loaded down with daggers and looks
like quite the assassin.
Michael: What type of skill system have you chosen to use in Earth
Eternal? Are you planning on doing anything out of the ordinary when it comes to
character advancement; something to set Earth Eternal apart from other games in
Matt: The skill system is ultimately driven by leveling up, but the major
difference in Earth Eternal is that there is no hard level cap. In theory, you
can max out three classes. In practice, the number of people who do that is not
likely to be huge.
Michael: In games such as World of Warcraft; Armor, Weapons, and other
equipment play a big role in the success of your character. Will Earth Eternal
follow the same model or will you put more emphasis on the skills of the
character as well as the person controlling it?
Matt: Armor and weapons play a role in Earth Eternal but not as big of a
role as in something like WoW. The reason is mainly pragmatic: We can’t afford
to develop the same massive range of armor and weapons that WoW has.
Michael: What activities will players have the option of doing in the
game world? Will there be quests, PvP, crafting, dungeons, as well as other
things to keep the player from getting bored?
Matt: There will be quests, PvP, and dungeons at release. We’re not sure
we can manage to pull off crafting for release, however. We’re on a pretty tight
budget that we’re already stretching quite far.
Michael: In regards to PvP. Could you give us some information on what
kind of PvP system you plan on implementing, anything to look forward to in this
Matt: The PvP system isn’t finalized enough for me to talk about yet
unfortunately. Our original design was something that would probably work well
in our text MUDs but was too complicated for EE, so we had to scrap it. All I
can say is that there will the opportunity for PvP in defined areas and for
consensual world PvP.
Michael: What will be the system requirements? Will this be yet another game
that users have to upgrade their PC to play or do you expect most mid-level
hardware today to be sufficient?
Matt: We aim to keep the system requirements pretty low but I can’t be
specific yet. Today’s mid-level hardware will have absolutely no problem running
EE though and we’re hoping that’s the case for today’s relatively low-level
Michael: Is there anything in closing you would like to tell our
readers about the game, the designers, or the company in general?
Matt: I just want to mention that though I may be the public face of the
company and game, there are other people involved who work their butts off. The
guys who are finger-to-keyboard don’t get enough recognition, so I just want to
thank Chris Kohnert, Martin Best, and Ben Stirling in that regard.
The Beasts Await!
We appreciate you taking the time to answer some of our questions. Anyone
interested in tracking the release date of Earth Eternal and/or beta testing can
surf on over to
http://www.eartheternal.com/ and sign up for their newsletter. Keep an
eye out here at MPOGD for a preview of this game once it becomes available to