Horizons: Empire of Istaria Interview

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Atari
Developer:Artifact Entertainment
Release Date:2003-12-09
Genre:
  • Massively Multiplayer,Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • First-Person,Third-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
Artifact Entertainment announced full-scale development of its Horizons MMORPG project on November 1st, 2000. Now, several months later, GameBanshee Horizons has had a chance to talk to David Allen, Lead Game Designer of Horizons: Empires of Istaria, and CEO of Artifact Entertainment hoping to catch a glimpse of how far they've come.


GB: Since your announcement of Horizons' full-scale development, how do you feel about the progress you've made in the last two months with the game? Are you on pace with your original schedule?

David: Horizons is by far the most intense project I have ever worked on - our company has grown exponentially over the past few months (we have over 30 people on site right now, with more to come, and many contractors who are off-site), which has been one reason that I haven't been as involved with the public as I have in the past. Right now, things are coming along great - we have had to deal with some technology issues, but have been cutting through them as quickly as they are handed to us, and moving forward. It's very hard to try to create a game that's on the leading edge of both game play and technology - it takes extra time and effort to find solutions to problems that directly affect the look and feel of the game, as well as the potential game play aspects. To put it simply, it's now my opinion that creating a game of this magnitude is probably one of the hardest things anyone can do in the computer industry.

Believe it or not, we are following our originally outlined schedule very closely - it's a pleasant surprise to see us working through issues as quickly and efficiently as we are.



GB: With regards to the world master system, will their job be entirely devoted to entertaining the players? How large is the staff you have planned for this? Will there be enough of them to go around and keep the players entertained 24/7, or will there be specific times of the day that they will normally work?

David: Yes, we will have a shift of World Masters that work 24/7 - of course most of them will work during the 'core hours', but there will always be somebody available. The main reason for this is that it's the responsibility of the World Masters to keep an eye on the world, and the entire system that supports that particular world. They will monitor everything from economy to harassment to storyline and dynamic content creation and updates. The exact size of this staff hasn't been established, but it is a fairly good handful of people.


GB: Bringing to life the world of Istaria is no doubt a large undertaking for the Horizons team, and there is a strong hope amongst the fan base that you will be able to realize that embarkment. Realism no doubt helps the gamer immerse him/herself in a world away from reality. Sometimes this is detrimental to family functioning, jobs and friends. The question I'm about to ask stems from many of the RPG related discussions I have been privileged to be a part of. I thought it might be interesting for readers of this interview to hear your thoughts on this taboo subject and how you think Horizons will affect today's community of gamers?

David: When I came up with the concept of Horizons and started writing the design spec, the first thing I addressed was the community within the game and how it would be handled and established. This is where the advent of Families came from - I then took it from there. Another foundational basis for Horizons was that "people are responsible for their actions" - which allows the PvP and other 'criminal' supportive systems to play a very important role in the game. Right now, since games are in their infancy, players are able to get away with all sorts of things (this is good and bad, the good being that people can play very differently from how they would be have in the real world), however the potential for grief among other players who are 'preyed' on was always an issue, so I took the approach of putting in responsibilities that would require players to think twice before doing something, but they would still have the freedom to do so. It's very important to me that players have the 'choice' of doing something, but at the same time, the game needs to be designed to keep the misery caused to other players by those choices to a minimum.

We think Horizons is the next generation of MMOG.