The MMO Gamer had the opportunity to conduct a lengthy interview with RPG veteran Tim Cain about the unnamed MMORPG he's currently working on at Carbine Studios, as well as the stellar games he's worked on over the years. A sampling:
The MMO Gamer: As you said, you were a big RPG guy in the past.
A lot of people may not be familiar with your name, but just about every RPG fan should be familiar with what you've worked on: Fallout, Arcanum, Temple of Elemental Evil, Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines. all very good single player RPGs.
Now here you are working on an MMO. The biggest difference, which you just hit on, is you are not the lone protagonist going off and saving the world by yourself. You are one of hundreds of thousands of protagonists, all playing together towards the same goals.
So, how do you get that storytelling element, the essence of RPG heroism in an MMO, when you're not the lone protagonist any more, when you have 50,000 people all doing the same things you're trying to do?
Tim Cain: That actually is the challenge. That's one of the things we explore every day. I know how to tell a story in a single player RPG, I've done it multiple times. What's fascinating to me about MMOs, is the first ones that were made were very sandbox.
There were no stories, there really weren't even quests, the way a lot of people today would view quests.
They weren't nearly as well-defined, and described as in the game as (Hey, you're starting a quest now, here it is. Do this, this, and this, then return to me and I'll give you this.)
That's what people think of as a quest now. But EverQuest had nothing like that. You had to talk to someone, and hit on a keyword, then he'd say something to you and it didn't go into a log book or anything. You just went off and did what he said, and hopefully you'd find something that he'd want.
I think that the direction MMOs are going is if we can actually figure out how to tell a story, so that you're involved in a storyline, I think people will view that as kind of the next step, instead of just doing a set of quests.
That's the kind of thing we've been trying to solve at Carbine, and I think we have a solution. but I can't say what it is.
Next year I want to give a talk on it. I wanted to give it here, but we had to put it off until next year. It's called, (I'm a Special Snowflake.)