When I first read about Carbine Studios and Tim Cain’s involvement, I thought about asking them to do an interview for the “Troika Chronicles”. So I contacted NCSoft and David Swofford (Director of Public Relations) arranged the whole thing for me. Thanks again, David!
So Jeremy Gaffney (Executive Producer), Tim Cain (Lead Programmer) and Kevin Beardslee (VP of Design) answered some questions for me.
1 – At first I want to thank you for taking your time to answer some of our questions. My first question is an easy one: Who are you and what is your position at Carbines Studios?
We are Jeremy Gaffney (Executive Producer) and Tim Cain (Lead Programmer) Along with Kevin Beardslee (VP of Design) we are part of the giant robot that is Carbine Studios. Well, medium-sized robot, currently.
2 – Can you tell us about the projects you have worked on in the past?
Jeremy: I founded Turbine Entertainment and was the original CEO back in 1994. I left there to be the lead programmer on Ultima Online 2 for Origin Systems. In 2001 I founded Destination Games with the Garriott brothers which became NCsoft’s Austin headquarters…I was Executive Producer on City of Heroes/Villains as well as the biz guy who signed up the Arena.net guys and NCsoft’s other US games.
Tim: I worked at Interplay from 1992 until 1998, where my most notable work was on the Fallout games. I founded Troika Games in 1998, and we developed Arcanum, The Temple of Elemental Evil, and Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines over the course of the next six years. I joined the team at Carbine in 2005. In my spare time, I have lectured at the University of California at Irvine on the game development process and I have written a chapter in a textbook on AI game programming.
3 – What MMORPGs have you played yourselves and what do you like/dislike about those games?
Jeremy: We’re gamers, so we play just about everything. Here are some quick thoughts in no particular order: WoW (2 max level characters) – winning the market with quality and quantity of content and polish. D&D Online (3 max level chars) – one of the best games to play with casual real-life buddies once a week thanks to voice chat, good dungeon crawling systems (traps, puzzles), and low travel/downtimes. UO – their rich world “sandbox” systems haven’t been duplicated by another mainstream game yet, 10 years later. Toontown (3 max level chars) (hey, yeah, we do play everything) – cool kid-friendly chat system, great ability to cross servers to get instant access to my friends, nice mix of puzzle games/housing/harvesting as a break from level grind, nice localization system (lots of stuff that looks like it’s baked into textures is actually dev-modifiable text – nice!) Dark Age of Camelot (2 max level chars) – no one’s done free-for-all realm-versus-realm as well as Mythic in the mainstream to date, and bits like their Darkness Falls dungeon are really well-thought-out multiplayer combat design. Planetside (3 max level chars) – I would have thought latency would have made an MMP shooter impossible, but those guys pulled it off! It seems like the industry got scared off because Planetside didn’t compete with EQ in terms of subscribers, but I’m sure we’ll see someone do it in the future. Obviously all these games have flaws too – but most MMOs have at least one neat feature to learn from.
4 – There is some very impressive concept art at your website, I already use the “Desktop Wallpaper #2” on my notebook. Can you tell us something about the concept art and who created it? Is the concept track “The Awakening” an actual piece to be used in the upcoming game or just something “to set the mood”?
Jeremy: Cory Loftus is our lead concept artist, and a guy who geeks us all up with his art. Our art director Matt Mocarski sweats blood with Cory and the team to make sure our art goes from concept to in-game and meets our exacting standards.
5 – Carbine Studios is a new game development studio created by NCsoft North America focused on creating innovative MMORPGs. Can you give us some hints at the ideas you have for your upcoming MMORPG or is it too early to talk about something like that?
Jeremy: It’s too early to talk about it, but we’ll be doing a full game announcement at a later point. The good news – it’s fun to play already, which is nice, but there’s a lot of iteration to do before we’re ready to share things beyond closed doors…and hundreds of hours of content still to create.
6 – For some time now almost everyone is talking about “casual games”, “casual players” and that modern games are much too bloated and complicated. On the other hand especially MMORPGs tend to be pretty complex especially when PvP play or high level content is considered. What are your thoughts on that subject?
Tim: I think MMORPGs are actually pretty casual, especially at the lower levels. Their high degree of social interaction actually encourages new and casual players to join, and as long as many of their complex systems are optional, most of those casual players can enjoy these games as much as the hard core players.
7 – According to an article in “The Orange County Register” from October 4th, Jeremy Gaffney said that “There will be some fantasy thrown in but it’s a cross-genre game. And there will be dancing.” Can you give us some hints on what genres are part of the mix?
Jeremy: Heh, the dancing comment was a poke at Kevin – he led the animators who did WoW’s dance animations when they were at Blizzard. When we do our full game announcement, we’ll have the full scoop, we promise!
8 – Dancing was mentioned several times in the OCRegister article. Will dancing play a greater role in the game? Or will there be dancing animations like in other MMOGs like Guild Wars of World of WarCraft?
Jeremy: No, dancing will not play a greater role in the game under current plans. Giving Kevin a hard time will, however, remain a large part of our development process. We may do some fun dance system stuff for fun, but it’ll be after other important systems get nailed down and tuned, so it’s too far off to tell!
9 – When can we expect to see the first screenshots and videos of your announced MMOG?
Jeremy: Here’s where we are in the development process – we’ve been working for several years in a “R&D” mode experimenting with different systems and building the framework of the game. Now comes the fun part – using that framework to expand from a few hours of content to a few hundred hours of content. Because we iterate a lot as part of the way we develop games, we are intentionally not talking too much yet about the game itself or our timeframes because we’re more than willing to change what doesn’t work and take the time to do it right.
Thank you very much for answering our questions and good luck with your project!
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