Fantasy Earth Zero, or FEZ, is a new game set to debut in North America. FEZ comes to us through a partnership between Square Enix and Gamepost USA. What is FEZ? Find out in WarCry’s exclusive Q&A with Sheloman Byrd and Nicholas Niers. Read on!
Hello! Thanks for taking the time to speak with WarCry. Please introduce yourself and give us your development background.
My name is Sheloman Byrd, and I work in Business Development and Marketing for Gamepot USA, previously worked on MapleStory, KartRider,and other projects for Nexon America from September 2006 to May ’09.
Nicholas Niers, Operations Department, previously worked on Albatross18, BBTanks, and Cabal Online from March ’08 to October ’09 for OgPlanet.
How did the partnership between Gamepot and Square Enix come about?
Sheloman: Well, we were partners already in Japan for Fantasy Earth Zero, and its one of our best titles there. The gameplay and emphasis on PvP made it a prime choice for us to bring here, and we worked with the gaming gods over at Square Enix to make that a reality.
Was FEZ originally developed by Square Enix? How long ago?
Sheloman: FEZ was originally developed by Fenix Soft, which Square Enix owns, the original release was in 2006. For Gamepot, we re-released it as a Free to Play game in 2007, and it’s been a hit ever since.
For those unfamiliar with FEZ, what can you tell us about the game’s release history?
Sheloman: For Gamepot, we re-released it as a Free to Play game in 2007, prior to that, it was a part of Square’s PlayOnline service. We’ve added a host of new things to the game-new classes, etc, so it’s always evolving. It’s been released in Japan, China, Taiwan, and each release has seen players fall in love with the systems, combat, and addictiveness of the gameplay. Good games transcend barriers, and we’re hoping it will do the same here.
Does FEZ have an active fan base in Japan? How much player input is solicited?
Nicholas: Very much so. We actually hold tournaments and the like over there for the game, as well as our own festival. Player input is valued, as they’re the ones playing. If it’s not fun for them, you have to address that. We’re a company of gamers, so we tend to view that a little differently, we do our best to respond to everything. Of course, that doesn’t include requests like: “Make my class uber plz”.
What is the background and setting of the name “Fantasy Earth Zero”?
Sheloman: Fantasy is the theme, Earth is the setting-no aliens, etc, and Zero is how much it costs to play. In a funny coincidence, Zero is also the amount of battles you’ll win without teamwork…The game is set in Melpharia, which is a vast realm of 5 kingdoms. Each Kingdom is led by a different King, and each one of those Kings has an ideal that they think is best. So, for different reasons, each kingdom has declared war. Soldiers are free to choose a King, no class is locked to a kingdom or anything like that. Thus, the soldiers’ experiences and their skirmishes are what tell the story. It’s a unique spin on tradition-we have given the backdrop, the players will determine the course.
How important is the overarching story to FEZ?
Nicholas: Sheloman touched on this a bit a second ago, but while there are quests, the real story is the evolving war of the players within their kingdoms. We have voice acting set up for many, many situations, so when each King speaks, he’s reacting to the current state of the war that you determine through battles. War always changes, and so will they. Your own character will cause the King to react in a certain way as well.
What classes and races are to be included in FEZ?
Sheloman: We have 3 classes at the moment: Scouts, Warrior, and Mages.
Nicholas: And within those classes are specializations-if you’re a Scout, you can dual-wield dagger and use a Bow, Warriors can use claymores, one-handed, two-handed sword, shields; Mages wield some pretty crazy elemental attacks, fire, ice, lightning…
Sheloman: And you can switch during a battle-if you need hit an opponent with arrow, whip out your bow. Someone getting close? Dagger time. It’s an adaptive battle system, and it goes very fast. Race-wise, everyone is human, but there’s different looks that everyone can have…
Which of the above is your personal favorite and why?
Sheloman: Mages. Because listening to “Ride the Lighting” while giving some unfortunate soul a jolt of said lighting is awesome.
Nicholas: Scout. Nimble, quick, and good for many situations.
Are there to be any mounts in FEZ? If so, what are they?
Nicholas: Sort of. There aren’t any mounts in FEZ but there are summons that players can use by collecting crystals and using them to transform. The summons a player can use are a Giant, Knight, Chimera, and a Wraith. Each is good for different situations.
Explain the quest system please.
Nicholas: Well, the quest system is pretty straightforward. Most quests actually are how you gain certain skills-like transformations/summons, there’s an extra item you need to acquire to activate those forms. The quest system is intentionally set-up to feed back into the War-based gameplay.
The FAQ indicates that FEZ will be “free to play”. Will FEZ feature a cash mall? What types of items are to be included in it? Which are your favorites?
Sheloman: 100% free to play. Nothing crazy sold in the Cash Shop like a DoomBlade Bringer of Ultimate Chaos for the low, low price of $14.99. It’s free, and will stay that way. We’ll reveal more about the Cash Shop later, for now, we want players focused on the game.
What will the level cap be in FEZ? How long would you estimate it would take a player to reach the cap?
Nicholas: 40 is the level cap and by my guess at 4 hours a day, maybe 3 – 5 months for an average player.
Sheloman: Think of levels as a mean to get skill points. By the mid-20s, you should have a pretty good host of skills available, getting to that is about a week or so. After that, let loose. The level give you more access to skills, and when you actually acquire new ones beyond the initial set, you’ll really know what you’re doing.
What many MMO players complain about is the “grind”. How much “grind” is involved in FEZ in order to get one’s character to the level cap?
Nicholas: You can rejoice, then. Fantasy Earth Zero is mainly a PvP game where exp is distributed at the end of a Kingdom vs. Kingdom war. Players do have the option to “grind” on mobs but it is not necessary to level. The other part is that the levels don’t necessarily matter to the point of ridiculousness. A skilled player will be always be a good addition, regardless of level.
Will there adequate challenges for high-level players?
Nicholas: Yes, there will be a challenge for higher level players because every war is unique and the game is based on strategy and skill.
Sheloman: High level PvP, especially with the strategy elements we have is extremely exciting. I love end-game content as much as anyone, however, the best way to really provide that is to offer a new experience every time. The very nature of PvP takes care of that-especially because your kingdom counts on you to deliver your best-throw in the stat-tracking we’ll have, and you have an addicting experience.
What would you estimate the learning curve will be for new players to FEZ?
Nicholas: The learning curve for new players to get the basics of the game is about 1 – 2 hours. This is accomplished in a tutorial that guides you through basic controls and the basic elements of the war. Even though you will learn how to play the game in a short time, it takes time to master Fantasy Earth Zero.
Sheloman: Low. The game is WASD-native, and supports the 360 for Windows controller, so its’ pretty friendly.
Please explain the battle system.
Nicholas: You have two castles, an army of players in each. The PvP scales from 5v5 to 50vs50, so if you want a smaller, grudge-match type of battle, you can have one. So to start, you’ll have to mine crystals to create obelisks. Think giant crystal towers. These expand the regions you control and can build in. At the point where each kingdom’s Obelisks meet, no further territory can be gained, and that’s where the action begins, and you battle the other army to destroy their obelisks. This damages their castle, and they’re trying to do the same to yours. Once you take over territory, you get a damage boost.
While the front line decimates each other, you’ll see structures appear-such as a Gate of Hades to summon a Wraith, a player-based summon. An enemy player might become a Knight, which is strong against summons, or a Giant to take out the Obelisks to stop your territory. And at that point, the conflict escalates into controlled chaos. The Wraith striking everything it can, the Knight attempting to kill the Wraith while Giants rain cannon-fire upon every structure they see, while the players mine crystals, defeat their opponents, and adapt to the chaos-and while this is happening, you will hear the distinct voice of your king, giving status updates. All of this unfolds with you in the middle, and an epic, symphonic theme driving you to win. The war ends when one castle is destroyed, and one side gains that territory.
Sheloman: Within that battle, remember you can also switch your class based skills-warrior-hybrids, mages using ice, then fire to keep their foes off-balance, stuff like that. It’s really immersive.
What makes the PvP system in FEZ unique?
Sheloman: Imagine a battlefield where you move and react quickly, your King is giving you voice updates, and your friends are all over the place. You must use your crystals wisely, as the enemy can summon at any moment-but so can you. Within that organized chaos, is a clear strategy that must be executed to win the battle, which will change depending on the flow of the battle. That type of dynamic gameplay with summons, structures, multiple classes and resource-management all with a fast-paced battle system is what will push FEZ to the top of the mountain. It really is a unique experience.
Is FEZ geared more to the hardcore player or the casual player? What are the best features for each type?
Nicholas: Both honestly, it’s not intimidating at all, so once you learn the controls and experience a few wars, you can keep playing. We have low entry and fun gameplay for more casual players, and addicting gameplay for the PvP and action junkies-which of course, includes stat-tracking.
Sheloman: I’d add to that by saying that a guild that uses teamwork will always beat a team that doesn’t, so when two skilled guilds meet…watch out. Then we’re talking a hardcore experience like no other.
What is your favorite in-game area or PvP battleground? Describe it to us and include a screenshot please.
Nicholas: Daytime fights. There’s a bridge near this area, and you can get knocked off, and continue the fight in the water, up the mountain…
Sheloman: Night Strike. The thrill of walking over the horizon and seeing an entire battlefield of giants, spells and arrows, and every player doing something different under near total nightfall gets me every time.
FEZ has just been announced for North America. Will there be closed and/or open beta? If so, how does an interested party get involved?
Sheloman and Nicholas: Open Beta.
Sheloman: You can sign up at http://fez.gamepotusa.com Oh, and you can win stuff if you go sign up early, some stuff like a gaming laptop, G19 keyboards, video cards…
When do you anticipate FEZ being released into the North American market?
Sheloman: Q1 2010, and we are sticking to it. 🙂
What have been the most challenging marketing aspects to bringing FEZ from Japan to North America?
Sheloman: Honestly, it’s been a fairly smooth process. Square gets it, the localization aspects weren’t that heavy.
Has anything been changed for North American localization?
Sheloman: A few things actually. Obviously, all of the text is in actual English, and all of the voice acting has been localized as well.
Nicholas: We have also have different customization options, and a few other things we’ll reveal as we get closer to release.
Please include any other information you feel pertinent.
Sheloman: FEZ Rocks. One 50 vs. 50 outing will rest any doubts about the game. Also, I’m a big fan of game music, so hearing the soundtrack was very nice for me-anyone who’s played Final Fantasy 12 or Final Fantasy Tactics is going to love the music.
Nicholas: Definitely, also, don’t be afraid to join our forums and speak up! We want to hear feedback!
Thanks to Nicholas and Sheloman for their input! We’ll keep you posted with all the FEZ news!