WarCry recently had the opportunity to investigate more about Gatheryn, an upcoming ‘casual’ MMO based in a Victoriana, steam, gaslamp world. Gatheryn seeks to break the MMO mold with a melding of casual online gaming with deep story and more traditional gaming aspects. MindFuse Founder and CEO Joseph Walters sits down and talks Gatheryn.

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1. Please introduce yourself and give us your game development history.

I’m Joseph Walters, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, of MindFuse Games. Before coming to MindFuse, I was a founding member, partner and technical director at Skunk Studios, a developer in the casual games space. I was also a core team member at shockwave.com, another online game developer that was acquired by Viacom’s MTV Networks.

2. What made you decide to take on such an ambitious project that includes online gaming, puzzles, mini games, quests and ‘social networking’?

All of the things you mention in your question are currently at a confluence. Though MMO gaming is more popular than ever, enthusiasts of the genre are looking for something more, and the next ‘big thing’ isn’t necessarily going to be an experience that can boast a whole lot of technical advancement. Much can be done within the genre, and so we’re attempting to bring the MMO experience to audiences that might otherwise be put off by the perceived “hardcore-ness” of other currently available games.

To do this, we’re incorporating casual gaming experience and community-based social interaction elements. So those gamers who’ve always been attracted to World of Warcraft’s story and expansive world can really enjoy Gatheryn without feeling like they have to spend 12 hours a day playing to get the most out of it.

3. How many individuals are working on the development of Gatheryn?

Currently we have more than 30 people on the development team, which might sound small, but with the versatility of our technology – namely the HeroEngine – the team is able to streamline the process.

We’ve recently hired a very talented and experienced person to head our production team, and you’ll be hearing more about that individual in the next couple of weeks…

4. Where are you in the development cycle?

Nearly all of the assets for the first ‘island’ are in place, including environments, NPCs, etc. We’re continuing to work on the quests, mini-games and character creation tools, all of which will be tweaked and perfected based on the feedback from our beta testers.

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5. How soon before you’re ready for alpha testing and will it be open to public application?

You can expect to hear an announcement on the beta sooner rather than later. We will be selecting people on a regular basis who have visited http://mindfusegames.com/ and registered. So go sign up!

6. Will you have a closed and/or open beta?

Yes and yes.

7. Do you plan any cross-platform development?

Right now we’re focused on making a stellar experience for PC gamers. While we do have plans for a Mac port we don’t have any plans as of yet for developing for another platforms, but we’d never rule it out.

8. What is the background of the name “Gatheryn“?

When we chose the name “Gatheryn,” we wanted to instantly create a feeling of camaraderie and community in the world. In essence, ours is an open world where people can gather together and participate in an engaging, immersive experience.

9. What is the back story for Gatheryn? Why does the world exist as it does?

Without giving too much away, Gatheryn is a world that almost – but never quite – existed in reality. Steam powers most everything, from mechanical monkeys to lumbering dirigibles. It’s a world of mystery, exploration and romance where people are under the yoke of a corrupt entity.

Your character is an outsider from another land, and is immediately thrown into a world of intrigue and mystery where their actions could very well decide the fate of the entire island.

10. Are there any writers from whom you drew inspiration?

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We’re big fans of the Victoriana aesthetic and gaslamp fantasy, so we’re drawing a lot of inspiration from the worlds created by prolific writers such as Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. Especially with the first island, players will encounter a substantial amount of Dickens-inspired elements – cobblestone streets, 19th century attire, gas streetlamps, etc.

11. The music on your website (http://www.mindfusegames.com) is absolutely gorgeous. Is this track included in Gatheryn?

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Thanks for the compliment and yes the track will be included. We’re very cognizant of the fact that music is absolutely integral to setting the mood in an experience such as Gatheryn. So, the soundtrack will be a very important element.

12. Who is the composer? Are other tracks finished?

We are not ready to talk about music or soundtracks for the game, we have a few musicians and studios we are working with but we are not releasing their information yet.

13. For whom are you developing Gatheryn? Would you categorize it as a “tweens-friendly” game or is it more for older teens and adults?

Gatheryn, we’re hoping, will appeal to a few different audiences. Older teenagers who have moved past the Second Life and youth-oriented MMOG experiences will find Gatheryn more adult and immersive.

Another audience is women who play casual games at portals like Pogo and Yahoo! Games. Casual game portals boast insane numbers of concurrent users, but they lack a certain cohesiveness and community that we at MindFuse think players are yearning for. Gatheryn offers the same popular casual games in an environment that encourages social interaction and friendship building. Additionally, the main storyline will further draw players into the experience.

And finally, anyone who is interested in the steam-powered, Victoriana aesthetic will find something to love in Gatheryn.

14. Will there be “safe environments” for younger players?

No, we will limit profanity as much as possible and Gatheryn will be moderated but we will not be policing the game. We do however offer the option of banning players if you find them to be profane.

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15. Will Gatheryn be a subscription game or will it run on the micro-transaction model?

This is one of the things that we’re discussing in earnest, but there is definitely something to be said for both the subscription and micro-transaction model. I don’t think it’s necessary for an online game developer to exclusively go with one model or another. Using both simultaneously is a viable option.

16. What will the monthly fee be or, if Gatheryn will use micro-transactions, what types of things will players be able to purchase?

Well, we haven’t decided firmly on the payment system yet, but some amount of micro-transaction capability is certainly a possibility. Because Gatheryn is so rich in detail and aesthetic, it’d be reasonable to imagine that clothes, accessories, and decorations for player dwellings would be available for purchase.

17. Does MindFuse have any other games in development? If so, can you tell us anything about them?

Currently we’re focusing on the Gatheryn experience exclusively, including planned expansions.

18. If no other games are in development, does MindFuse have plans for other games? Do you plan to keep the same sort of model for the target audience?

Some of the mini games we are working on are really cool and we may want to release them outside of Gatheryn someday, but are not decided on that.

19. So far, what has been the greatest challenge while developing Gatheryn?

Well, it’s been tough to accept that we’re not going to make all of our ideas a reality (at least not when the game launches). So we’re trying to concentrate on the elements we’re most excited about – the variety of casual games, community, story and the beauty of the world itself.

20. What has been the greatest triumph so far?

Really seeing our ideas come to life in the form of Gatheryn has been extremely rewarding.

21. Please add any other information, teasers or tidbits that you’d like your audience to know.

I’d encourage everyone interested in what we are creating to visit www.mindfusegames.com for more info about Gatheryn. Visit the registration page to sign up for a chance to get in the beta and provide valuable feedback.

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