Green Monster Games is easily the most talked about company with no announced game projects out there. It’s hard to ignore a company founded by Curt Schilling (Boston Red Sox), R.A. Salvatore (author) and Todd McFarlane (creator of Spawn). We recently spoke to two ex-EverQuest II people in Steve “Moorgard” Danuser and Ryan “Blackguard” Shwayder about the upcoming things from their company.
Answers by Steve “Moorgard” Danuser and Ryan “Blackguard” Shwayder
Questions by Dana Massey
WarCry Network: While obviously, you have some high profile names behind this company, celebrity doesn’t mean experience. Why do you feel Green Monster Games will succeed where so many companies have failed?
Steve Danuser: Though having the names on board that we do opens a lot of doors and draws a huge amount of publicity our way, everyone from Curt on down realizes that the only way we’ll succeed is if we make a fun game. We’ve assembled a team that is both talented and passionate about making games, and the core people we have in house have shipped everything from major MMOs to console titles. GMG is a brand new company, but the people behind it have years of experience blended with a desire to do this better than it’s ever been done before.
Ryan Shwayder: Celebrity draws eyes, experience makes great games. Well, basically. Experience can help, but the celebrity aspect has little to nothing to do with the actual development of the game. The combination of experienced game developers, new blood, and creative visionaries like R.A. Salvatore and Todd McFarlane is something most people never even dream about, but it’s happening here.
WarCry Network: Specially, what does Curt Schilling bring to the project?
Steve Danuser: Though there are a dozen jokes I could make about bloody socks and free baseball tickets, to be honest the biggest thing Curt brings is his character and commitment to people. You don’t have to be around him long to realize that personal integrity is at the core of everything he does, from the way he approaches game playing to the way he treats employees as members of his family. It also helps that he is a guy to whom “impossible” doesn’t apply, because he has literally achieved things others can only dream of. He is living proof that no matter how challenging our goal is, we can achieve it, which is a huge source of inspiration.
Plus he brings bloody socks and free baseball tickets, which ain’t a bad thing.
Ryan Shwayder: He ensures that I am not the tallest person on the project. To echo what Danuser said, he also brings a philosophy that is all but unheard of in the game industry or business world, which makes those of us working with him all the more capable of creating the best game out there. Not to mention his incredible ability to make contacts with people and companies who would otherwise be completely inaccessible to a normal dev studio. See: R.A. Salvatore and Todd McFarlane, just to start.
WarCry Network: …R.A. Salvatore?
Steve Danuser: Simply put, Bob is a master storyteller. He knows how to make characters and worlds come alive, having done it many times over. But what’s amazing about him is that he’s not interested in coming to us and dictating a story, but rather he wants to be a part of building something bigger than any of us. Working alongside him is a designer’s dream, although the fact that he carries two scimitars around with him can be a bit imposing.
Ryan Shwayder: Bob is not only an absolutely amazing storyteller, he is also a hardcore MMO player. Having someone who can write the best story I’ve ever heard who also knows how it will play into the game itself is priceless.
WarCry Network: …and Todd McFarlane?
Steve Danuser: Todd has revolutionized the comics and toy industries, not only in terms of visual style but in how they do business. With GMG we’ve formed a company that plans to redefine both MMO gaming and the way games companies are run. That’s a perfect fit, and Todd brings incredible energy and inertia to GMG. And needless to say, the guy is a phenomenal artist and storyteller, which makes him an ideal part of this on a whole bunch of levels.
Ryan Shwayder: Have you seen his art?
WarCry Network: Many of your key hires so far have been directly from SOE. Has that annoyed your old friends there and given you’re all such huge fans of EQ, is it reasonable to expect your game will take a few lessons from it?
Steve Danuser: Though it may seem large from the outside, the games industry is actually pretty small, and people tend to form relationships that transcend whatever company they work for at any given time. While many of us worked together at SOE, a lot of those same people (as well as others who have signed on at GMG) worked together at other companies in the past. The foremost qualification for a job at GMG is character, and so the people we’ve brought on board are those that the core team knows to be great people first and talented game makers second.
Ryan Shwayder: I still talk to my old buddies at SOE, and I really don’t think there’s much in the way of annoyance on either side. Yeah, there are a few of us from SOE, and a few from here, and a few from there. Will our game take the lessons we learned from EQ and apply them? Absolutely. Will it take the lessons we learned from [insert game name here] and apply them? Absolutely.
WarCry Network: At a high level, what are some of the things you see in the current crop of MMORPGs that you really like and might want to see in your project?
Steve Danuser: World of Warcraft has proven that an MMO can appeal to a much wider audience than many thought possible, and one of the keys to that is a level of polish beyond anything the industry had seen before. The biggest lesson is not to try to be everything to everyone, but rather to decide on the key elements of your game and then refine the heck out of them. You can be sure that GMG will bring this same philosophy to our game.
Ryan Shwayder: Quality and polish. That’s the big deal for me personally. There are definitely other aspects of games that we’ll either integrate or, more likely, adapt, but talking about those would reveal a bit too much information. 😉
WarCry Network: Conversely, what about the current crop of the games do you hate and hope to remedy in your game?
Steve Danuser: Part of the challenge in the MMO space is that what is seen as cool and fun to one segment of players can seem like a grind to others, and vice versa. Again, I think the approach to take is not to try and make an all-encompassing game, but rather one that focuses on a consistent style and feel and then takes it to a new degree of perfection and polish. If we keep our focus on core gameplay that we feel is solid and fun, we’ll have a hit.
Ryan Shwayder: I dislike the unfinished feeling that comes across in a lot of massively multiplayer games. They aren’t cohesive, they’re really buggy, etc. We’ll go ahead and take care of that, among other things, with our game.
WarCry Network: Sports is a huge part of our society, but are largely ignored in virtual worlds. With a high profile sports star involved, have you given thought to changing that?
Steve Danuser: We’re making an adventure game, not a sports title, so it’s important that we retain our focus. That said, while we don’t have any current plans to incorporate baseball or football into our world, we do have ideas for tournaments and events that fit into our game’s style and theme.
Ryan Shwayder: Sports, in the fantasy sense, are never out of the question. After all, sports games are fun in part because they offer quick doses of entertainment. I once posed the idea of making the entire game based on water polo, but it didn’t go over as well as I had hoped.
WarCry Network: At the Dark Age of Camelot Roundtable, R.A. Salvatore’s keynotes revolved around the concept of virtual worlds as a medium for players to make their own stories and adventures. Will this concept be key to your game and why do you feel it’s more important for players to make their own stories than to participate in professionally designed ones?
Steve Danuser: When many of us think back on our fondest experiences in the early days of Ultima Online or EverQuest, the things that stand out are not usually the game lore or storylines, but the people we met, fought alongside, and battled against. The time your whole guild wiped to some silly mistake before banding together to achieve victory is the kind of experience that sticks with you.
Make no mistake about it: the story being developed by R.A. Salvatore is going to blow your socks off. But he also knows that our job as game designers crafting a world is to provide an immersive, fantastic setting within which players forge their own memories and destinies. Having one doesn’t mean you can’t have the other as well.
Ryan Shwayder: I would say we’re going for an approach that works for both audiences that love to read great stories and audiences that like to create their own. We already have an engrossing backstory with more detail than I’ve ever seen in any game, but that just sets the stage for players to make their own destiny. In truth, the answer is “yes,” but we’ll also have an immersive world with a rich history and future of its own.
WarCry Network: Can you talk generally about the stage of development/setup you’ve hit? Are you still building desks and writing basic docs or has ground been broken on production (code, art, prototypes, etc.)?
Steve Danuser: The desks are built, the phones are in, and the floor is carpeted. We’re now in preproduction, which involves lots of planning, arguing, concepting, prototyping, and deciding the particulars of what our game is going to be. It’s a very exciting time that sets the stage for what our next several years will be spent doing. The amount of work ahead of us is staggering, but every member of the team is fully committed to making a fantastic game, and we will absolutely achieve that goal.[/i]
Ryan Shwayder: We’re just after the stage in which we all sit around one big table and make enough noise to annoy everyone else, and just before the stage in which the game is fun to play. In other words, read what Moorgard said.
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