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WC: Please introduce yourselves and give us your game development histories.

I’m Adam – I am the CEO and Creative Director of Meteor Games. I started programming aged 5 on my ZX Spectrum, moved onto an Amiga aged 13, and finally ended up programming MUDs at university. My first commercial project was Neopets which Donna Williams and myself started in 1999, I came up with the ideas and programmed the website, and Donna did the art. We founded Meteor Games in 2007 with the aim of creating something “rather exciting.”

WC: What is the background of the name “Twin Skies“? I always find myself thinking of the kitchy TV show Twin Peaks. Any relation?

The game is set in a binary system – two planets that orbit each other. In the backstory the humans that came to colonise the planets get split up, with no way to contact each other. Two planets, hence Twin Skies. Both planets are quite different, and you’ll be able to visit them during your travels – and also the planetoids that hang in orbit between them. Sort of like Mario Galaxy without the crazy physics and camera angles.

Don’t discount any Twin Peaks references however. Now you’ve mentioned it, we’ll be sure to include the Log Lady and scary one-armed giants.

WC: What made you decide to take on such an ambitious project that includes online gaming, Flash games and ‘social networking’?

We just felt that there was a huge gap in the market for a really high-quality MMO game at a lower price point. The flash game element is really drawing from our experience at Neopets where saw massive popularity in casual website games, over 5 million plays a day at one point. We knew that flash games based on our intellectual property would be a great fit for our website.

As far as being so ambitious, we joked that as we’re Meteor Games we wanted to “come out of nowhere and make a big impact”, so I guess we’re trying to stay true to that philosophy.

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WC: How many folks are working on development?

Right now we have around 54 people in-house. We’re not outsourcing any of the development, so all 3D assets, art, writing, programming and sound effects are done in our studio. Our music score, however, is being written by an external composer.

WC: Where are you in the development cycle of Twin Skies?

We’re using the BigWorld engine which certainly gives us a head start on most traditional MMO projects. Currently we’ve had the engine two months, and we’re already running around fully-textured landscapes launching fireballs at sheep (we have some strange developers!)

We’re hoping to have the first couple of zones finished by the end of the year. We’ll aim to have player housing, nine character classes developed up to an intermediate stage, combat, pathing and item trading done by the end of the year.

WC: How soon before you’re ready for alpha testing?

Hopefully we’ll be inviting friends and family to test our game in September, and then start more of a traditional alpha test later on this year. Most of the work we’ve been putting into our game has been leading up to our alpha launch at Penny Arcade Expo this year. After that’s over we can concentrate on opening the alpha test up to a couple of hundred people.

WC: Will you have a closed and/or open beta?

We’re still not too sure of whether there will be a line drawn between alpha and beta, and whether that actually means anything to us. MMO developers seem to use it more as a marketing tool these days. The game will certainly have an phase where its open to everybody before we launch our subscription model.

WC: Do you plan any cross-platform development?

Absolutely, that’s really one of the most unique things about Twin Skies. We’re not trying to port the entire game over to a different platform however, we’re just trying to make the MMO more accessible wherever you may be. For instance, you’ll be able to manage your house, trading, auctions and so on through the website. You’ll be able to affect the game world in various random ways by playing the flash games (spawning monsters, unlocking chests, changing the weather etc.). Achievements in-game can be optionally posted to a social network of your choice, and you’ll eventually be able to train a companion to accompany you into battle on a mobile device.

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WC: What is the backstory for Twin Skies?

It’s a fantasy story based on two planets. Everybody was living in harmony until one day the last remaining humans in the galaxy, fleeing from some yet-to-be-decided terror, arrived and screwed everything up. A couple of years later one of the planets is in pieces, massive winged demons are flying everywhere, gelatinous cubes devouring villages, dogs and cats living together, I’m sure you get the idea.

You’ll be able to choose between one of seven different races and over twenty character classes (that’s what we have designed right now but its obviously subject to change). The MMO world is very open-ended however. You’ll only touch upon the backstory for the first few days of play, but as you progress to higher level areas the quests will tie into the story a lot more.

WC: Where did you get your inspiration for Twin Skies?

80s fantasy films and cartoons. We’re huge fans of Labyrinth and Thundercats, I shall say no more.

WC: Where did you get your inspiration for “monsters” in Twin Skies? That eleplant is absolutely cool! 🙂

Thanks! We have some really talented artists that split their time between working on scheduled content and creating random new concepts. Sometimes things come up that are too awesome not to put in the game, so we make a home for it. Right now we’re thankfully at a phase where everybody in the company can contribute, nothing’s set in stone.

WC: For whom are you developing Twin Skies? Would you categorize it as a “tweens-friendly” game?

We’re not creating the game for any specific demographic at all, we just write what we think is funny and interesting, we’ll see who picks up on it. It’s certainly not going to be as cute as Neopets, and generally MMOs are harder to pick up than casual games. We’re expecting to have a slightly older player base, probably 13-18. Then again we said that with Neopets, so who knows.

WC: Will there be “safe environments” for younger players?

Yes, we’re aiming to include safe servers that have monitored chat, perhaps we’ll limit players to pre-made phrases, we’re not exactly sure how it’s going to be done yet. We did learn at lot from our time at Neopets though, I set up the filtering and monitoring system there and it certainly evolved a great deal over the six years I was there.

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WC: Your FAQ indicates that Twin Skies will be a subscription game. Do you have an idea of approximate cost for TS?

This is something we have yet to fully decide upon. Our best guess right now is that it would fall in the $5-$8 a month range, and be some sort of hybrid model between subscriptions and micropayments.

WC: Have you entertained a microtransaction model for Twin Skies?

Yes, we’ll have virtual items for sale. We’re strongly opposed to anything that unbalances the game economy or combat system in any way, so you won’t be buying any magic swords or healing potions. We’re aiming more at character customisation, emotes, in-house items and clothing.

WC: Does Meteor have any other games in development? If so, can you tell us anything about them?

Other than the MMO we’re developing flash games for our website at http://www.twinskies.com. We have a few up there already and aim to release a new game every couple of weeks at the minimum. Each game will feature our characters, will tie in with the MMO world in some unique way, and you can earn website points by playing them – points that you’ll be able to spend on in-game items.

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

Right now we have no plans to work on anything else other than Twin Skies.

WC: Do you still have a connection to Neopets?

We still talk to a few people who work there, but we have no other connection apart from that. My Neopets are probably starving by now, I’m a very bad owner.

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