WarCry had the chance to sit down with Masthead Studios CEO Atanas Atanasov to discuss Masthead’s upcoming MMOG Earthrise. Read on for his thoughts on MMOG development, skill-based development and the struggle between Continoma and Noir.
WarCry: For starters, what is your name, and what do you do on Earthrise?
Atanas Atanasov: My name is Atanas Atanasov, CEO of Masthead Studios, and I am responsible for the overall operations of the company including business development and production of our first MMORPG – Earthrise.
WarCry: What’s Earthrise’s story? How is that story different from other MMOGs?
AA: The story of Earthrise takes place several hundred years ahead from now, when the Third World War is over and there are only a few lucky survivors – the last of mankind. A powerful mega corporation, Continoma controls a Pacific island called Enterra, the last place on Earth inhabited by humans. Continoma has the power to preserve the human consciousness and clone people, providing immortality to everyone who is loyal to the system. The totalitarian government is not favoured by everyone and several decades after the establishment of the last human settlement – the island megapolis called Sal Vitas and a resistance called Noir is formed. They fight to overthrow the government and change the political regime. Players will enter the game shortly after these events. They will be the new citizens, who will decide the faith of mankind.
It should be noted that Continoma and Noir are neither good nor bad – they are more Order vs. Chaos. It will be up to the player to act according to his value system.
Many stories in other sci-fi MMOs offer either a stereotypical look or are based on a popular license that players will be familiar with. Earthrise is different – it’s a new and fresh IP that draws inspiration from many sources and genres and mixes them together in a new, exquisite cocktail. We strive to offer our players a believable look at the world’s future in an utopian society gone wrong.
WarCry: What will gameplay be like? How will the average player spend his time in Earthrise?
AA: Earthrise is a skill-based PvP sandbox MMO featuring sophisticated crafting and player controlled territory. An average player can do a lot of things in the game starting from character development through PvE and questing, going through PvP fights with single enemies, Guild vs Guild or the epic territory conquest. Those players who don’t want to engage in PvE or PvP fights will find the crafting, trading and social advancement an excellent way of spending their time while online.
WarCry: What is the skill system like? Will there be a lot of grinding, or is the progression fast?
AA: Earthrise will feature a large amount of skills with a wide range of active and passive abilities, further customizable with Tactics that enhance their effects in new directions, allowing players to customize their arsenal of skills to their liking. The game will require players to take on quests and kill many mutated species, regenerate robots or bandits across the island of Enterra in order to advance their skills, but the progression won’t require too much of them. In fact, if players want to develop only a small group of highly specialized skills, they can reach expertise fairly quickly, and within a couple months they would be ready to match with the end content, but if they prefer variety and customization that guarantees their survival in many situations, they will have to spend considerably more time on honing their skills in-game. However, player skill remains the most important of them all – both in achieving the best suited build for their taste and how to actually play it well.
WarCry: Could you explain the different factions? Will players be able to join them?
AA: There are two major factions in Earthrise – Continoma and Noir. Continoma is the mega corporation founded before the Third World War, which turned itself into a totalitarian government in Enterra Island after the apocalypse. They want to exercise full control on all surviving humans on the island and believe that this is the only way to preserve mankind. Continoma is a typical representative of the Order alignment. We also have the opposition in the face of Noir. They fight against the Continoma regime and try to attract more followers to their secret base of operations deep underneath the mountains of Enterra. They are representatives of the chaos alignment in the game. Their motto is “Freedom at any Cost”. There are also several smaller factions such as Erratic with their cyberpunk style and anarchist way of living, the Syndicate – the ruthless rulers of the Nest, the Red Dragons with their leader, the Blood Duchess Mao, who control the Eastern Gardens area on the island, Natura – Greenpeace of the future and many more.
Players will be able to affiliate with all of those factions by doing certain actions in the game. This affiliation will not be permanent and irreversible. It will not be possible to be favoured by everyone at the same time; players will always have NPC friends and enemies inside Earthrise.
WarCry: In the screenshot you provided us, there are rats in the foreground. Will there be situations where you have to “kill 10 rats”?
AA: Providing screenshots with weak, low-level creatures is done on purpose. The more Earthrise advances in development the more cool-looking and unique creatures will be revealed.
We will develop the quest system by dividing it into 2 parts – main story line with chain quests and the so-called missions. Players who want to get acquainted with the story and like to do interesting and unique quests will be attracted by the main story line and chain quests, where “go kill 10 rats” will be missing. The mission quests will be repeatable and will be designed for those players who want to finish a quest quickly without much thinking and with some reward. The “kill 10 rats” quest may be seen there, but will not be the only type.
WarCry: You’re from Eastern Europe, which has typically been an outsourcing destination. How does it feel to be developing a game of your own? Do you consider the company to be an ambassador?
AA: Developing a game of our own is the greatest reward for all of us. Needless to say that innovation in games nowadays comes mostly from independent studios and Masthead will not be an exception. We have a lot of cool ideas which will be implemented if not upon release, then in future expansions and future games.
The team is highly motivated and everyone is proud of their work.
WarCry: What are you most excited about, in terms of development?
AA: Apart from the fact that we are developing the game of our own, we are very excited for the opportunity to be part of the great family of MMOs – current and future. The future of PC gaming is in the MMOs and it is great to be part of that process.
WarCry: What’s the company culture like? Do you think we’ll see evidence of it in the game design?
AA: We are not just colleagues but friends as well. The team consists of young and talented people who are constantly upgrading their knowledge and skills. Everyone loves what they are doing and we see Earthrise as our child. Developing a world-class high-quality MMO is a great opportunity and everyone realizes that.
WarCry: What games does the team look to for inspiration?
AA: As I mentioned in my previous interview, Ultima Online and EVE Online are the MMOs that inspired parts of the gameplay of Earthrise, but our players should expect to see many different things that make our game a unique experience such as the skill advancement, the combat system, the open world and the territory conquest and control.