While at GDC, I had the opportunity to sit down with the guys from the upcoming post-apocalyptic MMORPG Earthrise. The company behind the game is Masthead Studios and we were lucky enough to have a chance to talk to George Petrov and Nikolay Stoyanov about the game.
Earthrise is an appropriate title, as the game takes place at a time when the world was nearly wiped out and the few remnants of humanity that still exist either exist in a “utopian” society or live in a and work for a rebel distopia.
As the Masthead guys were explaining the game to me, they described it as a kind of post-apocalyptic world, but were careful to point out that while everyone, upon hearing post-apocalyptic, thinks of Mad Max. That’s a comparison that the guys tell me is inaccurate. While this game still takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, George and Nikolay said that we should think more of the movie Minority Report than Mad Max.
“The game,” they said, “just isn’t that dark.” Instead, the team is trying to present a setting that isn’t artificially dark or light, instead the Bulgaria-based team is focusing on a more realistic look. “People are tired of stylization,” said George. “We’re trying to make it as realistic as possible.”
Now that we have an idea of the look of the game, let’s talk just a little bit about setting. We know that the game is set on Earth, but the guys tell us that the apocalyptic disaster has seen to it that the only area left for humans. This island also happens to be the location of a genetic bank, put there in case of an apocalypse so that humanity can start again.
Now, I don’t know if it’s a case of art imitating life or just a wacky coincidence, but it just so happens that over the last few days, the news has been peppered with stories on a Doomsday Seed Vault that exists on a northern Norwegian island. Its purpose is to safeguard seeds from plants around the world in case of some kind of disaster. Conspiracy theorists are already claiming that the vault is and will be used to house human genetic samples as well.
Well, if the vault were used to house human genetic material, we would be one step closer to realizing the world of Earthrise. In the game, using the genetic bank, a society has risen on the island. Known as Continoma, this fascist regime has the best technology and all of the benefits of a big corporation, including a population that can die and then be artificially reborn. The guys have told us a little bit about Synthia. Synthia is a character that the team has created in the game who is shot every day by her boss and then re-born to do it all over again.
If this sounds horrible to you, then you may be one of the players who chooses to live and fight for Noir, the second faction in the game, made up of rebels who fight the rule of Continoma.
From a game play perspective, players are allowed to choose which side they take, but even then aren’t limited to their decision.
“Earthrise is about freedom and a player not being penalized for their decisions,” said George. “We want the players to try all of the available options.”
While the game is still early in the development stage and many decisions have yet to be made, I did manage to get a few tidbits of information on the features that they know will be in the game:
During the interview, the guys were adamant about the game being about player freedom and player choice, so it shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone when I say that the game’s advancement is skill based rather than level based. There are no levels and no classes, only skills that allow the player to advance in his or her own way.
“We feel this gives the players the power to try every part of the game.”
Next, we talked a little bit about PvP. After hearing that the advancement was skill-based, something that MMORPG players have been asking for in a new MMO for quite some time, I thought that it would be best to find out if PvP would be a crowd pleaser as well.
PvP in Earthrise will be open and anyone can attack anyone. After telling me that, the guys were pretty quick to point out that the entire game isn’t just a free-for-all. In certain zones, there are consequences to killing another player and police or guards will come to punish you. Fortunately for you PvP lovers out there, there will be plenty of areas that are lawless.
Hearing even about these few features is going to cause quite a stir in the MMORPG community as players who have been desperately asking for a skill-based MMO to play may finally get what they are looking for.
That being said, the game is still in the very early phases of development. The guys tell us that they are developing both the game and the engine at the same time and that they are working toward launching a technical alpha in the near future.
The last bit of information that I was able to pull from the Masthead guys was in regards to their business model. As of right now, it appears as though Earthrise will be a subscription-based game with a fee hovering right around the average for a “world class” MMO.