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Interviews: PS3 Version Interview

By Drew Wood on March 11, 2011

PS3 Version Interview

We've already seen Free Realms on the PC and on MAC. Why the desire to move the game over to the PlayStation 3 as well?

Stephen Bokkes:

The move to the PS3 is really just a natural, logical extension of the existing brand. Free Realms is more than just a game for kids; it's a game that family members can enjoy together. The PS3 brings that experience into your living room for the whole family to enjoy.


This is a family game, an all-ages game. Is the family-friendly nature of Free Realms an important genre for SOE to become further involved in?

Stephen Bokkes:

I certainly think so. Games like Free Realms help diversify our already impressive portfolio of online games, enabling us to reach a much wider audience. I think it’s important to offer players a wide variety of games within a genre. It’s what keeps a genre from becoming stagnant. With each new game come new ideas and innovations. Personally, I don’t think there are nearly enough family-friendly online games out there—certainly not in proportion to other genres. SOE is continuing to do its best to help fill that void with games like Free Realms and Clone Wars Adventures.

In a world with the big titles for the hardcore gamers, World of Warcraft, EverQuest and so on, where do you feel that family-friendly MMOs can go?

Stephen Bokkes:

I don’t really see family-friendly MMOs like Free Realms as being in direct competition with the big titles aimed at hardcore gamers. It’s a different market, and by no means a niche one. There’s a huge audience out there eager for a casual online experience that is fun, friendly, and safe for the whole family. As a hardcore gamer, I savor my daily fix of the latest MMO hotness as much as anyone. But as a parent, I also enjoy sitting down for an hour before dinner to play Free Realms with my son. I hardly think I am alone in this. In a world where an entire generation of gamers has become parents, online gaming has moved beyond a recreational pastime reserved exclusively for the hardcore. In such a world I feel that family-friendly MMOs can go just about anywhere you can imagine.

With the transition over to PS3, it couldn't have been just a direct transfer. What kind of work went into reworking this pre-existing title to succeed on a console?

Stephen Bokkes:

Actually, a great deal of work went into it. Most notable are the changes we made to the user interface. Porting a virtual world where the entire UI is designed around mouse and keyboard is no small feat. Aside from the obvious challenges with mapping basic navigation and interaction functions to the PS3 controller, we also were faced with the task of redesigning the interface for our wide variety of different game modes. Whereas most MMOs tend to have one core type of gameplay, Free Realms offers a whole host of disparate gameplay activities. Kart racing, fishing, combat, match 3 minigames, pirate ship battles, decorating your house: the list goes on and on. Redesigning each of their respective interfaces so that they were intuitive and easy to learn was a process that took considerable time and iteration. And that’s just stuff that players see. A tremendous amount of work went on under the hood as well: rendering optimizations, gameplay balancing and tuning, in-game marketplace integration, etc.

With the transition, can fans and players of the PC/Mac version expect a slight delay in seeing any additional content that may or may not be in the pipeline for the game?

Stephen Bokkes:

Yes. As the Free Realms team is continually developing for the PC, you can expect a certain amount of lag time as the new content and features are in turn ported to the PS3.

Obviously SOE has a lot of faith in Sony's console, as Free Realms marks the second MMO available on the platform behind only January's DC Universe Online release. Do you think that console gaming is where the mainstream of MMO development is headed?

Stephen Bokkes:

There is certainly a demand for it. I mean, who wouldn’t want to settle down on their couch to play their favorite MMO on their PS3 and huge, flat-screen TV, right? That said, developing an MMO for consoles presents its own set of technical and logistical challenges that most developers (myself included) would find daunting. It really is a huge undertaking. I suppose the amount of investment required and the risks of an increasingly crowded MMO market space might be enough to keep console MMOs out of the mainstream for a while. However, the sheer number of console gamers out there demanding new and innovative gameplay experiences is an opportunity too great to ignore. I think we may see more and more MMOs making their way across platforms eventually. Perhaps even evolving from what we consider to be the conventional definition of MMOs into something that fits more snugly and safely into the constraints of your next-gen console.

Will this be a boxed purchase to be made in store, or is the game going to be available on the Playstation Network?

Stephen Bokkes:

Starting March 29th, Free Realms PS3 will be exclusively available for download on the PlayStation Network. Check it out. I look forward to seeing you online!