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First Look Interview with Michael Koehler

William Murphy Posted:
Interviews 0

MMORPG: Let’s start with the obvious.  Can you give our readers an overview of WorldAlpha and what it’s all about?

Michael Koehler:  WorldAlpha is a MMORTS that focuses in on social strategy. In this persistent world, players will be working together to decide what society they are going to form, as no one player will be able to do it all. Some will be businessmen, others military and political leaders. They will work together, and use social strategy to ultimately decide the fate of WorldAlpha. WorldAlpha is in the late stages of development, with the first closed Beta scheduled for November 22nd.

MMORPG: What makes WorldAlpha a different experience for players of traditional MMOs and RTS? 

Michael Koehler:  WorldAlpha will have an in-depth player-driven economy.  In the economy players will have to gather 9 different resources such as clay, cotton, iron ore and oil, and use them to produce industrial materials like bricks, plastic and steel. These industrial materials in turn will then be used to create buildings, cars, tanks, weapons, and other end-user products.  Citizens will form companies, purchase real estate, construct buildings and employ other citizens. There will be 47 different products, with 5 qualities of each, meaning there will be over 200 unique products which will be sold in the marketplace, and the revenue generated will further business, political or military interests.

The Political system will be very engaging. Cities will be divided into neighborhoods which will have elected city councilors, who along with the elected mayor will make tough decisions on how to run their city. Taxes will be levied and collected, and with that money the leadership will have to protect their city and provide their citizens with academies, hospitals, city walls and more. Nations will be a collection of like-minded cities. These countries will also hold elections to select a Head of Government, as well as officials from each city, to run the nation. A constitution will be written and voted upon. Which of the eight types of government will it be? Will it be Democracy, Aristocracy or Plutocracy? Who will hold leadership, and for how long? When will the elections be?  Will there even be elections? WorldAlpha will have many options.

MMORPG: Are there any unique features to WA that set it apart from other games in the genre?  What’s WA’s hook?

Michael Koehler:  WA will allow players to really focus on one aspect of the game, without having to worry about doing it all.  For instance, if you want to focus on business, you can do exactly that and try to become the Bill Gates of WorldAlpha.  You want to just run the military machine for your country, you can do that too, without having to worry about your character needing to do economic tasks.  Finally you want to try to get your country to rule the world?  It is all possible in WorldAlpha.  Players can also choose to do combination of roles, but it will be a challenge.

Also, the interconnectedness of players is something that you don’t see in a lot of MMOs.  You need to work with others to accomplish your own objectives.  If you are running a company, you need other players to come work for you.  You want to create a military; you need others to fight with you.  You want to be a politician; you need other players to vote for you.

MMORPG: There seem to be so many MMORTS in the browser these days, but so few seem to get it right (if any).  How are you planning on avoiding the same pratfalls of other games that came before you?

Michael Koehler:  A lot of games these days are really trying to cater to the casual gamer.  In a lot of the decisions we are making about gameplay, we are keeping it challenging.  This may mean that a casual gamer might not quite get into it, the way a serious gamer would.  That is fine.  We hope to attract the serious or hardcore gamer, and have the gameplay be challenging, and hopefully still keep some of the casual gamers’ interest.

MMORPG: One of the things I hate most about the MMORTS in browsers, and probably one of the main reasons I don’t stick with them for long, is that I wind up out of things to do and have to wait hours to continue playing and making upgrades, or I have to spend money.  How is WorldAlpha going to be different?

Michael Koehler:  WorldAlpha is going to roll out multiple servers once the game picks up.  Each server will have the potential of having a different speed to the game.  The initial server will have a 7 to 1 ratio, ie 7 hours in WorldAlpha is equivalent to one hour on Earth.  But for serious gamers we’ll have a server that has a 30 to 1 ratio, so you will have to log in more to keep your character active.

Also, as well as keeping your citizen active, there will be aspects of the game that will take time like planning your business strategy, researching economic reports, etc.  Or you might be involved in the media aspect and write articles about the game, or create YouTube videos.

Finally, you are going to need to interact with other players to make things happens, so there will be a lot of time spent, chatting, messaging, and connecting with players on the forums.

MMORPG: How will WA be monetized? It’ll be free to play, but you’ve got to make money somehow, right?

Michael Koehler:  WorldAlpha will be free to play, and have an affordable cash shop.  When I say affordable, I mean it.  Another game in the same social strategy genre, has companies that go for hundreds of dollars.  Most things in the cash shop will be $10 or less, with lots of stuff for less than $1.  So, a $10 investment in the game, will give a player a lot of special items to use in the game.

MMORPG: Tell us more about the mini-games that will come with WA and break up the traditional RTS view.

Michael Koehler:  Well, in the social strategy MMOs that I have played, usually the military aspect is decided with a “fight” button and then some predetermined calculation to register damage.  I wanted to switch it up a bit, and have the military players, actually play a minigame for each round of battle.  There is an optional auto-fight, but you will get significant damage bonus by playing the minigame.

MMORPG: If there’s any one thing you wanted to share with our readers, now’s the time.  Perhaps something no one’s heard before?  Wink, wink… nudge, nudge.

Michael Koehler:  I’d love to have a big secret tidbit to give the MMORPG.com fans, but if you’ve read our DevBlog, we are pretty much an open book.  The one thing I would like to mention is that we just started our IndieGoGo campaign.  We have funding to complete the game, so the money being raised is to grow our marketing budget, so we can get even more players to the game.  Any and all donations guarantees players keys to all closed betas, and there are other great rewards.  You can check it out at: http://www.indiegogo.com/worldalpha?a=349455

Thanks for taking the time to interview a smaller indie studio.  We appreciate it!


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.