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Interview with Mike Emmons

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The QA Manager at Near Death Studios discusses one of the original graphical MMORPGs

Meridian 59 under the brand name Resurrection came back to life a few years ago and has run a small, but moderately successful operation ever since. We talked to QA Manager Mike Emmons of Near Death Studios, who currently manages the day-to-day operations of the title, about the game and its future.

MMORPG.com: Being one of the oldest MMORPGs to date where do you see Meridian 59 going in the future?
Mike Emmons:

The main purpose of Near Death Studios, Inc. buying Meridian 59 was to keep it alive for the players. Since we bought it, we’ve done quite a bit of balancing and added some content for the players. But overall the game isn’t going to be changing radically, because we want to preserve a bit of the game's history. Obviously, being a fan of the game myself, I’d like to see more people sign up and enjoy it.

We have always talked about possibly doing a sequel to the game, but that is something that will take considerable time in order to collect the funding and team required.

MMORPG.com: Can you tell us about Meridian 59 Evolution and what it will mean for players?
Mike Emmons:

Well, Meridian 59: Evolution marks a new chapter in the game. With this latest update Near Death Studios, Inc. has made its mark in the history of Meridian 59. For example, the graphics are a bit more modern with a new rendering engine, and mouse-look and rebindable keys were added to the client. We aren't looking to take subscribers from other games, but people joining from other MMOs will feel more comfortable.

In addition, we've added new zones, new spells, and new secrets in the game for the players. This isn’t unique to just this update, and has been an ongoing process since we acquired the game.

MMORPG.com: It is nice to see a flexible character skill system which was prevalent in the older MMORPGs, how have you improved upon this with the expansion?
Mike Emmons:

It's sometimes difficult to make significant changes to the character improvement system because it is so balanced. One excessive change and we could easily ruin the fun of the system by allowing some abilities to become overpowered or others to become too nerfed. But, we do want to expand the system as we can in order to keep it interesting. We are consistently tweaking and balancing skills, but there aren't massive overhauls because the gameplay doesn't need it; it really is very balanced.

MMORPG.com: With seven different schools of abilities there is plenty of room for character customization. Will there be specific upgrades to these schools in Evolution?
Mike Emmons:

We have continuously updated the player abilities we've offered over the years, keeping an eye on game balance. After ten years the spells have become pretty balanced, allowing players to attack others and defend themselves. We have recently made some changes to some of the spells that players have enjoyed, changing and adding some functionality, as well as fleshing out Jala, the previously sparse bardic school of magic. We are looking to continue adding new content in the future.

MMORPG.com: PvP is a very important part of MMORPGs, Meridian 59 helped lay the groundwork for that feature. How has PvP developed and changed over the life of your game?
Mike Emmons:

PvP is always dynamic, because the players are always changing. Sometimes the PvP is very low-keyed, with small skirmishes between people or a rogue PKer on the loose. Other times large guilds will clash and tremendous wars will engulf the entire server. It always tends to be a lot of fun.

Over the years, we've worked to make PvP more enjoyable for everyone. When Meridian 59 launched, the game was very old school, with open PvP and a very rough-and-tumble atmosphere. As people's tastes have mellowed, we've added more consequences for PvP while adding more options for people to engage in consensual fights. One such example is the guild war system.

MMORPG.com: What new options will guilds have to declare war on each other and begin open PvP campaigns?
Mike Emmons:

Near Death Studios, Inc. has taken guild war a little further than it was in the past. Warring with another guild was more symbolic, and as we've added more consequences for PvP we've given players more options to engage each other. When fighting with another guild none of the murder penalties that existed in the past apply. Also, when someone chooses to back out of a war, there is a cash penalty which is awarded to the other guild towards their hall rent or regular dues.

MMORPG.com: Explain the development of faction shields and how they help players with their PvP experience.
Mike Emmons:

Faction shields were implemented because players missed an old scenario that used to be in the game that was exploited in the past. In the new system, when a player becomes strong enough they can move beyond the regular level of membership in their faction and choose to become a soldier. This responsibility awards them a shield that is one of the few items which increases their stats. If they honor their faction by slaying opposing shield holders their rank in the factions army will rise, awarding them higher bonuses. This is another example of our consensual PvP systems in the game.

MMORPG.com: Give us some insight into in-game Frenzies.
Mike Emmons:

Frenzies are possibly one of the favorite features for the players. About once every couple of weeks we save the servers and run what basically amounts to a PvP free-for-all. The skies turn red and no one is safe, unless they take refuge inside of an inn. We hand out reagents to everyone and the fighting goes on for over an hour. Occasionally, we will separate the servers into teams and keep score of the fighting. After the hour and a half, we bring the servers down, run regular maintenance, and the game is restored to the state it was in directly before the frenzy. It’s a great way for everyone to work out aggression and have fun while testing out PvP strategies.

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