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Garrett Fuller: What's Next for Mark Kern?

Interviews By Garrett Fuller on September 22, 2014

What's Next for Mark Kern?

Last week we sat down with Mark Kern, veteran of World of Warcraft and Red 5's Firefall, sometimes MMO columnist here at MMORPG.com, to talk about his new project. Mark has been in the industry a long time, and since leaving the company he founded (Red 5) is now gearing up for a new leap in games which will take us into the virtual reality space. Mark is developing a game for the Oculus Rift which brings together old school style with loads of options for modding and player-made environments.

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MEK Entertainment is the name of the new venture which hosts a team of hardcore gamers and developers who are looking to break into the virtual reality space. The game itself doesn't have an official name yet, nor is MEK Entertainment ready to share too many specific details, but Mark explained that shared game design is core to the project and they want players to build their own worlds by giving them the tools to do so. They also want to keep a sandbox feel to their game which will foster a strong community who can work together.

One of the biggest additions to the universe to track how players are creating, crafting, and trading will be the use of Bitcoin technology. Mark was quick to explain that he is using Bitcoin for what it brings to inventory management and tracking player creations over the course of the game. There is so much the technology can do, it is not just about working on virtual currency. Bitcoin will be used by MEK to harness the tools which players will use to create their own virtual universe.

“I was reading this book called “Ready, Player One” by Earnest Cline. It describes the ultimate MMO called Oasis that spans entire planets where each planet has a different game theme with lots of retro gaming and 80’s references. I was so struck by it that I reached out to the author and he was very gracious. We ended up having an hour long phone call about retro gaming, the 80’s and his book.” - Mark Kern

If you go to the company’s website which is now up you will see a very retro style with some steam punk influences. However, the game seems to be so wide open in terms of ideas that I would not peg it to any single genre. Players will be able to create their own massive planets for the game and build in different types of crafting to fit into a universal economy.

“Modders are foremost in our mind,” Mark said. The game industry continues to grow creatively and players are pushing new boundaries now in terms of how they build parts of the games they play. Having the tools in modders' hands really makes it fun for everyone. However, in some games mods are tough to get and download for the player. So MEK is working on ways to make mods extremely easy to incorporate into their game. This way players from different worlds can trade mods and use them universally without delays or download hassles. 

Virtual Reality is the next level of game design and MEK is jumping right in very quickly to get their game set up for the Rift technology. “The other super key element for us when starting this game was VR. The game had to let you feel like you were living inside of it. It turns out that our CTO, Jon Olick, used to work for Oculus, working with Carmack on some of the code for the device. So he was thrilled with adding VR to the game. It’s not as easy as some people think. To maintain the illusion, you need high framerates and resolution, and the way UI has to be done is completely different from anything we’ve done before. Jon and his team have created a very fast, true voxel engine with ray-tracing from the ground up. It's retro, and it's perfect for the style we’re trying to achieve."

So right now the team at MEK has a proof of concept game set up which is a sandbox style experience. It has all the bells and whistles to host modding already and starts the universe as a jumping off point for multiple worlds to be built. The team just finished their first seed financing and are working on pre-alpha stages of the game. It will be very interesting to see the old school graphics that MEK is using when they meet up with the latest technology in VR. We will continue to watch the developments of MEK’s project and will reconnect with Mark throughout the coming months to keep you all posted on the game’s development.

You can find the MEK-Entertainment website here. 

Garrett Fuller Garrett Fuller Editorials
Garrett Fuller has been playing MMOs since 1997. He originally joined MMORPG.com as a writer in 2005. In 2007 Garrett went on to handle Industry Relations for TenTonHammer.com. Then, in July 2009, Garrett happily rejoined his old team at MMORPG.com as the site's News Manager. Garrett lives in Hillsborough, NJ with his wife, son and daughter.

His column appears here every Wednesday.
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