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The Year Before and the Year Ahead

Jon Wood Posted:
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Earthrise: The Year Before and the Year Ahead

In anticipation of their developer chat on Saturday, the team at Masthead Studios has provided us with this interview on the year that just left, 2008 and the year ahead in 2009.


Can you tell us about the progress that was made in Earthrise’s development in 2008?


Last year was certainly the most productive year for our team and Earthrise, as we completed more work in 2008 than 2006 and 2007 combined. One of the reasons for this was that Masthead Studios has doubled in size over the course of the year, adding more members to the Earthrise family. We also worked hard to add more tools to the game engine which significantly boosted our team’s efficiency through easier object manipulation and more speed.

Through all of this hard work Earthrise became a real game and was no longer just a game design document consisting of engine, art and static objects in the world of Enterra. We finished working with game concepts and started to finalize the promised features. As we brought these concepts to life and began testing the game we started to see the fruits of our labor unfold; Earthrise has grown into a game that we can now enjoy and play from home!

When we announced Earthrise to the online community earlier this year, we received so much positive feedback that we felt even more confident that the game we were working on was one that many people had been waiting for.


Can you give us an idea of where the project was on January 1st, 2008 compared to the project on January 1st, 2009?


Looking back to almost one year ago, it is almost hard to believe that the game client didn’t exist and there was no gameplay, just tools and an incomplete engine. We had a detailed gameplay written on paper, but hadn’t yet implemented it. When the game was announced last January, players glimpsed the first images from Earthrise, but really, Eastern Gardens and The Old Town were the only zones that had been developed at this point.

As of January 2009, we have a playable game client, PvP is available and the engine is complete. We are continuing to tweak the balance of skills, but have prepared the skills that we plan on having upon release for players to use. Combat and inventory interface, the targeting system and loot system are all being worked on and are in their final stages. In Earthrise, players will find male and female characters with a variety of armors and weapons to choose from.

We take the artistic quality of Earthrise very seriously and our team is close to the completion of all of the environment art in our major zones – only 3 zones, of more than 10 in the game, remain to be completed. As you have seen from our newsletters, the same pride we take in our environment transfers into the creation of the many creatures in Earthrise. We have nearly all of them ready, and could in fact launch the game with what we have at the moment, but we want greater diversification and more PvE content for those who like to encounter different creatures.

In just one year we have taken Earthrise from its pre-alpha stages with no game client and no gameplay, to a functioning MMORPG that is ready for the beginnings of beta testing. In short, it’s been a big year for us!


Can you tell us about some of the difficulties that you encountered in 2008 as it relates to Earthrise‘s development?


Making an MMO is not an easy task; while the whole development process can be difficult, it never fails that there will be at least a few things that prove more challenging than others. For Earthrise, it was the parallel development of the game engine and the game itself and trying to balance the finalization of the game mechanics with filling the large world with content.

This simultaneous building meant that we had to plan accordingly to make sure the internal tools and engine features were ready for when the team needed them. Proper planning was essential to our development because many aspects of balance couldn’t be guessed and needed to be tested in multiple iterations. As we bring this parallel development to an end, we are happy to see that the Earthrise engine is shaping up to be a very robust tool.

Throughout the development process we’ve also run into hard moments finalizing the game mechanics. It can be quite difficult to cut ideas that have been in the plans since the very beginning of the game design, but sometimes you have to realize that they need to be sacrificed for the game as a whole and its core features. The island of Enterra is a sprawling world and we don’t want to leave it empty. Although filling every patch of land and every corner with content can be difficult, our designers continue to work hard to bring players a natural feeling environment that has become very rare in the MMO genre.


Can you tell us what we can expect from the project in 2009?


2008 was such a monumental year in our development and we are looking forward to 2009 being even better. With the New Year, we announced the beta sign up process for Earthrise and will begin sending beta invites soon. The first step of the beta process will be to move from our internal testing to inviting players into our limited, closed beta testing and then move toward a large scale testing with more players. There will be several beta stages, beginning with the limited closed beta, where testers will focus on specific gameplay categories and then we will ultimately end with full scale beta consisting of tens of thousands of people and a complete product ready to be tested.

In the coming months, we plan on showing in-game footage to the public and introducing a demo of the game to media representatives. Our community can look forward to several contests for beta keys and other prizes, as well as additional surprises along the way. If everything continues to go as planned, Earthrise should launch later this year. In the meantime, we hope that everyone waiting for Earthrise will register for our beta and continue to follow the news section and official forums.


In an ideal world, where will the Earthrise project be on January 1st, 2010?


In just a year’s time, we expect Earthrise will be on the market and available for every MMO fan looking for a post-apocalyptic, sci-fi setting will be able to buy and play our game. We have no doubt that our dedicated community will be thriving in Earthrise, fully exploring all of the games features.

Guilds will have formed alliances and declared war on each other. This ongoing fight to establish their presence in the contested territories will lead to a battle for their own piece of land on the island. The players who came to Earthrise in search of PvP challenge will have entered the danger zones of Enterra island seeking prey for their own combat or finding player killers to collect the bounties set for their heads. Supporters of both Continoma and Noir will be continuing the struggle for influence over the world resources, while neutral players work to benefit from this conflict. Crafters will be searching for and using the most precious resources available to create the best weapons and armor in Earthrise and selling them for great profits.

The journey with Earthrise is just beginning. We hope that on January 1, 2010 players will have begun exploring their place in Earthrise and find themselves on one side of the struggle between Continoma and Noir.


Jon Wood