Flagship's Max Schaefer • Page 2

On the future of free MMO Mythos, and what went wrong with Hellgate.

Eurogamer: Presumably the social aspect behind the game was the thinking behind the Overworld update?

Max Schaefer: Yeah, like you, we got the feeling when playing it that it was sort of a Massively Singleplayer Game. So we started thinking, do a contiguous overworld since we had the structure anyway - there was a town and then there was an overland and a dungeon. We figured we could take the overland area and make it work the same way, but put everyone out in it.

It actually frees us up in a lot of ways. It lets us do more explicitly exploring quests, we can refer to more cardinal directions like "go west from the lake", and it lets us do some things that we really couldn't do before. The main thing is that it puts you out in the world with a lot of people. And it doesn't seem to feel as fractured to go into the dungeons if you've walked all the way across a big continuous world to get there. I really can't wait to get the Act II and Act III versions of the Overworld in. I think they'll look spectacular when they go in.

Eurogamer: Has there been any hostility towards the Overworld? For instance, I noticed the instant travel stuff wasn't as instant as it was...

Max Schaefer: Yeah, there are mostly little quibbles. People say "I like it but there's this one little problem I'm having", and a lot of those things we've been able to fix. Overall the response has been wildly positive to it. Obviously when you've got hundreds and thousands of people playing a game there's going to be some who don't like it, but generally it's with respect to travel times. Eventually we'll also have mounts and things like that to reduce travel time. We don't want it to be a game where you have to walk 20 minutes across the ground to get to where you're going.

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Eurogamer: That brings me to what I wrote about in the preview - that tagline of 'Mythos is fun.' I was curious that you felt you had to specify that your videogame is fun.

Max Schaefer: Yeah, it's a strange point, but I think it's kind of an accepted fact that a lot of MMOs are not fun. It's fun to build a character and it's fun to be in a social world and it's fun to meet your friends, but the play isn't very fun. And people kind of view the monster-killing and levelling as a grind, as something that you have to do to get your guy built up. The treadmill to get there is not generally fun in these games. So what we want to do in our MMOs is make that part of the game fun, make it fun to go out and kill monsters and find loot.

Eurogamer: There's really something of a buzz around Mythos now, and presumably for that reason. Is it likely to eclipse Hellgate in importance for Flagship?

Max Schaefer: I think there's always a little bit of mystique to a game that isn't released. You always get a bit of boost by not being out yet. But I do think that Mythos is probably more in the middle of what gamers want - it's a little bit more broad-based to market, it appeals to more people. Hellgate is a little more hardcore. You have to be a real gamer to be really effective and play it. Almost anyone can play Mythos. Your mother can play Mythos, your grandmother can play Mythos. As such, it has such wide appeal that I wouldn't be surprised at all if in the end it was a bigger product than Hellgate.

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Eurogamer: Speaking of that broad appeal, while I know there's also a lot of Fate in there, it's hard not to make World of Warcraft comparisons in terms of the art style. Is that part of being calculatedly aimed at a large audience?

Max Schaefer: We have a principle of 'familiar novelty'. So you fire up the game and it looks comfortable, it doesn't look intimidating, it looks approachable, it looks like you don't need to crack open a manual to find out what's going on. But it has enough new stuff to it that it feels like it's a new product. So we need to strike that balance - it's comfortable but it's new.

Eurogamer: Do you ever find you're batting off attacks saying that it looks too much like WOW or it plays too much like Diablo or another game?

Max Schaefer: Actually the general reaction we get is that people are relieved by that. It's a little bit of a chore when you fire up a game and you have to learn a whole vocabulary for it. People play these games for a release from reality, for recreation, to relax. And yeah, there's a place for tons of kinds of games, but I think in the end the vast bulk of people want to play something that's fun and they can just understand.

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Alec Meer

Alec Meer

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A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.

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