Thursday, May 27, 2010

An Interview with Angela Gillespie, Live Operations Producer for True Games Interactive

Hello readers!

Today I have a very special interview for you with Angela Gillespie, The Live Operations Producer from True Games Interactive. Angela provides the fans of Mytheon with some interesting insights and even hints at possible expansions to the current content. I think you'll like what you have to read.

Q: Hi, Angela, it's good to have you on the Friendly Warcaster blog today. I have to tell you that even though I haven't experienced the game all the way through yet, I'm thoroughly enjoying what I've played of Mytheon. From what I've seen so far, I really believe I am a part of your company's demographic, and I would assume that would be all the people that played Diablo or one of the many Diablo-clones that popped up in the late 90's and at the turn of the century and wished that these games were more like an MMO! Am I right?

A: Thanks very much, Friendly Warcaster! It's awesome to be able to talk to you today. I think you're right about people loving classic game elements and wondering why they aren't in MMOs today. That’s one of the reasons we were very excited to work on Mytheon. Mytheon combines the strategic, top-down RTS elements from Diablo-style games with RPG elements and storylines. As far as I know, this is the first MMO of its kind that combines these elements, and we’re excited to see the audience this type of game play brings to Mytheon.

Q: I like that you've interjected some randomness into combat, and I'm not mashing the same 4 skills over and over. In fact, I think that your game seems to be set up more like a CCG than is presented. Also, the fact that you can control up to 5 summoned allies at once makes it similar in play style to a strategy game. What were some of the considerations when approaching this kind of combat style?

A: Mytheon was designed to be a game that is easy to jump into, but with additional layers of strategy built in as players progress, so the complex strategic elements are difficult to master. Players that are used to a CCG style of game play will find complex layers and strategies in Mytheon, and that the CCG element was thought of from the beginning of design,; however, players not familiar with CCG can still learn game play and enjoy themselves with the RPG elements of Mytheon.

Q: In game I've heard people call this the "Clash of the Titans" MMO, what do you think of that analysis?

A: To be honest, I haven’t seen Clash of the Titans yet. I know, I know... I should have! However, the story of Mytheon differs from the movie’s plot, because the player has been given the gift of powerful, magic stones from the Three Fates who have betrayed the gods in order for humankind to have control over their destiny. The players then become “Stonecasters” and are tasked with defeating the gods in order to retain control over mankind’s destiny.

Q: I know your ratings are still being worked out, but overall I worry about chat filters as a parent. I will say that I like that there isn't much blood in the game so far . . . people seem to just fizzle away when they're defeated. What were the considerations in those directions, and what can parents look forward to with chat controls in the future?

A: Since the overall focus of Mytheon is about strategy, we didn’t feel lots of blood or overt violence was necessary to get the core theme of the game across. We know that many of our players will be teens, and because of this, we have implemented a chat filter along with a pretty comprehensive list of banned words, which will grow as we see fit. Is the version in Beta final? Not by any means.

Q: If there are expansions to this game, will we start to see perhaps more unknown mythology from around the world play more prominently in the game? Will we someday be descending upon Incan civilizations to take on Viracocha or are we sticking with the Greeks?

A: We definitely have expansions planned, and that is one of the great things about a game based on world mythology; the opportunities for content are vast, as every culture of earth has mythology we can draw from and expand upon. We currently have an Egyptian expansion planned for release this year, and we are considering Chinese Mythology in 2011, but from there we can expand to Norse, Native American, Roman mythology, etc. as the game grows.

Q: Can you tell us why you decided to go with a free-to-play format with a cash shop rather than a subscription model?

A: It seems the online game market is moving toward a free-to-play with microtransactions model. As more and more games become available to players, they demand to see the content without an upfront subscription fee. Also, with a free to play model, we have a low barrier to entry for players who just want to see what Mytheon has to offer, then they can enhance their game experience with items from the cash shop as they see fit. We wanted to appeal to a large number of players, then allow them to customize their experience once they see what Mytheon has to offer.

Q: A big challenge for some free-to-play/cash shop games seems to be that the difficulty of the game near the final stages becomes almost too great without dipping into the cash shop, how does Mytheon handle this challenge while still meeting your financial goals as a company?

A: We wanted all players to be able to experience Mytheon in its entirety without being forced to purchase items. However, if players want to enhance their experience visually, get through content quicker, or choose not to group with other players, items are available for purchase to appeal to these users. As we expand, there may be some areas or content that are for purchase only, but only if they do not directly affect game play, as we want Mytheon to be accessible to all users.

Q: How close are we to going live with Mytheon? It seems like at this point some of the larger bugs are being worked out of the game (I still find myself getting stuck on a loading screen from time to time, but it is happening less frequently than a week ago). Can you give us a guess?

A: We are working very hard to make the player experience as smooth as possible, and even the next open beta release will have many improvements to stability and game play. As for a definite launch date, I can say this . . . very soon. :-)

Q: What do you see as your greatest success and challenge when it comes to motivating those around you when it comes to crunch time (as one might see in the beta stages of a game)?

A: The home stretch before any MMO goes live has interesting effects on the people that make it all come together. As a manager, I have to modify motivation techniques to fit each individual’s personality. There are a lot of long hours involved with making an MMO come together, so rallying the team to stay focused on the end goal is extremely important. This includes keeping everyone in constant communication with each other, so we don’t work over one another or lose focus. It’s also important to have a bit of comic relief from time to time, and as such, every person on the True Games’ team is equipped with a Nerf gun or sword in the event of a Nerf war. :-)

Red Sonja, I mean Angela, brandishing her Nerf Sword.


Q: Where do you think Mytheon will be advertised in the future? Do you see them infiltrating game shops through comic books and magazines, and how will your fans be important to your overall strategy?

A: Only time will tell for sure, but for now, we’ll focus heavily on building our relationships with online sites, game aficionados, and great bloggers like you. :) As for our fans, they will definitely be our number one focus in building and maintaining a game experience they can enjoy for a long time down the road.

Q: Speaking of fans, what do you think of the Mytheon community so far, and what do you see coming from the Mytheon community a year down the road?

A: So far, the Mytheon community of beta testers has been fantastic! We have a core group of players who have been extremely helpful in reporting bugs and giving valuable feedback of their overall experience. We value our community’s feedback and are very happy with the group of players we have in Mytheon currently. I think that if our community continues to grow with members like our beta players, we will have a fantastic group of players a year down the road.

Thank you so much for your time, as per usual with my interviews, I like to end with this: Do you have any questions for the Friendly Warcaster?

Angela's Q: Yes, if there was one feature you'd love to see in the game, what would it be?

Friendly's A: I love being involved in the community and especially the random parties and fun that happen. I would love to see some items added to the cash shop for nothing more than the sake of fun. For instance, currently the /dance feature does nothing more than return a text emote. I would love to be able to lay down a few Mytheon coins for the ability to make my character get jiggy with it. I’d also like to be able to purchase things like goofy costumes, fireworks, and illusion potions. Now I realize that most of these things have nothing to do with being a hero being blessed by the fates to destroy the oppressive gods, but at the same time, I think it’d be smart to give tools to the community to have fun when they’re taking a break from their adventures. I feel a big part of MMOs is that you can be social in them! Tools to that end are appreciated.

Thanks so much Angela!

Keep throwing the stones!

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