GameSpot recently interviewed Brad McQuaid, one of the creators of the popular online role-playing game recently announced new development studio, the online game market today and in the future, and what he would like to see in future online games.
GameSpot: Things have changed in the online game world since EverQuest was created. What are some of the biggest changes you've seen recently?
Brad McQuaid: We've seen more and more interest, with more companies either starting work on MMOGs [massively multiplayer online games] or at least contemplating it. This is a good thing, in that the MMOG game space will continue to grow rapidly over the next 5 to 10 years. Players will be looking for more choices, as well as better and more robust MMOGs as the genre matures.
GS: Where is your new studio based? How many employees do you have now or plan to have in the near future?
BM: We're based in the San Diego area, and while we have many key people lined up, we've not yet begun the hiring process because we're still exploring different funding and publishing deals. Once we've cut a deal, the hiring process will begin. As for how many employees, it's our plan to start small and only grow as needed. It might take 30-person-plus teams to finish an MMOG, but it doesn't take that many to start the development process.
GS: Can you give us any hints as to how your upcoming game will be similar to or differ from EverQuest?
BM: No, can't really say much of anything about the new game because we've a variety of opportunities that could very well significantly shape what kind of game this will turn into.
GS: When EverQuest was released, the online game market was much less competitive than it is now. Do you think your upcoming game will be able to match the success of EverQuest?
BM: Actually, I still don't think the MMOG game market is very competitive. EverQuest didn't hurt Ultima Online much, and Asheron's Call, Anarchy Online, and Dark Age of Camelot didn't do much to EverQuest. Each MMOG launched tends to grow the game space far more than steal from each other's subscriber base. And I think this will be true for quite some time.
As for the success level of our new game, let me just say that if we didn't think we could match or exceed EQ's success level, we'd probably not be nearly as interested in doing all of this. I think anyone who creates something, whether it's a game, a music album, a book, or whatever, wants to go to the next stage with their second creation--it's a natural desire. While they're very proud of their first creation, they feel a need deep down to keep going, upward and onward.
GS: How do you plan to make your new game stand out from all the other current and upcoming online games?
BM: Without going into any detail, we believe we've nailed down the types of features and game mechanics that need to be implemented in upcoming third-generation games. And while other developers may or may not come to similar conclusions, we also feel our track record and experience gives us a great chance at ensuring our execution is outstanding.
GS: Recently we've seen some games offering free "reevaluation" offers to lure customers back. How many online role-playing games can the market support at one time? Is there a limit?
BM: I don't necessarily think that the "reevaluation" options are necessarily indicative of market saturation. Rather, I think they're an attempt to regain previous customers who became burnt out playing their game and have left.
And as I mentioned earlier, I think the game space will continue to expand. Think about the number of new computer buyers every day, and then think about the number who are just discovering the Internet. How many of them might be interested in a massively multiplayer game? I think a lot, and I think until the vast majority of people are jacked into the Net that the game space will grow more than the existing games within that space will compete.
GS: In your announcement, you were quoted as saying, "We believe we have just begun to explore the possibilities of this genre." Can you talk about some of the things you'd like to see in upcoming online games?
BM: I'd like to see more games, and therefore more options. More themes and settings, more advancement mechanisms, and content that appeals to hard-core gamers, casual gamers, and everyone in between. I'd also like to see vast virtual worlds developed, but full of depth and detail, and I'd like to see those worlds become more dynamic. I'd also like to see players' decisions and actions shape their world.
GS: How will the advances in technology in the past couple of years change the way you develop your upcoming game?
BM: As you know, MMOGs tend to push technology harder than just about any other genre. An MMOG engine really needs to be a "do everything" engine. They need to do indoors and outdoors, all sorts of environments, and be able to display vast numbers of character models. Players want to be able to configure their character's appearance, to explore a detailed world, to be able to travel anywhere (as opposed to traveling a set linear path). All of this is very different and much more demanding than, say, a first-person shooter.
So really just about any advance in technology is going to help us accomplish the above all the better. More RAM, faster 3D cards, faster CPUs, better Internet connectivity--all these things are great and we've every intent to take advantage of the latest technology.
GS: Do you have any target date for when the game will be complete?
BM: No, because again that depends on exactly what game we end up doing. While we're investigating the technology and working with several design ideas, we've not yet signed a deal and committed to a specific project.
GS: Considering the huge amounts of time many people spend playing online games, what's your idea of a healthy balance between games and real life? How much time do you spend playing online games?
BM: With some additional free time lately, I've been playing EQ about 4 to 5 hours a night, most evenings of the week. But this will undoubtedly decrease again once we're further along with the company and the project.
I think that like any other compelling form of entertainment people need to be careful and use moderation. Playing the heck out of a computer or video game, or watching TV all day, or just about anything else in excess will usually lead to all sorts of problems. Not only will you become burnt out with something you truly enjoy, but also other aspects of your life might be harmed--jobs, relationships, etc. So take it easy and keep in mind both moderation and variety.
GS: Thanks for your time, Brad, and good luck with your new studio.
BM: Thanks very much!