We catch up with Mythic Entertainment to discuss its upcoming sci-fi online role-playing game.
Mythic Entertainment, the creator of Dark Age of Camelot, recently announced its next project--a massively multiplayer online game called Imperator. Unlike Mythic's previous games, which have generally all featured high-fantasy settings, Imperator will be a sci-fi game that takes place in an alternate future in which the Roman Republic never fell and instead remained prominent for thousands of years. For more information on this upcoming project, we checked in with Mythic Entertainment CEO Mark Jacobs.
GameSpot: Thanks for taking the time for this interview, Mark. Could you discuss your role in developing Imperator?
Mark Jacobs: I came up with the concept for Imperator, and I am currently working on the initial game design document. Over the next few months, the design team will be expanding as we expand the initial concepts into a full design.
GS: Imperator's futuristic setting seems very different from the high-fantasy games we've come to expect from Mythic. Why the change? Could you explain why you chose a futuristic version of the Roman Empire, specifically?
MJ: In creating Dark Age of Camelot, one of the things we looked for was a property that, first of all, has great brand recognition; second, was one that we could easily make into a great game; and third, wouldn't cost us an arm and two legs to use. I did the same thing for Imperator. The second reason was that we wanted to do a science-fiction game in order to go head-to-head with the folks at Sony and LucasArts. Third, I'm a huge history buff, and Roman history happens to be one of my favorite subjects.
GS: How has the Roman Empire developed during the thousands of years that lead up to Imperator? Could you give us some general background on the game's setting?
MJ: The general background is that Rome survives its transition from a republic to an empire, and then actually goes back to being a republic. With certain changes in the timeline, Rome never falls but actually continues to flourish as a major world power. There will be several other world powers, but Rome still remains at the top of the heap.
GS: What sort of characters will players be able to play as? Will players only be allowed to be Romans, or can they belong to other factions? What sort of character classes and skills will be available to them?
MJ: Players will be able to play all sorts of human and some humanoid races (all of terran origin). There will be no classes in the game, as it will be a skill-based system.
GS: How will classical Roman culture and history figure into Imperator? Will Roman characters report to the senate, or even be able to ascend to it? Can we expect to see intervention from the Roman gods, or to visit with famous historical figures (or descendents of famous figures)?
MJ: There will not be gods or goddesses in this game as anything other than mythical figures. There will be a political aspect to the game, and the senate will certainly figure into it. As far as descendents of famous figures, that's a pretty safe bet.
GS: How will Imperator's futuristic setting figure into the game? We understand that the game will take place across an entire galaxy. Can we expect to see interstellar travel? What kind of interesting roles will space-age technology play in Imperator?
MJ: There will be space flight between planets, of course. As for space-age technology, I think we are actually going to be a bit more advanced than that. Part of our challenge as designers is to create all-new and interesting intellectual property for Imperator.
GS: When the game was first announced, the phrase "the experience defines the player" was used to describe it. Could you discuss what a day in the life of an average Imperator character will be like? Aside from fighting to gain levels, or possibly using trade skills to create items, what sort of options will Imperator players have?
MJ: I hope that there will be no average Imperator player. In beginning work on Imperator, we have set forth a number of guiding principles for the game's design. One of them is "different goals for different players." Simple stuff, but it will be crucial for our success to keep that in mind.
GS: Can we expect to see any elements from Dark Age of Camelot in Imperator? Similar trade skill systems? Fast overland transport? Realm-based player vs. player fighting?
MJ: I expect that we will see a lot of things from Dark Age of Camelot in Imperator, but not any of those three. We are not going to follow the tri-realm model in Imperator as we did in Dark Age of Camelot and Darkness Falls. Since we are in an age of high science, things will need to be very different on many levels.
GS: Are there any specific lessons you've learned from Dark Age of Camelot that you're making sure to take with you into Imperator's development? Are there any specific successes of Dark Age of Camelot you'd like to reproduce? Mistakes you'd like to avoid?
MJ: I could probably write a series of articles on learning from our successes and mistakes with all of our games. However, one of the key lessons that we learned prior to Dark Age of Camelot, and which Dark Age of Camelot reemphasized, was the need to get the foundation technology solid prior to release. We will do the same things with Imperator. While content is crucial to a game's long-term success, the core technology and initial launch are even more crucial. That is why Mythic continues to grow as a company and is able to expand its offerings.
GS: How will Imperator's development and launch affect the resources you're allocating to Dark Age of Camelot's live game?
MJ: It will not affect Camelot's live game at all. We will be keeping every member of the development team fully focused on Dark Age of Camelot until the expansion pack is complete and stable after release. After that, we will continue to spend the same resources on Camelot (a full development team) as long as the players continue to support the game. Since Camelot and Imperator will continue to share the same code base (with each having multiple branching areas), Dark Age of Camelot will actually benefit from any resources being put into Imperator. For example, as we expand our tools for Imperator, much of what we are doing for that game may be able to be used for Dark Age of Camelot. It really is a win-win situation.
GS: Can you share your thoughts on the current state of massively multiplayer games? It was mentioned in the announcement that Imperator is intended to go head-to-head with Star Wars Galaxies. Despite the optimistic projections we've heard from various developers and publishers on the subject, do you think there really is room for more new online games of this nature?
MJ: The state of massively multiplayer online games has never been better. Like any industry, we have had our successes and failures. However, the continued growth of EverQuest at the same time we continue to grow is a very healthy sign. I think there is plenty of room for great titles and always will be.
GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Imperator?
MJ: Sure. We are attempting to create a revolutionary product with Imperator, and we hope the players agree. No matter what happens, the next couple of years are going to be a lot of fun.
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