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Stratics at GDC: Gatheryn Preview

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by SWATJester, Apr 1, 2009.

  1. SWATJester

    SWATJester Guest

    [drupal=30349]Stratics at GDC: Gatheryn Preview[/drupal]

    The raging flood of programmers, designers, crackberries, iPhones, and wide-eyed students that flood the annual Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco has once again receded, and amidst the devastation (and post-con SARS) Stratics survives to bring you the low-down on the latest and greatest in MMO news. We took some time out from the convention to sit down with Mindfuse Games CEO Joseph Waters and studio director Isa Stamos for an introduction into the world of Gatheryn.
    Gatheryn is an advanced casual massively multiplayer online game, featuring full 3D visuals, but with a casual gaming focus. If that sounds a bit schizophrenic to you, don't worry -- it's not. The heart of Gatheryn is a richly developed MMO, set in a Victorian-esque period where steampunk and clockwork technology abound. The interface of the game is instantly familiar to most MMO players: create a character, explore and socialize, acquire loot, etc. The game's business model is free2play, supported by microtransactions and premium subscriptions. Where Gatheryn differs from other games is the integration of casual minigames into the broader game narrative. This may scare away some players looking for a more hardcore experience, but in fact the result is something not so unfamiliar from the minigames they may be used to in mainstream MMOs. First, however, let's take a look at the setting for the game.
    The game is set in the archipelago of the Elymian Islands, where rare technology exists to attract "outlanders". The islands that I viewed featured a wide array of landscapes, from a lush farm by the beach, to a thriving steampunk city, to a giant zepplin airship. You can tell the immersion factor has really been ramped up; I certainly felt like the game showed a passable representation of England in the mid to late 1800's. The game has a focus on exploration, and to that end, Mindfuse has worked to create a visually engaging environment for players to discover. There are no loading screens, and a full weather system. Clouds drift across the top of the screen (a nice touch, compared to static skyboxes in some games), and the blowing wind realistically affects trees, clouds, steam, and rain. Day and night cycles cast moving shadows across the landscape, and the result is a richly immersive exploration experience. Gatheryn is powered by HeroEngine, and should be one of the first games released on that engine. The results so far are pretty impressive, though there was an amusing hitch during a loading screen where another developer was remotely tweaking one of the loading functions, causing us to freeze. Because of this ability to edit content directly in the game, players will see new islands off the coast before they become live for access, providing yet another incentive to explore.

    In case exploration gets boring, Gatheryn features a standard array of social features: chat, in game mail, friends list, ban/ignore list, etc. Isa expands "Because this is a social game, we need these basics. But we also strive to get into the world and make it immersive. For example, to send mail you

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