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Mythos Interview with Max Schaefer

Posted by Stropp on January 28, 2008

A few weeks ago I received an eMail from Max Schaefer, who is the executive producer of Mythos, in response to a post I published requesting an invite to the Mythos beta. At the time, Max kindly provided a beta key to the game. As part of our conversation, I asked Max if he wouldn’t mind doing an interview for Stropp’s World to which he agreed.

Max is one of the original co-founders of Blizzard North, which developed the Diablo series of action RPG games. In 2003 Max resigned from Blizzard, along with a number of other employees including Bill Roper, to pursue new opportunities. The opportunity turned out to be the start up of a new game company called Flagship Studios.

Stropp: Hi Max, welcome to Stropp’s World. Why did Flagship Studios decide to develop a Diablo style game?

Max: Originally, the purpose of the Mythos project was to make a small free game that would be a test-bed for the Hellgate: London network infrastructure. It didn’t take long before we realized it was turning into a real project. We were fortunate enough to get Travis Baldree, who made Fate almost single-handedly, to lead up the project, and he and his team have made Mythos into not only a real game, but one that all of Flagship Studios is very proud of.

Stropp: Will Mythos have a story arc? Will there be larger story of the world told in the game?

Max: Mythos will have a history, a setting, and a lore, but not so much a "story" that you play out as you level. Instead, you will learn about the world of Uld, about why the various players are there, what happened in the past, and what challenges there are for the future. But in Mythos, you are the story – you write it with your character’s exploits, and the interactions with all of the other players. We plan a very full suite of community-based gameplay features.

Stropp: I understand you are working on the up coming crafting system. Can you tell us how it works? And will the items that are crafted ultimately be useful, or will they be overtaken by loot drops and quest rewards?

Max: There are enough different types of desirable items in Mythos that crafting will give access to items and benefits that aren’t simply more of what you find from loot drops and questing. The crafting system under development now has elements of a skill system hybridized into it, and we’ll be releasing more and more information about it as we get closer to the Zone 3 push.

Stropp: How about PvP? Will this be included in Mythos? Can you give us any details?

Max: We’ll be starting out with basic dueling, and also with a very exciting concept: the Shadow World. This is basically a copy of the entire game of Mythos, accessible through portals, that has PvP everywhere, all the time. It’s very exciting the way it’s turning out. Additionally, we plan other PvP and group vs. group modes like Capture the Flag-type games and other non-PK competitions.

Stropp: How is the beta progressing?

Max: It’s going extremely well. The response from gamers has been fantastic, and we work closely with Beta testers to uncover bugs, and discover player preferences and issues. Travis and the team have a great relationship with the players, and are very motivated by the response so far.

Stropp: Mythos has been in beta for quite some time now. How close are you to a release date?

Max: The Alpha/Beta period has been fairly long, as we really did use it to test features for Hellgate: London. Therefore we opened it before we might have otherwise done so, but this has allowed us get more input from our players and spend more time iterating on the design based on real data. Our release date has not been set but I can tell you it will be this year.

Stropp: What are your plans for Mythos when it is released? Will you be regularly patching in content? Or will you be doing bigger expansions less frequently?

Max: We plan on regularly patching in content. Our plans for Mythos extend well beyond what we will be commercializing with, and the Seattle team is committed to expanding the universe for the foreseeable future. Since Mythos is a free download, we’ll probably not do larger expansions, but just keep adding chunks of content that will be automatically patched in when players log on.

Stropp: How about new races or classes? Will we see any Frost Mages or Necromancers in Mythos?

Max: Not those specifically, but yes, both new races and classes are on the way.

Stropp: It’s been previously announced that Mythos will be free to play. Can you tell us what revenue model you will be using? What incentives will there be for players to pay extra?

Max: We will be using an RMT model. Our goal is to provide a wonderful, robust free experience, but offer attractive options for people who are willing to pay to get extra luxuries, or enhance their adventuring. We don’t want to simply sell the best items – even paying players will have to go kill monsters to find the best loot. Also, we plan to let players trade the in-game cash currency for items with non-paying players. This way, even the cash items will be available to free players, and we’ll avoid splitting the community into the haves and have-nots.

Stropp: There’s been quite a lot of discussion around the MMO blogging community recently about RMT. How do you intend to deal with third party gold and item sellers?

Max: It’s very difficult to stop item selling. Instead, we are investigating actually allowing players to sell items though a secure in-game marketplace rather than resorting to Ebay. We don’t think gold farming will be a huge issue in Mythos, however, since the RMT currency cannot be farmed, and the in-game gold doesn’t buy you everything you need. Nevertheless, we stop gold farming whenever we can.

Stropp: Finally, is there anything else that you would like to tell us about Mythos?

Max: Mythos is all about good fun. We made it easy to approach – we expect many players will never have to look at a manual – and have aimed for a wide audience of gamers. At the same time, we want players to have a deep, rich game experience, the kind you don’t usually get from free games. Basically, we want to bring AAA production values and depth to the casual game space. We don’t expect to take over for giant epics like World of Warcraft, but rather to enhance such games with an alternative that’s a bit lighter, a bit less time consuming, a bit easier to play, and is always just a free download away for everyone.

Stropp: Max, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. Good luck with the rest of the beta.

Max: Thank you for the opportunity!

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