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Massively catches up with SOE Tucson director Dan Kopycienski

James Egan

Sony Online Entertainment surprised us recently with the announcement that they'd acquired Octopi -- creators of the collectible strategy game PoxNora -- and that the studio would now be known as SOE Tucson. We had some questions about what this acquisition might mean for SOE moving into the future, as well as what changes are on the horizon for PoxNora.

Massively caught up with the former president of Octopi, Dan Kopycienski, who is now Director of Development at SOE Tucson. Although SOE Tucson is still very much a studio in transition, he was kind enough to speak with us about where PoxNora is today, and what it may become with the newfound backing of Sony Online Entertainment.

Fans of card and strategy games may already be familiar with PoxNora, but now with SOE's backing the game will likely become more recognized. For those unfamiliar with the game, how would you describe PoxNora?

It's a collectible tactical strategy game, so it has a lot of aspects of the collectible card game model. But really, that's more for the metagame... how we structure our microtransactional system. The actual gameplay is more of a strategy game. You configure a battle group as you would in any collectible card game, but then when you actually play the card, you've would then have units on a battlefield with all different kinds of special abilities. I think we have thousands of special abilities at this point. It's very different from most games that most people play from the collectible card game world.

PoxNora been running for over two years now, right?

Yeah, a little over two years. About two and a half, I think.

How has the game changed since its release?

Well we've added two new factions. We've continually updated the game. Not just with content, but with new features. We added a trading and auction system, we've added a player reward system. There's so many things we've added, and in the next expansion, we're actually going to be announcing some pretty big features... which I don't think we're ready to formally announce yet, but we will soon.

Sure. And when will the next expansion launch?

It's going to be the end of next month. [February]

That's pretty soon... as the acquisition of Octopi and the creation of SOE Tucson came as a surprise to many of us. Was this deal a long time in coming, and how did the acquisition come about?

Well, it actually happened pretty quickly. We were talking with Sony about distribution partnerships and possibly doing some projects for them. It just seemed that what we were planning on doing and what was on their roadmap kind of made sense. It was a good fit. It kind of evolved pretty quickly from a partnership to an acquisition.

How will Octopi's integration into SOE impact PoxNora's development, and are the core team members still involved with PoxNora under SOE?

Yeah, all of the core team is here.

Good news.

And the impact is going to be nothing but good. We're going to have a lot more resources, we're going to able to utilize a lot of the tech that Sony has. They have years and years of experience doing this sort of thing. And we're going to be able to assimilate some of that into our platform, which is nice. We're going to have the resources to really build out PoxNora, moreso than we would have been able to do if we were still independent. Plus, the PR and the marketing is definitely going to help as well, grow the playerbase and get the word out.

Looking at SOE's support for other card games like Legends of Norrath based off the EverQuest IP, and of course their overall focus on MMOs, do you envision collectible strategy games and MMOs coming together with PoxNora's new affiliation with SOE?

That's a good question. I'm not sure how that'll play out.

I'm not quite sure that I see PoxNora as an MMO... we kind of do what we do here. I know a bunch of the other titles do have that kind of cross-promotional element, but I don't think that's in the works.

Kind of the converse of that -- do you envision directly porting the PoxNora style of play to any of SOE's other IPs? For example an EverQuest-themed PoxNora set or a standalone game?

I'm not completely sure on that yet. But one thing we have discussed is building a PS3 version of PoxNora. Something for the PS3 network.

Wow. Is this really in the works or something that's just being discussed?

[Laughs] You know, the acquisition happened a week and a half ago, so... we're having lots of discussions. That's definitely one that's on the table that I would love to come true.

Is SOE Tucson focused solely on PoxNora for the time being, or are additional projects in the works with SOE Denver?

I think our goal is to grow the team out and to be building additional products.

PoxNora is currently free to play but players typically buy runes to improve their decks, or move up to premium subscriptions. So are there plans to change the game's business model, or to link up PoxNora with the Station Cash system?

Currently we're not going to change the business model. I definitely see in the future adding Station Cash as an option.

Now that PoxNora has the backing of SOE, I'd imagine there are a lot of potential directions you'd like to take the game. What kind of changes or enhancements do you envision for PoxNora under the banner of SOE Tucson?

There's a bunch of things that we have on our list to do, that we probably wouldn't have been able to do as an independent studio and we're going to be able to do now. One of them is doing a PS3 version, and the idea is that we want those players to be able to play with our current, existing userbase. I don't know if anybody's done that yet. That would be really cool.

We do have some more specifics... new features for the game, but I don't want to really give you those specifics now, because we're not ready to announce them yet -- but as soon as we are, we'll let you know!

And what about tournaments? How often are you running tournaments with PoxNora?

Right now that could be one of the things you can mention as a feature that we're really going to be able to implement with SOE. The Denver guys have a great tournament system established with Legends of Norrath and their other properties and it's something that we just haven't had the resources to really get done at this point. It's something that I think is pretty important. I know other guys within the company do as well. Hopefully we're going to be able to leverage some of the things that they've done, and a PoxNora Tournament is definitely one of them.

Thanks for speaking with Massively, Dan.

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