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Massively speaks with Sparkplay Media's CEO on Earth Eternal


With Sparkplay Media's first game, Earth Eternal, going into beta, we got the chance to sit down with the CEO of the company, Matt Mihaly, and pick his mind on a variety of things related to setting up shop in the free to play genre.

Matt's no stranger to the massively multiplayer space, holding a strong background as the CEO and founder of Iron Realms Entertainment, a company dedicated to creating multi-user dungeons (MUDs) including Imperian, Aetola, Achaea, and Lusternia. If that wasn't enough, Achaea was one of the first games to introduce the sales of virtual goods, making him one of the pioneers of the base that free-to-play games now stand on.

So what's his thought process behind Earth Eternal? What are some of the things we can expect from the MMO that's sporting over 22 races? Hit the continue reading link, and find out!

What type of gameplay can we expect from Earth Eternal? Will it be more focused on combat and progression like other MMOs in the field, or will EE include more of a social twist to those elements?

Earth Eternal really has two meta-components to it. One (we refer to it internally as the RPG component) will be fairly familiar to experienced MMO players. It focuses heavily on combat, progression, crafting, and so on, and has a strong focus on personalization (22 races, six body types per race, the ability to take the 'look' of one armor and graft it onto the stats of another). One big difference between Earth Eternal and something like World of Warcraft is that although you choose a class, you're not restricted to taking abilities only from that class.

The other component, called Groves, is much more focused on socialization and self-expression. Think of Groves as somewhere between traditional MMO player-housing and a level editor. Using versions of the same tools our world-builders use to create the world, players will be able to sculpt an entire valley or island into their home, placing down buildings, forests, NPCs, monsters, and so on. Even cooler, they can actually edit the terrain itself in real-time, creating mesas, lakes, mountains, etc.

Imagine using your own personalized space as a PvP arena with your friends, for instance, or to play other mini-games in when you're taking a break from kicking butt and taking names out in the open world.

Who is the exact audience you are targeting with Earth Eternal? Younger gamers, such as those targeted by FusionFall and Free Realms, or are you going for more of a family dynamic?

We're aiming older than FusionFall and especially Free Realms (both of which target kids as young as eight.) We look at our demographic more around 13-22, which represents the majority of our pre-release fans as well so far.

Why have you chosen to run Earth Eternal inside the browser, rather than a stand alone client? Did your intended audience influence this decision? Have there been any challenges associated with this decision?

Well, Earth Eternal runs either in a browser or as a standalone client. What's important to us is that people trying out Earth Eternal for the first time don't have to put up with a huge download before getting in there and playing. A large portion of players start downloading a game and never finish – the bigger the download, the more never finish. When running EE in a browser you're into the game much quicker than if you download the whole game as you only load what you need to get started; from there it'll load what's coming up before you get there.

Some people just prefer to download a standalone client though, so we're giving them that option. The game is exactly the same in either case so the player can choose what he's most comfortable with.

There are definitely challenges with running in a browser, because part and parcel of that is making the application behave like users expect a browser app to behave. Primarily, that means you can't have an hour of download or what-not. So our engineers spent a lot of time finding ways to break data up so that it can be delivered to the player in an efficient fashion when he or she fires up the web client for the first time.

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