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Massively conquers two Empire and State developers


Massively sat down with Empire and State developer Toby Ragaini not so long ago, and we were excited to see exactly how the team's promised game of political intrigue and power-grabbing would play -- so excited that we nabbed a second interview not only with Toby, Director of Game Development at Novel Inc, but also with Mike Marr, the company's Creative Director. Both of them offer a combined experience from MMOs like Asheron's Call and RTS games like Supreme Commander.

We were able to get our hands on the game, as well, and were pretty surprised at what we found. If you are familiar with many browser games, you will not be shocked at how the game is delivered to you. What will catch you off guard is how the game plays and feels, as it combines a lot of different elements from some very popular genres and game styles.

Click past the cut to check out some of the details from our interview!

When you play Empire and State, one of the first thoughts that will come to your head when doing a quest will be "Mafia Wars." Now, don't you worry, Massively readers; we brought up the distaste that a lot of you have for the infamous Facebook game. According to Toby and Mike, the Mafia Wars-style of quest completion is only one part of the game -- a means to an end, but a small means.

"Also, there will be no pop-ups that ask you to 'Invite your friends' or 'Share some XP!' every five minutes. While there will be some basic Facebook connectivity initially, it will not go further."

The idea is to attract players who are interested in strategic, interesting gameplay but might not have the standard several hours required for a raid or group activity in many MMOs. It should be noted that the game takes place on a map, with icons instead of avatars, so a Mafia Wars-type of quest system fits in just fine. If the rest of the game is simulating many smaller activities while giving the impression of one larger goal, then simulating combat and other jobs is appropriate.

Also, there will be no pop-ups that ask you to "Invite your friends" or "Share some XP!" every five minutes. While there will be some basic Facebook connectivity, it will not go further. Empire and State is a browser game, and there is no farming for cows. The developers want to allow users "to create and literally carve out their own world, and fight for it." As a new player you can expect political and economic strategy. Players can jump right into the political bits at level one and can start to participate in the strategy soon after. You start off on a tutorial island but quickly pick out a nation to join. Once joined with a player nation, you'll find the good stuff begins. You can build factories, take over tiles, join in battles and otherwise participate in the business of dominating the world. You know, the good stuff.

Player vs. player is the name of the game, but it's not the gank-and-wait kind. Nations will battle over the control of tiles, and although you might contribute to the battles, no one player will target another in a one-on-one fight.

We had to verify whether Empire and State fits within some basic guidelines that would qualify it as a "true" MMO. Persistence? Yes, the game has it. Log on after a long absence and you'll quickly realize that the world has gone on without you. How about communication on a massive scale? There is the standard chat that will plug you into a community of information. The most important one -- interaction with others -- is what Empire and State is all about. You are a member of a group as soon as you transfer to your first nation. Almost everything you do as a player involves helping out with group activities. The game might look like a single-player strategy game, but it's definitely an MMO. Unlike games featuring raiding or other group activities that can sometimes result in a competitive atmosphere, Empire and State makes even new players an "added value" to a nation. The developers expect the best nations to recruit actively since the market for good, new players will be a demanding one.

"So how would we sum up Empire and State? From our limited time with the game, we can best describe it as a persistent strategy game with a lot of players."

How does the company plan on making money? E&S will be fully free-to-play and will sell Novel Points that can do things like speed up energy replacement -- energy is needed to complete quests. The big seller is expected to be asset slots. Assets include vehicles (used in transportation and combat) and factories (used to manufacture items that will be needed by the nation). Players start out with three asset slots and can survive on those, but the opportunity is there for players to expand if they want to spend some money.

So how would we sum up Empire and State? From our limited time with the game, we can best describe it as a persistent strategy game with a lot of players. It runs in Java, so it will run on a variety of devices (iOS/Android compatibility hasn't been announced yet, but it hasn't been ruled out, either) and the lack of 3-D animations and environments means that it will be easy to run as well. Perhaps calling it a "cafe-strategy-game" or a "laptop-nation-conquerer" would be better?

In fact, the best way to describe it, according to Mike Marr, would be "An MMO meets Civilization, a complex game built off of the premise of Risk." If you are familiar with those games, then you might be smiling right about now.

Feel free to join the open beta now -- just go to the official site to sign up. Have a good time conquering the world!

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