Free for All: An interview with Ever, Jane's Judy Tyrer

Ever Jane screenshot

Ever, Jane caught my eye as soon as I read about it. I wish we had access to more non-combat MMOs, or MMOs that attempt to do something so different that they are hard to categorize. I have to say that I had never read a word of Jane Austen -- the author whose books Ever, Jane is based on -- but I didn't care. If anything, the interesting gameplay described by Judy Tyrer, the creator of the game, made me want to pick up a book or two.

Of course, the game is barely in a playable state at this time and will likely be in development for a time longer. Still, the MMO genre needs games that takes chances, or we'll all find ourselves stuck on some hamster wheel of grind. I asked Judy a few questions and she surprised me with some of her answers. She's been making games for a long time, so hopefully you'll be hearing more from her here on Massively for a while!

Let's get to the interview.

Ever Jane screenshot

Massively: So, introduce yourself!

Judy Tyrer: I'm Judy Tyrer, and I started making serious games in 1977 on the PLATO platform. From there I moved to distributed UNIX OS and then returned to gaming in 2005 where I was a network and mutliplayer engineer with Ubisoft. From there I moved to Sony Online Entertainment as Lead Engineer of the Denver Studio. When that studio was closed, I moved to Linden Lab as Senior Engineering Manager of the Engine team that developed all server side software for Second Life.

Describe Ever, Jane. There's no combat, but does it have other "standard" features?

Ever, Jane uses invitations, gossip, dinner parties and grand balls as gameplay. These parallel killing, PvP, or small and large raids. We use personality traits such as Kindness, Happiness, and Duty where traditional MMOs use Strength, Wisdom, and Dexterity. Instead of classes, we have social hierarchies and aristocratic titles. Instead of guilds, we have families. And like all good MMOs, we provide a craft system and in-world economy.

You said that the game will launch with a small sub. Are you worried that this would scare off players?

We have a hierarchical subscription model that allows players to enter the game at higher social levels. While we have free-to-play, it is limited unless one can get hired as a servant or tradesman. Each subscription model has a limited number of servants that can be employed. In addition, estates, cottages and farms can hire additional help. Not only will higher subscription models allow more servants, but we will provide additional character slots as well. I'm not sure about whether this will appeal to all customers, but I don't want to create a game that demands micro-transactions in order to progress, and I do want to be able to afford to pay for the servers and for the developers who build the game. Therefore, I have chosen to return to the subscription model in what I hope is fair and balanced for the players. I want to avoid the "everyone is at the max level and it's no longer fun to join the world and play" situation so many MMOs find themselves in.

You have said that this game is good for female gamers. Can you elaborate on that, especially considering that (by many estimations) half of all gamers are women?

I was recently at a lunch with a group of ladies new to my neighborhood. They asked me what I did, and when I explained the game, three of them said, "I don't play games because they're all about killing and things I am not interested in, but this sounds fascinating. I would love to play a game like that." The problem with the gaming market is the dearth of games that appeal to those who don't enjoy fantasy, war, or action-packed fast-twitch games. There is an entire market of women who would love to play games if only there were games they would enjoy. I want to open that market.

I know that you said character customization will be available later on. I take it skin color will be part of that? I know it will be brought up; a lot of my gamer friends would be upset if not!

Yes, we believe there is sufficient historical evidence for the aristocracy of the Spanish Moors being accepted, and there were many wealthy merchants, some of whom moved to the countryside, raised families, and subsequently moved into the gentry.

I have never read Jane Austen. Would I be interested in your game?

If you have never heard of Jane Austen, you will still enjoy playing in Regency Period England. It's a step back into history. The rules of the game are the rules of social convention and law at the time. And it was a very interesting time. Immediately following the French Revolution, the aristocracy knew people who had been beheaded and were terrified. The monarch was insane. The Prince Regent was a decadent young man, and manufacturing was starting to change the economy. People were clinging to tradition while the march of progress was starting to cause change, not all of it positive. It is our hope to keep the world as historically accurate as possible. If you have any interest in history or curiosity about what it would be like to live in another time, this will be a fun game for you.

Ever Jane screenshot

If I wanted to explore the world of Jane Austen, where should I start?

If you've never read Jane Austen, my personal favorite is Sense and Sensibility, though many prefer Pride and Prejudice. As for "worlds" of Jane Austen, as far as I know, we are the only one. There is a Regency Period group in Second Life, and one can also find real Austenites at the Jane Austen Societies (JASNA in North America), and there is an active community center in Bath.

How can a player dive into the game?

We are working on locking down the servers, at which point we will be raising the price of access from a $10.00 donation as it is now, to $5.00 a month or a $25.00 donation. So if you want to check it out for free, now is the time. If you want to play during development and test prototyped features as they go out, critique, and have input into the game, this would be a good time to donate.

If the game sounds like something you would be interested in, then download the game and sign up for the newsletter, too. Thanks to Judy for answering my questions!

Each week, Free for All brings you ideas, news, and reviews from the world of free-to-play, indie, and import games -- a world that is often overlooked by gamers. Leave it to Beau Hindman to talk about the games you didn't know you wanted! Have an idea for a subject or a killer new game that no one has heard of? Send it to!