Max Schaefer was one of the co-founders of Blizzard North which handled the Diablo RPG games, but in 2003 quit the company along with other staffers - including Bill Roper - to pursue other ventures.
The "other ventures" turned out to be Flagship Studios, which along with working on Hellgate: London is also developing MMORPG Mythos at its Seattle HQ.
Schaefer is executive producer on Mythos, which originally started life as a test-bed for the network tech forming the backbone of Hellgate: London's online play - but it's now a game in its own right that will be free to download and play.
We caught up with Schaefer to find out more about the game and get his opinions on the MMO genre.
Was it always your intention to turn Mythos into a publicly available game, and what set you on the Mythos development road in the first place?
Max Schaefer: It was always in the back of our mind that it could turn into something, but really we were looking for a way to quickly test the network technologies that would run Hellgate: London.
We wanted something that we could release for free, and was simple and fun enough that the public would give it a look. Flagship Studios and Ping0 were starting from scratch as far as tools and technology go, so we were looking for a little jump start for Hellgate: London.
Is it entirely free to play? No money involved in any way whatsoever?
Schaefer: You never have to pay a dime. There is, however, money involved. We will sell in game items and enhancements on a per-item basis. This always sets of alarm bells with gamers, but we're legitimately making an effort to keep the free play competitive and completely viable.
By opening the economy so that purchased items can be traded, everything is available to everyone. There are gamers with lots of time, but no money, and gamers with money, but not so much time. Both can be accommodated, but the crux of the deal is that free players have to have fun, and we have to be careful to not just sell the best sword or armour to the highest bidder.
So we'll sell things like luck enhancements, shared account stashes, cosmetic upgrades, and maps to special dungeons.
One of your goals with Mythos is wide or broad appeal. What for you defines a wide-appeal MMORPG?
Schaefer: A player should feel comfortable playing Mythos. A game like this shouldn't be intimidating, or require an extensive manual. Instead, it should have an intuitive interface, clear goals, an inviting atmosphere, and rewarding gameplay.
We like to refer to the gameplay as reward-based rather than penalty-based like some games seem to be.
What's Mythos' unique angle on the MMORPG genre?
Schaefer: Mythos brings Diablo-style gameplay into the MMORPG space, and it brings you a AAA-level gaming experience with zero investment or commitment.
In what ways and areas has Diablo influenced Mythos' creation, content and gameplay?
Schaefer: The pacing, the philosophy of the interface, and the action are very similar to Diablo. Mythos is a brighter, slightly more cartoon-y world, and will extend into areas Diablo never ventured, but fans of Diablo will feel right at home in Mythos.
What would you like to see from Diablo 3? What would you like to see Blizzard do with it?
Schaefer: I can't wait to see! You know as much as I do about their plans, but what I'd like to see is Diablo in a true 3-D environment, taking advantage of the latest graphics bells and whistles, and of course, the Blizzard production values that makes their games special.