Recently, New Gamer Nation had the chance to talk to Founder of Neverdie Studios, Jon Jacbobs. Neverdie Studios is the creator of ROCKtropia which is “a richly detailed alternate reality with mythology drawn from pop culture. ROCKtropia’s wild landscapes and urban centers provide the backdrop for movie inspired MMOG’s and Iconic artist attractions.” Jon Jacobs latest project titled “Hunt The Thing” revolves around a new MMO within the existing ROCKtropia space. This project is centered around “The Thing” universe and comes out around the same time as upcoming film “The Thing” but as you will soon find out there is more here than just a movie based game. “Hunt the Thing” will blend the horror genre with an MMO experience giving gamers an experience unlike any other. Without further ado we present Mr. Jon Jacobs.
NGN: What was so appealing about “The Thing” universe that made this a good fit for ROCKtropia?
JJ: The Thing represents the absolute best combination of elements for a fit with ROCKtropia. mainly that thereare two antagonists in The THING, The Monster and the Environment. And both of these play toROCKtropia’s strengths. Utilizing the Cryengine2 we are able to make you feel the Chill in the Antarctic, we are able to heighten the sense of dread and adventure by creating a vast and inhospitable environment that you can truly get lost in. And most importantly The THING is one of the great cinematic monsters, it is both an Alien and Your Best friend rolled into one terrifying creature that literally freaks you out when you see it and of course the best possible defense against it is a Flame Thrower, what gamer can resist torching a monster like that.
NGN: What was the biggest challenge when trying to translate the film into the MMO area?
JJ: The Greatest challenges were capturing the cinematic integrity of the Movie, which was achieved by our Lead level designer Todd Verdeyen, he is very much a Virtual Cinematogrpaher, with a great eye for lighting. I think when you step inside Hunt The THING you really feel you have stepped inside the Movie, not just any antarctic enviroment. Next was to balance the gameplay in such a way that it would work both as a solo adventure or as a multi-player experience and also provide a challenge to very Experienced ROCKtropia Avatars as well as Complete noobs. This was accomplished by Michael Ray who wrote the Script for the game, he stuck very closely to The THING storyline, he made everyone who lands in the Antarctic feel like a Rookie. We stripped everyone of the advantages of Pre-existing high Powered weapons and tools and forced them to rely on free starter Weapons and skill alone. This really leveled the playing field and created an immersive experience for everyone.
NGN: What elements of the film were you set on keeping in the area?
JJ: The amazing Score, The sound design, The antarctic lighting and the paranoia, these were priority. Also we Stuck to the Exact Design of the THE THING itself.
NGN: What is the biggest challenge that gamers will face while playing “Hunt The Thing”?
JJ: I think many gamers are used to blasting through Ammo like there’s no tomorrow. ROCKtropia features a Real Cash economy, so You must ration your Free Ammo, you have to think intelligently; how am I going to survive this, how can I keep from getting my truck blown up, can I really trust the players around me?. Also they are going to be stunned by their own Avatar, there is so much depth to them, so many ways to develop skills. Ultimately however it is going to be about working together with friends or strangers to actually defeat the THING and escape, the reward for which is a helicopter which is priceless to anew player as it opens up the entire antarcitc for exploration and also it can be exported to ROCKtropia, where further adventure awaits.
NGN: Horror movies rely on tension and mystery to engage audiences, how will a game with so many players playing at the same time accomplish this task?
JJ: The moment you arrive, the way you are treated by the NPC’s that you meet, you feel both a tension and urgency that is maintained throughout the narrative, the music, the mood and the missions you are faced with create an air of mystery, that is very compelling, the fact that you are surrounded by other people trying to accomplish the mission at the same time as you doesn’t lessen the tension it actually increases it because you don’t know who to trust, so you want to stay ahead of them and also the fact that PVP factors into the gameplay ensures that you keep your guard up.
NGN: What lessons have you learned from ROCKtropia that you feel have proved usefull in the development of “The Thing”?
JJ: ROCKtropia is an Evolving Virtual world MMO with infinite possibilities and a Solid economy. We decided we didn’t want to force anyone to try to get to grips with The ROCKtropia mythology to enjoy Hunt The THING. We wanted it to be as easy as going to the movies and we wanted to provide for free the gear players need to enjoy and complete the storyline without having to Spend money. Also we felt that we wanted to create an intense Experience that you can feel satisfied with after completing in just a couple of hours more like a Movie vs an MMO, where you always have another level to get to.
NGN: Does the underlying story of “Hunt the Thing” retell the story of the movie or is this a new adventure? What are the main differences?
JJ: It is a new adventure, we in no way wanted to provide any spoilers for the Movie, our adventure takes place in a parralell Universe, it follows the same premise, but the outcome is unpredicatable. I think this important too, because as a player you want to feel that you can create your own destiny.
NGN: What kind of collaborative efforts were necessary when working with the license? Did you have free reign? How did Universal Studios receive your ideas?
JJ: We worked very closely with Universal with many brainstorming sessions, it was very important to them that we complimented the movie, but that we could also satisfy the gaming community, they really encouraged innovation, they were incredibly receptive and encouraging. We really enjoyed the process and we have the greatest respect for the filmmakers and we wanted to compliment their efforts.
NGN: What kind of experience should players expect when approaching “Hunt The Thing”? Will prior knowledge of “The Thing” universe give players a greater understanding of the story?
JJ: I like the idea, that players go into it as they would a movie, set aside a couple of hours and allow yourself to be transported. I truly think that you will feel like you are inside the Movie, but you are not following a storyline that you are familiar with so you will not know what is around each corner. This is an opportunity to allow your own imagination run wild, to test your survival skills and ultimately to have fun.