Judy Tyrer of 3 Turn Studios is leading the development of Ever, Jane - an MMO that throws out the familiar tropes of dungeons and PvP in favor of dinner parties and relentless gossip. It’s set in the world explored by author Jane Austen. After a busy PAX West weekend, Tyrer took some time to answer a few questions about the project.
Q: How did you get into game design?
A: My first “game design” project was in 1977 for Control Data Corporation and would today be considered a “serious game.” But I detoured into distributed UNIX for many years and when the jobs were drying up in that field I decided I wanted to get into game development as the industry was still young and there were so many opportunities. I entered with my programming skills and studied design on my own, building a small portfolio of games. One of them was “Ever, Jane”.
Q: What inspired you to develop a project like Ever, Jane?
A: I had to retire a project I was playing with and was reading “Sense and Sensibility” one day and had an “a-ha” moment and thought how much fun it would be to create a role playing game in Regency Period using gossip.
Q: What tools are you using to build the game?
A: We use Unity 4.6 as our game engine. uLink as our networking library. Symas Corporation is partnered with us and providing LDAP as our database (we need extremely fast reads given the sheer quantity of data we have). We use SVN for source control, TestTrak for bug tracking and Groove for our customer support system. I like Visual Studio for my IDE and we use Maya for our 3D modelling.
Q: How was your Kickstarter experience? What are the big lessons you took away from it?
A: Kickstarter was quite the roller-coaster. I think the biggest thing I learned is that it’s best to block off the entire campaign on your calendar and spend every minute of every day on it. E-mailing, looking for people to e-mail, updating your project, continuously engaging with your community. It’s exhausting and thrilling and nerve wracking and a ton of fun sort of all wrapped up in one.
Q: How many people are on your team?
A: Excluding legal, accounting, and music (who are incidental when we need them), the team now has four full-time members and five part-time members. A great deal of the game was built with one artist, one programmer/designer, and one part-time content expert.
Q: What roles do you play on the dev team?
A: CEO, designer, programmer would cover most of my time. Some COO, a wee bit of marketing, some PR, an amalgam of “whatever needs doing.”
Q: How are you marketing the game?
A: We aren’t doing much in the way of marketing yet as we seem to be getting sufficient numbers by word of mouth and PR. Our business plan has a complete marketing section that also involves hiring someone with marketing skills. Primarily, we are going with social media at the moment as that is what we know best. When we do move beyond that, we’re looking at putting ads “where romance readers gather.”
Q: When is Ever, Jane expected to launch?
A: With the team the size it is now I suspect we will need a full year to add sufficient content and polish. We are seeking equity investment which could considerably speed that up by giving use the resources to grow the team.
Q: The game reminds me for all the world of a text-based MUSH with that focus on social gatherings and role-playing. Is that something from your background?
A: I have some familiarity with MUDs but my real inspiration comes from playing on Brell Serilis during the early days of EverQuest. There was an incredible role play community there and as MMOs moved away from sufficient downtime to encourage RP to constant action/action/action, roleplay fell by the wayside. I wanted to create a world dedicated to roleplay where we throw plot points at you to help (or hinder) your stories along.
Q: What games do you consider the most influential from a design standpoint?
A: As I mentioned EQ, I also referenced World of Warcraft, EVE Online, and A Tale in the Desert, each of which provided some piece of inspiration for how to make this work.
Q: What game stands out as a favorite experience?
A: That would be a toss up between EQ in the days of Brell Serlis as the unofficial role-play server and WOW: Burning Crusade.
Q: What do you do for fun when you're not working on games?
A: I love to hike, dance, knit and watch The Hunger Games (I’m kind of addicted, not sure why but Effie Trinket has completely replaced my inner critic and I do like her much better).
Q: Is game dev your full-time job?
A: Yes, I do this full time and then some. It’s just my joy to build it. I’m having the time of my life (with struggles, no one avoids struggles).
Q: What keeps you coming back to the life of an indie dev, day after day?
A: I have to make payroll. I also happen to believe in what I’m doing, but having to make payroll is a huge motivator. I have nine people who depend on me. Now, if I didn’t believe I am going to succeed at this crazy venture, I wouldn’t have a payroll to make, but that’s what gets me to my desk every day for many, many hours. When people depend on you, you don’t have the privilege of quitting. It’s kind of cool how that works out.
Wes Platt is the lead writer/designer for Prologue Games. Their first game, an episodic narrative adventure called Knee Deep, launched its final act on Steam in March. Before that, he was a professional journalist for the St. Petersburg Times and Durham’s Herald-Sun. He designed collaborative real-time adventures at OtherSpace, Chiaroscuro, and Necromundus for players at jointhesaga.com. He also worked as a design lead on Fallen Earth, a post-apocalyptic MMORPG, from 2006-2010. He's on Twitter at @DougPiranha. Reach via email at [email protected]