PC gamers playing with other PC gamers. Mac gamers playing with other Mac gamers. Xbox versus Xbox. Wouldn't it be cool to play a game on your PC and fight against your friend on a PDA at work? Or sit on your couch playing Gamecube while fighting an Xbox in the other room at the same time battling someone on a Mac or on a PC half-way around the world?
Gaming is evolving and multiplatform gaming is where it's headed. Here at the Junkyard, we were given the exclusive opportunity to sit down with Adam Mateljan, CEO of TerraForge -- a company founded by gamers who, "designed and developed Asgard as a way to bring multiplatform gamers together".
In addition to this interview, the Junkyard was also given the privilege to put up the TerraForge press release which can be found here: TerraForge Press Release, July 2nd 2003. Be sure to check it out for more information on TerraForge and Asgard.
the Junkyard: We'd like to thank you for granting this interview. Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves and TerraForge?
Adam Mateljan: I am Adam Mateljan, CEO of TerraForge, Inc., a San Diego-based company. We were incorporated in 2001 by a group of gamers with a fresh vision for the gaming world. We took a look at where games were and what it took to play multiplayer games, and came to the conclusion that things needed to evolve. We designed and developed Asgard as a way to bring multiplatform gamers together.
tJY: Tell us a little bit about your company's newest product and services that accompany it.
Adam: The Asgard Gaming Community, consisting of ODIN and Valhalla, is a system where gamers from multiple platforms can come together to play games without the overhead or fuss of determining if they can play together. The first title being developed using Asgard is Yummiverse, a multiplayer game where players can go up against whomever they like on whatever platform and be able to access their own saved games from any platform.
tJY: Can you describe what you envision the Asgard Gaming Community to be?
Adam: We want the Asgard Gaming Community to be a comfortable place for gamers to hook up with one another and share and find everything they could want or need in the gaming world. I have always believed that community is the stronger piece of gaming. We want players to feel that their choice of platform isn't going to work against them. Now they can focus on the games they want to play and who they want to play them with.
tJY: What makes Asgard unique compared to any existing product and / or service on the market?
Adam: Until Asgard was created, game developers focused on the game community that comes inherently with being an owner and player of that game. Another focusing step is the platform that they are playing it on. Asgard has the ability to change the focus. Genres, styles, titles, and experience should be the deciding factors of who to play with, not the platform.
tJY: When TerraForge designed Asgard, did you have any specific game ideas in mind?
Adam: We began with an MMORPG due to the nature of the Asgard Gaming Community. These two compliment one another perfectly. We decided, however, to put off tackling such an endeavour at this time due to the number of MMORPGs being released now and in the near future. Given this scenario, we changed our focus slightly to something that will show players all of the elements of the Asgard Gaming Community: Yummiverse.
tJY: What kind of capabilities does Valhalla / ODIN have? What advantages?
Adam: ODIN empowers the developer to do things that would normally be a huge endeavour. The community aspects, network management, self-healing server design, parental control, and powerful update functionality supplies developers with extra firepower, allowing them to focus on what they do best: making games. Valhalla has what we call Predictive Trigger technology that allows for rapid game development and real-time dynamic game updates.
tJY: Does TerraForge have a specific audience to target with Asgard initially? Will both introductory or experienced gamers be able to enjoy themselves?
Adam: I don't believe the experience of a gamer is going to have an affect on whether or not he or she will enjoy the community. Inexperienced gamers are used to having their heads handed to them by more experienced players. Our system doesn’t level this playing field, but it does facilitate newbies being able to connect with and learn from the more experienced players. Our audience is gamers with the full range of experience levels who are not restricted by their location or platform.
tJY: How easy will it be to integrate this technology into older games, if needed?
Adam: This depends on the architecture of the game. If a game has its core logic tightly coupled to the graphical logic, then this will not be easy. Most top developers don't do that; therefore their games will be easier to integrate into the system.
tJY: Are monthly / yearly fees planned, or will server access be included in the cost of the game?
Adam: This is being worked through at this time and we will release information at a later date. We think that this issue may rely heavily on what game developers are expecting. Our Yummiverse game is set to be free for one type of membership and have a reoccurring cost for another, based on the Asgard Gaming Community profile.
tJY: In all, what platforms will be supported? Will XBox, Playstation, Windows CE, and similar platforms be among them?
Adam: Our architecture was designed to facilitate any Internet-capable platform to access our system. The accessibility of a platform is dependent on whether or not a particular developer wants to develop the client interface for that platform. The core game logic doesn't care one way or another. Given this understanding, a development house can focus on the core game logic and outsource their PDA client needs to another development team, so both teams doing what they do best.
tJY: Will the scaled-down version on a phone put the phone user at a disadvantage when playing against a PC user?
Adam: This is completely dependent on the game and design. Display refresh rates and data transfer rates will have a major impact on high-speed games like Quake 3. Other games may be better directed at these platforms, like some MMORPGs.
tJY: Where will the "saved games" be saved – on a server or on the user's PC / Mac / Phone / Console?
Adam: Everything is saved server side. This allows for all sorts of cool functionality. End users will be able to access their saved game on a multitude of platforms. From a piracy cheater perspective, cheaters will hate this because they do not have access to their saved game files directly and thus cannot get out their hex editors and slash away at the file. The vast majority of honest players will love this.
tJY: For the PC and Mac, will Linux support be available, or is it strictly Windows / Mac OS only? If Linux support will not be available, can Valhalla be rewritten for this target platform?
Adam: Valhalla itself is platform independent. We don't want ANYONE to be tied to any platform; it’s really the point of all our efforts.
tJY: How will the interfaces on a PDA / phone compare to the user interface on a PC, in terms of usability?
Adam: PC interfaces will have more bells and whistles. Look at some poker games. On a PDA/phone, a gamer interfaces with basic sprite animation. On a PC, the gamer may see cards and other players in 3D. This is all dependent on how far the developer wants to go.
tJY: Will the Valhalla engine be able to compete graphically with current or upcoming engines? What would you say is it's biggest competitor?
Adam: The misnomer here is the idea that Valhalla is a graphical engine. Most people think the idea of a game engine is something that spurts graphics on a screen. That is just one aspect of it. Valhalla is a core game engine. It allows the developer to choose the client side graphical engine that they see fit.
tJY: You note in the press release, "Both GUIs (for PC and phone) are valid for user interaction". When time is of the essence in game, wouldn't it be easier to use a PC / Mac keyboard rather than scrolling through menus with the number pad?
Adam: This is absolutely true in some cases. Playing games like Diablo 2 or Quake 3 would be quite a bit harder on a phone. That just comes with the territory of playing on a phone. Not as many hot keys available to the gamer and such. The way around this lies in the hands of the graphical experience designer.
tJY: What are the base gametypes supported by this community? FPS? RPG? Real-time / turn-based strategy? Something we've never heard of?
Adam: I like the phrase "something we've never heard of". Actually the Asgard gaming community doesn't care. Why make something that is platform independent and then tie it to a particular genre of game? The beauty is that gamers play all types of games and want to interact with other gamers in all those types of games. I like to think our title Yummiverse will be "something we've never heard of", but that might be a stretch.