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Interview

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Daniel B. McMillan of Frontier 1859
By: OMGN | Game Data | 4:24am, December 5, 2004
Codemasters Generic UK Eshop Pop up
Following is an interview that was done by this writer with Daniel B. McMillan of the Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game project Frontier 1859 :



OMGN: What was your experience as a gamer before you became involved with Frontier 1859?

I enjoyed playing board games as a boy. In early adulthood, I played "Traveler" with a group that met in an old lighthouse along the Detroit River. Boardgames such as "Interceptor, Tales of The Arabian Knights, and Talisman" were among my favorites. It was the board games that inspired me into designing some new systems. "Talisman" inspired me to design an RPG adventure but along a game-board path, and where the GM could play.

My answer to that call was a massive 700 card-based role playing/board-game system I called "Realm." I also played early console games such as "Intellivision" and enjoyed family games such as Chess, Clue, Twister, and Monopoly.

In 1994, I started as a graphic artist for a small game developer in Truckee California, working on side-scroller action games for SNES and Sega Genesis. From then on, I contributed to ten published games, including the first graphic online MMO, The Realm Online, (a game that did not get the credit it derserves for pioneering MMO) and the award wining "Descent 3" series, a 360 degree action first-person shooter.



OMGN: How has your involvement with the Frontier 1859 game project enhanced your gaming enjoyment?

The Frontier 1859 project does not interfere with my gaming enjoyment. I play new MMOs, and at least subscribe to one per month until I move along and try a new one. If the world is immersive, and we can meet some new friends, I will lose myself in it. Aside from playing, when something development founded catches my attention - it is usually how well the overall game flows
together, and what one is able to do in the world and so it leads me to think about the project at hand.

I cannot imagine being able to know these things inside and out without spending the time I have playing them.

OMGN: What is Cosmic Origins?

It was a logo and an idea that was drawn on the cover of a manilla envelope like - in 83-84 maybe? One day, while looking at that, I recalled that it was the name I would call my studio if I could ever start-up one day. It had something to do with Carl Sagan in those days. You know..."we are all star-stuff..." kind of thing. The reality of being mere dust takes on a whole new meaning for me
when I imagine where we have been. So in that light, being mere dust frees it up to become what inspiration course is set before me. Therefore, Cosmic Origins is the "Art of Things To Come."


OMGN: What has the response to Frontier 1859 been like?

Well, considering that the project is parked in early design phase, it seems like the public liked the concept enough to send me a lot of letters, and I put those up on the domain for everyone to read. If you read them yourself, wouldn't you have to admit that we got something here? Then there is the online community, they are like pillars to the project, and many of them got hooked by reading the FAQ.

Finally, when you read the press, it is positive. In light of them expressing their faith in Frontier 1859 based upon their persistent coverage, I'm going to find a good way to express my gratitude to each and every one of them. They didn't have to post news about a project on the drawing board, but they did. At a time when MMOs went from infancy to toddler stage.

Well the overall concept of F1859 has been cross-examined on sites like "Justice Lloyd's MMORPG Review." Other sites such as "Gamemethod" delve specifically into the PvP and character-death system. Death is still such an obsession in the virtual realm! While proactive communities such as Learning Community Research Network and "NESTA Futurelab" shed light on Frontier 1859's potential.

Indeed it is all good. It is good that the public keeps us accountable, as I believe it is only right to do what we have said we would do when the time comes. The response has been very good despite the challenges to find funding.


OMGN: Why was the decision made to create a MMO game set in the Old West?

It is more about the particular time and place than it is about "the old west." In order to facilitate a new player accountability system, with a dynamic conscience, and merge it into a situation that gives beginners a fair chance as well as more intricate participation, I needed a virtual frontier. Someplace that we know enough about to recreate it, but also with nothing much there in a way of civilized comforts. This is in no way to suggest that Native Americans who "were there first" were not comfortable or civilized. Barbarism occurred on both sides, and in many ways overshadowing the minorities, because in either case the so called "civilized world" should have known better, but
it is not the way for man and men to get along when they disagree.

True role playing should involve doing as many things as your living counterpart could do in that setting. Whatever the setting is. Thus, in a wilderness survival game like Frontier 1859, we can converge the consistencies of MMO experience with a highly interactive environment. Traits such as reputation,
disposition, conscience, and spirituality work together {like layers in Photoshop} in order to offer (the players) a more wholesome backyard to play in, with highly plausible characters so that when you take the stage, you feel like you are equipped to act. I don't want to see fresh young actors leaving the show because the "Uber" actors already take the stage. I think the key to a virtual world resides in synergizing the diversity of it's participants. I see Frontier 1859 as the fertile ground to grow that kind of character based system, and it is one that can be adapted to any genre of virtual world.

OMGN: Why have there been so few online games set in the Old West?

Most of the westerns we hear about approach it from the "gunslinger"
or some "horror-hybrid" angle. As if anything pertaining to the 'wild west"
needed weird gadgetry or was in need of a forumla or licensed intellectual
property for success. None of them apporached it from the reason why there was an "old west" in the first place.




OMGN: Some say that Frontier 1859 is just another MMORPG project. How do you respond?

bah.

OMGN: How active is the Frontier 1859 community in helping to promote the game, creating fansites for the game and making good suggestions?

Well some of them have written to publishers on our behalf. They spread the word in their circles, but they have also held somewhat back because they don't want people to get discouraged as a whole. We now have a fansite in Spain, France, the US, and are looking into Asia. Mentions about our project can be discovered through Google searches on sites in Russia, Sweden, Germany, New Zealand, Australia and so on.

As far as making good suggestions...people have commented to me about the nature of the discussion going on about the project. If (for instance) you take a look at some of the threads for yourself, I think you would agree.

OMGN: Where do you see Frontier 1859 a year from now?

Perhaps I see it ramping up to full production.

What is the Frontier 1859 Research Group and how has it affected the game
project?


It started out as a fansite, creatd by an old wolf called 'Mad Jack." Over time, I noticed dedication and on-going research, and now it is a handy reference place.


OMGN: How far away is Frontier 1859 from beta testing?

No official dates can be announced at this time.

OMGN: How has Frontier 1859 come in terms of fund raising?

I am working on it in between my other responsibilities, but not in the
way it deserves. However, time has been our friend in this case, and technology has greatly improved. Tools are becoming more robust and broadband is growing to the point where there is growing demand for fresh content. So I'm looking for someone experienced and knowledgable in raising capital so we can take things to the next level.



OMGN: Currently, MMO specialist websites do not seem as interested in Frontier 1859 as they are in other game projects. To what would you attribute
this?


There are sites who refuse to include Frontier 1859 because we are still considered "vapor-ware" in their opinion. I say to them, "you must do what you feel is cut to the continuity of your community." Perhaps the founders of those news sites have dealt with a depth of dissapointment that influences their decision. How would I know what they are going through. All I can suggest to them is to try and "keep on the sunny side." You really care about the MMORPG or you would not be so involved with them.

There are disadvantages and advantages and two sides to every problem. Always consider the long range point of view. I've never met a person who sets out to do a project aiming to dissapoint everyone, but it happens. Many have already been up to bat, and some a couple games, but I have not yet had my chance to show you what can be done. Consider what I have presented thus far. Realize that what I am working towards is a natural step in the evolution of online games, and therefore the principles must serve long
after we are gone.


OMGN: There are some who believe that innovation has disappeared from MMO gaming. In what ways will Frontier 1859 break the mold?

I think we are seeing a lot of repetition simply because many of the deep pockets needed for these projects follows a tendency to formulate everything they do. Formulae is not compatible with a higher margin of risk. It is always this way, and not anything new. But to me, it is just as great a risk (with a higher potential for waste) to choose not to take a risk where risk is part of the reality in moving forward.

But there is micro innovation happening all around us if you look for it. Interfacing is getting sharper and sweeter. Graphics are top notch. AI is coming along better than ever, sound is kicking like never before - I mean six channel audio! Real-time deformation is a happening thing. More and more young people are discovering what they can do with 3D, with code, and getting a pay-check while they do it! It's a beautiful thing to see, having come from the school of hard knocks. But, we've got to make sure that we don't lose the fundamentals and go out of balance. Someone I know says - "a wise man builds his house upon the Rock." Therefore, if we forget about a good foundation, what remains won't last long.

OMGN: Recently, there was a job opening posted to the Frontier 1859 website of VP for Development. What has the reaction to this open position been like? How soon do you expect to fill it?

I think it will take time for the word to reach the right ears.

OMGN: What efforts have been made to ensure the historical accuracy of Frontier 1859?

One example that is outstanding, is that we have begun networking with Native American communities in our quest to reenact Native American life. Since it is a game then, and if the legend is bigger than the truth - we want to people to do that as well. So it is important to note that we prefer the term "authentic" rather than "historical."


OMGN: The MMORPG genre has come under criticism since so many of the females in these games are anorexic, big-breasted and wear hardly any clothes or armor despite that many of these females are supposedly engaged in military activities. What do you think of this criticism and will Frontier 1859 avoid this stereotypical treatment of females?

What do I think of it? It keeps reminding me of the way we fail to look at woman. We don't promote seeing them as whole persons often enough, but seperated into nice this, or nice that. I mean the modeling is a mere reflection of that behavior, but it is not entirely their fault. Men have been idolizing woman all the way back to first mom! I love women, like most men, but I'd like to do the best that I can to allow them to be who they are.

I mean, how many of today's games exemplify men's buttocks, or express the notion of a well endowed package? It's out of balance. Our best qualities going forward are not our sexuality, contrary to what our hormones dictate.

We want woman will play a huge role in Frontier 1859. Just as they did in reality! You see, for many decades, woman's life during those times was obscure because men ran the propoganda machine. When we read books such as "Women's Voices from the Western Frontier" by Susan G. Butruille, I'm challenged to present accurate but highly adaptable female characters. It is good that we now have new hindsight for the roles of women on the Frontier, and from both Native and Emigrant POV, as Susan's book highlights.

OMGN: When Frontier 1859 is finished, will it be released as a downloadable game or as a store-bought game?

I'm hoping for both. I'd hate to lose a person just because we decided
not to offer the download.

OMGN: Is there anything that you would like to add about Frontier 1859?

Thank you for the opportunity to share with OMGN and the public about
Frontier 1859.

Written by Charles Rector
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