The end game is another of those currently vague areas. Petrov mentioned a focus on PvP, guild content and master crafting. All three are continuations of themes that will likely run through the entire game. Crafting, especially in skill based games, can become quite interesting at higher levels since players essentially become masters and in a player-driven economy like Earthrise, that gives players the potential to become an integral part of their world, their faction and their community. Curiously, Petrov also alluded to tools for players to entertain each other, but wouldn't elaborate.
The world of Sal Vitas is a large, continuous area. Masthead wants to limit instancing to the absolutely necessary and does not like zones. This means a player should be able to run end to end without loading.
They also hope to become one of the first land-based MMOs to exist in a single world, without separate shards or servers. However, they do not guarantee this as a feature. Instead, they will ultimately decide during the Beta process. It also, of course, depends on the popularity of the game. If they get a few million subscribers, it likely won't be a realistic goal, not that they'll complain. In Beta, they'll get a better handle on the optimal number of people in their world from a design perspective, their potential popularity and, of course, what level of abuse their servers can stand up to.
Artistically, the game is - as the screenshots show - a fully 3D game with a photorealistic style. They do though want to make sure it is accessible and plan to have extremely scalable graphical options so that machines that run World of Warcraft can run their game smoothly, but the boundaries can be pushed for high end users.
The challenge of being an MMO start-up is huge, but for Masthead they also must face the suspicion that comes with being from Bulgaria. Traditionally not a hotbed of game development, the Eastern European country has also been the home of a few tech-based scams. They told us that really the most they can do is let their work speak for itself. A good game will overcome trust issues, but he assured us that security is a huge focus for them.
Petrov previously worked in the financial security software industry, which obviously is a good place to learn how to protect information. As Technical Director, he believes his unique experience should help them create one of the more secure games of its type, both in terms of the protection of personal information of customers and in the fight against gold farmers and scammers. Masthead is strongly against the secondary market and intends to fight it vigorously.
To go with that, they are also not a fan of the microtransaction business model, so one should expect subscription fees. Distribution - online or retail, free or paid - has yet to be decided.
Earthrise remains in early development and they hope to launch in 2009.
Editor's Note: Earthrise is represented by TAP Interactive, a public relations company owned by Themis Group. Themis Group also owns the WarCry Network.