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GS Interviews: NeuronHaze CEO Ylya Usanov on their Indie Sci-Fi MMO, Project Genom

We asked the important questions about this space-faring MMORPG that lets players customize internal organs with alien biology, build mechs for your sidekicks, and focus on exploration and combat equally.

Mention that your game is an MMO, and a good amount of assumptions will be made about what's actually inside. While RPGs like World of Warcraft clearly dominate this market, MMO simply indicates how many people are in the same world as you are. The possibilities in terms of gameplay are up to our imagination, obviously within the confines of involving social elements (and I don't mean Tweeting your latest microtransaction).

We've seen expansions way past RPGs, enjoy long-standing attention in open-world FPS territory, and now enjoy everything from spreadsheet simulators to music games. And now, MMOs have a new entrant from Russian indie studio NeuronHaze, Project Genom, an Unreal Engine 4-powered game that seeks to push the boundaries of open-world gameplay, space exploration, impactful player decisions, and customizing your own organs.

We talked with NeuronHaze CEO Ylya Usanov about the game's Steam Early Access experience as an indie team, the game's sci-fi setting and character progression, and how you'll be able to kill a planet.

GameSkinny: With Early Access finally live, what should players expect out of Project Genom's open world at first?

Ylva Ursanov: Players can expect a nearly complete game. It will be the big, open world, a full crafting system, a new character progression system, robots and transports. Simply put, we plan to implement 90% of the features of the game.

GS: What will progression look like, in terms of becoming the character you want to be? Does the customization guide you generally towards becoming a tank, or a certain kind of damage dealer? Or can you choose an alternative, less combat-focused path? 

YU: The player can choose a combination of combat and non-combat skills. It all depends on the style of play and what the character is doing. In addition to the classic roles, such as a tank, damage dealer, or support, the player can be crafter, explore space and other planets or, for example, engage in construction. But at least the initial combat skills will be useful to the player in any situation.

GS: How far can we go focusing only on building, exploration, crafting, research, sidekicks, etc? 

YU: We plan to make this part of the game - a very big part. In the future, the guild will be able to build their own stations and specialists will be needed. A crafting system in general is one of the most important in the game. With this system, you can create the most powerful weapons and armor, and you can't just  buy it.

GS: Concerning the focus on exploration, is this a core element for everyone to enjoy, or will there be specializations to consider that makes some players better than others at exploring the universe?

YU: Researchers will significantly affect the gameplay. They will explore new territories and the planets as well. And may indicate which jacks should be destroyed in the first place, what is better left alone (since it could trigger a global assault on the base).

GS: With this kind of open world, how are you balancing a player's desire to get lost, and a player's frustration at getting lost?

YU: For the main quests, we have a pointers (where to go) and to quickly move a lot of options a equipment and mounts. In addition, after you build a spaceship, you can instantly move to any point of the world.

GS: How will the world change due to the player's actions?

YU: Fully - players can destroy all life and transform the planet into a "dead" earth or, vice versa, save all and change ourselves.

GS: How strictly are you sticking to the tank/healer/damage structure of most MMOs?

YU: The player can develop them all at once. Of course, to do a specialist in several areas you need a lot of time.

GS: The inspirations you mention on your Steam Greenlight page (Mass Effect, Destiny, and Dead Space) are all story-driven. How large of a role will story play in the player's experience? 

YU: The story line plays an important role in our project. The basic plot gives the initial objective for the player, and then [puts them] in front of an important choice (how to relate to the world around him). In addition, there are many other stories that introduce players to interesting characters and will give new opportunities for development.

GS: Given the open world of this MMO, is the narrative focus on you being a superstar, or are players one among many trying to find their way in the universe?

YU: A player can play alone or in a group. Of course, at higher levels it will be better to team up with other players.

GS: Do you have any set plans for your official release? How will the game be supported afterwards?

YU: We plan to make an official release in the third quarter of this year. After that we will work on new additions, the history and development of new planets.

GS: How insidious will the disease mechanic be? Are these basic debuffs that worsen over time, or will contracting a disease have any further implications for the player or the story?

YU: Traveling around the world, each player can pick up a disease. The disease affects the body, and gradually begins to block the actions of active and passive abilities inherent to this body and also imposes a variety of additional effects on the character. If you can't research a cure, the disease progresses to infect adjacent organs and can completely destroy the body. But, nevertheless, as strange as it may sound, the players almost always have a opportunity to not only cure the disease, but also send it to the range of positive effects.

GS: If you had to choose three words (or phrases) to describe what makes Project Genom unique, what would those be?

YU: Story, Changes, Research

GS: As an indie team, how have you faring in the realm of large-scale MMO development?

YU: Is hard :D But this is our dream. And after the start of Early Access sales, we will hire more people to accelerate the process of creating the game.

GS: What are your hopes for Project Genom from here?

YU: We want to get a great quality game and to create a world which will be really interesting to live in.

Published Jan. 13th 2016

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