Forever Interactive Interview: Emil Harmsen
When we think of publishers and developers, usually the big names come to mind. The Blizzards, the Activisions, the EAs, and the Bungies. From the casual to the most hardcore, chances are you’ve heard of them, and there's an even greater chance you’ve probably played one of their games.
It’s the small studios which often go under the radar; the ones who try to get their product known without the aid of multimillion dollar ad campaigns, live action shorts, or tie-in comics and animated films. The little guys rely on word of mouth and the hard work of their development team to make their name known in a sea of Call of Dutys and Madden NFLs.
Forever Interactive is one of those small studios -- a studio run on pure innovative ideas and solid game design. It consists of developers willing to work long hours and give their ideas to create compelling games and worlds for all gamers to enjoy.
Emil Harmsen is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Forever Interactive, created in 2006. Emil and his small staff sought to create a game studio which gathered talent from across the Midwest. Their journey was a rocky one as they struggled to find an audience for their games amid the Great Recession. Since then, Forever Interactive has grown to 60 people from all across the U.S. “We were trying to get an investment for our company, but since the recession began, it had become very difficult,” Harmsen says.
Forever Interactive has been involved with five projects since its creation. Two of them were projects or mods to incorporate into a virtual game development learning curriculum. The other three -- Void Revenant, Infernal World, and Visions of Zosimos -- are fully developed games which are having been created from the ground up. Void Revenant was the first to be created, an online 3D fighting game for PC. Infernal World was the company’s first MMOPG. “EVE Online was one of the inspirations for our game,” Harmsen says. “We basically used a borrowed model.” Experiencing some success with Infernal World, the company decided to move on and create a plug-in game for it, which became Visions of Zosimos, currently in development.
“We decided we wanted a board game that was within an MMOPG universe. We wanted to create a game which was hitting a smaller, quicker type of game than a large MMO,” Harmsen says. “It’s unique because it’s based on actual books and lore from The Alchemy of Zoismos of Panopolis. It was made from existing mythology and was done with our own research from our own team members.” Visions of Zoismos utilizes a full 3D engine where players will build a homunculus to do battle with one another. Dice, cards, and resource management make up the main gameplay in which the player can eventually upgrade his creatures and cards, trade online and buy items through micro transactions. “We based it on League of Legends. The game will be free-to-play, and each player can have from four to six decks,” Harmsen says. “Anyone who enjoys Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons are the main audience, but it’s simple yet deep enough for anyone to enjoy, from MMO gamers to social gamers.” An open beta is planned by the end of the year, with a full release by next year.
Emil is a huge fan of MMOs, listing titles such as Final Fantasy XI, Everquest, and Asheron’s Call as some of his favorite. Harmsen also has plenty of experience working with MMOs and playing important roles in them, once running a top 10 guild. “The expertise really plugs into the game environment,” he says.
When asked if Forever Interactive would ever want to join with a larger publisher, Harmsen isn’t too keen on the idea. “We don’t need publishers,” he says. “The only thing slowing us down is web space. We use Amazon Space Cloud -- servers used to be expensive, but not so much anymore.” Harmsen has confidence in his company and the people he works with. “Big would be nice, but there are lots of stipulations with big publishers,” he says. “We have lots of potential to grow and lots of cool middleware to work with.”
The market for gaming is more competitive than ever with triple A titles constantly competing to earn their way into your collection. Forever Interactive doesn’t care as much about ad campaigns, or whether it ends up on major gaming sites. The members care about making games that they enjoy playing -- that all gamers enjoy playing. Not all developers need major publishers to survive, and not all games need the words “World of Warcraft” or “Valve” in the title to become the next breakaway hit.