Sheloman Byrd: Anytime!
Hooked Gamers: Can you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us what your job is on the team?
Sheloman Byrd: Sure. I’m Sheloman Byrd, part of the Business Development and Marketing team. I handle creative initiatives, market research, advertising, copy, working with current/possible partners for new opportunities, promotions as well as game system/content and feature recommendations for our Operations team. My main focus right now is Fantasy Earth Zero, and giving players an accurate picture of what to expect. Lots of work, but quite fun.
Hooked Gamers: Fantasy Earth: Zero has been in development for a long time and gone through its fair share of trouble along the way. What are the major hurdles you’ve had to overcome along the way?
Sheloman Byrd: Well, to be honest, when we had our initial meetings in Japan, both our corporate office and Square Enix were on the same page in terms of what the game was, and what the players there responded to. We looked at that, as well as our own ideas of what players here wanted, and made a strategy. They had tried many initiatives over the years, so we were able to plan around the hurdles.
Hooked Gamers: What are the biggest changes you’ve made to the game since it first went live in Asia on February 23rd 2006?
Sheloman Byrd: Biggest change would be changing the model from subscription to Free to Play. To say the players responded would be an understatement. We’ve also added new classes, and of course, gameplay balance. We’ve also initiated our own light social networking within the game, such as an event calendar that players fill out to schedule in-game events.
The changes made helped Fantasy Earth Zero become a great success.
Hooked Gamers: The game has gone from being a pay-to-play to a free-to-play MMORPG. Can you tell us; why the change?
Sheloman Byrd: Well, at Gamepot, we believe in a few things, one of our core ideals is “Fun is Free”. So, when we proposed that idea, applied to a traditional, high quality Square Enix game, it’s a case of the best of both worlds.
Hooked Gamers: Can you tell us anything about the micro-transaction system in the game? What can players buy? What can they sell? How do they do so?
Sheloman Byrd: We’ll reveal more about this down the road, but off the bat, I can tell you that there’s nothing game-breaking sold in the shop. Most of what they’ll be buying is cosmetic.
Hooked Gamers: The game has been played in Asia for about 4 years now, how many active players does it have and how many more do you expect will join in once it goes public in the US?
Sheloman Byrd: We typically don’t release the full number of active players, but its well over 300,000.
Hooked Gamers: What can you tell us of the Character creation process in the game? How is it different from other MMORGs?
Sheloman Byrd: Fantasy Earth Zero has a normal character creation process, we’ve adjusted that a bit for the U.S., however. You select your sex, tone, hair, face, etc.