After Horizons and Artifact were behind me, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to create a Hybrid online game where players could explore generated worlds that held up to 256 players, and when they logged in they could either join random “shards” or specific shards their friends were on. The goal was to create a multiplayer environment of “fun” that wasn’t as in-depth as a persistent MMOG, and could easily be “jumped into”. In addition I wanted to bring PC and Xbox players together.

In October of 2001, I moved to Lafayette, CO and created Pharaoh Productions. There, I designed the core of Dominion. A key part to this new game was a random world generation system where pieces of the world were put together based on themes and settings, so when players entered a world it was always a bit different than their previous experience, with indoor and outdoor areas. Focusing on 3rd person play, but giving a hint of Diablo-style interactivity, I teamed up with a few talented individuals and began to build the prototype.

Unfortunately it was very, very difficult to raise capital in 2002-2004. Even though we were shooting for both Xbox and PC support, we couldn’t find anyone willing to fund the development of the title. We had a functional prototype, but were unable to get any further.

I had to abandon Pharaoh Productions and Dominion in 2004. But to this day, the concept is sound and I believe would be an excellent game.

Interestingly enough, Guild Wars shipped in 2005, and encapsulated quite a bit of what Dominion tried to accomplish, paving the way for the “small shard” based world online gameplay.

Dominion4 Dominion3 Dominion2 Dominion1

  1. I’m an aspiring game designer myself. While I’ve worked on a few projects, with start-up teams, etc, I haven’t actually released anything, yet.

    There is a project I’ve been working away at, slowly, for some time now.

    At the same time, I’m looking into different game engines to find one that would be ideal for the type of game I’m seeking to create for the long-term, but also that will allow me – as a non-programmer artist/designer – to produce a solid prototype showing the basic setting, look/feel and gameplay. I figure that would go a good deal farther to demonstrating what I’m seeking to create and get people interested than “a bunch of really cool ideas typed up in a Word Processor”.

    In my search, I checked out TrueVison 3D and remember seeing screenshots for your prototype of Dominion. Having been a follower and player of Horizons, I was familiar with you and your work and so I tried to look further into it. I never did find any more information about the status of that project, of course. Now I know what happened to that project.

    Sounds like a pretty cool concept you had.

  2. Thank you for the feedback, Mike! I highly recommend you check out the Unity 3D engine. It’s very powerful, cross platform, and should give you everything you need to build some prototypes and even consider for commercial application.

    DOMINION was a hybrid MMO – segmented to bring thousands of people together in mini-instances. Still a solid concept today. Who knows, might decide to build it in the future!

  3. Not a problem! I’m a big fan of game design and, by extension, game designers. The opportunity to speak with someone with experience and “mileage” in the field is always a welcome one for me.

    I see that your current business has moved away from the game design side of things and seems more “business productivity” oriented, if I understand it correctly. That makes me rather curious – especially as you noted the possibility of Dominion being picked up again someday… Is game design something you still have an interest in pursuing in the foreseeable future?

    Also, if I may “pick you brain” a bit, I’m curious of how you feel a MMO of the scope and scale of something like Horizons would fit in today’s market?

    I mean in terms of its depth, breadth and scope. Obviously some of its gameplay mechanics would not sit well with many gamers these days. I’d say Horizons/Istaria is still quite “old-school” in that way. Though, that’s actually one of the things I’ve always liked and found intriguing about it. It can still be quite unforgiving and there’s a lot to wrap your head around.

    I just see so many developers chasing after Blizzard’s behemoth, and so few really trying to do something different (though there are a few smaller, but still noteworthy ones), that I wonder what a good “compromise” between that old-school depth, breadth and scope and the newer sense of accessibility and “convenience” would be. The two almost seem to be at odds down to the genetic level lol.

    That’s something I’m wrestling with for my project and I think I have a fairly good grasp on a way to approach it. Of course, as the saying goes, everything works on paper.

    Anyway… Sorry for the long reply.

    Thanks again and all the best!


  4. Oh! About Unity3D, that is one that I’m evaluating. I like a lot about it, but there’s just something about its interface and/or workflow that hasn’t “clicked” with me yet, for some reason.

    I’m also checking out DXStudio, which has a pretty nice setup – particularly for prototyping.

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