Malcolm Owen On June 25, 2002 at 8:31 am

Kevin Hannah, all round general nice guy AND someone in the games industry…time he got the 10 Question treatment!

1. Who are you, and what do you do?
Hi. I’m Kevin "Z-Man" Hannah, and depending on the day I could be wearing any one from a number of hats here at PersistentWorldZ in sunny Orange County. Today it just happens to be a green cap as I take up the mantle of resident "spin doctor" and answer your interview questions. Tomorrow it’s probably my hard-hat as we get down to the crunch of more game testing. After that who knows… everyone on the team just hunkers down to get the job done… whatever it is.

2. Explain to the world the concept of Z-Opolis.
Z-Opolis stands out from the standard MMOG’s since it doesn’t follow the usual recipe of "get a weapon and kill things". Instead Z-Opolis focuses on blending non-violent kid-friendly game play, with community, content and commerce, in what we term a Massively Multiplayer Online Community Game (MMOCG). We challenge players to live successful virtual lives within a complete economic and social framework. However, key for us is the fact that this framework is geared toward promoting positive interaction between players. For example, there are SQ (Social Quotient) limits on the coolest clothes and rooms, and to increase SQ a player must buddy up with other players and develop friendship levels.
But it doesn’t end with the game client! By utilizing Web technologies (such as browser access and Instant Messaging) we extend the community reach so that a player never need lose touch, and turn Z-Opolis into the "ultimate chat room".
We also exploit dynamic and personalized web content, directly from in-game, that doesn’t require client patching. This means we can keep the world "fresh" as well as allowing players to share their own personal content. How about coming over to my room to watch my holiday video on my TV… or join the N’Sync club to see the shots taken at their last concert.
Combine this with both G-Commerce and E-Commerce (we talk about this later) and the resultant mix is a vibrant, colorful, easy-to-use game environment that extends the appeal of massively multiplayer games to a broader web-savvy audience that includes casual gamers, both male and female, from pre-teen to young adult.

3. Why has Z-Opolis gone for the route of the MMORPG instead of as a standalone title like The Sims?
The possibilities from player-to-player interaction, as well as using web technology to extend beyond the game client, are just so much wider that going the massively multi-player route was a foregone conclusion for us. As a recovering D&D addict I just think other people are much more interesting.

4. If Angelina Jolie learned Direct X, and John Carmack was looking for a new job and would work cheap…. who would you hire?
I’d hire Stitch… he’s just cool.

5. While researching, I saw that Z-Opolis would have both G-commerce and E-commerce. Care to elaborate on these?
As far as G-Commerce is concerned players have DZ’s (or "Dizzies" as we call them) for virtual cash, which is good to buy any in-game virtual item. However, for those impatient players there is the option on certain special items to pay with Z-Cash (directly converted from real money). No need to go out to eBay to buy items if a player doesn’t want to do "the time" in amassing his or her Dizzy fortune!
The new wrinkle we add is E-Commerce… no real surprise that a player’s avatar can peruse the bookshelves of the virtual bookstore in Tome Town, and clicking will bring up a catalog, and that the player can order a book. The big thing that takes this beyond just surfing a web catalog is that I can talk to the other players in the bookstore about what they are reading, or even to an avatar played by the real book retailer behind the virtual bookstore. Conversely, when I walk around Barnes&Noble I don’t really walk up to other shoppers and talk to them… not a problem in the virtual world.

6. How much work will there be to make Z-Opolis available in Europe?
Besides setting up local servers and customer support, for the U.K. (i.e. English) all that would be needed is to plug-in dynamic web-based content thought more appealing to the "locals" and get the game distributed to as many people as possible (easy since its free). Obviously, for the other countries localizing the language would be needed, but this is easy – we are already planning to produce Spanish and Portuguese versions as we take Z-Opolis to the local U.S. Hispanic population and then south of the border.

7. Why? (Not necessarily about question 6)
Why can’t someone in Europe play on the English U.S. servers. No reason they can’t if they have a fast and reliable enough Internet connection.

8. What strange things do you have dotted around your desk at this moment in time?
I have a Dogbert on top of my monitor, and lots of empty coffee cups. When I moved from the U.K. to the U.S. almost 10 years ago I turned away from the light (tea) to embrace the dark side – preferably a double espresso.

9. When will we, the gaming masses, get our hands on Z-Opolis?
Selected groups will get access in August followed by commercial release later in 3Q02. We aren’t going through traditional beta as the core game has already been tested outside of the U.S. over the last 12 months. Watch for details…

10. Any final words to the readers?
Hope to see you in Z-Opolis!

You can see Kevin’s work at

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