Last Friday, Examiner took an in-depth look at Sherwood Dungeon, a free-to-play,
browser-based game produced by Gene Endrody. The unique game lets heroes delve
into mysterious locations and a deep dungeon, quest, and even PvP. We talked
with Gene to get further insight into Sherwood Dungeon's creation, development,
and unique perspective in the world of online gaming.
Examiner: What milestone has Sherwood Dungeon made that you are the most proud
Gene: I feel more lucky than proud. I started making small shockwave based games
in the evenings and weekends ten years ago while I was working in the console
game industry. These were just small, fun hobby projects and there were no grand
plans or aspirations. Sherwood grew out of that and I didnít have any
expectations other than it seemed like a fun creative and technical challenge.
Iíve been blessed with how much success Sherwood has enjoyed in the first six
years of operation and Iím grateful to the players who have supported the game.
Examiner: What made you finally decide to introduce the bow and arrow recently
to Sherwood, despite earlier objections to ranged combat?
Gene: Sherwood doesnít use the traditional tank, DPS, healer trinity and focuses
more on an action RPG style of melee combat. This was intended to make the
combat more up close, in your face and visceral. In discussions with players, we
were concerned that ranged combat could disrupt the emergent game play that
comes out of the clan room raids. Players also like their downtime in Sherwood.
We did not want ranged combat to interfere with the social nature of the game
and end up introducing a feature that could be used for griefing. For these
reasons we limited ranged combat to PVE only. After a rewrite of the MOB AI to
balance the ranged attacks, I released an alpha version of the update to players
very early on. With their help I was able to tune the system and it ended up
being a very popular update.
Examiner: Have you ever thought about adding gamepad support?
Gene: I have considered gamepad support. We use Adobe Shockwave as the browser
technology for the delivery and 3D rendering in the game client. Gamepads are
not supported natively by Shockwave but there are third party add-ons. These
add-ons trigger security dialogs in the web browsers, requesting permission for
installation and I donít consider this to be an acceptable solution given that
you always loose players when dialogs pop up.
Examiner: Has bringing Sherwood to Facebook helped its popularity or
Gene: Sherwood as a Facebook app is really more of an ongoing experiment. About
13,000 players do use Facebook as their gateway into the game, but that is a
relatively small number compared to the stand-alone version at
SherwoodDungeon.com. Sherwood scales to fill the available space in the web
browser and usually is played full screen. Because Facebook limits the screen
space available for the game, most players migrate from the Facebook app to the
regular version. I use Facebook quite extensively to keep in touch with players
through the fansite and we often discuss requests and new features in the
Examiner: Do you find it difficult to deal with an international audience, given
the small nature of Maid Marian Entertainment?
Gene: I didnít really set out to attract such an international audience. It
happened organically as international game sites started supporting Sherwood. I
donít localize the game and the player community became a mixing pot of
languages and cultures. This has turned out to be a major influence on the game
culture. Recently Iíve created Spanish, Portuguese and Polish default servers
and room assignments so players of the same language can easily find each other.
Players are welcome to override these setting and often do. I think of the
international nature of Sherwood more as a lucky accident than a challenge.
Examiner: How do you respond to critics who think the game is dated?
Gene: I take feedback seriously, but I guess that depends on what Sherwood is
being compared to. Iím not trying to compete with downloadable client based or
boxed games because they are often 100 MB to over a gigabyte in size.
Considering Sherwood fits on the equivalent of three floppy disks, most critics
have been impressed with what we have been able to accomplish given the
limitations of the web browser. We have a huge advantage when it comes to
accessibility. As we donít require registration or download, most players can go
from discovering the game to playing it in less than a minute. We try to make
smart compromises. There are actually very few fantasy MMOs that run inside your
web browser in 3D and only one that I know of that attracts more players. At the
end of the day I was lucky enough to make an MMO as a hobby and now itís played
by over a million users. It has succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. Just
the fact that weíre here at all as a tiny cottage industry MMO, alive and
kicking for over six years in an industry dominated by corporate giants, weíve
Examiner: Search engines show a lot of results for Sherwood Dungeon hacks and
cheat programs. Do you feel like you've secured Sherwood to your best
Gene: Victim of our own popularity? Any MMO with a decent sized audience will
attract some of this, particularly the browser based ones. If many of those
cheats actually worked, I suppose it could be a major issue but patching hacks
is a continuous part of running any MMO.
Examiner: What was your favorite area to design?
Gene: If by ďareaĒ you mean a location in the game, it would have to be Midnight
Glade. This is a moonlight town with shops, merchants and windmills. Unicorns
and wolves wander in the forest just outside of town. I think itís one of the
nicest spots in the game. If by ďareaĒ you mean an aspect of the game, it would
have to be the ďProphecy of BaneĒ quest series. These quests bring you face to
face with the DarkBlood, a cult set on returning the world of Sherwood to the
void. The Darkblood worship the oldest of the black dragons, a creature named
Bane who can only be defeated by a weapon called the Dragon Claw Scepter. You
need to earn six Stones of Power to summon the Dragon Claw in trials of combat
throughout the kingdom and defeat Bane in order to fulfill the prophecy. The
Prophecy quests are a great way to get acquainted with the kingdom as they keep
you moving from location to location.
Examiner: If you were given a million dollars to remake Sherwood Dungeon, would
you do it? If so, what would you change?
Gene: The thing about being given a million dollars in the games industry is
that at some point whoever gave it to you is going to want it back with
interest. There are always strings attached. I donít really want to work on a
multi-million dollar MMO. There are plenty of those to go around. Iíd rather
make a small hobbyist MMO on a shoestring budget that defies the odds and is
done for the right reasons. Sherwood succeeds because itís small, very
independent and beholden to no one but itsí players. Iím very grateful not to be
knee deep in all the corporate nonsense that most developers have to endure and
I believe players appreciate the honest approach. When Sherwood launched it was
a glorified 3D chat room with swords. Early players bought into the idea of what
Sherwood could be some day as opposed to what it actually was. The fact that I
wanted their feedback to help steer the direction of development was apparently
such a rare thing that they were willing to overlook the fact that it was barely
a game at that point. These players found it cool to hang out in an unfinished
game. There wasnít much to do, so they would invent stuff. That culture of
emergent play never left the game. As a result, some of the coolest ďfeaturesĒ
of Sherwood came from a very active player community. Six years later the game
has evolved and matured but I wouldnít change a thing about where weíve come