Summary: JCal continues his interview feeding frenzy by targeting Perpetual Entertainment and their Rome-themed MMO, Gods and Heroes. He also comes away with a fat bite of 36 new screenshots.
FiringSquad: First, what can you tell us about the origins of Gods and Heroes?
Stieg Hedlund: At Perpetual we’re really interested in doing new and different things in the online space. GnH is the first product of that direction. We wanted to present an MMO experience that broke with the both the gameplay and setting that have thus far dominated the category. We decided the main elements we wanted to pursue were a more visceral combat experience, and squad-based play. The Roman focus on the military as well as the other interesting elements of the setting—and the other game elements that naturally fell out of that choice—made it an excellent backdrop to wed to our gameplay. Greek and Roman mythology have been used so much in a number of games.
FiringSquad: How hard was it to develop a title that not only uses material that spans millennia but also has been use quite a lot in recent games?
Stieg Hedlund: The material we’ve focused on really hasn’t been very well explored. First, we’re in a different time period than the one that most games and even movies center on: Rome is a small republic whose very existence is threatened by powerful rival peoples, such as the Greeks, Etruscans and Samnites. Then we’ve additionally incorporated the element of Myth, bringing the gods and creatures of legend together with the historical aspects of the gameworld. So our approach differs greatly from games that seek to present historical fact, as well as games that deal with mythology, but only in a fairly shallow way. The result is something I think people will really enjoy: a gameworld where these two aspects are seamlessly fused, exhaustively explored and presented in a way that is pure entertainment.
FiringSquad: How does the back story for Gods and Heroes differ, if any, from the traditions of Greek and Roman myths?
Stieg Hedlund: What’s great about having these Myths as our source material is that we didn’t need to make anything up, but instead simply to choose things to reinforce and add depth to the themes of our game. Our game takes the Titanomachia—the epic war between the Olympians and the Titans and something directly out of the literature—and uses it as its basis. There is certainly new material, as well, but it flows from the myth: in the timeline of the game, the Telchines, a mysterious race of sorcerers, and who sided with the Titans and were banished after the Olympians secured victory, have escaped from banishment, and mean to begin a second cataclysmic showdown with the gods.
FiringSquad: What kinds of decisions were made in order to nail the kinds of playable character classes in the game?
Stieg Hedlund: There were a couple of things to balance there: we wanted to make sure that we represented different play experiences that would be fun and compelling in the style of game we are creating, but also to present distinctly and recognizably Roman characters as well. After that we made decisions about the abilities, usable equipment, and visuals that made each character class unique. This is something that we’re really working hard to balance to avoid the “ping-pong effect” that is often seen in successive patches in other games.
Stieg Hedlund: As anyone at all familiar with our setting would expect, the gods demand that heroes perform tasks in their service. As a reward for completing the things asked of him, a character receives standing with his god, and sometimes for the performance of particular tasks, the player gains the ability to call on new powers. A hero’s standing represents his deity’s willingness to have his powers called upon. Within the limits of standing, there is also favor, which is a regenerating pool similar to energy in other games that is actually used when calling on the gods.
FiringSquad: Why did Perpetual decide to make Gods and Heroes more of a tactical action game than the normal MMOPG style of combat?
Stieg Hedlund: There are plenty of games that already offer various flavors of that, and we wanted to really break new ground. This also plays to my own strengths specifically, since I understand this type of gameplay very well from the various games that I’ve worked on in the past; so for me particularly it was an interesting way to combine these different styles and push them in new directions.
FiringSquad: What are some of the more interesting missions and locations in the game?
Stieg Hedlund: Tough question—there’s just so much! I’ve been having a lot of fun lately playing in the Tyrrhenian Shores area. It’s city of Ostia is just fantastic looking, as is the surrounding terrain, from the Phorcid-infested salt pans to the north to the pirate camps to the south (not “Arr!” pirates, but historically-based corsairs: people who found themselves without land during the struggles between Rome and her rivals and turned to buccaneering for their livelihood instead). There’s a pretty cool quest in an area called Venatrix Glades where one of the goddess Diana’s attendants—a water nymph, named Egeria—has been imprisoned by evil nymphs called Strixes. When you battle past these enemies and destroy the altar they have erected over the well that Egeria inhabits. Once freed, this semi-divine creature appears and speaks to you.
FiringSquad: What sort of mythological creatures can we expect to see and combat in Gods and Heroes?
Stieg Hedlund: Almost anything you can think of from Greco-roman myth will be present in the game, as well as many things that most people will have never heard of, but which also come directly from myth. A lot of these guys have become fodder for fantasy RPGs, but we’ve stripped away those layers and taken an approach to them that relates visually to the original source material, which also makes them very fresh.
FiringSquad: Will there be any Player vs Player combat in the game?
Stieg Hedlund: Certainly. There will be the ability for players to challenge other players to duels, either as individuals or with their squads. There will also be whole servers dedicated to PvP gameplay. After launch, we plan on other features around this aspect of gameplay including full lobby and ladder systems for arena combat with real and meaningful rewards, and possibly even audiences for these fights and betting on the outcomes. Our first Expansion Pack will be a second playable culture, with contested areas that it and Rome will be fighting over, for Nation vs. Nation combat.
Stieg Hedlund: We’ve drawn heavily on the source material of the historical architecture of the cultures we are portraying, not to present something literal, but instead to create a fantastic, hyper-real ancient realm that we think of as ancient Europe as it should have been. Therefore, we’ve really pushed the direction, exaggerating things like the terrain and climatic differences between areas, as well as the cultures, which historically were all greatly influenced by the Hellenistic Greeks, but which we wanted to make more distinctive than that. Finally we’ve done some fudging on the timeline: as far as the fiction, it is closely based on the specific time period, but if we saw a building that was just cool and that we wanted to bring into the game, but was anachronistic, we’d use it anyway—we are creating a piece of entertainment, after all.
FiringSquad: What other elements does Goes and Heroes have that make it different than the normal MMORPG?
Stieg Hedlund: It would probably be easier to talk about what’s the same. We really took a from-the-ground-up approach with no assumptions about what was “needed” for an MMO. We have a design team that’s an interesting cross section of people with direct experience in MMOs and people from other backgrounds, which is quite deliberate—we wanted the perspective of those who had worked in this category before, so we weren’t reinventing the wheel and hitting the pitfalls they already had discovered, and we wanted the other guys to push the boundaries and think about how we could bring the highly directed experience of single player games into the MMO space. Squad combat is really the coolest thing. The addition of squads makes soloing more viable since the player character’s strengths and weaknesses can be complimented by the selection of different squad setups, but it also makes grouping richer and cooler. A group with full squads is a small army of 45 characters—that’s what a raid is in other games—now imagine what a raid looks like in our game!
FiringSquad: What is the current status of the game's progress and when will it be released?
Stieg Hedlund: The game is coming along well. We expect to be in beta in the spring and summer of this year and a launch in fall.
FiringSquad: After its launch, what plans are there to add content to the game?
Stieg Hedlund: We plan on updating features as well as content for the game on a constant basis. There is already a list of things that is planned for in this regard that we think will add to the play experience and allow further exploration of the game. There will also be expansions, as I mentioned earlier, in which we intend to present new cultures, with their own homelands gods and creatures of myth.
FiringSquad: Finally is there anything else you wish to say about Gods and Heroes?
Stieg Hedlund: I’m really excited about GnH! This game has a whole lot of new stuff in it and I think people who are getting tired of very formulaic experiences will find that there’s a lot to explore in our world.
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