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Heatwave Interactive
MMORPG | Genre:Historical | Status:Cancelled  (est.rel 06/21/11)  | Pub:Heatwave Interactive
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Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising Interviews: Interview with Anthony Castoro

By Michael Bitton on August 02, 2011

MMORPG.com:

In an update to the Gods and Heroes community several weeks ago, you noted that growth for the game was less than optimal and discussed a number of your team’s development priorities going forward to address that, as well as a few other issues. Can you talk about that some and give us an update on how things have progressed since then?

Anthony Castoro:

On the growth side, I think we’ve clearly identified that A) there wasn’t enough awareness of the game coming out because, I would say, 50 or more percent of the players coming into it through Steam had never heard of Gods & Heroes; even the original group of people who came in through Steam hadn’t heard of the game. But we have a good game, in that our retention numbers are very good. People who buy the game, the majority of them are converting to subscribers after the 30 day periods, that speaks really well. But we have to be more aggressive about A) getting the word out and B) lowering the barrier to entry.

So, of course, we announced our price drop, which obviously does two things. It lowers the barrier entry and it’s also newsworthy so we get more awareness out there to the players about the game. Our retail partners are running different promotions associated with driving more traffic to the game. So right now, Steam is doing 50% off after the price drop, that’s $15, which is a steal for a game like this one. Amazon had a Deal of the Day, and other different outlets are going to continue to do that.

In addition to us continuing to improve the game, we’re communicating to our players what our priorities are and what else is going on. We’re trying to make sure as many people as possible get their hands on it. So in terms of our production priorities, one of the main things we talked about was releasing content we had talked about before launch, coming out soon after launch. One of those was the Scout character class. The Scout’s coming along really well, I know it’s in QA right now and our objective that we communicated to players is to release this week, and we’re on track to do that (editor’s note: the Scout is now live). Plus, a whole lot of combat fixes, and we’ve updated the billing system, and more updates coming out after that. So, we continue to put out one or two patches, sometimes three, a week, sort of delivering on that message of, “Hey, here’s where our priorities are. Here’s what we’re going to do,” and actually doing it. And to us, that’s really the most important thing is, A) you have to have a game that people want to play and B) you have to have a dialogue with the community about what’s important for the game, and execute.

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MMORPG.com:

You also recently announced the Scout, a new class that is set to go live in Gods & Heroes quite soon. Tell us about the Scout and when we can expect to play it.

Anthony Castoro:

It’s a ranged class, and along with that we’ve got some combat improvements that affect all the classes, we’re doing as a result of putting in this class. There are some improvements to the way AoE targeting is done, and hit animations, cooldown counters, that, because we’re doing this work for one class, it gets to affect everyone else, which is a nice benefit.

MMORPG.com:

“Founders of Rome” are to be rewarded with an exclusive minion, Cartilaginus. Which players are considered “Founders of Rome”? And what can you tell us about Cartilaginus?

Anthony Castoro:

You’d have to have bought the game before the price drop. So, the point was, look, if you paid full price for the game we want to reward you for being an early adopter, and we know how people feel when things go on sale, so we thought that we would create a new minion which would be an exclusive for those people who are early adopters. And in addition, we offered up the option to ask for another 30 free days. So, if people feel like, “Oh, I paid full price for the game and it’s on sale and I feel like I should get some benefit for that,” we happily give people an additional 30 days. And interestingly, we have very low uptake on that; I think people just feel good about the fact we’re willing to do that, but most of them are supporters of the game and want to see it continue to succeed, so they’re sort of investing in it by not asking.

MMORPG.com:

You’ve just announced a new free three day trial for Gods & Heroes. Can you talk about that a bit?

Anthony Castoro:

Because we have an awareness issue, we didn’t have a huge, giant beta; people don’t know what they’re buying. So, I think it’s important that people be at least able to try the game, so they can be informed about buying, especially when there’s not a promotion for $15 going on. That’ll let people play the game for three days, so they can decide whether they want to buy it or not.

MMORPG.com:

What’s a game steeped in Roman mythology without war? When can players expect to be able to participate in PvP? What are your plans on that front?

Anthony Castoro:

That’s an interesting question. We’re having active discussions about that right now. One of the things that I’ve been talking to the community about is the sort of vision statement for the game, and we have a dialogue going on on the forums right now, about the vision, and we’re sort of, we have a vision for it, but we wanted to get the players involved and so we’re doing an active brainstorm right now about what’s important to them in Gods & Heroes. And we do think that conflict and war is important in this genre, but to what level direct PvP is a requirement, is one of those things that I think is up for discussion. So, the dev team is very interested in having a discussion about PvP, but it has to be done right. I don’t believe that putting in, for example, just having gladiator battles in the arena is enough. I think that war on a large scale is important for Rome, and so we are currently putting together a vision statement that incorporates how PvP, faction systems, player politics, and the estate game, will all work together, and how we’re going to be bringing that out over the following year.

MMORPG.com:

Similarly, do you have any plans to add crafting to the game? How would crafting play in Gods & Heroes?

Anthony Castoro:

Absolutely! Yeah, crafting is absolutely an important part of the game and a lot of work has already been done on it, and we’ve been talking to the players about even since closed beta. I imagine crafting will come out before PvP as part of the estate and economic system. We haven’t announced a date for that; we’ve got a pretty cool crafting system somewhat inspired by other crafting systems, like Star Wars Galaxies.

MMORPG.com:

Free-to-play, or more specifically, the hybrid free-to-play/subscription model is becoming a strong trend in the genre right now. Can you see Gods & Heroes adopting either of these models in the future?

Anthony Castoro:

Absolutely. I see Gods & Heroes adopting a hybrid free-to-play model in the future. The reason we didn’t go free-to-play originally was that the game wasn’t designed to support that in the way that made sense, and we didn’t have the ability to both make the game playable the way that it is now, and fun, and support the free-to-play model the way we would like. So, I think that free-to-play is going to be a comprehensive part of adding things like the politics and PvP system to the game, but ultimately we see free trial and content gates and itemization as another way to trial and then pay for the game, and so there’s no reason that we shouldn’t support it. We just have to make sure that the game systems are designed with that in mind, and so that takes us a little time to implement.

MMORPG.com:

What’s in store for Gods & Heroes over the next six months to a year? Where do you see the game going?

Anthony Castoro:

I see the game growing, sort of organically, into a very successful game with a sizable player economy. I think we’re going to see, with the auction system going in, and then additional content, like we’ve got about 20 levels of content that we’ll be rolling out in the next year; the new player classes; and the things we’re going to do with the estate game, and the politics system, really giving Gods and Heroes the identity outside of the quest-leveling game that it is now.

So, right now if you sort of map the game against all the MMOs out there, it’s very themepark, and it’s very PvE, and as we roll out these more player oriented community systems and systemic gameplay alongside the content things we’re going to do, I think you’ll see Gods and Heroes really coming into its own identity, and being a community-oriented game steeped in the mythology of Rome, whereas right now, it’s very much an adventuring game and leveling game in Roman mythology.

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