MMORPG.com Gods and Heroes In-Depth Preview Day V: The TeamFor our final feature this week on Gods and Heroes we're taking a look at Perpetual Entertainment's development team. The list of designers and artists reads like a who's who of the game development world. Some are veterans from an earlier, simpler time in the gaming industry when the major form of gaming included your favorite pen and a set of dice. Others are from the new age of gaming, when a major evolution took place and a thing called the Internet changed the way people would game forever.
Perpetual's team of heavy hitters starts with their lead designer Stieg Hedlund, of Diablo II fame. Mr. Hedlund tells us that he originally started out as a teenager playing pen-and-paper RPGs. He began his career in games at Infinity Software in 1987, and continued to work for some of the most prestigious companies in the industry including Electronic Arts (EA), Konami, SEGA and Blizzard. He has designed games of nearly every genre for a wide variety of computers, consoles, and arcade machines. In addition to being the lead designer of Diablo II, which sold more than 5 million units and received many of the industry's most prestigious awards, he also worked on some of Blizzard's other huge hits including Diablo, StarCraft, and the Diablo II: Lord of Destruction expansion pack. He has successfully shipped over 30 titles.
Themes for MMOs have not been all that varied in years past. Generally there's your token Elf or Orc, that's a given. Gods and Heroes steps away from the fantasy template with its Roman mythological theme. So it wasn't surprising to hear what attracted Mr. Hedlund to Gods and Heroes. "I've always been interested in mythology, so doing the research for this game was supremely enjoyable. The sheer amount of information and background on the people, places, gods, mythological creatures and stories is astounding, and the interplay between real history and the mythological themes is fascinating. There is more quality material to work with – and more avenues to explore – than any game designer has a right to expect. But I'll take it!"
Going from RPGs to MMOs is a leap for any designer, even for an experienced designer such as Mr. Hedlund. What would make a designer who is very successful at making action RPGs come over to the massively-multi player world? "It's the natural progression. It's the next logical step in RPGs, which I happen to love. The key thing about RPGs is total immersion – you know it's working when you find yourself really getting lost in the story and lore. MMOs let you do that over much larger expanses of time and space – and they allow you share that experience with thousands of players, which reinforces the immersive quality."
The Team's Development Director is Ms. Christine McGavran, another industry veteran who has worked for the EA and other prestigious names in the industry. She's been the lead engineer, development director, producer, or executive producer on a dozen shipped titles, including four top-ten products. Ms. McGavran is more than qualified to take on the gods of Rome with her own squad.
"It's so exciting to be a part of this team and this project," Ms. McGavran said. "We're doing things in this game that we've always wanted to do, so the entire team actually enjoys coming to work every morning. The attitude is: ‘Ok, what cool technology, feature or set of content do we get to do today?' I've worked on some great projects at big, successful studios in the past – including SimCity and The Sims at EA/Maxis – but this project really goes to heart of why I became a game developer. It's a new experience every day."
We know who makes the development and design happen, but art direction is equally as important a job when designing a game. Looking at Gods and Heroes you can tell that this team has devoted tremendous effort to getting the details right – from the monsters, to the hero characters to the landscapes. The chiseled features and shading effects on the humans and monsters provide dramatic impact for the player, which in turn has a real impact on gameplay. The man in charge of all of this is Gods and Heroes Art Director Mike Hines. You might have heard of some of his prior work – games with names like "Myst" and "Uru."
We all know that an art director's job is important. But what does an art director do exactly? Well, we weren't sure ourselves so we had to ask Mr. Hines. "Ultimately, I'm responsible for making sure that all the art that goes into the game looks and feels the way it should. That covers everything from the initial concept work to the modeling, texturing, rigging, binding, animating, lighting, and level creation. Plus I manage all of the in-house and outsourced artists." Enough said.
We asked Chris McKibbin, Executive Producer of Gods and Heroes and President of Perpetual Entertainment, what made Mr. Hines the natural choice for Gods and Heroes. "He said he was willing to work long hours without sleep to get the job done. So we said ‘You're hired!' Actually, our entire team was hand-picked from the best of the best, and Mike was no exception."
That rule applies to McKibbin himself. Prior to co-founding Perpetual Entertainment, Mr. McKibbin held numerous executive positions at Electronic Arts, including Chief Operating Officer of the EA Canada Studio, General Manager of the Origin Systems Studio, and General Manager of Programming and Production for EA.com.
When asked about his goals for Gods and Heroes Mr. McKibbin said, "I'm a true fan of games like Warcraft III and Dungeon Siege, which I think of as precursors to MMOs that show interesting ways to use squads as a primary gameplay mechanic. All MMOs are based in part on the social structures of the players, and Gods and Heroes will allow all of the communication and organization that players expect. But I'm really excited to show people what we have done with squad-based combat – things that have never been done in any previous MMO."
It's plain to see from the movies out there that the squad combat is definitely going to set this game apart from the rest of the MMO pack. One thing is for sure, with such an experienced and accomplished team leading the way Gods and Heroes has a great chance of making it out the door as a complete and polished product.