Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit down for a short interview with some of the people over at Perpetual Entertainment. In case you’ve been living under a rock, up until a short time ago, Perpetual Entertainment was developing both Star Trek Online and a game called Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising. That changed, however, on October 9th when it was announced that the Gods & Heroes project would be put on indefinite hold. The sudden announcement surprised many in the community, which led to my conversation yesterday with: Chris Mckibbin, the co-founder of Peretual, Daron Stinnett, Chris Launius, Community Manager and Richard Zinser, the VP of Game Services.
When I asked the group why exactly they had chosen to put the game on indefinite hold, I was pointed back toward the official statement that the company issued back on the 9th. “The decision to put [the game] on hold was a result of looking at all of Perpetual's opportunities,” answered Mckibbon, “Gods & Heroes, Star Trek, and the Perpetual Platform Services business.”
“Why then,” I asked, “was Gods & Heroes in particular chosen of the three for the hold?”
“Getting G&H to the level of quality and polish we demand was going to take more time - which is not in any way unique in the MMO world - but it would have had an adverse impact on our other opportunities,” he said. He went on to explain why each of the other projects was kept: “The Platform Business is the base for anything [we] do and is what the company was founded on, so it is necessary. Weighing the market potential of G&H versus STO, we all believe that while G&H had good market potential, STO has phenomenal market potential.”
Canceled, placed on hold, temporarily shelved, placed on hiatus, indefinite hold…. All of these are terms that can be used to describe a company’s decision to stop developing a game. When then Mythic Entertainment (now EA Mythic) announced that they would no longer be producing their sci-fi MMO Imperator, they described the move as a “production postponement” (nothing like a little alliteration to soften the blow). Why then, I asked those gathered for the interview, was Gods & Heroes placed on “indefinite hold”?
“Honestly,” answered McKibbin, “because that is the best description. We are really proud of G&H, and if we can we will look to continue it at a later date.” When I asked what the chances were that we would see G&H completed, he replied, “[I] really can't comment on that, but I can say that I would like to see it finished some day.”
Inevitably, when a game is put on hold (or whatever terms are used), there are going to be at least a few jobs lost. Before the indefinite hold was announced, Perpetual had 40-50 people working in their offices on Gods & Heroes. While no specific numbers were given, I was told that “a significant number of those [were] transferred to Star Trek”.
Speaking of Star Trek, an announcement like this is bound to have some impact on the company’s other franchise. Some people are even going so far as to predict that Star Trek Online will meet the same fate as its Roman predecessor.
“One reason we made this decision is to insure our success with Star Trek,” Stinnett said when I asked him for a response to theories of STO’s demise (which seem to be greatly exaggerated). “It's a very important license that deserves a world class effort and we wanted to make sure that we could focus on delivering to player's expectations. I'll add that the world-wide market potential of an MMO based on Star Trek is colossal and it is hard to imagine ever [not] coming to the same decision.”
Even with the enthusiasm for a bright future with Star Trek Online, a cancellation at such a late stage in the game has the serious potential to hurt a company’s reputation and brand them within the MMO community. I asked if this was a concern.
“We are certainly concerned about our reputation in the community,” McKibbin answered. “In part that is why we made the decision. It is always hard, but we want to do everything possible - and necessary - to deliver the quality we think the community demands. We hope people will understand and appreciate that.”
With that, my interview time was up. It seems, from speaking with the team, that the feeling among the higher-ups at Perpetual Entertainment is one of optimism. While it’s sad to see a game like Gods & Heroes hit the cutting room floor, fans who have been eagerly awaiting more news on Star Trek should be prepared for more as production will be “ramping up” through 2008.