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The Game We Want To Play

Bill Trost Posted:
Developer Journals 0

When I heard John Smedley was leaving Daybreak Games, I suspected it wasn’t to retire. I was looking for a new gig at the time and thought I would reach out to see what he had in the fire. We went back and forth over text messages for a few days before actually talking, but the idea John described to me then, a little over one year ago, was super exciting and set my mind racing at the possibilities. It touched on lots of things I liked about games; old school hardcore RPG mechanics, the modern wave of pixel art indie games, and open worlds. I couldn’t wait to get started.

John and I have a 20-year history, starting with the original EverQuest. The formation of Pixelmage Games and the development of Hero’s Song feels very much like those early days of EQ dev. There are no real rules other than to make the game we want to play. We wear our influences on our sleeve and have gathered a talented group of like-minded veteran game devs.

It’s a ton of work. There are a lot of very big ideas going into Hero’s Song.

Let’s take a game that looks a lot like an awesome SNES era RPG but set in huge, procedural, multi-player worlds with thousands of years of history. Let’s make each world unique and give the player as much freedom as we can. It’s should play like an ARPG with tons of customization and items but also have the hardcore heart of a rogue-like with permanent death and a way to “win.”  And let’s get something into the player’s hands as fast as we can, so that we can see what is working and what isn’t while sticking to the core of the game we want to play.

So here we are a year later, very close to getting the first public version of Hero’s Song into players’ hands. There is still a lot of work left to do, but the game is really starting to take shape.

You’re In Your World Now

When you first start a game of Hero’s Song, your first choice is whether you are going to play on someone else’s world or start one of your own. Each online world is hosted by the player that created it. Our goal is for a single world to eventually be able to support up to 200 simultaneous players depending on the beefiness of the host machine. But you can also just play by yourself on your own private, local world if that is what you want to do.

World creation is a big part of the Hero’s Song experience and how we go about it is one of the features that makes the game unique. Creating a new world starts with the player choosing a pantheon of gods for the world from an ever expanding collection of gods. The bigger the world, the more gods you need to choose. Each god brings a bunch of baggage that is defined by the personality of that god and helps to shape the world you are creating. Some gods are chaotic while others strive for order. Some have an affinity for the oceans and others for deserts or forests. You choose any of these gods you like and then assign a prominence to each. Are they all equally influential or does one god rule above all others? It’s up to you. The gods and their relative prominence to each other then influence everything that comes after. They impact what the world looks like, who lives there, what events are possible as 10,000 years of history plays out.

I Live, I Die, I Live Again

You also must assign a god of the Underworld. This can be any god from the list. Who you chose to rule the Underworld impacts the afterlife of your world and the challenge a character must face when it dies. Because remember, Hero’s Song does feature permanent character death. How that works is when a player character dies, it is sent to the Underworld and must complete the god’s challenge to be able to leave. If you fail in the Underworld, your character is lost forever. Friends will be able to help you complete some of the challenges and some will be tailored to the skills of specific classes.

Once you have chosen your gods and balanced them as you see fit, all that is left is to come up with a name for your new world and generate it. Once you are happy with the world map, the next stage is generating 10,000 years of history. But I’ll get into the details of that in a future blog.

On Alpha 3 and Early Access

Hero’s Song is soon going into what we are calling Alpha 3 where players who backed us through Indiegogo will have access to the current build of the game. We have no NDA requirements so you should be able to see some streams and other impressions of the game in the not too distant future. Our plans are to take the game into Steam Early Access as soon as we feel the game is ready, so keep an eye out for us.

Bill Trost

Creative Director - Pixelmage Games 


Bill Trost