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Design & Gameplay

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Stieg Hedlund answers a slew of questions on gameplay and design in the first half of this Q&A

As some may have noticed, gaming news site Society of Gamers has recently closed. When they did, it left a Q&A Nick "Destroid" Soltes did with Stieg Hedlund, the Design Director of Gods & Heroes, in limbo. Perpetual asked us if we'd share it with you. So, here is the first half of this interview. Check back in a week for more.

MMORPG.com: Gods & Heroes uses a unique squad-based system; players have command of many minions. Please explain how this will maintain a "squad leader" feel while not forcing players to constantly manage and direct individual troops.
Stieg Hedlund:

The minion system is one of our most crucial systems in the game and implementing it correctly is paramount to the experience we want to create. A significant portion of the development of the minion system was focused on the user experience and how we could adapt this system to the widest spectrum of players possible. The solution was to give the players as much, or as little, control as they wanted.

Minion control is achieved through a minion user sub-interface where multiple options, like agro radius and aggression levels, can be set. To start, the minions are broken in to three sub-groups, Infantry, Skirmisher, and Casters. This allows you to issue commands to individual groups and essentially micro-manage each sub-group of your minions. In these sub-controls you can independently set varying levels of aggression, agro radius, and even what they should be doing when they attack. You can tell one group to hold back while another attacks and have the casters in the back on support (healing and buffing) only.

In contrast to this, if you don't want to deal with these sub-groups or micro-management you can just issue orders from the main commands and they will respond accordingly. Of course if you just set them to an aggressive behaviour, you might find yourself in a few more fights than you originally anticipated!

MMORPG.com: One of the very cool things players can do with their troops is to place them in pre-set and custom formations. How do these formations impact tactics during combat? Will formations have strengths and weaknesses - can one formation be particularly effective against other formations?
Stieg Hedlund:

Absolutely! When I first started working on this project I had never seen the formations in motion and I wondered if this was actually going to have any significant impact on the tactics and gameplay. Only after they got it fully implemented and I was able to see in action did I begin to appreciate what could be done and how it affects the game. The best example was the using soldiers and their special maneuver, Shield Wall, at E3. By having the soldiers take the front line, they can intercept incoming hostiles and thereby protect you and all your casters. Various configurations offer various benefits, and depending on the class and the feats that you choose, formations will become increasingly more important as you progress through the game.

MMORPG.com: With the ability to eventually have so many troops at your side, what kind of interdependencies will be built into the game? What will prevent a player from making an all-powerful squad?
Stieg Hedlund:

There is nothing really to prevent people from becoming as powerful as the game allows except their own determination. If you want to do every quest and hunt down every available mythological minion available to you, then we see no reason to restrict that. Furthermore, it's never been a secret that our game is about more than just straight combat, you have to think about what's going on and what's coming up in order to beat your opponent. I've seen people win against some fierce squad setups just because they were able to out think their opponent.

MMORPG.com: Gods & Heroes seems to have many "metagames" for players to explore - aside from the primary focus on combat and quests, players have a collection game to play as they try to gather the best squad possible. In what ways are new troops acquired, how many can you have in your camp, and in what ways can you improve their abilities?
Stieg Hedlund:

I don't know if I would go so far as to call them "metagames" at this point, and the primary reason is because the system is still undergoing significant design modifications. Going into the beta we will have several options to upgrade your minions and those will be tweaked and modified based on the feedback we receive from the Community. Right now we're looking at armor and weapon upgrades via the in-camp blacksmith. Further minion customization will be announced during beta.

As far as the maximum number of minions you can have in your camp goes, we're playing around with some numbers, but really it won't be decided until we get into beta and we see how people respond to the minions we have implemented.

MMORPG.com: Another metagame involves outfitting your camp - finding cool items to make your camp that much better. What kind of bonuses will these items give a player and to what extent will camps be utilized? Will other players be able to visit your camp?
Stieg Hedlund:

All of our camp-based information is still being considered and more than likely a significant portion of the camp's features will appear post-launch since we're really intent on working with the Community on this feature during the beta.

MMORPG.com: Many games support guilds by giving them large places to gather. What kinds of tools and resources will Gods & Heroes provide for people who want to form large guilds?
Stieg Hedlund:

Our tribe system (guilds) is not unlike most guild systems in many other games; however we have committed a team to working on various upcoming tribe features. Right now tribes have many of the standard features like a ranking system, full-featured control for officers, tribe-chat, and we're even talking about adding some additional tribe features to help us stand head-and-shoulders above the norm. We are building the system with small-to-large scale tribes in mind so it shouldn't be too unfamiliar to those experienced with other guild systems.

MMORPG.com: No game has really succeeded in creating a dynamic world - even the newest MMORPGs still rely on meaningless kill tasks, delivery task, and item collections to provide content. In what ways will Gods & Heroes bring players into the story of the world and make them feel like their actions make a difference?
Stieg Hedlund:

The thing that people often tend to misunderstand is the scope of the MMORPG. If you look at where the best single-player games are today, and then you look at how long it took them to get to that state, it's easy to ask why MMOs aren't as dynamic or as far along. However, when you take into account that the graphical MMO has only been around for about 10 years or so, suddenly it's not hard to understand why we're where we are and why with each new MMO and each expansion, things are progressing.

As computers get faster and graphics become more and more important to players, the time spent making the game look great versus putting serious content in the game becomes a major issue. We have gone out of our way to really ensure that this doesn't happen with Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising. Our entire game is built on rich stories and fantastical mythology. The entire growth of the game is based on things that real people had real beliefs in and we feel that this gives us a more dynamic world by default than has ever been seen before.

Add to this the fact that we have an entire Live Team that is focused on the Community and developing content to engage and challenge these players in between expansions, and you really begin to see a dynamic world forming around the players and their game.

MMORPG.com: What is your take on MMORPG crafting? Some games allow players to create very powerful items, but in a mythological setting, should players be allowed to create items of legendary power? How will you design crafting to require dedication while keeping it enjoyable?
Stieg Hedlund:

Players have always felt that crafting is a system that is essential to the survival of every MMO out there. However, when our design team first sat down and began discussing the scope of Gods & Heroes and we began to understand the breadth of project, we realized that in order to create the unique and incredible MMO we wanted to make, concessions were going to have to be made. When it came down to it the decision was made that crafting ultimately did not make or break Gods & Heroes as a game, and therefore could be added post-launch if we determined there was sufficient demand for it. Crafting is not a priority system like, say, combat. If you screw up the combat system, you really hurt your game, but if you screw up a secondary system, like crafting, you aren't in as much danger of tanking the project.

This leads into the other point regarding the crafting issue. If we decide to implement crafting in the game then we want to do it in a way that enhances the game overall. We could tack any old crafting system on to the game and just say, "Okay, there's your crafting system, have fun!" but really, how does that make Gods & Heroes a better game? Your question about creating powerful items in a god-driven mythological setting is the perfect example of this, how do we build such a system to accommodate this world we've created and still keep it enjoyable, and even more so, profitable? Fundamentally the answer comes down to the players and how things go in beta. We have some plans on the drawing board at this point and they are heavily contingent on what happens in the first few months of launch.

MMORPG.com: Some games, like Guild Wars and DDO, have public gathering places that lead to private instances. Other games, like WoW, are nearly seamless. How will the world in G&H be divided up and how will G&H use instanced areas?
Stieg Hedlund:

Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising is a nearly seamless world with its share of instances to promote the underlying story of the game. One of the biggest concerns we get come from people who are afraid that we've instanced out the entire game. I can safely say that less than 30% of the entire game world is instanced. Now that might seem like a lot, and really it's a lot of space when you think about the fact that we have 26 NON-instanced areas in the game and that each one of those areas is roughly 1 square kilometer in size. That's about 10-and-a-half miles of non-instanced game world we're talking about! That means we've got about an additional 2-3 miles of instanced areas that are there for multiple purposes, from story-related quests to high-end quest content.

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