Hero's Song is the new game from John Smedley's Pixel Mage Games, and though it failed to gain traction via Kickstarter, the unique MMORPG with a Patrick Rothfuss crafted world is forging ahead. We caught up with John to see where the game is in development now...
MMORPG: How have things been going since you canceled the Kickstarter for Hero's Song?
John Smedley: We've been working hard on Hero's Song every day. It's a lot of fun. Making games is an experience I wish and hope more people get. It's a form of collective creativity that's different than any other art form.
MMORPG: What's the day to day development about at this stage? Are you still on track for a 2016 deliverable game?
JS: It's literally coming in day after day making this great game that's in our heads. Game development is a lot of fun and that's because of that kind of shared vision that evolves over time to be better than it started. Hero's Song will make it out in Fall of 2016.
MMORPG: There have been a lot of Kickstarted MMOs in recent years. Do you think that the market for these sort of persistent online Indie games is limited, or do you attribute the Kickstarter's problems to something else?
JS: I think each Kickstarter is its own island. I think there are a lot of success stories out there and some failures. Ours was unfortunately one of the latter. We should have done some things different, but we've moved past it and are happily plugging away.
MMORPG: You've had your hands in a lot of games over the years. Every time you set out to make a new game do you feel that you have to reinvent the wheel?
JS: It’s better to not reinvent every wheel IMO. In fact when we set out to make an action RPG it's pretty easy to see the similarities between Diablo III and other action RPGs like Path of Exile or Torchlight. All with health; mana, potions etc. There is also a whole generation (of which many are new) of MOBA players. We thought we would build our combat system to feel pretty good to players of both genres. We’re putting our innovation and new ideas into our world and our AI.
MMORPG: I won't pry about EverQuest Next too much, but how did the cancellation of that project effect you, and if at all, what you're building at Pixel Mage Games?
JS: I'm bummed like everyone else including Daybreak. That was and is an excellent team. Landmark is amazing. The technology behind that is amazing too.
MMORPG: Let's talk about Hero's Song specifically. You mentioned to me in a previous conversation that when players become powerful enough, their legends become part of the literal "Great Song". Can you explain how this works and what it means for the players?
JS: When a player hits level 50 they can Ascend (it’s not an easy process) and become a God themselves. When someone Ascends in our world, their names are added to the Great Song which is the tale of the history of the world.
MMORPG: Hero's Song is one of a few games coming out that are allowing players to host and manage their own servers (Shards Online being another). What makes Hero's Song different, and why do you think this is a new trend in MMOs?
JS: I’ve been seeing this coming for a while now. Simply put - there CPU speed and other technical factors are making this possible now and we’re seeing that people enjoy being a part of a community. If you think about it, shooters have been this way for a long time. Every FPS game I seriously play I end up finding servers where I see the same people a lot of the time. This is just the natural evolution of that. Now that it’s possible for us to give the ability to run MMO servers to players, I think it’s going to be an entirely new generation of really cool games. I’m also happy to be a buy to play game because I think this business model lends itself super well to player run servers.
MMORPG: I'm sure you've answered this before, by why go with 2D and pixel art? Obviously it's a popular graphical style that's all the rage right now. But do you worry about any limitations it might create for the game? As you well know - RPG and MMO gamers are a tad picky.
JS: We’re making the game we want to make. We love 2D art and there are just a ton of great games out there in 2D. We’re putting a lot of time into making our art beautiful and I think at the end of the day people just want to play a fun game and the fact that it’s also beautiful makes it even better.
I’ll put Stardew Valley up against any gaming experience I’ve had in the last year. A great game is a great game, so that’s what we’re striving to make.
MMORPG: When will we get to see some video and maybe a playable demo of the game?
JS: Video is going to be soon here. We’ve made a ton of progress and we can’t wait to show it off. Also we’re going to be doing some live streams of our development in the near future too. In terms of playable demo - we’re a bit out from that, likely a few months. Not sure how wide that will go either.
MMORPG: Can we expect lore updates from Mr. Rothfuss to be forthcoming as well?
JS: You can expect to hear more from Pat on Hero’s Song. We’re trying to set up a stream where we’re all discussing lore together and taking questions
MMORPG: One last thing - will you be opening up some sort of crowdfunding program outside of Kickstarter? There were quite a few people intrigued by the ideas of HS on MMORPG.com, and despite the Kickstarter failing, I'm sure there are those who'd like to back Hero's Song.
JS: We’re going to be doing something to let people get the game early. It might end up being a crowdfunding campaign or just straight up pre-orders that let you into the game early. We’re considering both. Either way people are going to get a lot better idea of exactly what Hero’s Song is over the next 4-6 weeks and I think people are going to get as excited to play it as we are making it.