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Interview with Jacob Andersen

Garrett Fuller Posted:
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MMORPG:Give us an overall preview of Heroes & Generals. What would you say to a new player in the game?

Welcome! :-). If you like multiplayer shooter games with a strong emphasis on teamplay you are going to find Heroes & Generals interesting. The game lets you play the hero on the battlefield, fighting the enemy with a variety of weaponry and vehicles, ranging from guns and rifles to tanks and planes.

If you rise up through the ranks to become a general you can also command the soldiers from the strategic room. Every action counts in the great war against thousands of other players. And we are constantly improving the game in close collaboration with our community, so even if you don't like the game in its current state, we would appreciate if you let us know why.

MMORPG:How does the game work transfering back and forth from RTS to FPS? What is that like from a programming standpoint?

The basic mechanic of the game is army resources (men, tanks, planes etc.). In the RTS (or strategic game as we call it because it does not quite resemble an RTS, it's more like a real-time management game) the high ranking players (the generals) move resources from the factions capital or from a factory to the Assault-Teams fighting at the frontline. The resources are then consumed in FPS battles. Every time a soldier dies in the FPS battles a resource is removed from the RTS and the same goes for tanks, planes and other resources. The strategy part of the game is playable through a browser running Flash, or through our upcoming iOS and Android app called “Heroes & Generals: Mobile Command”, and the action part of the game is run as an executable on the PC, but is launched through the mission list in the browser interface.

From a programming standpoint it's not that difficult. Both the FPS and the RTS get the game data from the same database.The difficult part lays in the design and balancing.

MMORPG: What are some of your favorite parts of the game? What mechanics are you most excited about?

I really enjoy the larger battles where tanks, planes and infantry are used together. There are some really exciting moments where the team play just works great.

The game is still work-in-progress and many features are still in their early stage but it is really cool when something we designed (without knowing if it would actually work) turns out to be really fun in the game.

For instance, the first time we experienced being reinforced in a battle. I was on the team that were pinned down and running out of soldiers. We send a request for help (“send more soldiers!”) and you could see on the campaign map that help was on the way. Everybody stood their ground and defended the city until the fresh soldiers finally arrived (think we were down to 1-2 lives). That was one of those moments when you know that the design actually works, so we could continue to tweak and improve it.

MMORPG: Tell us how you did research on the historical aspects of the game. Are there elements in Heroes & Generals for history buffs?

Well, I guess every European knows quite a lot about WWII, at least us that live in countries that were directly involved (Denmark got occupied by Germany in 1940 when paratroopers attacked the airfield in Aalborg). This basic knowledge got us pretty far to start with but every time we discuss a feature in the game we sit down and do some research (Google, Wikipedia, good old fashioned books, etc.) to get our heads around how we can incorporate it into the game and be as true to history as possible.

But in the end, this is a game, and we use WWII as the setting for the game, not as the guide. We have chosen to set the time towards the end of the war (and in Europe for the time being) simply because most of the great weapons were available at this time. At some point we will introduce new factions and faction alliances. We have even toyed with the idea of letting high ranking generals break out of their faction to form their own faction.

MMORPG: What was it like working on the game for the browser platform?

Very different than what we were used to on consoles (the Hitman series, Freedom Fighters, etc.). At first there is a lot of terminology to learn as web developers apparently speak a different language than console developers. And the fact that we are working on a “live” product was also quite a challenge to start with, but I think we have it under control now ;-). From a technical point it's not that difficult to work with. The only annoyance is when browser vendors (like Google) suddenly changes the interface and policies, and then we have to change a lot on our side too.The user needs to install a browser plugin that links the browser part of the game (the Strategy part) with the Action game, which is run as a normal executable, and makes patching possible through the browser. But Chrome recently started to reject plugin installation outside the Chrome store. So we are currently working on a more traditional installer solution to go along with the browser solution. A lot of our community members have actually requested that. The browser is great as a connection point to the game, it's easy and people are used to it, but we are exploring other platforms as well, like mobile phones and tablets. And of course if Sony/Microsoft comes up with something interesting for their next consoles we'll take a look at that too.

MMORPG:Where do you see the game in the next six months? What are your plans for 2013?

Right now our goal is to stabilize the game enough to significantly increase the playerbase. Some of the features, like mission-lobby and overall balancing, require quite a lot of players before they work as intended. So stability and scalability, along with graphic polish, is the immediate focus the next month or two and then we'll shift to more content oriented focus expanding the arsenal of weapons and battlefields.

2013 will bring the game to the next level by introducing a third faction and all the guns and tanks that comes with that. If financing permits us we would also like to include a second theatre of war - the Pacific? North Africa?... The community helps us choose which! :-) We are also constantly working with the monetization system. It's a free2play game so we need to have a focus on where the money comes from. It's a fine balance because we have seen other games get ruined by the dreaded pay2win. But just selling fancy clothes isn’t enough to finance an ambitious game like this. We try to find the point of an 'acceptable handicap'. The amount of help a more casual player is permitted to buy to get on level with the hardcore guys so they can have an even fight. We look a lot towards sports and other classic games to see how it's handled in that area.

For instance, if there were no handicap system in Golf, the game wouldn’t be any fun to play because it would be very hard to find a player on your own level. The same goes for chess; un-experienced players get to do a few moves ahead. The Japanese (Chinese actually) game of “Go” has the same system, where a novice player gets to lay a number of 'handicap' stones on the board before the game starts. But still, a highly skilled player will almost always beat a less skilled player. In the end, no matter how much stuff you buy, you can’t be sure to beat an experienced player who knows how to play the game, but you might have a more even fight. We know the game will be more fun with more people playing it and not everybody has 50+ hours a week to play games. I would actually say it's one of the major flaws in the general subscription-based MMO games. Because of the subscription, the creators have an interest in keeping the players in the game for as long as possible (to pay next month’s subscription), so gamedesign will go towards more and more grind. Because of the fact that more time spend in the game equals a higher level character, many people will only have time to play one MMO. If the game was skill based and you could buy your way through some of the grinding you would still have time to play other games as well. But you would still need the hours of playing to be a good FPS player but it doesn’t have to be the same FPS all the time.


Garrett Fuller

Garrett Fuller / Garrett Fuller has been playing MMOs since 1997 and writing about them since 2005. He joined MMORPG.com has a volunteer writer and now handles Industry Relations for the website. He has been gaming since 1979 when his cousin showed him a copy of Dungeons and Dragons. When not spending time with his family, Garrett also Larps and plays Airsoft in his spare time.