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Q&A #1

Dana Massey Posted:
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Hero's Journey Bi-Weekly Q&A #1

It begins. On alternating Tuesdays, we will feature a five question Q&A with Simutronics about their highly anticipated MMORPG - the winner of our Best of E3 Award - Hero's Journey. Included this week is a single screenshot. Our weekly exclusive images will continue, mixed in with the Q&A on those weeks.

MMORPG.com: At E3 2005 you received an overwhelmingly solid response from those game journalists who saw your game. Were you surprised by this reaction and what steps did you take to prepare for the demo to ensure such a wild response?
Eric Slick:

We’ve always had a vision on how the MMORPG space could be pushed to a whole new level and a feeling that all we had to do was demonstrate what that would look like to get people really excited. The reaction then was not really a surprise as much as it was validation. And you haven’t even seen some of our really revolutionary stuff yet; we’re still busy getting it polished up for public viewing over the next few months.

Some of us might have been a little surprised, because when you spend so long working on something you can lose tract of how exciting it is. The most surprising comment was “Your screenshots don’t do the game justice!” Typically screenshots always look better than the actual game, so this is certainly high praise for our graphics! We’ll soon release movies that will give people a much better look at what’s to come.

I think the most surprising part is this: we’ve invested about $4 million in the development so far. The reaction to our demo is a credit to the power of the engine and toolset we spent the past three years developing – it makes a great team unbelievable productive.

MMORPG.com: If we got this kind of a reaction with a simple demo, a demo that showed only a fraction of what will be in the final game, then what will be the reaction next year with a complete game?
Eric Slick:

Yeah, if that’s any indication, well be setting the world on fire! Honestly, I think the real lesson here is that people want a lot more out of their MMORPG experience and it is up to us as game developers to bring that to them. Simutronics has always been innovative in game design. Take a look at a title like GemStone and just explore how deep the game mechanics go. This is where we live and breathe, and doing something that is more fulfilling from a game play standpoint is just what we crave to be doing each and every day. We built the technology platform that enables us to bring to a 3D game the kinds of experiences we’ve been developing for years in games like GemStone.

MMORPG.com: The way players cast spells in Hero’s Journey is quite unique, in terms of how they paint lines on the ground, or expand rings, etc. Can you tell us exactly how this works and what you think this method adds to the game play experience?
Eric Slick:

This is a key area where we want HJ to really differentiate itself from all the other MMORPGs out there. We insist that combat has a tactical edge to it. To achieve this, combat should emphasize three key factors: position, maneuver and force. In typical MMORPG game systems, you’ll notice that force is about the only thing that matters. Position might matter in so far as “pulling” is concerned, but not much else. Yet in single player games, and even online shooters, these factors are all present. Our goal is to bring some of that tactical flavor to the MMORPG world.

As one example, we demonstrated how a Wall of Burninate could be cast by drawing a line on the ground exactly where you want that wall to be. Equally important, creatures react to what is gong on: the Ukar would not blindly run through that wall anymore than you would. But you can take advantage of this in many ways: divide and conquer, deny escape, route the enemy, etc.

This is just a taste of the goodies that will make Hero’s Journey combat a hell of a lot more interesting than what you typically see in a MMO game.

MMORPG.com: Group combat feats were perhaps the neatest innovation you had to offer. At E3 we saw a simple move where one player jumped off the back of another. Can you tell us a bit about other more complex moves you have planned and how you think these group feats will alter combat in Hero’s Journey?
Eric Slick:

The “jump off the back of another player” combo we showed at E3 demonstrated how a team of players in HJ could achieve an attack that would have been impossible as a solo player. Furthermore, rather than randomly chaining abilities together, we demonstrated the necessity of actually working together as a team in order to execute a more complex combat maneuver.

We plan on combos that involve more than just two players, as well. Spell casters will also have multi-player combos they can pull off. When doing so, there is a bonus to your attacks and damage that is done. We are also toying with the idea that some creatures might require such attacks to hurt significantly; but we have to be careful to balance that with solo play requirements (which is part of our core design goals).

There are many technical challenges to doing these sorts of things, which may be why most MMORPG combat has avoided these features so far. But, we are very determined that technical challenges will not force us to take the path of least resistance here: we’re going to make HJ the place for interesting fantasy combat!

MMORPG.com: Not since City of Heroes has character customization been so exciting. Still, the methods through which players “improve” their items is a lot different than what the average player may be used to. Can you explain this system?
Eric Slick:

When we did our research, it was clear that people like to dress their characters the way they want it to look. City of Heroes definitely got this right, and our hats go off to those guys for showing the way. But people also like to find cool stuff and show it off to their friends. What we’ve created is a “best of both worlds” situation.

At first, we’ll offer the players a wide range of ways to dress their characters. But, they will also find items in stores or on creatures, at the end of a quest, as part of special GM run merchants, etc. As you find these items, you’ll be able to wear/apply them normally or use the powers on the item and apply it to existing armor/clothing. You might find a special thread or silk, which you’ll be able to incorporate into any of your outfits.

Not all options will be available to the player at character creation. We still want to preserve the fun of finding cool stuff that you can add to your outfit, or maybe trade or sell to other characters. Some of these items will have special abilities as well. This keeps loot interesting while still preserving the fun of character creation.

We have this concept of Outfits. Players will create multiple outfits for their character, starting with the one they built in the initial character manager. As a player “builds” (or even crafts) their outfits, they will finalize the look and finalize the powers associated with that outfit. They can then start building a new outfit, especially as they get new ideas for new outfits or they find that really cool helmet that doesn’t fit with their current outfits and requires they build a new one.

The major new feature is that items have abilities just as characters do. And these items go up in level, and have their abilities gain enhancements much like you do with your character. This is true of pets as well. Over time, this means that you can craft an amazingly custom item that will be a blast to show off, or sell to other characters.

Thank you for the team for spending the time to answer our first set of questions. As usual, please be sure to let us know your thoughts through their hype meter and this discussion thread.

Furthermore, we truly want this to be a community Q&A. With that in mind, we've opened this thread where you guys can post your questions for future weeks!


Dana Massey