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Q&A #8

Jon Wood Posted:
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Hero's Journey Designer Chris Moore answers our questions

We're back with yet another question and answer set from Simutronics regarding Hero's Journey, their upcoming MMORPG. This week, Chris Moore, a designer on the project, fields Jon Wood's questions.

Also, this week marks the public introduction of shadows into Hero's Journey. Take a look!

How you will be handling the "Z-Axis" and vertical movement in this game? Will, for example, jumping from too high a surface lead to damage, or will it be ignored?
Chris Moore:

There will be falling and you can expect to take damage from high falls. With the focus being on Heroic gameplay, don’t expect player damage from falling to be a key factor in gameplay, but it will still be a factor. You will take enough damage to discourage you from jumping off of cliffs or mountains, but jumping from a second story window will hurt, but probably not kill you.

HJ does feature combing up walls, sitting on ledges, hopping down and other interactions with the world. Some effects may enable a limited form of flight, but you are most likely to get off the ground with a flying mount. At launch we will not have high-altitude flying, but it might be part of an expansion.

With our focus on strategic combat, creatures will also take damage from falling. This will allow situations where it will be possible to drive a creature over a ledge through combat maneuvering. As an example, once my Ukar opponent is teetering on the brink of an outcropping, I start to hammer at him with my attack abilities that have a chance for knockdown or knockback, with the hopes of pushing him over the edge.

MMORPG.com: A good number of our readers would like to know what fun and special weapons you have planned for the game. Clearly there will be swords, axes, and the like. What we are wondering is whether there anything unconventional or interesting being developed for us to smash things with?
Chris Moore:

The biggest and most unique weapon (and most fun, in my opinion) will be the world itself. The landscape will be populated with details that can become pre-made traps just waiting for an adventurer with the appropriate ability and imagination to bring it to life. These strategic features can be used for isolating, hampering or just plain flattening otherwise worrisome enemies. This is more than the occasional rockslide too… but the exact nature of all these things will have to wait until you get to see it for yourself.

MMORPG.com: The last time we talked about monsters and you said that, "The cool thing is that even within the same creature, there is a lot of interesting variety." and that "Many of our creatures utilize the same system that allows our player characters to be so unique." You then go on to detail how their look changes, but does your statement also mean that monsters will have access to varying skills and abilities, like characters, or is the comparison strictly visual?
Chris Moore:

Creatures will vary visually, as well as in terms of their ability. Creatures comprise their own factions with their own hierarchies and roles, so while two creatures may look similar, they may have some variance in what they can do. The difference should never be drastic enough that you never have a clue about what you’re going up against, however.

Like players, creatures can grow in experience. As one example, your character may even develop an ongoing antagonistic relationship with a particular creature… it, in effect, becoming your nemesis! As you journey through the game, he’ll keep popping up to harass you in one form or another, but like you he’ll be growing in power, abilities and (perhaps) minions. This is part of the dynamic story mechanism called the Journey System.

We’d like players to have a chance to strategize effectively, and knowing your opponent is a key element to good strategy. We can’t promise that we’ll never throw in some surprises, however. Sometimes scrambling to account for an unexpected situation can provide some of the most rewarding and exciting gameplay experiences.

MMORPG.com: Your website gives us a brief overview of the backstory of Hero's Journey. Are you planning on going the route of some other games and publishing official lore in order to provide a richer and more defined world to your players?
Chris Moore:

We try to give the world as much back-story as possible. We want players to be comfortable with their roleplaying choices, and know where they fit with regards to the world as a whole.

A great concept for a world automatically brings with it a desire for its story. From broad swaths of history down to bits of detailed minutia, every tale enriches the world for someone. Whether that information comes from gameplay, website documents, officially licensed literature or even fan fiction, I feel it’s all for the better of the game world and the community.

There are no formal plans for official publications of lore or fiction at this point, but with at least one published fantasy author on our design team, I don’t see this as being too far outside of the realm of possibility.

MMORPG.com: A number of MMOs now have at least a few servers dedicated to numerous languages. Is HJ planning to have any servers dedicated to languages other than English?
Chris Moore:

We are always keeping in mind the need for Hero’s Journey to be accessible to non-English speaking customers, and we have every intention of making localization possible.

If demands for specific language servers arise, they can be addressed. Unfortunately, you can’t just add a German, Spanish or Tagalog server at the flip of a switch. The content still has to be translated. The ultimate goal of localization is to ensure that the translation process works together with content systems instead of systems having to be completely rewritten or replaced.

An interesting challenge arises here: The more complex, deep and interesting your game is… the harder it is to localize. For example, our Journey System creates a dynamic storyline unique to your character. This involves a lot of piecing together of different bits of language. Even our quest systems have many randomized elements (and pull story elements from your Journey) and this creates complexity for language translation.

On the other end of the spectrum, HJ also recognizes that localization is more than just language. Different cultures have different sensibilities about what is fun in a game. Therefore we support the concept of swappable game play mechanics such that, say, in the Asian market, you can modify the game to be more ideal to their tastes than Western. These would be separate world clusters.

Thanks again for taking the time.

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Jon Wood