Last week I spoke with Casey McGeever, the CEO of Heroic Games Corporation, the company making Ship of Heroes. My interview followed an extensive video interview with The Positive Gamer on YouTube so we explored some of the unanswered questions from that prior interview. I was more focused on general information about the game.
I got way more than that. First off, Casey and I are about the same age, and that helped us hit it off really well. We both enjoy gaming, and particularly MMORPG gaming. And we both had long histories with City of Heroes. We talked about 1.5 hours, of which about 45-50 minutes was interview. I hope I get time to talk to him again!
This interview was overlaid by several things
- Casey is very passionate about this game; he will see it to the end!
- He is very invested in building a community. CoH was a great game, but it had its flaws. But the thing that set it apart was its great sense of community, and its great family friendliness. Many players got their spouses to play a game for the first time in CoH. For many, CoH was the first ‘serious’ game they played with their children. Even people that preferred to solo enjoyed the community. Everyone there was in it for the superhero experience, and they were for the most part more than willing to help others in their climb up the heroic ladder. More than anything, he wants to build a game with that same sense of community and family friendliness.
- Casey is having a lot of fun with this project. The first thing he said after our introductions is that if we are going to talk about gaming I had better hunker down, because he could talk about SoH all night!
I was interested in very specific things about the game. I’ll put my interest and his response.
THE CHARACTER CREATOR TOOL
Anyone that played CoH knew how important the character creator was. The SoH team knows this too. The team is planning to make a world class CCT when the game releases that only gets better with time. Because this game is using the superior UE4 engine, there is a lot more detailed customization available. The number of costumes may be a bit limited at first (at least compared to CoH), but after the first couple of major patches that should be taken care of.
The alpha version of the CCT will be available about September for testing. The first testers will come directly from the community – from people who have donated or written extensively about the character creator. Later, the beta version of the character creator will be available to download a few weeks before release, allowing people to pre-create characters so they can jump right into the game, although this will probably require some level of donation. This will be more than just costumes. There will be the standard sliders for body dimensions and faces that we have all gotten used to, and there will be a high level of color customization available for costumes. In addition, hair, eyes, skin, gender, and size are all highly customizable. If you want to put in the effort, there is no reason why your character cannot be completely unique in Ship of Heroes.
All games need to make money, or why bother? Casey wants everything they make to be reinvested in the game, but he will need to pay his team and additional costs for customer service and server bandwidth, which are part of that reinvestment. Their model will be Free to Acquire and Sub to Play. There will not be any trial or demo time, although at certain donation levels you will get a free month to give to a friend if you desire. There may be a Premium or Digital Deluxe version to purchase, but the basic game is free. They will not have a cash shop at release, although they may put one in later. Cosmetic and convenience only! Remember, Casey wants this game to be family friendly and have a positive community. Pay to Win is the antithesis of a community builder.
Of course they want the game to do extremely well, but they are prepared to continue to support the game on as few as 5000 subscriptions. They would prefer 25,000+ subs of course, but the dev team is very aware that it may take a few months to build the community to that size. And, there is a fair amount of upcoming competition!
Right now, they are not seeking investors or talking to publishers. They can put a game up with the resources they have, as long as the community continues to support them and to provide some level of donations. Getting investors or publishers turns their project into a profit center, and forces them to give up a lot of creative control. They are not ready to give that up, although who knows what may happen in the future.
This covers a lot of ground. I’ll just look at Crafting and fan made missions. Crafting is going to be very limited at release. The only thing that will be craftable at release is temp powers. These are going to be very important at release. They could be anything from jet packs (meaning you can avoid any travel power if you want, or have a vertical supplement to Super Speed and Teleport) to secondary weapons (enhanced blasters or grenades that will be highly useful to any low level archetype and very useful all the way to the cap for melee) to buff devices, like force fields or regeneration augmentation devices (both very handy for squishies!). Temp powers are also going to be drops from defeated enemies, and some can be purchased from vendors. Later, they plan to have craftable augments (similar to enhancements), whatever they end up calling inspirations, and costume pieces, to name a few things.
They want a Mission Architect system for this game. This will be a great way to build community interactions. Besides that a lot of people (me included) enjoy making missions in games. This probably won’t make it into release, but will be a high priority for one of the first few patches after release.
QUALITY OF LIFE
The game won’t release with SuperGroup bases, although this will come quickly. They want player housing, but that won’t be for a while. There won’t be any voice comm in game at release, if ever. Blow the dust off of that Discord server! Cut Scenes and voiceovers won’t be in the game at release, but they will be in… eventually. I bet such things will be well over a year after release, as they are time and labor intensive, and good voice work costs $$$.
ARCHETYPE POWERS OVERVIEW
Devastators are going to be more like CoH Corruptors than Blasters. They won’t be replacing defenders by any means, as several of their secondary powers will be devoted to self buffs. But they will have limited ability to heal, team buff and enemy debuff in some combination depending on their powersets. If you need a true support person, find a Defender!
The final form of Controllers is up in the air (probably available at the first major patch after release, no later than the second major patch). Some on the team want them to be like CoH Controllers, and some want them to be like CoV Dominators. I suspect the final result will be somewhere in between.
They plan on releasing with four primary and four secondary power sets for each Archetype. This will allow 64 different combinations of powers at release, and they will add to these powersets regularly. One of the first things they did in this project was build a powerset creation tool that allows one person to design a powerset in a few weeks. After that, the sounds, FX, and animations need to be finalized. And as they get more income and can hire more people in, they may be able to add a person to this task! Eventually they want a vast array of powersets available for players to pick from.
As a side note, Super Speeders will be able to run on water! GO DASH!
The game will be on a mega-server system and there will be only one server. The SoH dev team thought that this was the best way to help build community, not divide it. Some people have speculated that other hero ships were going to be other servers, but they have no plans to do that right now. The only reason they would add a server in the first year or so of operation would be if they eventually wanted to make a foreign language server.
They plan to use Amazon Server Services, so no word yet what the actual location of the servers will be.
‘PEOPLE BEHAVING BADLY’
One thing we talked about extensively was how to deal with people who are behaving “badly,” the ones that are there just to cause problems.
Someone who talks trash and swears on an open channel even though he has been warned will be silenced for everything but team and guild chat. These toxic people will get a ‘timeout’ for 30 minutes the first time, 2 hours the second time, and so on, until their account is shut down in a similar fashion, a progressively longer period of time. If after this they are still causing problems, their account will be shut down, no refunds. Unacceptable behavior like dragging a bunch of monsters over a low level costume contest will cause the banhammer to strike hard!
Bad people are anti-community, and HGC will do everything in their power to build, not corrode, the community. There are plenty of games that will welcome the unrepentant bad guys with open arms as long as they have an open wallet.
In short, the HGC guys are working to build a successor game focused on unique character customization, on a deep and improved story setting with a lot of growth potential, and on a positive community -- a place to go to with your friends and family or just to solo. A place where you are unique.
There are many other things we covered, and if you are curious, ask a question! A lot of these questions can be answered in the SoH forums www.shipofheroes.com/forums
If you want to donate to this project (there are perks if you choose to do so), you can find a ‘DONATE’ button on the front page of the website, www.shipofheroes.com