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Ship of Heroes Wants to Be Your Hero, Baby

William Murphy Posted:
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Ship of Heroes is a new, but quickly progressing indie MMO from Heroic Games, a studio founded on the idea that City of Heroes needs a true successor to fill its void in the MMORPG market. We spoke with CEO Casey McGeever about Ship of Heroes, what it's all about, and how progress on development is being made.

MMORPG: First, can you tell us a bit about Ship of Heroes - where the idea came from, how the project got started, and how long you'd been in development?

Casey McGeever: Most of our dev team and founders were City of Heroes players.  We loved the game and wanted to see a successor.  A couple of us realized that we could take the idea of a Hero game and push it into a completely new setting, with all-new challenges based on a positive view of the future of mankind.

We incorporated the firm in early 2016 so we could explore possibilities.  We had already been working on engine comparisons, market evaluation, etc., but we didn't start writing code or preparing concept art until around April or May of 2016.  Everything we’ve shown since then is custom work done by our team.

MMORPG: What sort of combat will we see? Action-oriented, tab-target, a hybrid?

CM: We’re going with tab targeting, which is a great way to allow people to ease into a game.  A player who is new to Ship of heroes does not have to be a veteran to succeed.  Combat roles will be heavily dependent upon which powers and powersets a player chooses for each alt, so you can have very different experiences with each character.

MMORPG: What sort of content will make up a player's day to day play?

CM: We want to make a game that enables players to jump in for short periods of play, and to stay engaged for longer periods when they have the time.  So Ship of Heroes is being designed to be fun whether you just jump in and street sweep, or run missions, or take on longer quests or task forces, either solo or in a team environment.

However, some players will gravitate more to the harvesting, crafting and trading side, and we think that’s OK too.  We plan to add complexity to the economy, but to have a robust trading system so that if crafting and trading isn’t your thing, you can just have fun shooting and hacking enemies. 

MMORPG: Are costumes purely cosmetic?

CM: Yes. We have completely dissociated the appearance of the character from their powers.  You won't lose your carefully-built appearance when you equip a special armor piece or upgrade.  That would be disappointing.

We’re finalizing our unique character creation system during January, and we're hoping to show it off soon.  Our players will be able to vary their appearances enormously.  We think this is going to be one of the key features of the game.  We also plan to allow players to change their character's appearance and costume after the character is created, especially since we plan to add additional art assets to the system over time.

MMORPG: What archetypes will there be at release and how will they synergize?

CM: Well, ideally we would like to start with a bunch, but we are committing to four.  Players can fulfill the tank role, the melee damage role, the ranged damage role, and the support/healer role.  But each role will have secondary abilities that can help with another role, and there will be a lot of variation due to power selections by the players.  I can see how someone might want a nearly invulnerable tank and be ready to accept a modest level of dps.  That’s possible.  But another player might want a much higher dps tank and be willing to trade off some of the indestructibility that the first guy wanted.  Both characters would be tanks, but they would play very differently.

MMORPG: What is your roadmap to release?

CM: Right now we are making the gaming community aware that we developing a game.  We’d like to do a Kickstarter in April.  We’re a pretty focused team.  We want to ensure three things – first, the game has to be fun to play.  Second, we need to schedule which pieces we develop first.  Third is scope control.  We’re going to build the beginning of the game, the “core modules” if you like, and try to not get distracted by too many other great ideas we have along the way.

After the Kickstarter succeeds, we’d like to deliver a closed Alpha within 18 months.  Then rapid movement through open Alpha, Beta, and launch.  Some of this depends on how successful the Kickstarter is.

MMORPG: How is this funded? What's your business model?

CM: Right now the owners put their own money at risk to create the game, and to see if there is interest in something that fills a niche that we think is currently empty.  The business model is that Ship of Heroes will be funded through monthly subscription fees.  If there is a cash shop, it will be relatively minor – things like cool hats, not damage boosts.  This is most definitely not a pay to win game, nor will it be free-to-play.

MMORPG: Can you tell us a little about the day job system?

CM: The heroship Justice is a nation in space.  It’s an entire society.  So of course people work every day.  In our universe, superheroes don’t have secret identities – their fellow citizens admire them for their contribution to the success and safety of the entire society.  Heroes are honored.  Some heroes want to fight crime and battle invading aliens full time.  Others are more like volunteer firemen – they have day jobs that they go to, but they also protect the entire community part time.  Still others are more like reservists – they can be called up in an emergency, but mostly they do more mundane work.  Some heroes focus on using their abilities primarily on planets or space stations the ship visits, as with mercenaries and harvesters.

The day jobs allow a player to choose the level of commitment that each character makes to ship defense and to keeping order in their society.  Day jobs will also enable characters to get mission content and some capabilities that are specific to that particular day job.  So if you want to primarily work in the hospital, that will likely enable you to get or make advanced healing items of various kinds.  Working in Engineering?  That will help with special one-use weapons and devices.  Working in security?  You’ll need the best weapons and armor.  Got a day job harvesting the rarest materials from the most dangerous spots?  That can make a lot of money, but you might need stealth, or other special capabilities.  And characters can change jobs, taking their unique skills and contacts with them.

MMORPG: Why do you have a big blue arch in the middle of the logo? What's that represent?

CM: The arch in the logo is representative of the Arch in the center of Apotheosis City (the first ship level, next to Engineering).  The Arch is central to the story for every beginning character, and we plan to bring characters back to Apotheosis City again and again as they level up. 

The Arch recovers and recycles the least energetic form of Unobtanium, which is a by-product of the engines that power the ship as it moves through space.  This form of Unobtanium is called “dust,” and is the main in-game currency for Ship of Heroes.  In this way the Arch is a combination of a major environmental recycling system, and the main mint for money on the ship.  The video with a bit more background on the Arch is here:

MMORPG: Who are we and why are we living on these big city ships? What's the back-story?

CM: We have provided a brief backstory to answer this question at this location on our website: https://www.shipofheroes.com/brief-backstory/

A few additional insights may be helpful.  First, the people aboard the FHS Justice are the human descendants of people who left Earth 200 years previously.  Humans have encountered multiple alien species, some of whom are friendly, some neutral, and some hostile. As a result we’ve realized that humanity needs to be unified and mutually supportive.  But we are still made up of planets, space stations, independent ships, etc.  So there is a Human Federation which helps to coordinate and protect the whole human species.  But the Justice is a fully independent nation in space, so one thing we want to do later in the game is have mission content around the embassies on board the Justice from other species.  There is more about the ship itself here: https://www.shipofheroes.com/setting/


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.