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Tech, World Design & Art Q&A

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Art, Technology and World Design are the focus

In the first half of the Q&A, Nick "Destroid" Soltes of the now-defunct Society of Gamers asked Stieg about Design and Gameplay. In part two, we learn about Art, World Design and the technology that powers the game.

MMORPG.com: Games that take place during real world historical time periods face a unique challenge: How do you keep true to history while giving players the fantastic people, places, and things that they expect from a video game?
Stieg Hedlund:

So the whole point of Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising is to put players in to a compelling and rich world. We have an advantage that most games don't have and that is the reality and the mythology of a time long past that still permeates almost every living culture to this very day. We've always said that we want to reproduce the Roman republic as accurately as possible, however when it came down to choosing fun or accuracy we were always going to choose fun over historical and/or technical accuracy.

The perfect example of this is the Coliseum. Our game is set in 300 BC and as many know the Coliseum wasn't built until around 80 AD. The problem we ran into was that the Coliseum was such an incredibly powerful iconic image of what Rome represented and to not have it in a game like Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising was tantamount to sacrilege!

So by building this game in this manner we are able to take this rich history and culture and expand and build upon it in ways that makes it the player's world, and not living through someone else's experiences--although there is a bit of that in here as well!

MMORPG.com: Which of the old empires and cultures are represented in Gods & Heroes? Where did you find your inspiration for creating the look and feel of the variety of cultures present in your game? Did you guys use the actual topology of real-world locations that you put in the game?
Stieg Hedlund:

We actually represent a lot of cultures in this game including ancient Gaulic, Samnite, Greek, Persian, and Etruscan. As the game progresses and Rome expands, we will definitely introduce several important and influential cultures and nations into the world.

As far as the actual topology, we did make a considerable effort to keep the map as accurate as possible; however we did take some artistic license with the terrain and the areas to provide for a more enjoyable gameplay experience.

MMORPG.com: Can the history and mythology buffs out there look forward to virtually visiting the places they see in the history books? Given the sheer amount of things that you could have included, what places and things did you decide to focus on?
Stieg Hedlund:

Absolutely! In fact, a significant number of our quests will have you following in the footsteps of many of the heroes who have set the stage for such an awe-inspiring world. As far as what is available versus what we decided to put into the game, we made sure that some of the major moments of myth (like the Medusa) were present, but over all we felt that it was more important for the players to feel like the adventure was theirs and not Hercules' or Ulysses'. It has to mean something to the players or it's just a regurgitation of a story we already know so well, and while that's fun for a spell, it's not meaningful nor will it ever belong to you.

MMORPG.com: To what extent will players be able to customize their character? What kind of options will be available for body size/shape, clothing, weapons, and armor?
Stieg Hedlund:

Customization is something everyone wants and rightfully so, it's the primary tie to your character and it's what makes that character 'you'. With this in mind, we have several things planned. At the start we have a full-featured character builder which will also allow the player to select their colors. By selecting your colors at the start of the game, every item you equip will be matched to the schemed you chose, this also applies to your minions. So now when you and your minions are marching around, you will be fully recognizable and identifiable as a force to be reckoned with.

As far as clothing, armor, and other gear goes, we have built our art assets to adapt to numerous factors including the male and female option. For example, in some games there is only one art asset for male and female avatars, and as such, the textures are stretched or shrunk accordingly to fit. In our game, when you equip a breastplate for example, the asset first checks to see if it's for a male or female and then it checks your body type. After this, it then displays the asset depending on those characteristics, thus the male and female equipment, while similar in looks, is actually two different assets!

MMORPG.com: Mythology often takes players to otherworldly places. Aside from the typical earth-bound locations, where can players look forward to exploring?
Stieg Hedlund:

At this time we have only announced earth-bound locations, but who knows what the few brave heroes of Rome will find?

MMORPG.com: Speaking of exploration, myth and legend are chock full of exotic locations, items, and people. We expect that major places like Rome be represented in-game, but in what ways will the environment work with the story to give players a real sense of discovery, history, and immersion?
Stieg Hedlund:

It's always difficult to translate the visual and explorative nature of a game into text, and Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising is no exception. While a lot of games are starting to take on this "randomly generated" land feature, we have explicitly made a conscious choice to build this entire world by hand. I won't lie, it's not any easy task, but it has paid off in spades in a way that we feel no random generation ever could. When you begin to realize that the entire non-instanced portion of the world is over 10 square miles of richly populated land mass, you begin to get a feel for what we're trying to deliver here. You can expect to discover everything from pirates to ancient ruins in this game.

MMORPG.com: Part of what makes a game visually interesting is diversity in items and player animations. Many of the videos we've recently seen contain some impressive, but fairly repetitive combat maneuvers. As development continues, can players expect unique animations for each class, race, trooper type, and weapon?
Stieg Hedlund:

Up to this point the only class we have shown off has been the Gladiator. Each one of the 6 classes has multiple combat maneuvers and as time goes on more will be added in order to keep giving life to the game. Gods & Heroes is not unlike any other game with combat animations, they can all become repetitive if you're only using the one attack over and over again, we just take it several steps further by giving you more to choose from and then having advanced and intimate reaction animations based on the enemy type and attack type.

MMORPG.com: Gods & Heroes looked fantastic at E3 2006 - what kind of system was the game demoed on and how scalable is the game engine for those with lesser systems?
Stieg Hedlund:

The systems at E3 were SLI-based machines, so of course everything looks fantastic when you're playing on that kind of horsepower. The nice thing about Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising is that it looks that good when you scale it down to the average user's machine. We have several machines of varying qualities throughout the development and QA areas of the company, and Gods & Heroes runs better every day as the development team continues to optimize the code.

MMORPG.com: Physics is getting a lot of attention in video games now. Will Gods & Heroes feature a physics engine and in what ways will it be utilized?
Stieg Hedlund:

Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising has a built-in physics engine that handles the various needs of the game, including various objects throughout the game world. Our physics engine is more focused on delivering the world around you.

MMORPG.com: The new Windows operating system isn't too far away. Are there any plans for a 64-bit edition of the game client? What about a Mac client?
Stieg Hedlund:

At this time Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising is only for PC and we have not announced any plans for a 64-bit version.

MMORPG.com: Games that allow players to modify the interface have seen whole communities spring up to support it. To what extent will players be able to customize the user interface?
Stieg Hedlund:

Right now the interface is still under design and so we've been kind of hush-hush regarding its intended features, however we have said that it is based on an XML platform and will be customizable by each user. We have plans to post tutorials and walkthroughs for creating a UI that you are most comfortable with.

Thanks again to Perpetual and all the people at the ill-fated Society of Gamers for making this available to our readers.

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