Interview with Richard Zinser
Article by Carolyn "Sylvene" Koh
The one aspect of Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising that makes them stand out from the current crop of MMORPGs is the squad combat. With a game currently in a closed Beta phase, their mythical creatures already in game and a planned launch in summer 2007, Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising is in a state of tuning, balancing and refining.
Richard Zinser, VP of Game Services for Perpetual Entertainment, ran me through various scenarios in the mid-level game (level 30) commanding four minions. The UI looked complicated but Richard informed me that the UI was being worked on and not yet complete.
"We're working on squads heavily right now and play-testing is centered on their functionality," he said.
When asked about the learning curve, he explained that in the play through of the newbie experience, the end of the first series of quests that a new player would complete was one to obtain a minion. Players who play the game from the ground up would learn the controls quickly as your squad size; that is, the number of minions you may deploy at any time is dependent on your level.
"Free minions will be far and few between. Most of your minions would be hired. They will be the same level or close to that of your character, and will gain experience and level up with you."
At other levels, you will be able to hire and equip your minions in towns or main camps. Unless things change during beta, care and feeding of your minions is in upgrading their equipment and bringing them out to play.
There are three basic classes of minions: Infantry is your basic foot soldier, he is your heavy fighter; the skirmisher is your artillery section using a bow and has some melee ability; and the spell caster is your support and heals, although it also can cast offensive spells. A slider is available to set the aggression level for your squad. The higher the aggression set, the more offensive feats used and the more power used for offensive spells rather than healing.
Although not in the demo, I am told that a slider will probably be available to determine the amount of damage your minions or you will take before the spell caster heals, as heals are not targeted, but group, and at this time, looks pretty powerful.
The minion AI is quite impressive. I watched as Richard send his infantry in at the leader of a group of NPCs. The NPC group immediately set upon the attackers. The moment the spell caster cast a healing spell, the NPC leader went for him. The minion dodged and ran, stopping to heal his compatriots again when it was necessary, and the infantry dispatched their attackers, they came back to assist their healer.
The squad system is designed to enhance game play and not replace grouping. "It is a feature, not a crutch," said Richard. "They are not going to replace real, live, thinking players." To that effect, the first minion obtained is the same class as your character. You cannot pack your squad with different classes.
After showing me the various squad formations available and the ease which more could be created, I asked about other aspects of the game: character customization, for example, and the combat system.
Your character has several stat bars apart from health:
- Feats (and healing is a feat) use power;
- Combo move points - which are built up with regular attack moves;
- Favor - which allow you to use special attacks granted by your God(dess); and
- Standing - which controls the amount of Favor your have to use and shows how much your God(dess) likes you.
We ran through character customization at my request. First, you pick your class. Then the next thing you do is to select your deity. Each class has two to choose from, and each provides unique Feats, Favor abilities and special myth creature minions that may be attained.
Finally we come to looks. A great deal of customization is available in the looks of your character, with slider bars for many physical features, including elongating the character's head and establishing the thickness of your upper, middle and lower body. A random generator is also available for those of us that like using that or starting there.
"Can I create a fat character?" I asked. Richard grinned. "We've talked about being able to create ugly characters." We started a female character and proceeded to try to give her squinty eyes, as big a mouth as possible, and thunder thighs. No, the women are not overly endowed. They start off with a slim athletic build and the upper body thickness slider does not increase the size of her endowments.
Starting outfit colors may also be selected. Here, you choose a primary color and a secondary color. Choose wisely. This will affect the trim on some armor as well as the colors your minions will wear.
Being that this is the Roman Empire, I asked about horses and chariots. "Nope, no mounts at launch," was the response. "If we have mounts, we'll of course have to think about mounted combat and I think that's going to probably be in an expansion."
Graphically, Gods and Heroes:Rome Rising is gorgeous. Combat animation still looks fantastic, especially with special moves like grappling and throws in the game. Combat does look a little slow at times, but that is still being worked on. The idle stance looks very natural for each kind of character and I was amused when an infantry man idly lifted a foot and used his sword to scratch it.
Creature animation and detail is also top notch. "We've used the entire pantheon of Roman mythology. Name a mythical creature," challenged Richard. "If it's even remotely associated with Roman mythology, I'm sure we have it in game."
Gods and Heroes is an outdoor world. Most zones are outdoor zones and Richard ran through a few to show off the diversity. I asked specifically to see a dungeon, but they were not yet ready for demo. The cities are large, spacious and heroic in scope with soaring, solid roman architecture. Travel between them cities and zones? The favor of your God(desses) allow you instantaneous travel through gates.
So, myth creatures are in game, squad combat is in the final stages of play testing... what other news is there for fans and readers? Richard smiled. "We will be sending out more beta invitations in the coming months."
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