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[Exclusive] Ship of Heroes: Hurtling Toward the Future

Nephthys

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After several months of buildup, Ship of Heroes finally opened the doors to its kickstarter. Fans donated over 35k to the project before Casey McGeever, CEO of Heroic Games decided to take another approach to launching the game and canceled the fundraiser. Kickstarting MMOs is very common these days, especially for indie developers. It is much more difficult to pull off a successful kickstarter than it was, however, and it seems like every day that difficulty level rises. This decision in no way impacted the amazing progress Heroic Games has made toward the development of Ship of Heroes; if anything, it seems to have further galvanized the team.

I reached out, curious about the plans Heroic Games had for moving forward, and learned about what we can look forward to, as well as the current state of the game and the progress they've made in the past year.

2P: MMORPGs are huge, complicated undertakings. What have you done in the past year of development? How do you measure progress?

HG: So the first element is to decide what is important in the game.  For a game which is inspired by COH, certainly a couple of things must be present:  A really good character creator (CCT), with costumes, weapons, colorization options and character morphs.  In particular, the costume, weapons and colorization were all strong in COH, so players don't want to lose those strengths.  But in addition characters need better models than COH had (15+ years have passed, after all), and the models must have a collection of morphs to individualize them.  Finally, there needs to be a custom-coded system for the CCT which allows growth.  Forgot cat ears and tail?  You need to be able to easily add those items later.  this isn't something that can be bought in a box, or easily created using UE4 starter features.  It needs to be coded.  Otherwise the devs can end up with just a few crude costume pieces, and dipping their nude character models in buckets of virtual paint.  That's a step back from COH.  Even worse, it is hard to correct later on.  In terms of development, this needs to be planned right at the start.
 
Another element that needs to be planned at the start is the persistent level.  Most people don't know that Atlas Park was one square mile in size.  Perez Park a bit larger.  Most of the COH City Zones are 1-2 square miles in size.  This was a lot of space.  Other elements of the design include the color palette, and the feel of the zones.  One thing in COH -- almost every zone had been positive and uplifting when it was built, and some had fallen on hard times.  But the color palete and light convey these elements to the player.  Finally, the levels are packed, like real city spaces.  Buildings close together, people walking, cars moving.  This is an important consideration for cost of design, and for server load, depending upon how far a player can see, and at what level of detail.

What should we see in a COH successor, or even in a game taking inspiration from COH?

First we should see a real Character creation tool or system.  We should see multiple models (and be able to add more).  There's a key art style issue here -- will the models be more realistically proportioned, or heroically proportioned?  For example, you can see that comic heroes are actually proportioned with longer legs and shorter torsos that real humans usually have -- it's an art style.  COH used it too.  Then there are costumes.  Real heroes need costumes that come in pieces (Batman's mask is not just his skin turned black with a texture applied...it's a costume piece.  Heroes should don their costumes, not be painted into them.

So if a team is making a new MMORPG inspired by COH, you should see a story -- there has to be something worth fighting over.  You should quickly see a real character creator, with costumes and morphs.  You should see signature heroes and their costumes.  Initially this can all be concept art.  But quickly enough it should become a prototype game.  You should see the real persistent level of the game.  Atlas Park or something like it.
 
What I just laid out there is less than a year of work, even for s small team.  We showed that stuff when we launched our website in November.  Along with setting and backstory and the plan and ambitions for the game, and a schedule.  That all comes early.

The next piece is actually building the game.  Early on, a supporter should see his signature hero, made in the games' CCT, wearing costume pieces (not painted skin with textures), in the persistent level, all of which should reflect the story elements.  there should be signature enemies, and some powers and some combat.  The level should be interesting and signature places where key game elements are going to take place in the future (in COH, the city hall, the police station, the Wentworth's, the hospital, even the AE building).
Thank
You!
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