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Heroes and Villains Interview

4 Dec 2012  by   Paul Younger

Last week some information dropped in to IncGamers regarding a fan made superhero MMO project, and since NCSoft announced they were shutting down the MMORPG City of Heroes, the community has been discussing and planning efforts to create an new superhero MMORPG.

For months the CoH community has been rallying on the Titan Network calling future fan created projects Plan Z, and so as not confuse matters, there are actually two superhero MMO projects now in development. There’s The Phoenix Project on the Titan Network and the recently announced Heroes and Villains which also includes contributors from the Titan Network. Both these projects have the same goal of providing a superhero MMO that fans can enjoy as much as City of Heroes.

There’s been some issues between the two projects with regards to who can use what community created materials when Heroes and Villains was announced last week but these problems are being ironed out at the moment,

We caught up with Amanda Brooks of the Heroes and Villains project to find out how they plan on tackling the game’s development, funding, community efforts and more.

First of all, as we should ask, were you a City of Heroes player, and if so, what did you love about the game?

I’ve played City of Heroes for 6 years, and loved just about everything about it – it even inspired me to take up 3D digital art to create comic books set in the CoH universe – and the shutdown announcement was a pretty hard knock, especially as it was so sudden and unexplained.

What are your thoughts on the closing down of City of Heroes by NCsoft. Are you as puzzled by the decision as the rest of the CoH community?

I’m still as mystified as anyone about the closure – the whole statement about “refocusing” their priorities was so vague that it’s still left us in the dark 3 months later. It’s been very poorly handled by NCsoft, and it’s going to rumble on for quite some time – these kinds of things can be hard for game companies to shake off – just look at the way the handling of Star Wars Galaxies still haunts SOE.

Heroes and Villains sounds like it will attempt to recreate City of Heroes. What are your main goals with City of Villains and what are your plans on improving on the City of Heroes model?

It’s not so much about recreating the game as creating a game that CoH players would feel comfortable playing – it’s about the spirit rather than the the small details. But there are certainly a number of areas we’d be looking to improve on, as well as a lot of new additions. With most of the Plan Z teams having played CoH for years, we’re all pretty aware of the most frequent issues raised about the game, so we’d be looking to build on that experience when it comes to design choices for HaV – these can range from small details like greater environmental interaction (clicking on a chair to sit on it) to a wider variety of zones (outer space, jungle, underwater, and so on).

Are you looking at bringing over most of the game mechanics, or at least out together something very similar to CoH?

As I mentioned above, it’s more about the spirit than the detail – but certain fundamental design choices would be made with City of Heroes in mind – for example, CoH is a very casual-friendly game without an emphasis on grinding or racing to the endgame, so HaV would need to be designed to encourage a similar environment. CoH is also a family-friendly, community-focused game that encourages teaming, but also offers a rewarding solo experience, so again, that’d be something we’d have in our minds while designing HaV.

The project is initially going to be a “community” driven project with volunteers driving the development? How do you see this working and what experience do you have to help make this a success?

The size and enthusiasm of the response that we’ve had to the concept of Heroes and Villains has given us a lot of confidence that we’ll have a substantial volunteer base to call on during this initial development phase, with many of the volunteers we’ve had so far having previous experience in a number of fields related to the needs of this kind of project, such as programming, 3D modeling, UI design, server maintenance and so on.

Do you think that the CoH community will get behind Heroes and Villains and not move on to other games by the time there is something to show on your new game. Is the superhero MMO community passionate enough to stick with you while the game is developed?

That’s the million dollar question – although the passion and commitment shown by the community to the #SaveCoH effort is very encouraging – and it’s also worth remembering that not only did CoH have a very high retention rate of players, it also remained the leading superhero MMO, in spite of the release of newer titles like “Champions Online” and “DC Universe Online”, so there’s clearly a large group of players who are very keen on the CoH type of game.

You mention that the game could go for crowd funding further down the line, are you looking at Kickstarter specifically?

Kickstarter has the biggest brand awareness right now, so that would probably be out first choice to help reassure potential givers – there’s a big leap of faith involved in this kind of thing, so we’d be looking to provide as much reassurance as possible.

Why have you not gone straight for a crowd funding option immediately?

We feel that crowd funding is most successful when there is something concrete to show potential givers – concept art and lore are nice hooks, but actual screenshots of a work in progress carry a lot more weight.

You have chosen the Hero Engine to be the backbone of the project. What attracted you to the Hero Engine?

A number of factors – its all-in-one engine/server/client package a login with the selection of out-of-the-box tools available, plus the real-time development environment. It can also deliver a level of quality and performance beyond anything an open source engine can provide, which is going to be vital in creating a credible game that players would be prepared to pay for.

No payment model has been decided as yet, but F2P is the way most MMOs are going these days. Do you think that F2P is a more realistic option? Do you think that with enough core community support, there could be a small sub to keep the servers going?

A hybrid payment model looks to be the most attractive for this kind of project – a sub for dedicated players, and a free option for the more casual players, with an in-game store for them to use.

If it all works out as you hope, would you look at moving the team from a virtual model to an in-house development team?

It’s possible – but one of the things we find attractive about Plan Z is the way it’s literally a global studio – anyone can volunteer from anywhere in the world without needing to relocate or even give up their current job.

As you know a stack of documents have been sent to Disney in an attempt to persuade them to take on City of Heroes and revive it. Do you think there is any chance that Disney could pick it up or do you feel it’s shot in the dark?

I think that the current Disney attempt is our best shot at reviving City of Heroes after the shutdown – it’s certainly a campaign that will go on past December 1st.

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