Last week we heard from Missing Worlds Media, a studio in the early development stages for The Phoenix Project, a "spiritual successor" to the City of Heroes franchise. But they're not the only game in town. Another group, calling themselves Plan Z Studios, is working on a similar MMORPG entitled Heroes and Villains.
Amanda Brooks, lead developer for Heroes and Villains, took some time to answer questions about the upcoming superhero MMORPG.
Your game is being referred to as a "spiritual successor" to City of Heroes. Can you elaborate on what that means for your team?
For us, it means developing a game that allows us to recapture the ingredients that turned “City of Heroes” into the best online gaming community that there’s ever been. And it isn't always easy to put your finger on what exactly made it that way, or say that CoH was successful because it used or didn't use MMO feature X, Y, or Z. Some things are obvious, like the high level of character customization, which is why that’s the main focus of the early development of the “Heroes and Villains” project. Other things aren't so easy to pinpoint – for example, the family-friendliness of CoH – was that down to the setting? The graphics? The zone layouts? The mission design? CoH was able to tell some quite dark stories and “hide” them behind text based storytelling and more stylized and static NPCs – so we have to keep that in mind when presenting our stories in a more detailed and dynamic environment, especially as there’s always the option of voicing some parts of a story, which can make it a lot more intense for younger players than a purely text based story.
How many people are currently working on Heroes and Villains? What sorts of backgrounds do they have?
That’s actually not easy to say – we've had over 100 people sign up to help, but because we’re focusing only on the technical side of development right now, that means that a lot of those who have volunteered haven’t gotten the chance to start work yet. But we've had twenty-something meaningful contributors so far, and there’s a core team of about a dozen who've been building the GUI and basic costume creator, which is the current focus of our development. The backgrounds of the team are pretty diverse, which is just a reflection of the larger “City of Heroes” community -we've got everything from people who've worked in the gaming industry to self taught amateurs, and everything in between.
Are you still looking for people to help design the game? If so, in what specific areas do you need people?
Yes - as we're just a volunteer project, we've always got room for more people – and the way we’re set up lets us organize a large team pretty easily. As for what areas of expertise we’d like to have extra help in, it’d probably be programming and modeling – any programmers willing to learn the unique engine scripting language and any modelers with a love of superheroes or modern day settings are very welcome to drop by our forums and get added to the team.
What sort of revenue stream do you see Heroes and Villains having? Will it be free-to-play with microtransactions or will there be a subscription?
We’re looking at a variety of options, but there’ll certainly be a way to play the game without needing a subscription – the sub-only model has pretty much had its day now, and it can’t really be supported by any title that’s not “World of Warcraft”.
What engine will the game be built around and why did you choose it?
We’re using the Hero Engine – it’s a specially designed package for making online games, and is very indie-friendly, while also being used by the likes of Bioware and Zenimax. It’s a well-supported and frequently updated engine that can deliver the kind of flexibility and performance that the “Heroes and Villains” project needs. Just about the only drawback with it is its use of its own scripting language, which creates a bit of a speed bump in the development process as it takes time to learn it.
Are efforts already underway to obtain funding for development?
The way we've set the project up means that we can develop a huge amount of the game without needing to turn to other sources of funding, although we do have a number of plans in place should we need to launch a fundraising drive which can be started at a moment’s notice.
Do you think the superhero MMORPG market is robust enough to support multiple titles?
Well, “Champions Online” is in maintenance mode, and DCUO is still a button-mashing console fighting game with a few MMO features tacked on, so following the unexpected closure of “City of Heroes”, there isn't even one comic book title in the MMO marketplace – and there’s certainly an audience out there that wants one.
We'd like to thank Amanda Brooks for answering our questions. For more information and updates on Heroes and Villains, head on over to its official website.