GDC 2011: Gods & Heroes hopes to give its audience something unexpected

The in-game story for Gods and Heroes begins with a Roman general returning home after his time in war only to be thrust into battle again. The history of the game itself mirrors this journey: In October 2006, the original creators of the game, Perpetual Entertainment, shut down. However, in August 2010, independent developer Heatwave Interactive picked up the rights to develop and distribute the game. Our hero's journey started once more. Just as your character in G&H returns home to an estate in ruins and a craving for revenge, Heatwave developers are fighting back the old gods and attacking the game with renewed vigor.

At GDC 2011, our editor-in-chief Shawn Schuster discussed the rise, fall, and rebirth of the game with CEO Anthony Castoro, Lead Designer Tim Schubert, and Community Manager Donna Prior. "I think a lot of people expected us to go free-to-play and microtransact the minions then put it out there. But in early alpha tests and beta tests, people really wanted a full game out of this and expect us to treat it a certain way. We are working really hard to do that," said Castoro, who went on to assure us that he is not just out to make money -- he hopes to deliver a great game too. Follow after the break to find out what is going to make this game victorious in the gladiatorial arena.
Many MMORPGs place your character at the beginning of his story to work his way up until he is a powerful warrior, but in a diversion from the game's original intent, this MMO catches our general after he returns home from war, ready to retire. However, a cult of Telchines have destroyed the hero's estate. Originally, the story held that the hero ended up on an island by happenstance and was thrust into a war with the Telchines. But we've been there and done that before, right? The writers at Heatwave have adjusted the story so that the tutorial is now based on the warrior seeking revenge. Schubert said, "You are not there by accident; you are there to kick ass and take names." The Telchines and their gods are going to pay for what they did.

The primary protagonist is not just any warrior; he (or she -- yes, the team does deviate from history here and allows for female Roman warriors) is a general. What would a general be without people to command? This is where the minion system comes in. Although there are some MMOs with minions, the system still adds a flavor that other MMOs lack. Minions in some games are a weak DoT or HoT, but Schubert wants them to be "a little more important than that." The devs have added abilities to minions, even god-granted powers and abilities. On top of that, you do have control of your allies with a minion hotbar. If you play a healing class like a Priest, this becomes particularly important because you want to keep track of your minions' aggro (and avoid aggro yourself). Like any good general, you will want to collect all the soldiers you can for your army -- over 130 total in game.

Your fundamental goal in the game is to build your estate back to the glory it possessed before the heathens razed it. Each player receives an estate -- his own island. Schubert described it as being "very Lion King -- everything your eye can see." It is your zone to do with as you please. On your first visit to your estate, nearly everything is destroyed, but as you quest and gain levels, buildings begin to be repaired, servants recover their health, and life begins anew. There are three major buildings to upgrade on your island, one for each of the major classes in game. As each of these buildings gets stronger, so do the minions of that class. The guard tower, for instance, grants you the basic soldier at the start. But as you add upgrades to that building, eventually the soldiers become god-like warriors for you to control. When we say "god-like," we mean "processing the mythical powers of the gods." In addition, your estate is shared between all characters on your account. Alt-o-holics will enjoy this because each unlock you receive from your estate is shared by all your characters

You can forget about junk loot. The Shattering System allows you to break down each piece of loot into its basic components; those items can be used to make better weapons or armor. Of course, if you happen to have too much on one component or another, you can make use of the handy auction house within your estate, which allows you to trade to other players.

Lastly, and probably most appealing to the game's demographic, is the mature content. What this means is that the creators of the game will be able to address certain situations that cannot be addressed with more restrictions. Slavery is the example Castoro gave. He said the devs will be "dealing with the things that happened during the time of ancient Rome that are in context and entertaining," making the game more "Spartacus, less Disney's Hercules." The developers understand that gore and nudity are not for everyone, so they are implementing mechanics such that, situationally, the story will be the same although the visuals will be different.

What's next in store for Gods and Heroes? This week, the team is starting phased beta testing. Testers will join in the test for roughly a week at a time, followed by several weeks off so developers can add content and make changes, followed by still more testing. Castoro is looking to release the game in the first half of this year.

So why will people want to play this game? Castoro told us, "We know that there a lot of people who want to play the game because of the setting, but we also know that they want choices. Feature-wise, this game delivers."

This article was originally published on Massively.