Not Just Any Minions
Chris McKibbin on Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising
Who wouldn't want a minion? I mean, you have to admit life would be
pretty sweet with someone to wash your socks, make ham and cheese
omlettes for breakfast, manage your finances, and defend you to the death
when your enemies come to destroy you. The minions in Gods and Heroes:
Rome Rising have got your back. Well, okay, maybe they can't cook...but
they'll certainly kick enemy butt when you need them to.
And yet, despite how cool minions are, Gods and Heroes--in development
by Perpetual Entertainment and published by Sony Online
Entertainment--remains a bit of a sleeper when it comes to upcoming
MMOs. Although the game should release this year, GnH just doesn't seem
to be generating a huge buzz. Yet. Maybe the minions are guilty,
despite how cool they are. Minions seem to bring to mind visions of
Guild Wars henchmen, giving Gods and Heroes a been-there-done-that vibe
for some gamers. But don't write it off. This is actually an intriguing
game with what looks to be fun game play, graphics that won't tax
slightly older rigs, and a fresh angle where MMOs are concerned--Roman
The Ten Ton Hammer team--consisting of John "Boomjack" Hoskin, Jeff
"Ethec" Woleslagle, Phil "Ralphedelominius" Comeau and
myself--interviewed Chris McKibbin, president of Perpetual
Entertainment. Chris gave us a brief demo of the game, but much of our
talk focused on Perpetual's vision for Gods and Heroes as the game
heads to launch.
href="http://media.tentonhammer.com/tth/gallery/albums/July_Exclusives/7_06_07.sized.jpg"> style="border: 0px solid ; float: left;"
alt="Gods & Heroes exclusive screenshot"
hspace="6" vspace="2">The first thing one
notices about Gods and Heroes is its clean interface, lush scenery, and
attractive character models. This is a great looking game. McKibbin
took us to Gaul, which he referred to as “the frozen
wastes.” We set out in this level 40 area (the
game’s level cap will be 50 at launch) with a Nomad. McKibbin
demonstrated the myth minion interface panels, showing us how players
could change assault formations for their minions, and adjust things
like the priest minion’s healing threshold (“You
can tell your priest, ‘I want you to heal me when I get to
"So, you can micro-manage the minions as much as you want," Ten Ton
Hammer's Phil Comeau commented.
"You can kind of micro-manager as much as you want, but we didn't want
to make it a micro-managing game," said McKibbin. "One of the things
that Stieg [Hedlund, design director for Gods and Heroes] is really
focused on is that he doesn't want the addition of minions to create a
single-class game." Perpetual has taken a proactive approach to prevent
every player from specing a build that would become the game's ultimate
class at the expense of all the other classes the design team has
worked so hard to create and balance.
"Minions are designed to be an extension of the way the classes play
the game," McKibbin said. He explained that the key to keeping things
interesting was to make every class's game play experience unique.
Perpetual didn't work hard to build a balanced Nomad class only to have
players decide that the only class worth playing for elder game success
is, say, a Priest. "The minion system further defines and
builds up the classes instead of making them all the same. We've spent
a lot of time making sure that everyone doesn't basically end up a
Perpetual also believes the path to success is building variety into
the gaming experience depending on how players choose to play the game,
and with whom. "I think people are going to realize it's a really cool
thing [that you can be] in a squad [of players] and have different
experiences and be in a squad of minions and have different
John Hoskin asked whether the existence of minions in Gods and Heroes
might take away from a player's investment in their character. "That's
a really good question," McKibbin said. "There's a couple of answers.
We've thought of that a lot in designing the game, and we've always
wanted you to be aligned with and associated with the hero character."
McKibbin explained how myth minions are an earned thing, not a gimme,
which increases a player's attachment to the character doing the
questing and fighting to collect them. "Minions have abilities that are
additive to your abilities as a player." He explained that players
start the game alone and quest to receive their first minions at level
3. (This used to happen later in the game around level 6 or 7, but
Perpetual recently opted to give players the chance to earn them
sooner.) A player's minion squad levels up with the player, and as the
player grows and advances in his skills and abilities he also earns the
ability to command more minions "And there are unique minions in the
world," McKibbin adds, "kind of like Pokemon, and as you level them
they unlock new feats. But all of it is done through the
mechanism…the fiction that you're a hero character and
you're commanding your squad."
"Some of the public is looking at this and thinking, 'Hmm, [these are
like] Guild Wars henchmen,'" John Hoskin commented, "and it's really
not like that at all. Minions are an extension of the character."
"Right," said McKibbin. "Also, one of the things that you can't do in
Gods and Heroes is that you can't just jump in and be any character [on
your squad]. Like in Dungeon Siege, you can basically be any character
in your troop. But when you do that, you automatically cause players to
disconnect from the idea that they are the hero character. In Gods and
Heroes you can only be your character."
Hoskin had more questions: "How will the game reach out to the casual
player who came from WoW, so that they understand you can jump right
into the game without worrying about [the min-max specing]?"
"We're about to unveil a completely redesigned newbie experience--not
that we didn't like our previous newbie href="http://tth.tentonhammer.com/modules.php?set_albumName=album310&id=Rome_2007_05_07_10_33_08_83&op=modload&name=gallery&file=index&include=view_photo.php"> style="border: 0px solid ; float: right;"
alt="Gods & Heroes exclusive screenshot"
hspace="6" vspace="2"> experience; we
did--but part of what we wanted to do with the redesigned newbie
experience was to make the game immediately accessible and really
deliver on the themes of what makes Gods and Heroes different,"
answered McKibbin. "So what we're really pushing for with this newbie
experience is instant access and instant connection to the idea that
every player is a hero of mythology." He explained that the current
beta build of Gods and Heroes doesn't feature a tutorial. "We have a
tutorial; we may not turn it on," he said. "Even a tutorial is a little
bit of a barrier to getting right into the game. So if we can get away
with making the game self-explanatory without having the tutorial, then
that would be great."
Jeff Woleslagle asked whether Gods and Heroes would offer a templating
system to help players build their characters from creation on. "We
have something internally and we've been thinking of whether we might
release that to the public, maybe on the web," McKibbin said. "If we
don't do it, someone else will. But we actually [created a templating
system] just so we could get our hands around how many alternatives
there are. The minute that you have 6 classes with 2 god selections
each and different viable passes through the feat trees and 100 to 150
minions with feats you get a lot of variables."
McKibbin also explained that while Gods and Heroes could potentially be
the min-maxer's dream, the game is really built with casual gamers in
mind. "There are two types of MMO players," he said. "The majority of
the players take time to enjoy the quests and extend their social group
and their goal is not to race to the level cap as fast as possible and
reach the elder game. The second type of player is the guy who is the
big guild elder game player. We designed Gods and Heroes for the player
who wants to quest and adventure and enjoy the story. A really powerful
benefit of minions that we don't talk about very often is that through
minions we allow people to build relatively balanced classes so that
two or three people can be in a casual group, or you can even solo and
have a full MMO experience."
With its feature-rich system, highly customizable minions, and
commitment to casual gaming (although not at the expense of min-maxers
and hardcore gamers), Gods and Heroes has a lot to offer. Despite what
some gamers may think, this game is a far cry from Guild Wars with a
mythology angle. If you're in the market for a new MMO later this year,
do yourself a favor and give Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising a look. If
you’d like some excellent information on the game, check out
the resources below:
and Heroes Community site
Gods and Heroes
and Heroes news feed
Check out Ten Ton
Hammer's E3 2007 Coverage
To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising Game Page.