Rise from Your Grave, Gods and Heroes

Group shot in Gods and Heroes

Someone always try to crash in on a group shot.

In a curious bit of news, Heatwave Interactive have bought the MMO properties (including game and middleware tools) of the defunct Perpetual Studios and are planning to bring Gods and Heroes back. This makes sense – Perpetuals MMO toolset exists and was good enough for Bioware to option it on the MMO they were working on. So now that it is on the market, Heatwave can come in and pick up a MMO middleware toolset cheaper than developing it themselves, but an almost-but-not-quite-finished-title to work on.

Gods and Heroes had attracted a bit of a following in the market before Perpetual pulled the pin on it, but ultimately death probably gave G&H a better reputation than it might have deserved.

Copy Pasta

In a shameful display of copying-and-pasting my own work (for the second time, no less), here’s the review of G&H I wrote when it was officially placed on hiatus in 2007 (but this time with pictures):

“SUMMARY FOR THOSE WITH ADHD: G&H was mediocre and wouldn’t have been able to cut it in the MMO market of 2008.

It has been asked if G&H was really that bad that it deserved cancellation. Here’s the thing: it wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t that good either. It was absolutely mediocre; 50th percentile stuff. Sure, it had some nice features and ideas, but nothing outstanding. Execution (when the servers didn’t crash) was passable, but ‘fun’ – the kinds of driving, OMG I want to play this game fun – didn’t really live in G&H.

I was in beta for 3 – 4 months, iirc. I only started playing it properly about 2 weeks ago because before then the servers were up and down like <*insert your own Paris Hilton joke here*>. The month I joined in beta had a bug where one of the Soldier’s powers – one of that classes normal, everday powers – would crash the entire server (iirc – it might have been two common Soldier powers used in unison). Either way, server goes up, server goes down, damned if I can be bothered to try to play off-peak times where the server might not get reset until the morning. A few weeks ago things appeared to be stable enough to actually run through the game.

Kudos where it it due: the character creation was nice. Not great, but the facial sliders meant your chracter could be facially pretty unique. Two tone colour for hair, a reasonable number of hair styles for male and female. The body model was fixed. Appearance was dictated by the armour / items worn.

Camp in Gods & Heroes

Each player getting their own 'pocket dimension' camp was also a nice touch.

Other nice stuff: the god system, where your character picked a god at creation and got some minor face time with that god as well as extra quests and abilities from them. Every class got to pick between 2 gods which were relatively dissimilar. The squad combat system needed work (because AI healers that never, ever heal you are something that might need fixing) and the control of them was limited, but it was a reasonable idea. Of course it meant that no-one ever teamed, because they had their own little army surrounding them and few enemies were hard enough to require more than one player… but it was a nice thought. Every class being a pet class meant that (in theory) devs weren’t trying to adjust difficulty levels for both individual players and those who surrounded themselves with pets.

Attack animations were nice, with some enemies able to pick you up, throw you around. It made combat a little more interesting to watch. Actual combat mechanic was still ‘run in, autoattack, spam your special abiliies’, but the animations were alright.

I played the Gladiator class predominantly, which had the unique weapons of Fighting Gloves and … Rope. The idea of becoming some sort of uber-rope master who could kill all he surveyed with rope amused me greatly.

The downsides: it was pure PvE where you completed missions / fought enemies to get XP. No PvP planned for launch. No crafting planned for launch. For all the ‘it’s not a fantasy game’, it played a lot like a standard fantasy game – just switching out dragons for sphinxs and making players run around in togas instead of tunics doesn’t change this. No imagination or evolution was really on display in G&H.

Fighting a giant in Gods and Heroes

Gods and Heroes had combat where enemies could pick you up and throw you.

Prior to the large scale beta, a number of players were part of a longer term beta program that was more focused – this was a good idea. A pseudo-regular tester diary would come out that talked about what was going on and what features were in G&H – another good idea. However, on getting into beta, I found a number of these features cut or missing. The skills system took a massive hit just before I joined beta (that’s fine, but devs have to be careful when trumpeting flexible skill advancement system if they are going to cut it and replace it with a more fixed ‘tree’ system). It was mentioned that every class got a unique starting area by the beta diary – with the characters I played, every one of them started on the same shipwrecked beach. I respect that MMOs change, but I also think leaving outdated information floating around smacks to me of misinformation.

Graphics had an odd plasticine quality to them. It looked odd, falling closer to realistic than cartoonish, but there were certain things I’d look at and would just think looked a bit off.

Maps weren’t huge (and the ones I saw contained plenty of restricted areas, so were in reality even smaller) but you had to run everywhere. CoH/V has ruined me on that part of MMOs.

From comments made by the devs, G&H was either content complete at time of cancellation OR was very close to it. Many beta players were surprised by this, since the game still felt incomplete. You fought monsters, leveled up, repeat to max level. That’s it. It was suggested that prior to launch the monsters would suddenly get much tougher (or, more likely: their XP per kill would drop) but that wasn’t going to really add to the game and make it fun.

So, why was G&H dropped? Purely based on my own suppositions, I think G&H still needed a lot of bug fixing. SOE cut off a supply of money for that fixing process, leaving PE to develop the game themselves. I wouldn’t think that Star Trek is a cheap IP to hold onto, and PE sees a lot more money coming from that project than from a Roman Mythology game. Sure, G&H was better than Vanguard (according to players of both – I stayed away from that train wreck) but it was much more limited in scope. I doubt all but the hardest core G&H fans would have lasted more than 2 months playing this MMO.

G&H may have been exciting when the project was announced, but the MMO market has passed it by. SOE is likely to be that party to have given up on it (rather than PE walking away from SOE), forcing PE to make a decision to either spend a bit of money in order to get a meager income from it, or save that money and invest it all into STO. Although the hardest of decisions, G&H would have sunk very quickly if released, so canning the project now and maybe coming back to it later (which is unlikely) probably wasn’t the dumbest of ideas.

On a side note: this just further confirms to me that you can’t try to develop a game and build middleware at the same time. At least one project suffers as a result.”

Also noted in that original post is my prediction that STO would be picked up by someone else after Perpetual and released. Hooray for speculation!

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One thought on “Rise from Your Grave, Gods and Heroes

  1. Pingback: Is Naming a Studio After Mythical Example of Failure Ever A Good Idea? Icarus Studios Restructures « Vicarious Existence

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