Tobold's Blog
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Gods & Heroes preview

With the weekend giving me enough time for research, I'm continueing my series of previews of MMORPGs expected to come out in the second half of 2007. Today, as we already discussed it a bit in the comments, is Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising (G&H) by Perpetual Entertainment. Publisher will be SOE, although it isn't clear whether it will be included in the Station Access. It should be, since they increased the price of that one to $30. SOE might have lost market leadership to Blizzard's World of Warcraft, but they are gathering an impressive collection of second tier MMORPGs which might well be worth the cost if those games are all included.

Gods & Heroes has it's own Wikipedia entry, a section on the IGN portal, the official website, lots of movies on Fileplanet, and of course fansites. Don't expect me to do that much homework for each of my posts. :)

In Gods & Heroes you play one of six character classes in a mythical version of ancient Rome: Soldier, Gladiator, Mystic, Priest, Scout and Nomad. In many aspects gameplay apparently will be very similar to classic MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, only that the setting is pseudo-historical instead of pseudo-Tolkien. There will be quests, you gather experience points and treasures, you level up. It seems that you need to choose a god at the start of the game (out of 2 possible for your class), and in what Perpetual calls "Story-Driven Adventures" you acquire special powers by doing quests for that god. So far, so good, but now comes the innovation: Minions.

In classic MMORPGs there are a few classes that have pets, usually just one at a time, although in City of Villains you can have several pets if you play a Mastermind. But most classes in these games don't have pets. In Gods & Heroes *every* character gets to control minions. You get something called a camp, and there you can collect up to 130 different minions. Gotta catch 'em all! Wait, that's a different game. Presumably you can't take all of them into combat with you, but as they announced "Revolutionary Squad-based Combat" you definitely get to control more than one minion at a time. Man, that is going to be busy. A 5-man group will look like a Molten Core raid.

My personal take on it is that I'm not so excited about this game. I might try it, but don't see me playing this for very long. True, the graphics look top notch, better than the ones from PotBS, which I presented yesterday. But the gameplay doesn't seem to be that much different from the same old classic MMORPGs, just with lots of pets. And personally I was never really fond of pet classes, although I liked the WoW Warlock. Just like in real life, pets in online games can get messy. But as I said, that is just my personal feeling, that doesn't mean that Gods & Heroes doesn't have potential to be a very good game and attract a large number of subscribers.
The whole pokemon pet thing turns me away from a true desire to play Gods & Heroes. I'm not sure on how I feel about the squad combat either.

Right now I'm going to have to see something truly remarkable before I decide to give it a try. There's just too many other great MMO's coming out for this one to take a slot in my lineup.
I've heard that you cannot equip your minions with looted items; only crafted items.

In any case, I've developed a new theory. I think it's possible to predict the success of a future mmo based on the number of replies that mmo receives when Tobold first post about it.

How many replies did Tobold's first post about LOTRO get?

In any case, if that theory holds true, then it's not looking good for Rome Rising or Pirates of the Burning Sea, and not looking much better for Tabula Rasa, either.
Guild Wars is probably a better comparision than than Masterminds in City of Villain when it comes to using minions/pets. In GW you can choose what type of minions/pets you will have in your, you can control how they level up etc. Or perhaps Sword of the new World in a way, since you can play 3 characters at once there.

A key here is how smart the minion AI will be and how good and convenient the UI and controls will be.

Tobold says that pets can be messy and I would agree for some games. But in many games pets have been a neat feature for some types of characters, but perhaps not a huge amount of effort has been put in how this is going to work and you end up with pets with pathing problems, pets doing their own thing and clunky controls.

Since minions is a central feature of Gods & Heroes, I would assume that they have put a lot of effort into this.

It may possibly be a bit of "mostly same old" in a new setting, but so far that do seem to work if it is well executed and has good content.

If it works well and makes it easy to play with others and not a huge amount of time will be needed for a session to do something fun, then it could work out well I think.
Pets or minions, the big problem with any of them is that their AI just isn't good enough.

How many times in WoW has your group wiped because of a Hunter pet behaving stupidly?

Even in squad based wargames where the computer controls your squad mates, they always act so stupid.
Pets are just too much of a hassle. I don't like the micromanagement aspect of pets and, considering the fact that pet classes have never been awfully popular in MMORPGs, it doesn't strike me as a particular smart idea to construct a whole game around it.
I'm actually looking forward to this one a lot. If the AI, and that's a big IF, if the AI is competent enough, it could be a pet-class lover's dream. Or it could be a nightmare.

I just hope the minion system is ultimately enough to distinguish this one.
How many times in WoW has your group wiped because of a Hunter pet behaving stupidly?

More than zero, which is irrelevant when it comes to Gods & Heroes. Judge the game on its own merits when it is released, rather than draw conclusions from other games made by different developers with different goals and priorities.
Kranky Kraut said...

Pets are just too much of a hassle. I don't like the micromanagement aspect of pets and, considering the fact that pet classes have never been awfully popular in MMORPGs, it doesn't strike me as a particular smart idea to construct a whole game around it.

Here we have a classic mmo mistake. The developers are assuming that there's a huge clamoring for this feature, and I'm not sure where they got this from. I've been reading boards, devoted to this genre, for several years, and I don't recall any significant interest in squad based npc management.

Now, if there are other cool features that might sell the public on Rome Rising, then the developers have done a lousy job of communicating what those features are, because Rome Rising is unofficially known as the mmo that let's you have several pets at once.

This is crippling as I've met plenty of mmo players who despise pet classes and will avoid Rome Rising for that reason.

Why spends millions developing an mmo that is focused around a single unique feature. It's crazy to put all your eggs in one basket.

Unless you love the concept of playing in Ancient Rome, or having multiple pets, what possible reason would anyone want to play this game other than sheer boredom.

And considering how many premium single player and multi-player games are slated to be released over the next six months, including Warhammer Online and Hellgate London, it's going to be very tough to market Rome Rising.
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