Back From the Dead: Heatwave Interactive’s Anthony Castoro on Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising — The MMO Gamer

Back From the Dead: Heatwave Interactive’s Anthony Castoro on Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising

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The MMO Gamer’s Kumar Daryanani has a seat with Anthony “SunSword” Castoro to discuss Heatwave Interactive’s plans for their recently-revived Greco-Roman MMORPG, Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising.

Topics include the decision to bring Gods & Heroes back from the dead, differentiating yourself from a crowded online gaming market, and why the game may turn out to be more like Battlefield 2 than WoW…

Read on for the transcript.

The MMO Gamer: To start us off, can you tell our readers a little about  Heatwave Interactive and what you do there?

Anthony Castoro: My name is Anthony Castoro, I am the co-founder and CEO of Heatwave Interactive. We started Heatwave right at the beginning of 2007 by bootstrapping the company.

We did some consulting with MTV and some other game companies to fund our activities, but after 6 months or so we realised we needed more capital to do what we wanted to do, so we went out there and raised $7.5 million from a venture fund called Syncom Venture Partners in the D.C. area.

We really started the company to address a couple of things. Firstly, my partner Donn Clendenon, who co-founded the company, he is a long-term entrepreneur with a lot of success and several exits, and he had done online games.

I had started a game company directly out of college and learned a lot, but I didn’t have success with that, so I wanted to go into the corporate world and find out what it took.

And over fifteen years I learned a couple things: one, it’s really common for game companies of all sizes to get started with a project and not know why, not have good reasons for doing it, not have the resources to do it, not have the right plan.

Online games in particular are very powerful things, and the nice thing about them is they don’t have the same economic issues as console games, they have a long tail, if you do something even for a small group of people you can do very well.

EVE online is a great example of it, as was Ultima Online what, thirteen years ago now?

 

We started the company with that in mind, and also, the really great games are popular enough that they can make mainstream new IPs very successful.

Everything we do is also cross-media, it’s designed to be a television show, be a movie, be a comic-book. Not that we’re going to focus on that but you just should, there’s no reason not to do it.

 

The MMO Gamer: What drew you to the Gods & Heroes IP in particular?

 

Anthony Castoro: I had seen Gods & Heroes as a publisher when I was at Codemasters, and we all thought it was  pretty interesting.

I actually knew one of the co-founders, Chris McKibben, because he had been the general manager of Origin Systems back in the day when I was a lowly QA guy. Actually, I think when I started as a game designer at Origin he was still there.

 

I was interested in it because it’s fantasy, but not high fantasy, it was mythology. That was a niche that hadn’t been addressed, and everyone knows Roman and Greek mythology, so I thought it was a really smart move in terms of what product to make in this very crowded market.

I was really sad when Perpetual went under, I think it was a really cool idea, they had some issues obviously, but everyone has issues, and if they’d been able to figure those out I believe it would have been a very popular game.

 

The MMO Gamer: One of the really interesting aspects of Gods & Heroes when details first started circulating was the idea of the player controlling one hero and a squad of mythological allies.

What are your plans for that aspect of the game?

 

Anthony Castoro: I think the Minion System is here to stay, and if anything it should be blown out a little bit more. Since that idea came out there have been other games like Grado Espada, and to some degree Star Trek Online had minions, but I agree, in addition to the setting the Minion System was one of the biggest unique things.

That and some of the things they were doing with the combat. They hadn’t quite finished figuring out what was going to happen with combat, but the finishing moves and the tandem combat action was pretty cool.

We’re definitely focused on the Minion System, ideally making it more important and more fun. I think they have the basics there, and that will be a good place to iterate.

There are other things we’re going to do that will change it a little bit. Heatwave has a mass-market appeal take, so some things we’ll do with the IP, if you go to the website you can even see, the one little piece of art we’ve got there is in a different style, a little more dramatic, a little less clean.

There are some small things, overall, the look and feel of the game is still good, pretty competitive, but the characters themselves I think need some work, so we’ll probably do some work on the models and the customization available there just to make sure it stands up for a couple of years after its intended release.

 

The MMO Gamer: So what hard data can you give us in terms of release dates and monetization models?

 

Anthony Castoro: Our goal is to release it in 2011, but if there’s one thing people know about this business it’s that you have to release the game when it’s ready.

We’re spending a few months right now playing the game – it’s running in the office – getting to understand it, what the tools are, what kind of shape they are in, bringing in some former team members and a lot of new people.

We’re going to spend at least three months figuring out what we’ve got before we start talking about how we’re going to get where we’re going to go, doing some market research, and then we have to figure out if we can get the game into open beta twelve months later, what we can keep, what we can improve, and what needs to be new.

That also includes the business model. Subscription versus free-to-play with microtransactions is a big question, and ideally after we do some homework and we see how the audience feels we can make that decision.

I think free-to-play is far more viable than it was even 12 months ago, and so when you’re forecasting eighteen months in the future that might be the case but if you’re going to do a free-to-play game it has to be good, it has to be designed for free to play.

So that’s all a big consideration for us given the time. DDO has done it with some success and they’re probably a really good model of how to do that, they’ve done a really good job.

 

Continued on next page…

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