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: What is your background as a designer, what do you feel you can bring to the MMO genre with Gods and Heroes?

 

Anthony Castoro: My background is really long-term, in some ways my case may be a little advanced for the average player.

For a lot of people World of Warcraft was their first MMO. I didn’t have the same reaction as these people when I played World of Warcraft. My reaction was “This is a well-done version of everything I’ve already played.” The craftsmanship was fantastic, but it didn’t have any long-term pull for me.

I’ve been goofing around doing significant stuff online since ’92, running MUDs and IRC servers, that kind of stuff. I’m looking for more, I’m really tired of the same ‘I’m playing this character and this is what I do”. That’s one of the reasons we’re attracted to the Minion System.

Back in the day when I was working on Ultima Online, we almost did a sequel. It was an in-place, fully 3D sequel. We got to alpha, we market-tested it….

 

The MMO Gamer: Was this Ultima Online: Odyssey?

 

Anthony Castoro: No actually, a lot of people don’t know about it except some of the players we brought into it.

It was called Ultima Online: Kingdoms, and one of the things that we did – UO is a top down game, you have four or five characters, maybe more if you bought an extra character slot, it was totally doable to have multiple character control.

So you have these five characters who live in the same house and have never met each other (laughs). And old-school RPGs are all about party systems, so we do a lot of experimentation on multi-character control and that’s one of the things we’re doing in the Minion System.

Obviously the perspective isn’t the same, but a lot of the elements are the same.

 

In that regards, my background is a lot of RPG stuff, and looking at how I can bring that classic RPG stuff to a multiplayer environment. Also, I’m very much an action gamer, I got into the business because of games like Wing Commander.

And that’s another thing that drew me to this game, that it has that ‘action-y’ feel to it. Probably one of my favorite games is Battlefield 2, and Battlefield 2 in general has that combination of action, persistence and online.

We’re not turning the game into a shooter or anything like that, but in terms of my influences I’m looking from a moment-to-moment basis at how much fun am I having, not solely from a “over time, how much fun am I having?”

That’s one of the elements I think that’s missing from a lot of MMOs that are out right now, which is to say they’re not terribly fun at any given moment.

 

The MMO Gamer: On that note, have you seen the demo of Tera Online that’s on display on the show floor? It seems like it would be right up your alley, with manual dodging of enemy attacks.

 

Anthony Castoro: I haven’t been on the floor yet, but I’ve heard all about it and I’m going to go check it out later today, because I’ve heard a lot of positive things about it. That’s the kind of thing we were talking about doing at EA.

Like I said, Battlefield is on the other side of being an MMO but it’s moving in that direction. We call them ‘blue box games’ – on the one hand you have turn-based, lots of setup, lots of thinking games, and on the other side you have lots of twitch, and how you can get something more in the middle.

I think DC Universe is also doing something like that, being a superhero game it needs to be more action-oriented.

 

The MMO Gamer: You’ve already said you want to create almost a “thinking man’s action-RPG MMO.” How do you think that model fits in with the current wave of interest in social network games and the push towards more accessible – or ‘casual’ – MMOs in general?

Anthony Castoro: World of Warcraft is the big gorilla on the block when it comes to MMOs, and everybody is trying to figure out ‘How do I differentiate?’ and ‘How do I not do World of Warcraft?’ and it’s kinda funny that it’s taken them two or three years to get to thinking like that instead of trying to beat World of Warcraft, but I think there is a lot more for other gamers out there than a traditional massively multiplayer online game.

I’m looking forward to different things: MMO real-time strategy games, and MMO city-building games.

How does Gods and Heroes fit into that? I think it has some things that we can extend which are very different from traditional MMORPGS.

There’s multi-character control, there’s the estate you have where you can go to customize your characters, and the concept of potentially, at launch or later on,  expanding that estate game, how the property you own affects your gameplay and motivates you to do things in the world.

I think there are a lot of interesting things about roman politics in the period that we can pull in that creates some interesting social interactions, and I think part of that is extending the game into the social space or bring the social space into the game.

So we’re not going to try and create a social networking experience within Gods and Heroes but we will leverage whatever social networking tools people use, to help them stay in touch with the game, advance, and that kind of thing. So in terms of the casual aspect of it, how quickly you can get into the game, do something that’s fun, and get out is important, and I think playing around with the minions and the estate will help to create that kind of experience.

As opposed to taking an hour or two to accomplish something significant, being able to hop in, do something and hop out is where we would put the focus on the causal side,  instead of watering down the core game.

The MMO Gamer: With Gods and Heroes based on Roman and Greek mythology. How much of a part are the deities themselves going to play? Will players be able to worship deities and gain their favor and perform quests for them, or are they going to be more in the background?

Anthony Castoro: I think right now they are a little bit too much in the background, we’ve been playing the game for some time – you meet your deity, pick your deity, they give you some special powers, blah blah… that stuff’s not really in the game anymore. The thing that’s really cool about Roman and Greek mythology is that deities were like soap opera celebrities, they were very involved…

The MMO Gamer: Right, they actually took part in the world.

Anthony Castoro: Right, the heroes came about generally from the deities coming down and… ‘interacting’ with the female audience a bit too much. So I think that’s one of the things we need to improve. I think that Roman history is also interesting, but, you know, Jupiter and Hera and all of those should be more involved, and I think that’s one place where you’ll see the Heatwave touch on Gods and Heroes.

I think we’ll probably bring some interesting characters and voices into the game to enact some of those gods.

The MMO Gamer: I think that’s all the time we have, thanks very much for taking the time to talk with us today, and we look forward to seeing what you do with Gods & Heroes.

Anthony Castoro: Excellent, I appreciate the time to talk to you!

Stay tuned to The MMO Gamer for more Gods & Heroes news in the days and weeks to come. In the meantime, you can also pay a visit to Heatwave Interactive’s official website.

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