E3 06: SOE pays tribute to Gods & Heroes

Sony Online Entertainment uses pre-E3 event to show off its latest publishing acquisition; John Smedley gives GameSpot the skinny in a GS News video interview.


Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising

SAN FRANCISCO--It's been a little less than a year since Perpetual Entertainment unveiled its debut project, the massively multiplayer online role-playing game Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising. The game went on to make an appearance at last year's Electronics Entertainment Expo, but it wasn't heard from again until this week, when Sony Online Entertainment announced that it will copublish the game in North America. At a pre-E3 press event at San Francisco's Broadway Studios last night, SOE PR director Chris Kramer explained that it was the game's showing at E3 last year that has it coming to the expo under the SOE banner this year.

"I'm sure some of you probably saw [Gods & Heroes] last year at E3," Kramer told the dozens of gaming press members in attendance. "That's where we saw it too. And when we saw it, we knew we had to get involved. It was awesome."

That's when Kramer yielded the floor to Perpetual design director Stieg Hedlund. Hedlund said that in the development of Gods & Heroes, he's often drawing on his past work experiences at Blizzard, creators of the six-million-strong World of Warcraft. But it's not that studio's hit MMO game that Hedlund is looking to for inspiration. Instead, Hedlund said he was drawing from his work from earlier Blizzard projects--Diablo, Starcraft, and Diablo II.

"I think the sensibilities and the lessons that I learned from Diablo II will really make for a unique product in Gods & Heroes," Hedlund said, adding that he wanted to bring role playing to the next level in the MMO game space. Hedlund then walked the crowd through some video footage of the game, explaining the approach the Perpetual team is taking to differentiate Gods & Heroes from the rest of the MMO game pack.

In particular, Hedlund emphasized the game's combat system. Gods & Heroes uses a squad-based setup that lets players recruit an entourage of up to eight units to follow them around and assist in combat. Kramer would later joke that the Gods & Heroes system would be ideal for him, as the public relations manager joked that he doesn't like other people, and this would grant him the benefits of party adventuring without the pesky downsides.

In the demonstration, Hedlund used simple controls to order his archers to issue a flaming volley of arrows at a group of enemies while a pair of infantrymen held up shields along the front line to take the brunt of retaliatory fire. Later on, he waded into the middle of a larger battle, strategically divvying up which troops were assigned to tackle various groups of enemies. He even showed off some of the mythical allies whose aid players can earn, including minotaurs and automatons.

Hedlund emphasized that Perpetual is putting a lot of effort into the visceral nature of the combat and showed off some eye-pleasing aspects of the game to back his point. Beyond the fluid attack animations of the main characters, Hedlund also showed off one of the godly powers players will be able to call down, as well as some glimpses of more epic battles. A castle under siege played host to one such scene, with catapults launching fiery payloads over the fray, giant versions of automatons picking up and throwing Hedlund's protagonist, and even a war elephant picking up and goring a hapless opponent.

The Gods & Heroes combat wasn't the only eye candy on display at the event. SOE hired a couple of trapeze artists to ply their trade with rope-climbing acrobatics the likes of which aren't known to your average grade-school gym class--or your average gamer.

SOE president John Smedley did not address the crowd at Sony's event, but he did make time for an on-camera interview with GameSpot, during which he talked about the company's next-generation plans.

"I'm sure with the name Sony in front of us, people can get a pretty good idea of what we're working on," Smedley said. "We're big believers in multiplatform publishing. We are working on unannounced MMOs on the PlayStation 3 and the PC, and we're betting very heavily on this market."

When pressed for details, Smedley said the company was working on a first-person shooter MMO game that is "pretty cool and pretty far along." To see the full interview, check out the video link at the top of the story.

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