OnRPG Interviews HeroSmash Dev, Galanoth
Interview by Nic van't Schip (Nilax), OnRPG Journalist
We know Artix as the company behind the wildly popular Adventure Quest series and all its spinoffs. Covering the Fantasy and Sci-Fi genre very successfully, Artix is now breaking into the Super Hero genre with HeroSmash. We have been playing this cool browser game for a little while now during the beta and a couple of questions popped up. Good thing Artix are a cool bunch more than willing to answer them for us!
Nilax: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us! Could you start out by quickly introducing yourself to our readers please?
Galanoth: I'm Tony Deller (known as Galanoth the Dragonslayer to Artix players!), Games Manager for Artix Entertainment and Game Lead for HeroSmash, our newest MMO. I have also been Game Lead on the original Adventure Quest single-player RPG since 2004.
Thank you for having us, OnRPG!
Nilax: Before we talk about Hero Smash I want to congratulate you on your tremendous success in the past couple of years. Adventure Quest Worlds is HUGE! Did you expect that when you guys started building it and what lessons have you learned from its quick growth that can help you make HeroSmash even better?
Galanoth: Thank you very much. I have been with AE (Artix Entertainment) since the very beginning, and have run the original Adventure Quest for most of that time. While the original AQ, a single player RPG, is now considered a classic by many, approaching nine years online, the AQWorlds MMO is only a little over two years old and is still growing, with nearly a million new players joining every month!
We knew that our audience would enjoy engaging in an MMO based in our fantasy world of Lore, so we were fairly confident that AQWorlds would find solid footing. The steep learning curve we experienced going from single-player expertise to making MMOs was our biggest challenge. Fortunately, the team we assembled to create AQWorlds was more than up to the task. Also, our experience with community management was taken to a new level with the requirements of in-game moderation.
Nilax: After the great success of the Adventure Quest and MechQuest games what made you take the "jump" to the Super Hero Genre?
Galanoth: We really wanted to build a game in a "modern" world that was somewhat more relevant to our audience than our fantasy realm of Lore. After our success with EpicDuel, we knew that bringing the MMO and PVP elements together would continue to work well as we moved forward with new projects. So those reasons, plus the fact that half of our crew are HUGE comic book and superhero fans!
Nilax: What was the biggest challenge in the development of Hero Smash?
Galanoth: Because we had already built a sturdy MMO engine for AQWorlds, the biggest challenge when developing HeroSmash was (and is!) the creative side: Finding the right character and art design; Differentiating the game from AQWorlds visually and thematically; Devising new item types; Concocting super powers and how they would function.
The original art concept took a lot of thought by itself. Initially we tried many versions of more "realistic" comic book characters. Ultimately we had an "Aha!" moment when our lead artist created a sketch of small body/big head super-guy with a lot of attitude. The design made us all feel like it would be an awful lot of fun to BE that character in a game, running and flying around and laying the smackdown on giant robots and alien monsters. We nicknamed the character style "vinyl" because something about it just reminds you of a collectible toy.
Nilax: It's great to see that you are giving players the chance to become a real part of the game by letting them become NPCs (most of the videos in the thread are awesome, go check them out)! Can you give our readers some inside tips on how to increase their chances of being chosen for this extreme honor?
Galanoth: We really wanted to engage our players in a new way, and came up with our "Who Wants to Be a Super NPC" contest to do just that. So far there are half a dozen players permanently inside HeroSmash as NPCs who deliver dialogue, offer items, or send players on missions. There are two ways you can be chosen: Either by uploading a video to YouTube in which you pretend to be the Hero or Villain you are in the game (don't hurt yourself or others in the process!), or simply by playing the game to the best of your abilities and hoping we notice you. Some players who are picked to become NPCs will also have the chance to actually become part of a major storyline in HeroSmash, too. We'll officially announce the contest in a matter of days!
Doing both (playing HeroSmash a lot AND entering a YouTube video) probably increases your odds a little because you have more chance of being spotted by one of the HeroSmash team members. It definitely DECREASES your odds a lot if you cheat, hack, or spam.
Nilax: We read that the Hero Smash team is roughly 12 people strong. That sounds like a small team for such an impressive game. How did you manage to make Hero Smash with only 12 people, and how long have you worked on it so far?
Galanoth: Actually, 12 people is a little misleading. Half of the team is part-time volunteer help, our treasured and dedicated Artist Assistants whose enthusiasm is unmatched. Luckily we had a strong engine to begin with, which cut down our lead time by quite a bit. In total, we developed HeroSmash for about 6 months before releasing our public Beta. The HeroSmash team is also very lucky to have on it some of the fastest and best programmers, artists and animators I have ever worked with!
Nilax: The new lightning powers and the new Sky God character are very obviously ... eh ... influenced by a recent movie about a certain ... well Sky God. What are some of your favorite other heroes we may see this kind of inspiration from in the future?
Galanoth: We intend to honor most of our favorite comic book and super-characters in one way or another as HeroSmash goes on. When a big movie or other major event occurs that involves one of those team favorites, you can count on HeroSmash to have some fun with it. There is a certain character with a very peculiar RING that you might be reminded of in an upcoming HeroSmash release...
We will most definitely be putting most of our effort into building the world of HeroSmash with characters and creatures that are as original as we can manage. We have a lot of imagination to spare here.
Nilax: Are there any plans to move Hero Smash or any of your other browser based games into other platforms such as iOS in the future?
Galanoth: We are constantly considering other platforms, but there are no plans in motion yet for other browser formats. We have already set foot in the realm of smartphones and are going to continue developing some projects in that direction.
Nilax: After all these questions, is there anything you'd like to tell our readers that we haven't asked about yet?
Galanoth: The Artix community is the one part of our games that we love the most. We are regularly listening to our audience, implementing suggestions, and holding contests of all kinds: art, writing, video, pumpkin carving (yes, really!), and even cookie-making. We want, and need, player input to keep going, so when you sign up for an AE game you are really joining a community that actually includes the developers themselves.
Nilax: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us!
Galanoth: Thank you, too. Smash On!
And as a final note, don't forget that you only have this first month of Hero Smash to become a FOUNDER! Don't hesitate to jump into the game today.