There are a few cases in life where the sum is greater than parts. The collaboration of Gas Powered Games and Star Dock looks to be one of those cases as the two PC developers have crafted a game that not only looks great but looks like it’s going to play great as well. Here’s our interview with the lead designer of the game, Mike Marr.
Can you introduce yourself and describe your role on the project? How long have you been in the gaming industry and what drew you to your current position?
Hi, my name is Mike Marr. I am the Lead Designer for Demigod and arrived at the position after working the industry for six years in a variety of positions. I’ve worked as UI Engineer, 3d Studio Max Tools Developer, Online Technologies Engineer and as a Balance Designer. However, I must admit that all those positions were just stepping stones to becoming a Lead Designer. I’ve wanted to be a designer since I was a little kid playing Super Mario Brothers. I love the creative atmosphere and being in the thick of game development.
What was the inspiration behind the game and how did it evolve from the initial concepts? What's the key "hook" of the game?
The inspiration of Demigod was the desire to make an action game that was easy to pick up, fast to play and got your blood pumping. From the start we wanted to create a game that captured the essence of games like Team Fortress, Halo, Counter Strike and Defense of the Ancients. When we coupled that with Gas Powered’s expertise in real-time strategy and action role playing games, the design of the game came naturally
Have you created a new engine for the game or are you leveraging some of the technology from previous games?
Demigod is built off of the Supreme Commander engine, which has given us a huge leg up in development. Our engineers, artists and designers already knew the engine and we were up and prototyping from day one.
How many demigods are there to choose from, who are they, and what are their general dispositions and styles?
Currently, we feature eight Demigods. Four of those Demigods are Assassins, which focus on brutal abilities and self enhancing items. The other four Demigods are Generals, who focus on team synergistic abilities and items which allow them to augment their forces. As for the details of the Demigods, the few that we’ve seen are:
Rook: The spirit of a dead king who now inhabits a living fortress of stone. The Rook is massive, lumbering and powerful melee Demigod. His attacks are devastating and he is the only Demigod who can attack multiple targets at once. The Rook is an Assassin.
Regulus: An angel who had his wings ripped off by a demon, Regulus is out for vengeance. This Assassin focuses on long-range attacks and manipulation of the battlefield. Regulus is an Assassin.
Torchbearer: The Torchbearer was burned at the stake but instead of this killing him it instead turned him into a crazed mage who can utilize the powers of fire and ice. The Torchbearer is an Assassin who can be played either as a control character, a mana-intensive damage character or as a hybrid of the two.
There are a few more including the Queen of Thorns and Sedna, but we’re not revealing their details at this time. That said, both the Queen and Sedna are Generals.
Since a player isn't picking out a race or a faction, but rather an individual demigod, will all fighting units be available to all demigods?
Demigods will feature all of their functionality in single player.
While not in the meat-lumber-gold sense, resource management must be present to one degree or another in an RTS: How does that aspect play out in Demigod?
In Demigod, resources translate into gold income and experience. There are a number of ways to earn gold, namely: Kill enemy creatures, kill enemy Demigods and finally, control gold mines and objectives that increase gold income. Experience is earned by killing creatures, capturing flags and smiting your foes.
Outside of the Demigods, what other kinds of units will we be controlling in the game?
You only control your Demigod. However, Generals have minions which guard the Generals and the composition and strength of minions can be altered by the player.
The concept of only controlling your Demigod was a tough one for me to embrace, but after prototyping the game in a variety of incarnations, ranging from full RTS control, to limited control, to no control the team and I realized that we were able to deliver the best, most distilled and awesome experience when the game focused on controlling only your Demigod.
In a July Q&A with GameSpot, you hinted that the lines between "general" demigods and "assassin" demigods may blur. (Generals hold the line, while assassins aim to take down the other demigod.) After more beta testing, what's the verdict on that one? Was there anything that has come out of the beta testing that surprised you?
The lines are definitely blurred and honestly, it’s specific to the Demigod in question. The Rook for example is an extremely good structure destroyer, where as a character known as the Unclean Beast is much better at dealing with units and the Torchbearer specializes in either control and denial of other Demigods, or simply burning them to a crisp. Oak on the other hand works best when helping another Demigod.
Each levels draw distances that are far-reaching, but the battlefields are invariably tight and symmetrical. A reasonable fear of ours is visual monotony. What have you done to combat that fear?
Ha! Wait until you see our larger levels. Each of levels has its own music, fog of war and special 3d tech specifically designed for it. Rest assured, they are far from visually boring.
On a more serious note, due to the design of Demigod, which is based around team dynamics and tournament play, it was important for us to feature maps that did not give advantages to one side or the other. You’ll notice these same trends in almost every popular RTS on the market. Are those maps visually monotonous? I haven’t found them to be. Especially when I’m busy trying to gain the upper hand in a fierce battle.
Is combat limited to the arenas or will there be larger areas to battle it out in?
Combat in Demigod occurs on arenas, which vary in size and composition. Crystal map for example features a wide open field for dealing battle on. The map we are currently offering in Beta, Waterfall, is one of our smaller maps.
Piracy is the boogieman of the gaming industry right now and yet you're releasing this game copy-protection free on Stardock's digital distribution system...can you talk about why you've decided to go in that direction?
Piracy is a huge issue in the OC gaming space right now and almost all solutions to prevent it negatively impact both the customer and the developer. It hurts everyone- developers have to spend time implementing solutions like Safe Disc, when they could be focusing on making a better game and customers start having to deal with issues like needing their CD, a key and only being able to install a couple times!
Bottom-line? For this title Stardock and GPG believe that the solution to the problem is worse than the problem itself.
Gas Powered Games and Stardock are stalwarts of PC Gaming, what's your take on the state of PC Gaming and where do you think it's going? What do you think needs to happen to pump some more mojo into the PC Gaming industry?
PC Gaming gets a bad rap. There are certain genres of games which are the pillars of PC Gaming and they simply work better on that platform, for example; real time strategy, first person shooters and massively multiplayer games are at the core of PC gaming. While gaming on the PC may never return to its previous glory, there is still an audience in that space and there will continue to be. The key is understanding and being in tune with that audience and creating the kind of games that are appropriate for that market.
Is there anything we missed that you think people should know?
One of the great things about GPG’s partnership with Stardock is our ability to interact on unprecedented levels with our community. I’m given free reign to discuss a host of options with players that on previous titles I couldn’t. Just the other day I was on IRC chatting with players about the design of new Demigods and getting their input, quite of bit of which went directly into my design.
The result of this communication is a unique experience of creating a game with open two way dialog between the developers and the fans. And now, with Beta open to anyone who preorders the game, it has never been easier to help shape Demigod into the game that the players, not just the developers, want to play. I encourage anyone who’s interested to preorder the game, get playing and jump into the forums and collaborate with us on making this game truly epic.
We’d like to thank Mike for taking the time to talk to us and thank Stephanie for helping to coordinate the interview.