The days of old-school AAA devs delving into the tempting land of Kickstarter for the first time might be behind us, but John Smedley (former CEO of Daybreak/Sony Online Entertainment) begs to differ. By the looks of it he also wants to reinvent sandbox RPGs with Hero’s Song – an 2D hack n’ slash game that recently hit the crowdfunding realm. It’s also being made by his newly formed studio called Pixelmage Games.
But before continuing on to the specifics, I just want to mention a bunch of names involved in this project – namely Patrick Rothfuss (author of many books you should probably read), Bill Trost (lead designer of EverQuest) and Inon Zur (the man behind the music of Fallout 4 and Dragon Age: Origins, among many others). Yeah.
Anyway, we are are looking at a 2D pixel-styled hack n’ slash RPG – kind of similar to what you’d see in Diablo, but more leaning towards a sandbox experience. It’s not all so simple though, as the game’s idea is rather bold and intriguing, essentially describing a constantly evolving world that is heavily reliant on its narrative and mythos. As such, there are no main quests, but instead worlds shaped by several pantheons available as options at the beginning. In other words, Gods play a central part in pretty much everything you see – be it geographical characteristics, different history, inhabitants and so on.
How is this going to work? Well, one world might have all Deep Dwarves wiped out after battling the Ashen Elves for generations, with this eliminating the race as an option to chose in the very start while also influencing the world’s structure, both historically and geographically. Or perhaps you could even have a world stripped of all magic due to some colossal “mistakes were made” events in the past. Even spicier is the fact that Hero’s Song can be played both singleplayer and multiplayer, with Pixelmage planning to have dedicated servers which can accommodate “up to hundreds of players at one time”.
The presence of dedicated servers hosting so many players is particularly interesting, as if this game does end up seeing the light of day we might see lots of communities being build within it – just think Minecraft servers, but instead with Diablo-style RPG systems. In the same time though, for that to happen there needs to be a ton of randomly generated content – crucially content that should really be worth players’ time. By the looks of it, this part is being supervised by designer Ben Cassell (AKA CohhCarnage for all you Twitch lovers), with this being both exciting and puzzling to see since he is already in charge of the current Kickstarter for Project Resurgence.
Going back to the world building aspect, the idea of an always living world kind of reminds me of what Ken Levine was talking about a few years ago after he
left disbanded Irrational Games, specifically discussing the idea of an ever-evolving narrative sandbox in which every choice has a direct correlation. And although I doubt that Hero’s Song can achieve this specific vision, it’s at least taking a stab at the concept while also promising an intriguing, narrative-driven fantasy world.
Finally, I feel it’s necessary to mention that Hero’s Song requires $800,000 – a sum that comes on top of $1,000,000 already accumulated by the studio via private investor(s). In the same time though, this is a team consisting of extremely experienced members with tons of classic games like Star Wars Galaxies, Planetside 2, H1Z1 and Shadowrun under their belts. Smedley also mentioned to gamesindustry.biz that development would continue even if the Kickstarter project fails to reach its goal, essentially saying that the campaign acts as a way to gain followers and attract individuals caring about such gameplay-centric experiences more than anything else – a mind-frame I can certainly stand behind.
With that being said, the $128,000 mark has already been hit and with 24 days to go I can definitely see this ending up as a successful project. As for the unique narrative-driven system – it’s going to be a matter of tying all those little nuances into an experience that is actually fun to play, both solo and online. As of now, actual gameplay is somewhat uninspiring and rather lacking in term of specifics, but I’m willing to attribute this to how early Hero’s Song is in development.
Track the progress of the Hero’s Song Kickstarter in our Campaign Calendar.