It is true that the Hi-Rez Expo has wrapped up for 2018, and we’ll need to wait another 12 months to attend the next one. (Folks should be over the effects of the after party by then!) There’s just something awesome about getting to gather with tons of fans in one place as well speaking with devs face-to-face. Every year has been cool, but this year has something a little extra: Founder and CEO Erez Goren attended and mingled, answering questions and sharing his love for gaming.
Goren hasn’t given many public interviews in years, but between the dev roundtable with President Stew Chisam and bumping into him on the show floor and chatting with him individually, I got to learn a number of fun facts about the philosophy and workings of the studio from the tip top man himself. And it is true, everything did come from Global Agenda!
Although the studio makes other games and each has a presence at Hi-Rez Expo 2018
, there’s no denying that SMITE
was the star of the show. Fans were excited for the big world championship tournament as well as announcements about the MOBA’s development.
And the expo delivered on both counts. EUnited brought the SMITE trophy back the the US for the first time in years, while devs shared some info about the upcoming Season 5.
I sat down with Executive Producer Chris Larson and Lead Designer A.J. Walker to get more details on the new conquest map, the new pantheons, community feedback, and the next adventure mode.
After a few days of playing Bot Smashers at Hi-Rez Expo 2018 this past weekend, I sat down and talked shop with Rory Newbrough, Bot Smashers Design Director, to get a few more details on the upcoming game. I discovered where the idea came from, and learned more about what to expect in its released form.
What I didn’t learn was that the newly announced game had an MMO version hiding in the wings. Yes, I said that. I think I would totally live in a gaming world of the bots from here. They all have such personality, and they are pretty pleasing to the eye. One of them already has a cloak! The idea just oozes fun. I could see the gruff Topsy trying to maintain order, while the ever-flailing Smashbot runs panicked from life’s crazy stuff. And those Rangerbots? They’ll band together like little green army men to get stuff done. Sadly for me, the mobile game is not an MMO – only a 1v1 battle arena. Maybe someday it could be. (Hey, leave me with my unlikely hopes!) Until that pipe dream can find a thread of reality, here’s what you can expect from the actual mobile game.
Hi-Rez Expo 2018 ended this weekend, which means my opportunity to play the studio’s new 1v1 mobile game Bot Smashers has also ended. And that makes me sad. Like last year’s SMITE Rivals (RIP) that I loved so much, the only place to play was the expo show floor. No expo floor means no playing. Now I must wait for a general release to battle some more bots — and right now there is no set time.
What exactly is Bot Smashers, you ask, and why did it enchant me so much? Well that’s exactly what I am going to share with you. Then we can wait on the game together! Hopefully the wait won’t be too terribly long; Rory Newbrough, Bot Smashers GM and design director, noted that the studio hopes to get testing for the game started in the spring, then follow with a soft launch soon after.
Paladins got not one but four announcements at this year’s Hi-Rez Expo. There’s a brand-new team death match mode coming as well as new battle cat mounts and a unique new champion. And then there was the biggest news revealing the upcoming Paladins: Battlegrounds.
But announcements only gloss the surface of things, so I sat down with devs to discuss the new modes. Todd Harris, Hi-Rez COO and Paladins Producer, and Erez Goren, Founder and CEO, shared details and answered questions on Team Deathmatch and Paladins: Battlegrounds. I also got to settle in and play a few matches of Battlegrounds. Here’s what I learned in the interviews and my hands-on.
When Hi-Rez Studios first revealed its upcoming online shooter Paladins, people immediately started comparing it to Overwatch and the slew of MOBAs on the market today. Paladins definitely seems to derive many of its core ideas from MOBAs, with team-based objectives and iconic characters with abilities that unlock and improve over the course of a match. The main difference is that players in Paladins put together decks of power-up cards that unlock throughout each match rather than just levelling up their character’s core abilities.
In a new interview with Rock Paper Shotgun, developers revealed that the original design of the game was actually more like Team Fortress 2 or Global Agenda, with relatively few character classes but plenty of customisation via the card system. Feedback from testers has since shown that gamers much prefer a MOBA-style system with a larger number of characters that each has its own iconic identity and fills a particular role and gameplay style.
Developers now plan to limit the amount of customisation that’s possible using the card system so that each character’s playstyle is more consistent and predictable and wacky builds are less feasible. “The element of understanding the enemy and their capabilities is important to flag up here,” CEO Erez Goren told RPS, later adding that “People don’t seem to appreciate the variation on a character as much as they do having a new character that does things that particular way.” Paladins is currently in closed beta and is scheduled for release at some point during this year.
Back in August, Hi-Rez surprised disgruntled Tribes: Ascend fans by announcing that it would be resuming updates after years of maintenance mode. At the time, CEO Erez Goren explained, “With the success of SMITE and Paladins, we have more resources than ever in the studio. We can now afford to go back and improve older games.”
The first large-scale patch for the revived shooter arrives tonight, and it’s a doozy: Just check out the patch notes. Among the core changes, players will find that classes have been heavily reworked into just three armor-based archetypes. There are several new capture-the-flag maps too, along with gear and vehicle tweaks.
Shelve your snark, Hi-Rez detractors: It looks as if Tribes: Ascend isn’t dead after all.
Following rumors last week that suggested the studio might be turning its attention back to the long-neglected 2012 entry to the Tribes franchise, CEO Erez Goren tweeted the confirmation, noting that the good fortunes of MOBA SMITE and the upcoming Paladins have made the reinvestment possible: