Past, present, and future. While the totality of a game studio encompasses all three aspects, we often focus on only one or two at a time. Over the last week, we heard a great deal about Hi-Rez Studios' present during Hi-Rez Expo 2017, from the tournaments (congrats to all the winners!) to what's immediately in the works for its roster of games. But there are still the two other sides to the studio to consider. And these are the sides I explored in interviews with President Stew Chisam and VP Brian Greyson. Specifically I wanted to learn if the company had plans to connect its past with its future in regards to Global Agenda. I was also curious as to what other directions the SMITE franchise might take.
One of the most common questions that I'm asked from my adoring throngs on the street is, "Justin, where oh where can I get some of these marvelous MMO soundtracks that you talk about all of the time?" OK, that just never happens (on the street, that is), but people are often curious how they can go about starting to amass an MMO soundtrack collection or where to find their favorite album.
The sad truth is that so much music from these games is never officially released in any capacity, which is why I scour YouTube for fan rips of the music files. However, every so often I do discover a studio release somewhere, and I try to keep an up-to-date log on these to help others in their quest for video game scores.
So in the spirit of Christmas and sharing, today I'm going to show you how you can get your ears on more than 120 soundtracks and scores from MMOs, MOBAs, and other online titles -- some of which are free and legal for the taking. You're welcome; don't mention it!
"SMITE Tactics is a turn-based strategy game set in the same universe as the popular MOBA, so players can expect to see many familiar faces from the Battleground of the Gods. [...] SMITE Tactics is a game of strategy where players will carefully choose which minions to deploy across the battlefield and which gods will lead them. Every unit has unique abilities and players will build their armies prior to battle using collectible cards. Players will be able to compete for prestige in 1v1 ranked competitive modes and experience various adventure modes versus AI."
Testing is slated to begin in 2016; you can already sign up on the official site.
Get ready for some big news! We'll be announcing our new game tomorrow on the Patch Notes Show (4 pm EDT)! https://t.co/qA2UpfWqe4
— Smite: The Game (@SmiteGame) October 18, 2016
A lot of folks who'd never paid Hi-Rez's new shooter/MOBA Paladins any mind started paying attention to it last week when it soared into open beta. And a lot of folks suddenly realized the game looks pretty familiar. Let's not sugarcoat it: Gamers across Reddit and even our own comments were throwing around accusations that Paladins is an outright Overwatch clone.
If you're plenty familiar with the history of the shooter, you're probably rolling your eyes already, but Hi-Rez COO Todd Harris hopped on Reddit to spell it all out for the "copycat" allegers, starting with the history of Paladins, which has been in development since 2012 as a "fantasy based Global Agenda PvP like game" called Aurum. And then, at BlizzCon 2014?
"Overwatch was announced," Harris says.
"We were shocked and not sure what direction to take. We were already so far along with Paladins, but we didn't want to compete directly against Blizzard. We initially tried to find different ways to differentiate on game-play (different TTK, different style maps and game modes, different theme, etc), but the feedback from our tests, stats, and surveys showed that only a small part of our population was enjoying that style of game. In the end we said screw it and just made what we thought best, and closest to our original vision, even if people would think it's too close to Overwatch. We created almost all the Paladins classes and abilities using Global Agenda and Smite as our template. We used our Aurum fantasy theme from 2012 and Smite characters as placeholders (although some like Grover the tree just stayed). As a last point, it would be almost impossible for a studio of our size to 'clone' Overwatch in a year, but Overwatch did have some nice features that we decided to incorporate into Paladins (Kill Cam, Improved Lag comp, some verbiage like 'eliminations')."
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.
Being a Hi-Rez Studios fan means looking back with a certain degree of wistfulness toward the games that didn't quite have huge mainstream success. Global Agenda was the studio's first game, and it certainly didn't light the world on fire, resulting in its current state of limbo. But there's hope on the horizon from a recent tweet about the next Paladins update:
I think Global Agenda fans may like our next @PaladinsGame release.
— HiRezStew (@schisam) January 11, 2016
What does that mean? Who can say? It could mean new game modes that might be familiar to Global Agenda fans, it could mean more jetpacks, it could mean Global Agenda-inspired armor, it could mean an entirely new persistent world complete with robots. It could be almost anything! But it definitely means that existing fans of the game should keep their eyes open for that next release.
Obviously, we couldn't figure all of this out based purely on speculation and possible Metalocalypse references. We asked a few questions about the future of Hi-Rez Studios and received answers from studio co-founder and COO Todd Harris. Read on to find out more about development plans for both tribes fans and the extended catalog of the studio as a whole.
During a recent charity livestream, Hi-Rez Studios dropped a minute-long teaser of its team playing an unannounced title. Brief glimpses of the game were shown, which looks to be a multiplayer first-person shooter with high-tech guns and bows.
The team concluded the teaser by saying that a separate group has been working on this game for a year now and that it won't impact SMITE's development or promotion.
"SMITE is still growing very fast," said Hi-Rez.
You can watch the teaser after the break -- let us know what you think it is!