Hello ladies and gentlefriends! We present you an all exclusive interview with Game Producer Tim Shannon of S2 Games! Here we will introduce you to Strife, the upcoming MOBA game that is still in Closed Beta. S2 Games have also created Heroes of Newerth and Savage 1 and 2, and have definitely left their permanent mark in the gaming industry by setting a current standard as to what MOBAs should look and play like. With that experience, they are looking to set an entirely new standard for the MOBA genre. Read further to get an inside look on Strife, part 1 of the interview. (Read part 2 here)
Q: Good day, JR here from MMOGames. Can you please introduce yourself to our readers and give a brief background about your company?
A: To introduce myself a little bit, I’m Tim Shannon the Producer for Strife. I’ve been working with S2 Games for about two years in this capacity. Before I started this job I was studying online communities from a geographical perspective at Ohio State University. While this is my first job in the industry, I have played computer games pretty much since I can remember (and have been nothing special at them my entire life).
S2 Games was founded in 2000 with the goal of pushing the boundaries of online multiplayer games. This goal has directed our work for the past decade and was the impetus behind all of our titles. Savage 1 (2003) and Savage 2 (2008) were some of the initial forays into the real-time-strategy-shooter genre that blends the frenetic pace of an FPS with the macro scale strategy of an RTS. Heroes of Newerth followed a few years later and was one of the first round of MOBAs to establish the genre as part of the industry. Still going strong after three years, Heroes of Newerth continues to set a standard for competitive play in the MOBA genre.
S2 started out as a small team in Rhonert Park, CA and has since grown to five times its initial size with offices in Rhonert Park and Kalamazoo MI (where the owner and CEO grew up). Judging on the initial popularity and energy of Strife and the Strife community that has been observed in the fledgling days of closed beta and during earlier conventions, S2 stands to continue growing in size over the coming years as Strife moves through the beta and release processes.
Q: Being the team who created Heroes of Newerth, what made you decide to create another MOBA-themed game in Strife?
A: Heroes of Newerth is a great game. That being said, it is also a somewhat limited game in that the scope of the project during development was to replicate the DOTA 1 formula on a contemporary game-engine. Because of this goal, HoN replicates the “good” along with the “bad” of the DOTA 1 formula. At the time it was made, this mode of thinking made sense. Two years ago when development started in earnest on Strife, we decided that S2 Games had learned enough about building and operating a MOBA to break from that mode of thinking and take the next step forward and evolve the genre. For, while the current generation of MOBAs have made their mark on history for their popularity and dynamism, they have also made similar marks for being toxic environments that breed hostility and place onerous demands on new community members. Strife is the product of our pioneering journey into the next generation of the MOBA genre: games are built from the ground up to embody the accumulated knowledge of the last several years in the MOBA scene.
Q: Strife incorporates some new aspects of gameplay outside of the arena, such as the Pet and Crafting mechanics. Can you explain a bit more about these mechanics?
A: These are both elements that we are currently still fine-tuning and experimenting with so I will try to stick with core design goals.
Going into Strife we wanted to develop a method for reducing the burden of knowledge associated with the hero pool without losing the re-playability that most of the genre enjoys. Similarly, we wanted to come up with a way to give people a sense of progression within the game that wasn’t tied to their matchmaking ranking (a perpetual source of negative feedback), but also had a bearing on their game play that didn’t grant too much advantage to veteran players over new players.
Pets and crafting more or less emerged from our discussions of these goals and tensions. Both of the systems are designed to encourage players to experiment with hero builds so that there is ample variability in play from a limited hero pool. Both systems also allow people to feel as though their time spent in the game has amounted to something tangible that gives them a unique experience regardless of how well they have played. Balancing these systems so that veteran players aren’t given an undue advantage is something we’re currently working on getting right before going into open beta.
With their current work-in-progress status in mind, pets are basically a stable of companions that each person accumulates through playing the game, one of which accompanies the hero into each match. This companion, depending on level, gives the hero some set of additional passive and active abilities that are meant to complement hero abilities by pulling them towards a certain play-style. For example, a ranged auto-attacking hero could pick a pet that grants health/regen in order to augment its survivability while turreting or that same hero could pick a mobility pet in order to position themselves more easily during team fights. In both cases the same set of skills are pointed towards different applications by the abilities the pets are adding to the kit.
Similarly, crafted items are made through spending resources that are earned from playing the game to alter the components that are included in any item. In this way, crafting allows people to re-purpose items and push their builds in new directions. To give you an example, I craft mana regen into an item that accumulates health and mana over ten minutes and get it as my first item on Ace (a initiator burst damage hero). This gives my hero a strong base of attributes at the beginning of the game and means that later on I don’t have to worry as much about mana so that I can swap out the mana component in another item that grants an AoE slow for power which I need at that point to keep my burst damage scaling in sync with my survivability into the late game where I will need both to pull my weight. By making these component substitutions with crafting I have created a new hybrid tank/mage build that has opened up novel path of developing Ace throughout the game.
Q: For the pet system, most if not all the pets give the heroes some passive skills. Can these skills be leveled up in-game or have greater potency when you feed your pets?
A: The current iteration of the pet system sets one level for all pets that is tied to the account level. This pet level dictates the strength of the pet abilities. We transitioned to this account level based system in order to allow people to feel like they are making progress by level and unlocking new pets, without them feeling like they have to level a new pet up the entire way before they can play with it – thus reducing the room for experimentation.
Q: The Crafting system allows item customization, but do the items the players have created become permanent in-game?
A: So our current iteration of crafting has every new recipe be permanent once crafted and automatically accessible within game. When a player enters the game they will be able to see their crafted item recipes alongside the standard ones.
Q: Can other players share the crafting recipe from other players and use them in-game?
A: Currently, we have not added a method of sharing crafted items in game. Players can share their crafted item recipes through chat, however.
Q: There is also the Enchanting system that provides players the chance to bolster their items. Can you elaborate on how player can enchant their equipment?
A: Enchanting no longer exists. We are currently experimenting with additional modes of customization through crafting.
Q: Will players be able to access the resources needed in Enchanting outside of playing in the arena?
A: Currently we are allowing players to either pay for crafting with resources earned from the game or gems. This is because crafting offers no inherent advantage over non-crafted items like it used to. If we implement a new system, it will depend on how bonuses are implemented and balanced. We have taken pains to limit as much as possible the ability to pay-for-power in game. That being said, we also recognize that people will want to spend money to save time grinding out all the resources they desire. Finding a balance between servicing these two interests would require that bonuses on items not be free in-game as they were with the original iteration of crafting – i.e. if you wanted to craft a better item than the base form, it would cost more than its base form. This is the current direction we’re thinking, but as I said before we are still in an experimental phase for replacing enchanting.
Q: That being said, will players who have been playing the game longer than everyone else have an edge as it pertains to resources and the like?
A: This was in essence the reason enchanting needed to be removed from the game – veteran players were just flat out more powerful that newer players and in a small beta community that can be a major deterrent. While we hope to design peripheral game systems in such a way that this is not an issue, we are also factoring account level into matchmaking such that newer solo players or groups should not encounter resource inequality issues.
Thank you Tim for shedding some light on your upcoming MOBA game. For more info on Strife, read part two of the interview by clicking here.Related: Interview, MOBA, S2 Games, Strife