InterviewChris McKibbin, Exec Producer of Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising

  • May 24, 2007
  • Part 2
  • by: Rawker
  • available on: PC

Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising

Developer: Perpetual Entertainment
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment


Setting: historic

The design and care put into the unique paired animations for G&H is astounding. But what I didn't expect was the concept of "targeted" animations. The second and final part of my time with Chris McKibbin at Sony Gamer Day talks to the different types of combat animations and their vision for Nation vs. Nation combat.

I hear so much about "paired animations". So let's start there. Paired animations from the top.

Chris McKibbin: Paired animations came out of the desire to create a combat experience that delivers both high entertainment and a high payoff while being more fun than traditional combat seen to date in MMOs. When designing Gods & Heroes, one of the things that we felt was lacking in traditional MMOs today, is high action combat that gives you a feeling of accomplishment or defeat. We were inspired by games like Soul Caliber and Virtua Fighter where the combat in and of itself is the reason that you play. Out of that desire for exciting combat grew paired animations.

Paired animations is a relatively simple concept where players, NPCs or monsters "earn" a viscerally exciting movement that literally takes over the body of whomever they're fighting. For example take the Centaur: he grabs you, picks you up, hurls you in the air, throws his javelin through you, knocks you to the ground, runs over, and then picks up the javelin. That entire animation sequence is a special sequence that the only occurs between a gladiator [ed. a specific class] and a centaur - it really shows that visceral payoff. We feel from an entertainment standpoint it gives the quality feedback and visual experience that a powerful move should. We just think it's fun!

One of the other benefits is the uniqueness it gives to enemies. This will result in players coming to Gods & Heroes, encountering new creatures - and the creatures will look very cool and very interesting - but people are going to learn very quickly to start asking, "What is this guy going to do? What set of animations and set of attacks is this creature going to do?" The Gorgon, the pinnacle of whom is Medusa, has a turn to stone move. All of the creatures have unique moves that add to the entertainment of playing the game.

So does "paired" refer to multiple animation sets or?

Chris McKibbin: The paired definition refers to the two sides of the animation. There's the animation the "enemy" completes and there's the animation from the corresponding player character. As in the example of the centaur and the gladiator, that can only occur between them as only a gladiator would be fighting in that style with a centaur. Something else to understand is that we have two types of animations. We have paired animations and we have targeted animations.

Paired animations occur when say a gladiator grabs another player and picks him up, throws him over in a flip, knocks him to the ground and elbows him in the face before he gets up. Those animations are unique and they're for both sides of that encounter. Both the attacker and the attacked have a matching set that fully plays out for the payout of that engagement. When the Talos reaches down - a winged giant in mythology - and picks up a player character or minion, shakes him in the air and then throws him down on the ground, that's a paired animation that both of those entities do.

We have an entirely separate set of targeted animations that's based on the concept that weapons have different weight and different speeds and there are points in space for those weapons to hit: high, medium or low. Through a matrix of possible attack animations, we can author a matching set of reaction animations. While not paired, while not uniquely two-sides of one animation, the targeted animation...if a Satyr comes up to me with a giant two handed hammer and does a overhand move that hits me from the top, it's going to be a high impact/heavy impact hit and we've authored a corresponding set of target reactions to high/heavy. Now consider that matrix of locations and speed and weight. We've designed a set of reaction animations that basically match up with the targets in the world. So, any creature with any weapon can fight with any player and have a set of reactions [ed. animations] that fairly well represent that impact, that payoff and that exchange.

Are paired animations unique to the two creatures?

Chris McKibbin: They're really unique to the pairs. But, because every player character is a human, they're all Romans; they're all sons and daughters of the gods. And while we have varieties in scale in height from a customization standpoint, we don't have extreme differences. We don't have elves or giants or any other race for players to be. So the general animations from the players' side are all pretty similar. However the Talos will have a very different animation than a crocodile. The crocodile grabs your leg, shakes you, and barrel rolls you. And so those animations are very unique for the creatures and the corresponding player reactions.

Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising Gamer Day 2007 Cyclops Battle

That's huge and I think it's fantastic. I understand there will be additional civilizations to play?

Chris McKibbin: The franchise vision is that we continue to add player races and mythologies. If we're successful and can pull it off...and I don't know yet what the first expansion would be but let's say it's Egypt. The great thing about cultures in ancient civilizations is each one has a mythology. Each one has its own culture, its own heroes, its own architecture, its own gods, its own stories, its own myths, its own weapons and its own territory on the map.

So, now imagine we add the Egyptians as a player race with all that entails and it also comes with its own territory, northern Africa, on the map. We've got Rome Rising sort of on the southern Italian peninsula and on northern Africa we have the Egyptians, while at the same time we add contested territory. We now have two mythologies, two player races, both supported by their gods all with unique creatures and abilities and weapons and armor and we now add contested territory. We have real PvP or what we call Nation vs. Nation. That's sort of the franchise vision. And then we add the next mythology, say the Huns or the Barbarians or the Norseman and we continue to add mythologies and cultures and territory on the map and expand more south/east/north/west.

When you do that would I get to have a huge army that I get to strategize on a scale of say a dozen or hundred minions?

Chris McKibbin: One of the things we're going to find out over time is just how much we scale this. The limitations are two-fold. It's based upon performance of systems and it controllability - it's the fun factor. We don't know. We're as excited as anybody to figure out over time it will evolve because the idea of having multiple groups turn into a character's army battling another character's army - that idea is a really powerful one. I don't how close we'll get to that; it's really predicated by those two things. But, it's what we'll be working towards. I think over time we'll come close to realizing that.

It will be interesting to have the Vikings fight the Romans, although I guess it could get rather clichйd if you make like the Norse all blonde and buffed out...

Chris McKibbin: For us history and historical accuracy goes out the window. Having the Egyptians fighting the Vikings with the Huns pouring it? How great would that be?

One of the great things is it's not even clichйd because each civilization has unique aspects that really impacts the way that they fought and the way that they advanced through civilization. Their gods, their heroes, their weapons, their core skills were all different. The Egyptians would be pretty potent in their chariots. And that's real.

The Romans were about organization and army tactics.

The Vikings were certainly seafaring, and if we default to things like Thor, then they're giant blonde guys wielding would be awesome!

Part 1 Here!

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About the Author, Chris Peterson (A.K.A Rawker)

I’m the Exec Producer at Heavy Melody Music & Sound Design. I like a broad spectrum of games but my favorite is the first Ghost Recon. Right now I’m hooked on Wii Tennis, EA’s Mini Golf on the iPod (!) and I like word games. I play guitar and go to tons of concerts. In addition to music and game audio, I’ve produced a lot of TV programming and I used to produce concert videos for the web.