As of late, the free-to-play MMO shooter, Heroes & Generals, has been hitting a number of milestones. First with over 5 million players battling it out for control of different territories, and most recently, it’s first year on Steam.
We decided to catch up with Reto-Moto a developer with a rich history. Starting off in 1997 the company created IO Interactive, who you’ll probably know most as the developer of the Hitman series. Upon selling IO Interactive in 2004 to Eidos Interactive, the founding members of Reto-Moto left Eidos and reformed the company bringing some of the core developers from IO Interactive.
The company’s first big release under this name is of course Heroes & Generals, a massively ambitious multiplayer war game where players from all over the world work together to attack and defend territories through a series of smaller battles which involve teams working together to secure checkpoints within each game.
This is of course a drastic change from the Hitman series, a game known best for its smaller maps and tactical espionage gameplay. Speaking with Game Director Jacob Andersen he revealed that the team wanted to create something much different than Hitman.
“When we started this project we deliberately wanted to create a game that was different than Hitman. Mainly the multiplayer and MMO aspects were areas that we wanted to explore after creating 5 single player boxed-games. We had a good idea of the direction the game should go but we had no experience in these areas and have had to make a lot of experimentation.”
Of course, the Hitman series is best known for its single player campaigns, but with Heroes & Generals it’s quite the opposite. There’s no single player mode, instead players are thrown into a mass participation game where teams work together to claim objectives, something Reto-Moto wanted from the very beginning.
On the game’s setting, Reto-Moto didn’t want to follow the current trend of modern warfare either, and with many of the team having an interest in World War 2, the game’s current theme stuck.
“[With Heroes & Generals] we were sure we wanted to make a massive online game. We had several themes that we thought would work out. In order to reduce risk on the project – we had never done multiplayer network games before AND publishing them ourselves – we chose a theme that we knew was ‘evergreen’. A lot of the developers also have a deep interest in WWII, so it seemed like a natural choice.”
With such a heavy focus on team-based gameplay, games like Heroes & Generals often fall falter to players who’d rather go “Lone Wolf” than actually work in a team, but this is something Reto-Moto have been working hard to prevent, one of the ways they’ve found is by offering a common objective for all players, so no matter how you play, you’ll naturally work in a team together even if you don’t communicate.
“One example [we’ve added to encourage team-based play] is the linking of the ‘control points’ that the players need to capture in the right order. This forces the players to focus on the same area on the map and thereby rewarding teamplay.”
At the core of Heroes & Generals is the faction war which currently offers two sides to choose from, Axis and Allies. But as it stands however, the majority of players choose Axis as their faction of choice, something Reto-Moto have noticed and attribute to the number of European players playing the game. They do however feel that players may move over to the Allies faction when they introduce the British at some point. Ultimately however, their goal is to spread the faction balance out a little more than it currently is.
Speaking of Factions, Reto-Moto revealed that they’re currently working on a way to introduce soldiers from new factions without having to bring in a complete set of soldiers, vehicles and weapons. “This way we can also ‘test’ the popularity of a certain faction before spending time and money on content that might not be popular,” Andersen said.
When new factions are added to the game however, weapons used by said faction are also added and a lot goes into accurately representing their true-to-life counterparts, but at the same time they’re also tweaked slightly to ensure a perfect balance.
“Some weapons/vehicles have been tweaked to come a bit closer to their counterparts on the other factions, but most are kept as real a possible,” he revealed. “Obviously this gives us a few headaches with players that expect all weapons to have a direct counterpart on other factions. In most cases it’s just a matter of adjusting one’s playstyle though.”
As mentioned previously, Heroes & Generals recently hit the 5 million player milestone and is found at the top of the free-to-play games section on Steam, something Reto-Moto are naturally thrilled about. But as the game is still in Early Access, there’s still a way to go before they can call it a ‘full release’.
“We do not plan on ending development of of the game at some point, but are determined to keep adding new features and things to play with. We do have a lot of players who come back after having left the game for months and are surprised how much new stuff is available. And we also expect that number to just steadily grow in the future.”
While looking deeper into Heroes & Generals we couldn’t quite shake the reminder of a similar mass-participation game from 2010 called MAG which used a similar persistent war mechanic. We asked Reto-Moto whether they played the game, and whether it was something that impressed them, and they had some pretty interesting insights to offer.
“I never played MAG but I read about it. I think one of the things that hurt MAG was i fact the case that it had too many players at the same time (256 i think?),” he said.
“We’re focusing on fewer players as it seems too hard for that many players to communicate and work together. It just ends up being too chaotic. Also, as you mentioned earlier, most players still like a small degree of ‘lone wolf’ in the game or at least the option to occasionally stray from the group.”
Heroes & Generals is a free-to-play title currently available on Steam.