God is dead. That's the premise of Demigod, the upcoming tactical real-time strategy/role-playing hybrid from Gas Powered Games. Now that the all-powerful All Father is out of the way, the throne of the universe is yours for the taking. But as a child of the All Father, or demigod, you'll have to wage war against your very own brothers to take big papi's place. Talk about sibling rivalry.
For Gas Powered Games, the creator of the superb RTS Supreme Commander and the acclaimed action RPG Dungeon Siege, Demigod is a natural blending of genres. After choosing one of several demigods, you'll do battle against both AI opponents and other players online in a persistent battlefield before finally claiming the universe as your own. We sat down with Brad Wardell, CEO of publisher Stardock, and Chris Taylor, CEO and founder of Gas Powered Games, to get the latest on Demigod and the battle for godhood. Here's what they had to say.
GameSpot: Give us an overview of Demigod. What's the game about?
Brad Wardell: Demigod is a tactical strategy game in which players are battling to ascend to godhood. A god has vanished and his children now battle to take his place.
The maps in the game are set up as vast arenas in which the different demigods battle it out for domination. Through their battles, these demigods rise in capability becoming increasingly powerful through new skills, spells, and other abilities. As players capture key portions of the arena on their way to victory, they gain access to special items and resources which they can use to gain access to better equipment, more lethal minions, and more.
The game can be played either single-player or multiplayer in skirmish mode, or players can participate in a persistent online or individual campaign in which they wage war across many arenas to gain the necessary ingredients needed to ascend to the pantheon of the gods.
Chris Taylor: Brad summed it up really nicely, but let me add a little about the incredible Supreme Commander technology we used to build the game on. For example, the "Strategic Zoom" feature makes playing the game incredible, as it's a piece of cake to zoom in to any part of the battle, or zoom out to see the whole war taking place. It's so buttery and intuitive to play, people will be right at home.
GS: It seems easy to conclude that Demigod may just be the result of Gas Powered Games' previous game history of creating real-time strategy games in Supreme Commander and role-playing games in Dungeon Siege, but why go the route of a role-playing and strategy hybrid game?
BW: What's so compelling about Demigod is that while it is ultimately a strategy game, it takes some of the most enjoyable pieces from RPGs that in hindsight, the blending seems obvious. That is, one almost wants to say, "Well of course my primary unit (the demigod) should be leveling up and becoming more powerful over the course of a given game." And while players can certainly play online skirmishes in which all players start out on a level playing field, we also wanted to give them the option of being able to bring in their demigod that they've built up through the games. This has become quite popular in games like Battlefield 2 where people gain access to ever-increasing capabilities through their experiences.
CT: First of all, we wanted to create something new, but we also wanted an experience that felt familiar. That's a very interesting balance to strike. We definitely have a lot of in-house expertise with both the RPG and RTS genres, so bringing them together into one experience made a lot of sense for us.
GS: What are the differences between the two player classes of assassin and general?
CT: Well, it's interesting that you should ask! Up until now assassins would focus on killing other demigods, and generals would focus on pushing and holding ground, but right now we are experimenting with the idea of giving each of these skills to the other. We may blur the line between the two, making these "titles" less important by the time the game ships, but making each demigod way more fun to play. It's all part of the game tuning and balancing process. But who knows, in the end we might leave it the way it is... Our betas and play tests are ongoing.
GS: Tell us about how the character and world persistence work in the game. How has the team addressed making real-time strategy elements, such as killable armies and destructible strongholds, be persistent in an online game that's accessible 24/7?
BW: It's not persistent in the sense of an MMO. For instance, in the persistent online universe in which players are competing 24/7, what is happening is that players choose a demigod and along with thousands of other players, compete to get their demigod ascended. There may be tens of thousands of other players who are on your side to help that particular demigod rise. To use an analogy, in Total Annihilation's Boneyards, players could pick a side and try to help that side gain mastery of the universe. In Demigod, the actual demigod you choose is your side. The war is about the demigod, not a particular "race" or "faction."
CT: In addition to what Brad is saying, we are adding an achievement system for players who are very dedicated and play a lot, much like Battlefield and Call of Duty 4. Stat tracking is also something that we are very much into like we did for Supreme Commander.
GS: How do characters develop over time as they survive battles? Do they gain additional skills? Pick up persistent items?
BW: Yes. And this is one of the things we think really makes Demigod stand out. For the past decade, it seems like strategy games have almost exclusively focused on the idea that you're picking a "faction" or a "race." After 10 years of people picking orcs or Drengin or Nod or whatever, it's quite an interesting change that you're choosing a single individual. An insanely powerful, ass-kicking individual, but...still an individual. It's a game where the whole point is making this ridiculously powerful demigod even more ridiculously powerful.
CT: Yes, new items are one of the things the player's demigod can gain access to, as well as new abilities. Ridiculously powerful, that definitely sums it up!
GS: What kind of support is planned for the game at and postlaunch? Will there be an open beta in advance? Patch updates afterward?
BW: Since this is a Stardock-published game, it means open betas and lots of postrelease support. We intend to start the open beta next month, where users who have preordered the game get access to betas if they want to participate.
GS: How will the game be distributed? Will it make an appearance at retail? Online seems like the primary platform to deliver the game; why choose this format?
BW: It'll be available worldwide at retail. I'm not sure why people would think it would only be available online. All our titles are available at retail as well as online.
GS: Tell us about the relationship between Gas Powered and Stardock on this game. Who's doing what?
BW: We learned a lot from working on Sins of a Solar Empire with Ironclad, that the most effective way to do these games is close collaboration. For Demigod, we have integrated our teams together. It's probably been quite a change of pace at GPG.
As we've seen the game come along, Chris and I have concluded that this game is particularly special and our direct involvement in the design and development has grown significantly. In many respects, the final game is largely going to be the blending of my love of single-player gaming and Chris and his team's fantastic skills at creating compelling multiplayer experiences.
CT: As Brad mentioned, his involvement is very different, and much more so on a daily basis than a traditional publisher. It's really pretty amazing what Brad can do, and the contributions he makes, given that he is also the CEO of Stardock. We like to bounce ideas around, brainstorm, and really collaborate on the games design and development. I don't think you'll find anyone who's capable of understanding the minutiae of game development like Brad [is]... He's one of a kind, and really gets it. For example, next month he's coming out to visit us, and he'll be grabbing a seat with the development team, and rolling up his sleeves to help out with the game. Brad's capable of almost anything; whether it be AI, tuning and balancing, or engine work, he's a gaming guru!
GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about the game?
CT: Are you kidding me, I've always got something to add! If you are reading this interview, and you just watched the trailer, believe me, the trailer footage is all straight from the game engine. And if you haven't checked out the trailer yet, please check it out, it will give you a sense of how outrageous Demigod is, and what is in store when the game comes out next year. We couldn't be more excited about it.