Former SOE and Daybreak boss John Smedley took to Twitter alongside some famous friends for the announcement of Hero’s Song, a title independently developed by Smedley’s new Pixelmage Games studio.
Acclaimed author Patrick Rothfuss joined Smedley on a livestream hosted by popular streamer CohhCarnage. CohhCarnage will also be collaborating with Pixelmage on the game, bringing “a fresh point of view to world and game design, with an eye toward how to reward not just the individual player, but the larger community of players and spectators.”
If that wasn’t enough star power, Pixelgames has managed to snag the award-winning composer Inon Zur to do the game’s soundtrack. Zur composed the soundtrack for Power Rangers, then went on to score Baldur’s Gate 2 and Dragon Age: Origins, among many others. He’s a beloved composer in the gaming community, and his name alone carries a strong pull.
Rothfuss “isn’t writing” for Hero’s Song, according to Smedley. Rather, his involvement leans heavily toward brainstorming much of the lore and storytelling that will be present in the game. Those stories will be told in a manner that purports to follow some of the same design ideas of possibly the most complex simulation game ever created, Bay 12 Games’ Dwarf Fortress.
In fact, Hero’s Song was described by Smedley as “the love child of Dwarf Fortress, Diablo, and Ultima Online.” It aims to create a wealth of intersecting rules and systems for a world that is then generated for exploration by “hundreds,” if not thousands — depending on testing — of players.
The game will allow you to host your world for those players and for people to adventure together. Death is permanent, so whether or not the hosted world is set to allow players to murder one another, you’ll need to step lightly. A host of playable races and classes will be thrown into the mix, with many announced and more to come in the future.
Those options, however, will vary from world to world. While the game generates the thousand-year history of the simulated fantasy environment — much like Dwarf Fortress — entire races may go extinct, or certain ancient magics may go undiscovered. If you manage to reach level 50 alive, you’ll have the opportunity to “ascend” and become one of the gods in the pantheon of your — or your host’s — world.
And while the game’s systems rival — or in many cases surpass — some of the biggest games ever made, the visuals sport a clear and simple pixel art aesthetic. Smedley claims that the simple art style allows the team to craft assets quickly enough to allow them to focus in on gameplay and its underlying complex systems. Rothfuss backed him up, adding that he personally “feels more immersed” in games with simpler graphical styles. As a man who creates epic narratives without any pictures at all, it comes out less as an excuse than a confident assertion about the way games tell their stories.
Hero’s Song is looking to add to its $1 million in investments with another $800,000 via Kickstarter. The game itself will sell for $20, but rewards stretch all the way into the stratosphere at $10,000 donations. For that kind of money, they’ll even let you hang out in the studio with them for an entire week.
Smedley himself has been a divisive figure, both loved and hated by the masses ever since his involvement in the creation of then-blockbuster MMO EverQuest. Smedley more recently stepped down from his position at Daybreak Entertainment — creators of the zombie apocalypse sim H1Z1 — reportedly due to concerns over his being targeted by hacker group Lizard Squad.
Hero’s Song looks to be a fresh start for Smedley and an opportunity for Rothfuss to get back into game design — something he mentioned that he had tried before his career as a novelist. It’s also a chance for CohhCarnage to dip his toe into the industry that provides his material.
There are a lot of reasons to be excited about this ambitious project, but it also has an immense promise to keep. If successful, its scope could handily dwarf — no pun intended — even major releases from franchises like The Elder Scrolls.
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