Interview With SteamTank Entertainment’s Geoffrey White

What’s the game’s combat like? The enemy limb targeting system sounds especially juicy; reminds me a little of Vagrant Story.

Combat in To Be a Hero is real time but I really didn’t want to make just another Action RPG, so I decided to add a targeting system that is integral to success. It’s not just there for your amusement; many monsters can’t be beaten unless you know how to fight them, or you are many times as powerful as they are. This way the game retains that strategic element. Also, everything is logic based. For instance, if you are fighting a large eyeball creature, try stabbing it in the eye. Its eye is easy to hit, and now it can’t see you, and you can pick it off from a safe distance. Or, break a brigand’s arm first, so his sword doesn’t hit very often. Then it’s a cake walk to chop him down.

Another interesting thing you will note about the game is how every action doesn’t have a specific animation. You won’t see your character do a kick animation when he breaks an enemy’s knee. This is because we wanted to focus on interesting game play rather than graphics. So instead, we added floating text that tells you what happened. So when you hurt them it says “Knee Broken!” or “Intestines Ruptured!” in big red letters. The monster also has text that says “Ouch!” or “Errrrrrr!!!!” or something to that effect. I thought this would be far more entertaining and it lets me add tons of interesting moves to combat without the game taking forever to make.

And there’s an Ultima-style hunger system too, right?

Yes, there is a hunger system. However, mine combines elements from both Ultima and a brilliant but lesser known game series called Eschelon. In my game, you have both food and water reserves to deal with. However, unlike Ultima, you don’t have to manually feed your character. You just have to make sure there is food and water in your inventory. Early on, food and water will be a really big deal because they are relatively expensive and will make it hard to save your money. As you get more advanced you can learn survival skills that mitigate this, such as rationing and foraging. If you are a high level arch magi you can even learn a passive skill that automatically creates food. You can also find these resources if you know where to look.

Just how big is Hero’s world?

To Be a Hero has one massive map for the overworld and one massive map for the underworld. There are also separate maps for the space section of the game and the different worlds you can visit.

A lot of the pen and paper campaigns I took part in, had the heroes start out on the land battling lesser foes and eventually had us fighting gods in the cosmos. So I decided to incorporate travel between the realms into this game as well. That gives the game a truly epic scale and offers a change of pace.

What work remains to be done on Hero at this point? Do you have a release date in mind?

All we have left is to finish modeling the monsters and level design on some maps. After that, it will be lots of tweaking to make sure the game is just right. I feel where a lot of game developers and/or publishers go wrong is that they rush the game out before really digging into game design. How I see it, this is the most important part. You can have a game with bad everything but if the design is good it’s still fun. Just look at the work Blizzard has done. Diablo III looked finished four years ago but they are just now releasing it. I don’t plan to spend four more years on this, but I won’t release it until I personally find it addictive. Tentatively, the release date will probably be late this year or early next year. However, it wouldn’t be the first time I was wrong about the release date.

Big thanks to Jeff for taking out the time to answer our questions about To Be a Hero. Check out the game’s website and Facebook page, as well as SteamTank’s Twitter account, for the latest. Here’s some footage from an early build: