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Interview with HoN's Development Director

By - 'hydrolis' -
Jul 6, 2010 23:32

ImageFormer Lead Designer and current Development Director of Heroes of Newerth talks about HoN's future in eSports.

Following the announcement of SK Gaming's Heroes of Newerth team, we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to sit down with the games Development Director James Fielding to discuss HoN's future in eSports. Fielding discusses everything from the games early involvement in competitive play, the transition from DotA to HoN and what features the game provides to the casual player.

First off, a big thanks for taking the time to sit down with us. Could you briefly introduce yourself and shed some light on the role you play within S2 Games?

My name is James Fielding and I'm the Development Director at S2 Games. During most of Heroes of Newerth's development, however, I was the lead designer. My role is pretty broad - essentially overseeing general development, coordinating between the necessary people to get new features and content into the game.

With Heroes of Newerth being a relatively new game, can you give us a quick run down on what the game is all about?

Heroes of Newerth was inspired heavily by the warcraft III mod, Defense of the Ancients. Players control a single hero unit who gains strength and gold as the game progresses, with the ultimate objective of destroying the enemy base. It's a team oriented game (generally 5v5) which can lead to some really interesting team work and team fights for spectators to observe.

For those that are not aware, S2 Games actually took a rather innovative approach to its first two titles with Savage: The Battle For Newerth and Savage 2: A Tortured Soul. Both these games were FPS/RTS hybrids, what made you step away from making a third Savage game and making Heroes of Newerth instead?

Heroes of Newerth was actually being developed along-side Savage 2. It's a game that we wanted to make, so we made it. It really wasn't a conscious choice not to do savage 3 (or any other title for that matter).
Now everyone knows HoN follows a very similar style and format to DotA, a popular eSports title in its own right. What kind of feedback have you received from former DotA players and RTS players as they transition into playing HoN?

The type of feedback really depends on the type of player. Generally, we get a lot of praise for various features and improvements (especially concerning re-connecting to games in progress), we really took away a lot of the negatives of playing DotA. A lot of players dislike having to "learn the game again" and learn everything that changed from DotA in HoN and relearning item names and such.

Another area we receive some flak is game balance. The meta game of HoN is quite different from dota - so some of the things we've buffed (or nerfed) don't make sense in the context of DotA. A lot of the dota vets see a change we made to a hero or item and think "wow, that's insane, that would be so overpowered in dota" without realizing how differently HoN plays out. That said, our balance definitely isn't perfect (nor is DotA's!) and we're always working to improve it.

For those who are not looking to play HoN competitively, what sort of features does the game provide the casual gamer just looking to have fun?

HoN is very pub-friendly to the non-competitive gamer. We have a built in system to track your overall rating, which helps you play in more evenly matched games of people closer to your skill level. The ability to reconnect to games that you got disconnected from is also pretty huge. Most of the features a casual gamer would enjoy are not exclusive to casual gaming, though. Our focus has always been to make the game the best it can be with competitive players in mind - and as a result, there's a lot of improvements in HoN that benefit even the casual gamer. Rebindable hotkeys, stat-tracking, leaver protection, replays, built-in voice over IP.. all of these features make casual play of the game more enjoyable.

It is very rare for such a new title to be so heavily involved in eSports right from the beginning. Why have you and the rest of the S2 team decided to focus so much on the competitive community?

We're competitive gamers! We also acknowledge that HoN has huge potential as a spectator sport and really want to emphasize that aspect of it. There aren't many companies out there these days that give the competitive community the attention and time they deserve - S2 is proud to be one of the few who do. I can't really say definitively why we chose to focus on it so much - it's just always been a given that we would. I don't think we ever sat down an consciously decided to go after the competitive crowd, it was just always something we assumed we'd be doing. I think, given the type of game HoN is, it's pretty natural.

It can be seen that S2 is already involved in hosting online tournaments with significant prize money up for grabs. Why do you think sponsors are so eager to get involved with HoN?

A lot of people play and watch HoN - it's a good advertising opportunity I suppose. Most of the sponsors sell products relating to video games, so it's a natural fit. There's a lot of potential in eSports (not just HoN), and HoN has a pretty large following, so it'll naturally draw some attention.

Is it your hope for Heroes of Newerth to become a mainstay on the competitive gaming circuit? And is it in your plans to have HoN played at large LAN competitions in the future (as we seen recently at DreamHack in Sweden)?

Absolutely. We don't plan to stop supporting HoN. Everything we can do to secure its place in the world of eSports, we will.
With that being said, where can people go if they wish to get involved with Heroes of Newerth tournaments?

We try to keep the tournaments section of our website up to date.

There's also a competitive forum on our website, and there are sites like HoN Cast and Gamereplays that cover competitive events. Just keep your eyes peeled, get some friends, and sign up when tournaments are announced. We also update the in-game message of the day any time a particularly large tournament has signups.

I am not sure if you can reveal any details about this, but does S2 Games have any new projects in the works in terms of HoN itself or possibly a new title altogether?

We certainly have projects for HoN in the works (team matchmaking, achievements etc), and there are some other things being worked on (which I can't talk about).

One last question to end things off: What heroes do you enjoy playing most when you hop in game and why?

I prefer action-oriented heroes (gankers and roamers), sometimes I'll play support too. I can play carries, I just don't enjoy farming that much. I much prefer the constant action of keeping enemy heroes from farming and having small skirmishes (or full-on team fights, as often happens).

Any final statements you wish to make?

I'd like to thank everyone involved in competitive HoN. It really takes a lot of hard work from a lot of people to keep a game's competitive scene thriving. From the volunteers at HoN Cast and GameReplays to the many sites with HoN coverage (sk-gaming, mymym, gosugamers, etc), all of your efforts are HUGELY appreciated by S2. Without you guys, there wouldn't be a competitive scene, so thank you!



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