The concept of interplay between the multiplayer populations of different games is still an exotic one. CCP’s FPS, Dust 514, has stood more or less alone as an attempt to have its online action influenced by the events in its MMOG, Eve Online. Heroes & Generals, however, is taking a different approach to the same idea by combining two different genres in the same game.
Developed by Reto-Moto, reformed by the founders of IO Interactive, Heroes & Generals is both a strategy game and a team-based FPS. Its strategy portion has two teams of generals moving assault teams around a map in realtime during wars that will take four to six weeks to finish. One side begins in London, the other in Berlin, with each side’s objective being to take the other’s capital. FPS battles begin when one faction’s commander moves an assault team into a location held by opposition forces. The resources at the ground teams’ disposal will depend on the units the generals send in, from the number of players on each side to the number of respawns they get. A mechanised infantry assault team grants up to 55 infantry respawns and six APCs, while armour assault teams grant 15 tanks (with three in the field at any time) and 30 infantry respawns.
Battles sit in a mission list for FPS players to pick from, which indicates supplies in favour of or against their side, the units involved and the type of game (such as point-capture missions and deathmatches). These are then played out on large maps, which can span up to four square kilometres. Reto-Moto’s intention is that good commanders will attract the best FPS players, particularly since they can buy better equipment for their troops. And if they have them available, they can even bring new units to live battles in order to swing the outcome in their favour. Rolling tanks into an existing game adds a new dynamic to the FPS, and particularly hotly contested battles could in theory last for hours, since reinforcements will refresh respawn counts. The design’s unapologetically imbalanced: the war is meant to be attritional, formed by waves of respawns crashing against the other side, with victories being as much a result of smart strategic play as skilled action.
Heroes & Generals is currently in early alpha, and Reto-Moto is aiming the FPS portion of the game to hit a mark between realism, taking care over the likes of weapon ballistics, and arcade-like sensibilities, with the balance being fine-tuned through player feedback. There are also plans in the works to add singleplayer missions that will affect the overall war effort, requiring players to bomb a train, say, or use stealth.
Each war will take place in a world populated by – depending on how the upcoming beta works out – about a thousand players. Prospective commanders will buy their assault teams with in-game credits, earned through play or via real-world currency. Meanwhile, a command chain adds a social element in which subordinate commanders can choose superior officers with the ability to grant resupplies for their teams, with a high command of the faction’s top ten generals sitting on top. The alpha features just two factions, Germany and the US, but Japan, Russia and more are due later.
The scope, then, is here for fascinating large-scale emergent play, formed by social interaction as well as in-game action. You could consider it a more accessible Eve Online, so at least some of its concepts are semi-tested. But with so many factors to consider, the balancing ahead may be fearsome.