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July 27, 2010
Heroes of Three Kingdoms Product Manager Andrew Brown Interview

By Jason Van Horn

E3 is a time for game companies to come out, show their stuff, and get some buzz going for new titles by showing them off to the world. One such company making a name for itself at E3 was Perfect World Entertainment, who had two games in particular that they wanted to talk about. We chatted with Product Manager Andrew Brown to find out all we could about the upcoming Heroes of Three Kingdoms.

MPOGD:  What can you tell us about the story and setting of Heroes of Three Kingdoms?

Heroes of Three Kingdoms takes place during the Three Kingdoms period of ancient China. During these violent and formative of years, three warring factions - the Wei, Shu and Wu - struggle for dominance. Players will be able to experience firsthand the most well known battle in Chinese historyChi Bi, or Red Cliffwhere the Wu and Shu kingdoms battle against insurmountable odds to defeat the Wei kingdom led by the infamous general, Cao Cao. In addition to simply reliving these historical battles, players will be able to change their outcome, and leave their own mark on the world, changing history.

MPOGD:  The setting of Heroes of Three Kingdoms is one that many gamers already know about, as it's a time in history that has been used as a game setting before. How does Heroes of Three Kingdoms approach this setting and tell a story different than that of other games? If it covers the same material, what does Heroes of Three Kingdoms do to distinguish itself from other games set in this timeframe?

One of the main distinguishing features of Heroes of Three Kingdoms is the ability for players to participate in campaignsover 50 recreated battles and events. These range from races, where players compete against each other on their mounts. Others involve storming enemy strongholds, or fighting alongside legendary heroes such as Cao Cao, Liu Bei, and Sun Quan. Beyond that, a unique class system allows players to choose from 18 various weapon typeseach with their own sets of skills.

MPOGD:  How deep is the character creation system? What kind of options are there going to be so that players can make their character feel distinctly their own and not see a carbon copy run past them every few minutes when playing?

First and foremost, the choice of weapon plays a significant role in how the character progresses and develops. Regarding initial creation, there are hundreds of possible combinations for players to choose from to personalize their character. In terms of character customization, in addition to a vast array of weapons and armor, by far one of the most interesting features is the ability for players to transform their character into one of the well-known characters, such as Lu Bu or Guan Yu.

MPOGD:  Players will choose to be a member of one of three factions: Wei, Shu, or Wu. What kind of bearing will this choice have on the player? Are certain factions geared for certain players or are they merely names used to divide players for PVP purposes?

When selecting a kingdom to swear allegiance to, you will be presented with a map of ancient China--with over 50 various regions to choose from. The area you choose to be from dictates what kingdom you fight for. Before deciding on a faction, a brief history behind each kingdom will provide the player with insight into their nature--as each has their own unique historical background--and while you can betray your kingdom to join another, you will be seen as a traitor, and an enemy to your former allies.

MPOGD:  Could you explain about the Kingdom War system and how that applies to the Wei, Shu, and Wu? We know that these factions fought over territory, but how does that translate into actual gameplay? What's the ultimate purpose and rewards for engaging in Kingdom War? Also, it says that you can form alliances against one another. How does that system work?

Essentially, the Kingdom War system is set up so that payers are able to decide whether they want to join forces and focus their efforts on a particular enemy, amass their own forces, build up supplies, or simply observe your enemies as they battle each other, waiting for the opportunity to strike. This really embodies the ancient Art of War text saying, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" and we look forward to seeing what players will do in the Kingdom War system.

MPOGD:  Unlike many MMOs out there, Heroes of Three Kingdoms takes a bit of a different approach when it comes to character classes, as it seems to lean more towards the Final Fantasy Online class system than the standard "pick a class and stick with it till the end." Could you explain the character class system and how players ultimately shape their character and play style?

Classes are defined more by what weapon a player chooses--and once any particular weapon is mastered, an additional weapon can be acquired--so players can actually choose multiple classes to play with. This is something that we feel is pretty unique to Heroes of Three Kingdoms, considering that having the ability to switch between weapons in the middle of a battle means that you are able to change strategies and tactics without the need to call in addition reinforcements.

MPOGD:  There are 18 different weapons/classes in the game. How many of these weapons are available right from the beginning and how many have to be unlocked through specializing in others first?

Without giving specific weapon names or numbers, most will be available at the beginning, while others will become available as you progress through the game.

MPOGD:  When it comes to character classes, there are terms and roles that people are familiar with. For example, there are the tanks that can take a lot of damage and act as a shield for the rest of the group, and there are the glass cannon mages who can deal lots of damage and yet can be beaten fairly easily. While there aren't predetermined roles like that, are certain weapons geared more towards those play styles and traditional roles. If someone wanted to be a tank, for example, would there be a weapon more geared for that player?

Yes, there are definitely certain weapons that you would choose if you wanted to specialize in more of a defensive, offensive, or supporting role--however there are also many weapons that bridge this gap of defining classes, and offer a variety of play styles.

MPOGD:  The official Heroes of Three Kingdoms site currently has a video up detailing many of the weapons. One of the most impressive things about the video is how fluid and majestic the moves are, which weren't animated by hand like most games, but instead actually motion-captured using martial arts specialist Dion Lam. Could you share a little info on how he came to be a part of the project and ultimately how his movements and weapon handling made it into the game?

We definitely wanted to make the character movement and combat as realistic as possible, which is why we chose to go the motion capture route. With these movements incorporated into the game, the amount of immersion and realism is greatly increased, to the point where players feel as though they are actually in the middle of an epic battle.

MPOGD:  While we're on the subject of weapons, players can also craft their own weapons. The system doesn't sound as traditional as it is in other games, where you grab a recipe, the items, and then bang out a product. What can you tell us about the weapon crafting process? Will handcrafted weapons ultimately be the best weapons in the game? Can players craft things other than just weapons?

There are a total of 8 different crafting skills in Heroes of Three Kingdoms, and players are free to learn as many, or as few of these as they wish--there is no restriction on the number of professions they can acquire. Crafting is heavily dependent on the quality of materials the player possesses, for example--while a master blacksmith with poor components could forge what would be considered a much higher tier weapon, an apprentice with higher grade materials could forge a weapon equally as powerful. Acquiring such rare items will require braving battlefields and scouring isolated areas of the world.

MPOGD:  There are several gameplay systems in Heroes of Three Kingdoms that are somewhat familiar and used in other games, but yet seem to be ratcheted up a notch when it comes to this game. For instance, the title system: I'm sure most people are familiar with earning a title for doing something within the game. It's not exactly a new idea. However, in Heroes of Three Kingdoms, titles aren't just some extra wording attached to your name, but rather come with special benefits such as new skills, outfits, etc. Could you explain a little about the system and give an example as to a title a player could obtain and how that would affect their character?

Titles are not simply labels as they are in other games, and serve a crucial purpose in Heroes of Three Kingdoms. In addition to further customizing your character, they also provide bonuses to certain attributes--increasing your health, attack, speed, etc. Titles can be obtained many different ways--by completing certain quests, exploring a particular region of the world, crafting items, etc.

MPOGD:  There's also an achievement system to track the deeds and advancement of a player's character. What kind of achievements will the game include and what type of rewards will players get for completing them?

The achievement system, known as the Codex, serves as an archive of information for the world of Heroes of Three Kingdoms, containing volumes of lore and history. Accomplishing tasks, discovering areas, and defeating certain characters are just a few of the ways to unlock an entry. Acquiring a new Codex chapter also typically means that a title will be bestowed upon the player.

MPOGD:  Finally there's the reputation system, which opens up new areas, abilities, and weaponry based on your standing with the various groups. Is the reputation system tied exclusively to the Wei, Shu, and Wu factions? How does one go about either raising or lowering one's standing within a group? Also, ultimately why should someone want to focus their efforts on improving their relationship with these factions? Is some of the best content attached to pleasing these groups and getting access to those exclusives?

There are several different means for players to increase their reputation throughout the world. First off is simply by performing Entrusted quests--these tasks are distributed by particular characters in each region of the game. For completing these tasks, in addition to numerous other rewards, they also grant reputation for that particular area. Increasing your reputation beyond a certain threshold implies that the citizens of that realm now trust you, and will offer you discounts, better equipment, and other goods. A similar system exists for factions as well.

MPOGD:  Looking through screenshots, it seems that mounts play an important role in the game. What types of/how many mounts are there in the game and how do players go about obtaining them and at what level? Are mounts strictly for movement only or do they factor into combat as well?

While mounts begin simply as a form of transportation, they soon become a vital gameplay element--allowing the player to train a variety of mount specific combat skills. The types of skills available vary significantly depending on the combination of mount, and weapon type. Mounts can also be equipped with items--such as those that increased movement speed, or provide greater armor.

MPOGD:  For those who like PVP combat, we already know about the Kingdom Wars, but what other kinds of PVP options/game modes will be available? Is PVP confined to certain areas and actions, or can players choose to engage in PVP fights wherever they wish?

Kingdom Wars is certainly the focal point of PvP, however--beyond a certain level, players are also free to engage in PvP throughout most all areas of the world. In addition, numerous battlegrounds are also available. Participating in such activities can only benefit the player, as they receive experience, items and reputation.

MPOGD:  Looking at Perfect World Entertainment's previous games, there's certainly some similarities and ideas that are shared between the various games. In what ways is Heroes of Three Kingdoms alike and dislike the other games in PWE's portfolio?

Some may draw comparisons because most of our games run on our proprietary Angelica 3D graphics engine, and that the robustness of features are similar across games. Heroes of Three Kingdoms, however, is the first game from Perfect World Entertainment to be based on an actual historical event, and is especially important since it gets us back to the roots of this being a Chinese company.

MPOGD:  Are there any final words you'd like to say or features to talk about that we perhaps haven't covered yet in this interview?

Thank you so much for your time, and for your interest in Heroes of Three Kingdoms. We hope that your readers get a chance to sign up for the closed beta and check out the game!


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