E3: Could Heroes of Telara's new social gaming replace Warcraft?

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Heroes of Telara is an upcoming fantasy-style MMORPG from Trion World Networks, but that's not what the developers are calling it: Company spokesman Dave Geffon told SCI FI Wire at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles Thursday that the game is a "massively social, fully dynamic server-based game." Quite a mouthful, but it really is different.

Server-based gaming takes a large percentage of a massively multiplayer online game and puts it onto the server instead of the client. What that means is that Trion can publish far more content much more easily than they could on a traditional client patch system.

If you play World of Warcraft or anything similar (and this game has the same feel), you have experienced a patch. You sign on to the game, and whatever updates or fixes are available take time to load onto your computer. And you have nothing to do but, I don't know, actually leave the house. And I say that with affection, since I'm a player.

Geffon explained that the new system means that every time you log onto the game, you'll see something new. New monsters, new quests, new items, etc. And in different places all the time.

"All this can be done because of the flexibility of server-based gaming," Geffon told us. It also allows Trion to create "hundreds and hundreds of dynamic events." They can be random or scheduled or triggered by in-game actions.

As an example, we were told, imagine you're out questing or gathering items or crafting (the game has all the traditional features of an MMO). You hear a call to arms because the city is being attacked. "There is an army marching from a nearby city," Geffon said. "You mount up. You charge back to town to see how you can help. What you'll find is tons and tons of other like-minded players coming together who want to be a hero. Who want to save the city. ... So you band together and save the city from certain destruction. This won't happen every night. There are some nights where you just want a quest ... or maybe you want to sit on the wall and watch the city burn, because sometimes watching buildings fall over in a fire is mildly entertaining."

If you're worried that it will be a mess if tons of other characters are doing the same thing as you, Geffon says not to worry. "If you're playing a traditional MMO, you're absolutely right," he said. "In a traditional MMO, the servers distribute their processing power by in-game geographical environments. ... With the Trion platform, instead of distributing our server's processing power by in-game geographical environments, we do it based on in-game systems such as A.I. or gameplay in the world. If we know we're going to have a huge event with tons of players coming together, we can actually scale all the appropriate systems to ensure that they have a great gaming experience."

We were shown a trailer that we were told is 100 percent in-game footage and some live gameplay. I'm using World of Warcraft as a reference here, but the game looks beautiful. The graphics are quite a few steps up from WoW, and everything is crystal-clear and incredibly detailed, from the armor to the texture of the buildings and the skin of the monsters.

One major issue, though. The character we saw walking through the game—how to put this nicely?—looked like she had a rash on her inner thighs or had just come back from the "Ministry of Silly Walks." It was the strangest loping gait, and it was pretty distracting. I'm hoping that will be fixed before launch. But the mount we saw her ride was really cool. You summon those just as you do in WoW.

We started in what looked like a medieval town, with a castle on the hill behind us. The NPCs in the town all had incredibly distinct faces. More so than I've ever seen in an MMO. We watched as the character joined a fight against skeleton creatures and a mini-boss outside of town. We saw her help out during a demon attack on the town.

She passed other characters from the world engaging in battle with monsters and ran to help. And she changed classes. No, I'm not kidding. In Heroes of Telara, you can change from a fighter to a mage or any of the four character classes you wish, depending on the situation, with a whole separate set of armor or robes, different items and different skills that are reflected on your action bar. Your face stays the same.

If you are a level 5 mage, and the friend that you're playing with that night happens to be a mage as well, one of you can be something different. When you change to a new class, however, you have to start back at level one and build it up separately. In addition, you have subclass "cards" that allow you to specialize with separate actions and abilities. You can switch these at any time and even loot them off enemies and take some of their power.

Geffon told us that many features were still under wraps, and I'm looking forward to future announcements. After seeing Heroes of Telara, I'm starting to think it might be possible to distract me from WoW.

Trion is also developing a science fiction MMORPG with the SCI FI Channel. It's top-secret right now, but stay tuned! Heroes of Telara's release date has not been announced.