John Smedley Reveals New Studio, Launches Kickstarter for New Game

John Smedley Reveals New Studio, Launches Kickstarter for New Game

The former Sony Online executive has a cool idea for a game. How do you feel about roguelikes?

John Smedley, former President of Sony Online Entertainment (which became Daybreak Game Company in February 2015), recently revealed his plans for 2016. Said plans are pretty big and cool, and if all goes well, fans of actions RPGs / roguelikes should benefit mightily.

Smedley has a brand-new studio called Pixelmage Games, and it's already hard at work on an ambitious title called Hero's Song. A Kickstarter campaign aims to add $800,000 to the $1 million already invested in the game.

Hero's Song is a sprite-based action RPG that can be played alone, or online with friends. Its world is deep and packed with lore, so much so that the god you choose to represent you at the start of the game has a direct effect on how your world is built.

Choose the sea goddess to play in a world dominated mostly by oceans. Choose the smithy god to play in a world bristling with mountains. Then prepare to interact with the game's races accordingly, since each one inhabits its preferred terrain, and will react to your presence in different ways.

Outside of the game's lore (penned by Patrick Rothfuss, the author of The Name of The Wind), Hero's Song promises challenging gameplay with always-on friendly fire and potentially permanent character death -- though you have a chance to safe yourself if you best the trials of the underworld.

The pitch for Hero's Song makes a lot of promises, and putting together a Kickstarter video obviously isn't the same thing as delivering a finished product that satisfactorily includes all the proposed content and stretch goals. But Pixelmage Games is probably good for it. One notable team member is Bill Trost, the co-creator of the EverQuest franchise.

Smedley's decision to strike out on his own offers another example of how, despite its flaws, crowdfunding platforms are the industry's best hope for keeping game-makers inspired and willing to try new ideas. Specifically, a former triple-A game developer is getting the chance to break away from traditional publishers and serve the significant percentage of game-lovers who'd rather not bother with free-to-play games or microtransactions.

In fact, Smedley's desire to create traditional games drove his decision to go independent and try out Kickstarter.

"We made a choice early on that we weren't going to be free-to-play or have any microtransactions whatsoever," he told GamesIndustry. "I think F2P is a great business model, but I spent too much time on monetization and I've just grown tired of it over time.

"I felt like our intentions were always good, but after a while it's a bummer when that's one of the main topics of discussion. I want the only thing our players to think about being our gameplay."

Regardless of whether the Kickstarter for Hero's Song succeeds or fails, it's good to see a veteran game developer make his own decisions while he orchestrates the fate of his own project (especially after enduring potentially life-shattering acts of hacking and trolling for weeks on end in 2015).

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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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