During the summer of 2008, the flame in my heart for gaming began to burn out. I had spent most of my free time over the past several years playing dozens of triple A console games, and these supposedly immersive experiences that had once filled me with thrill and wonder were beginning to feel trite and empty. Then one day, with the hype for Starcraft II building and our fond memories of Blizzard’s RTS games, my roommate and I decided to install our old copies of Warcraft III. After playing a few rounds of multiplayer, I was reminded of another game I had heard huge praise for but never actually got around to playing. Before this, my exposure to this well-known War3 mod was limited to the Basshunter song of the same name.
I became hooked on Defense of the Ancients (DotA) almost immediately and before long it was the only game I was playing. I was playing and thinking about it so much that I began having vivid dreams at night of the gameplay. It was around this time that I had something of an epiphany about my taste in gaming – that the competitive and social aspects of a multiplayer game were equally, if not more, immersive and engaging than the narrative-driven single player experiences I had previously championed as the pinnacle of game design.
At the end of part 1 of this story, I said that I was struggling with how creating immersive, emotional game experiences fit with designing balanced, competitive multiplayer games. It was thanks to this DotA-fueled epiphany that I realized the answer. Both types of games are immersive, emotional game experiences. Both types of games use systems and mechanics of play in a virtual environment to create these emotions. The player can feel emotions from deliberately designed events that are built into the game by the designers, and just as easily the player can feel emotions from events that occur within the gameplay of a multiplayer match. Just as Ico made me feel protective of Yorda, DotA made me feel protective of my lane partner in the early game when they were the carry. It turned out I was completely wrong in my belief that all the artistry of game design was found in crafting single player experiences.
Having removed this thorn from of my side, I felt like a born again gamer. I played a lot more DotA, and then a lot of League of Legends, and then Starcraft II finally came out and it quickly became my favorite game of all time. These multiplayer games immersed me in a depth of strategy and competition, and the accompanying array of emotions, that I had previously only gotten a taste of in my prior gaming experiences (primarily first person shooters and fighting games). Through SC2, I became a follower of what is known as “eSports” which turns what is for most people a recreational, leisure activity into a highly skilled, highly competitive activity requiring 100% dedication from the top players. To this day, I am fascinated by both the play of professional SC2 and the new media content that surrounds it.
I felt compelled to write this because ultimately it is a story about many of my influences and inspirations as a game designer. The events described were some of the most formative moments for me as a gamer and all of these experiences helped me discover precisely the elements of gaming I want Heartonomy to create.