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Hero's Hall Interview with Tracy Butler

Hero's Hall:
This is Ben Overmyer, for Hero's Hall. Could you introduce yourself?
 
Tracy Butler:

My name is Tracy Butler. I'm the art director at the Simutronics Corporation, currently focused on the development of our latest MMO, Hero's Journey.


Hero's Hall:
Thanks for doing this interview, Tracy. You know we fans are eager for any information we can get regarding this game. So how long have you been working with art?
  
Tracy Butler:

With art in general, I've been at it probably since I had motor skills developed enough to clutch a pencil.

  
Hero's Hall:
Sounds like you've got a wealth of experience then, heh. How about Simutronics? How long have you been working with them?
  
Tracy Butler:

For a somewhat shorter duration. It's been six years now that I've been with Simutronics.

   
Hero's Hall:
Still very impressive. It's good to know that HJ's art is in such capable hands. As the art director, what kinds of decisions do you usually make?
 
Tracy Butler:

Much of what I do involves making sure everyone is on task and making sure our style and the quality of the artwork going into the game is consistent. Because we're a small company, the art teams gets to have some influence over game content as well, so occassionally the job also involves making design decisions on some level.

  
Hero's Hall:
Interesting. So the art team has some impact on gameplay design?
  
Tracy Butler:

Yes, especially earlier in the development process. Before the design team took the reins, the art team was busy producing concept art. Quite a few of those artist-generated ideas ended up being integrated into the design. Now we work very closely with designers on creating the core visual elements.

   
Hero's Hall:
That's certainly different from what other companies are doing! Speaking of core visual elements, one comment heard about the demo shown at this year's E3 was that the game looked much less colorful, as if it had a pastel palette. Is this the normal look for the game, or is this just part of the particular areas displayed?
 
Tracy Butler:

It's not a comment we've heard before, so I suspect that may have had something to do with the areas and the environmental schemes being shown. We do have some effects in place, such as sky bloom, meant to soften harsh colors such that areas are more pleasing on the whole to look at and somewhat more realistic. Shadows also tend to soften the appearance of things. That may have been the reason. The engine is very flexible when it comes to environmental settings, though, so players will likely see a wide range of environment types -- some colorful and cheery, others gloomy and ominous, and yet others with a sort of ethereal softness.


Hero's Hall:
Ah, that explains it. And makes Hero's Journey seem even more intriguing, I might add. Will HJ have the same variety in models and textures? Or will it go the "Blue Orc, Green Orc" route of other MMORPGs?
  
Tracy Butler:

Creatures have the same capacity for variety that player characters (which are made up of many different interchangable parts) have, and so when you run into a gang of Ukar raiders, it's likely each one of them will look different -- and I don't mean just their skin color.

  
Hero's Hall:
I don't think we've ever encountered that kind of variety in any other game. More to look forward to! And on a similar note, what kinds of effects will Wyr have on items, graphically speaking? We've seen weapons light on fire, but what other plans do you have for that system?
  
Tracy Butler:

Unfortunately, that's probably the one major design element I'm allowed to disclose the least about at this point. I can say that the amount of variety in gameplay wyr will result in will be pretty immense, however, especially because our gamemasters will have access to this system and will be able to add continually to it. Visually, wyr can effect everything from the appearance of ability effects, to weapons, to combat animations, and perhaps even the look of a character.

   
Hero's Hall:
Too bad you can't tell us more about that; it sounds like something that'd really draw interest. Well, let's finish this interview up with one last question. What is your favorite part of Hero's Journey so far?
 
Tracy Butler:

It's hard to pick one thing. This past year, the game world has really started to cohere so that its intended character shows through. This aspect of it involves not only the look of the world, but the creatures and races that inhabit it, the types of architecture found throughout, and all the fantastical idiosyncrasies that tie it all together. So I think the answer to that question is the world of Elanthia as it has taken shape overall is my favorite part. It'll be a fun place to lose yourself in.

  
Hero's Hall:
Sounds fantastic. I know I speak for many MMO fans when I say that I'm greatly looking forward to the release of Hero's Journey. Thanks again for taking the time to do this interview, Tracy!


A special thanks to Tracy Butler for making this all possible. Along with Ben (Riceman) who conducted this interview!







Random Heros Journey Screenshot
Random Heros Journey Screenshot

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