First Look: Heroes & Generals

By John Walker on March 15th, 2012 at 9:21 am.

I think more wars should be nicely shot like this.

First-person shooter meets strategy is a confusing concept. But having seen how Heroes & Generals plays, it’s one that just might work. It’s World War 2, it’s Axis vs. Allies, and it’s going to take months to win.

H&G is, at its core, a shooter. Played via a plugin through your browser, most the people playing it will be taking part in an epic first-person shooter that will last for weeks or months, over dozens and dozens of cities. They are the Heroes. The Generals will be far fewer in number, sitting in tents high above the battle, issuing orders via an RTS map, with other humans as their units.

One teams starts in London, the other in Berlin, and then in a history-ignoring fashion they race to reach the other’s capital and take it over. Along the way they’ve got the vast stretches of Europe to cover, as each side attempts to dominate and advance the battle lines. It’s fairly familiar territory for multiplayer shooters, but writ enormous.

A new player will begin the game in battle. The first time you play, you play the shooter, until a battle is over. At that point you can then choose to specialise. Do you want to be a rifleman, fighter pilot, infantry, tank driver? Or do you want to be a General? Or both? As a General, you’ll first have to purchase an assault team, then you’ll be assigning the rest of the players into the battles, with limited numbers of slots available. For instance, a fight may have 75 spawn tickets for soldiers, totalling the number of times an infantryman can enter the battle, with lower numbers limiting how many can play at any one time. But perhaps you need tanks for this particular battle – so you need to send tank units from another captured territory across on your RTS map, which once arrived will open up spawn slots for those too.

With a tank, for instance, you’ll need two-man crews, with a total of three tanks available at once, each able to spawn five times. 15 spawn tickets for the battle, which for the Heroes act as lives. Thus as a General, you’re constantly generating multiplayer matches for the rest of the players.

As a player you’ll be restricted to playing as one side for the entirety of the war, but persistence means you’ll be able to significantly upgrade your soldiers via in-game credits, letting you buy new weapons and improvements. (It’s at this point, where soldiers have to buy their own weapons, that the complete disregard for historical simulation becomes most clear.)

Generals will also be able to upgrade their abilities via play, with the aim to become favoured by players. And Generals will be able to team up with their counterparts in the same war, working together to launch large attacks on the enemy.

Of course, being free-to-play, there will be incentives to purchase upgrades too. But here’s the really awesome thing – developers Reto-Moto are describing H&G as a “social F2P”, with an emphasis on aiding others rather than yourself. If you spend money on enhancements, they’ll be things that improve the game for others playing with you, rather than just a stat boost for yourself. A General who gets extras will be better for Heroes to serve under, giving those shooter players a better game. Heroes too will be able to upgrade weapons and the like, but this is to be balanced in a rock/paper/scissors fashion, where improvements in one direction will cause weaknesses in others. The idea being that you can’t spend your way to winning, but rather specialisation.

This of course asks some significant questions. Questions like, what if my team attacks an enemy’s city when the enemy isn’t online? To which the answer is currently, they lose that city. Which sounds problematic to me. And if no players turn up for either side, battles with auto-resolve themselves. This sounds like it has the potential to frustrate, but with a beta currently taking place with 20,000 players, hopefully this is being worked out as we speak.

Also, how are they going to balance the distribution of Generals? Currently they’re limited to being no more than 20% of the total number of players, which sounds exceedingly high to me. Four Heroes to every General doesn’t sound nearly enough, but again, there’s plenty of time for this to be worked out.

The role of General is also to get a lot more involved, with the top ten in any war getting a more senior position that allows them to control the overall resources available to a faction. A lower ranked general can appeal for more resources for their part of the effort, and be provided or refused by these boss types.

Currently there are five multiplayer maps in the game, with larger cities being made up of multiple maps to completely take over. Five really doesn’t sound like enough to me, considering the vast scale of a war – that could get pretty repetitive, and hopefully they’ll keep adding more.

But rather interestingly, victory conditions for wars won’t always be about capturing the opposing capital. Inspired by Risk, it will also be possible to begin campaigns with specific conditions set, meaning sides will have their efforts focused in different ways, adding a significant degree of variety. And clans will be able to start private wars – something that should deal with a lot of the issues mentioned above.

There are plans to add in other nations, perhaps an Italian or Russian army, as well as the potential for bots to make up for imbalanced fights. They also hope to add in stealth play to battles, and even AI dogs used to clear out buildings. In other words, it feels like a work in progress. Oh, and there’s already an iOS app that allows Generals to play their portion of the game on the move, which strikes me as a brilliant decision.

The whole thing goes into open beta in a few months, at which point the game will be considered launched. Until then, here’s hoping a few more maps can be added, and the balancing figured out by the hefty closed beta. It’s certainly a very interesting approach to a new cross-genre.

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36 Comments »

  1. Tony M says:

    How is this going to work? Strategy games are about matching your strength against the enemies weakness. But fun multiplayer shooters are balanced for both sides. So either the Heroes will be having fun, and the General will be impotent, or the Generals will be having a great time executing masterplans while the Heros find themselves in onesided battles?

    • -Spooky- says:

      This will going to work, like the old WWII Online or stuff like Planetside. Learn your Clan, trust your Squad and win teh epic battlefield. ;)

    • dsi1 says:

      That was the joy about Planetside, a well executed strategic maneuver lets you take the red carpet straight your enemy’s command console, no pesky laser beams or lead walls in the way.

    • Milkthistle says:

      Nuclear Dawn does it entertainingly, if not well. Its a source mod costs around 15$ i think and it is a lot of fun.

    • Brothabear says:

      you must be too young to remember games like battlezone

  2. Askeladd says:

    Thats an interesting idea.. but how strong does a general influence the battlefield/his soldiers?
    And the time investment general vs soldier seems kind of unbalanced…

  3. Premium User Badge

    JB says:

    Sorry John, what was this meant to say? “As a General, you’ll first have to purchase an assault them”

    An assault item? An assault theme? Something else? I are confused.

  4. LuNatic says:

    I like the concept, but getting enough players to co-operate and work together… I just don’t see it happening. In my experience, one third of any FPS team will be more or less incompetent, one third will be exploiting or using sniper rifles to whore individual score and one sixth will be squabbling over the vehicles, leaving 3-6 players who actually assault the objectives.

    • Lev Astov says:

      That’s a pretty good assessment of the state of FPS games. I suspect H&G will let the generals hand pick their players to some extent, though. In particular, the vehicle operators should be selected before the battle begins. That’s how I’d do it, at least.

    • Brise Bonbons says:

      I agree with the assessment of FPS players as a whole. This strikes me as another case of not matching your design choices up with the community you will be likely to pull from in practice.

      The ideas described above sound like a much better fit in a co-op vs AI game, where players could choose to be generals, squad commanders (clicking around AI cannon fodder at a tactical RTS level), or to play a grunt on the ground fighting alongside the previously mentioned cannon fodder – all in the fight against computer Nazis. This would allow player generals to customize scenarios for players to fight in, while ensuring there will always be sufficient enemies to fight. Also if everyone just wants to play an RTS that day, the grunts can just be bots…

      As it is, it just sounds like you’ll be at the mercy of the community (likely an insular, opinionated, and cliquey community, considering how unwilling players are to abandon the big name shooters for oddities such as this) to have any fun at all, and we know that’s not a good plan…

  5. finniruse says:

    Oh and we just lost our IOS Commander to a bridge. ARGHHHH!

  6. Eclipse says:

    At first, while scrolling the page, I read “Hookers and Generals”, my mind mixed up Look and Heroes that way :|

    • LuNatic says:

      The darkness of the title screen fades away to show the expanse of a seedy gentlemen’s club. A smoky haze fills the air, more from the pipes and cigars that the patrons smoke, than from the crackling fireplace. As the camera pans across the room, the paraphernalia on the walls, as well as the background noise identifies the setting as post-war Britain. The focus settles on a group of gentlemen seated around a large table. On the table is a complicated board, covered by toy soldiers and die cast artillery pieces. The camera changes to show one of the particular gentleman. He is dressed in the uniform of a high ranking military officer. His thinning hair and long white moustache betrays his age to be in the mid forties. He is smoking a pipe, and a lady of scant clothing lounges on his lap.

      Off Screen voice: “Come on George, the bloody Gerries will invade again before you finish your turn.”

      The officer identified as George snorts his derision. He hands his pipe to his immodestly attired companion and leans forward to examine the board more closely. The camera swings around to show the tactical layout of the mock battle.

      The move is yours. What will you do?

  7. Premium User Badge

    Harlander says:

    This makes me stroke my beard and go “Hmmm, interesting.”

    Hmm.

    Interesting.

    I probably won’t play it, because I’m pretty terrible at
    a) adversarial FPS
    b) strategy

  8. heledir says:

    Why are Americans shooting at British planes in the first screenshot? Or am I just cross-eyed this morning?

    • Mavvvy says:

      It’s what happens when you teams commander is ten years old. Jokes aside this pickles my interest.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      Reasonably sure those are meant to be messerschmitt bf109Es. They look a little mustang-ish on the front there but i think that’s just the angle.

      • heledir says:

        I thought that at first too, but the position of the propeller looks kinda wrong and I have never seen an 109 with such cooling openings on the underside, they seem too big and too much to the center. But I guess you’re right, they look similar enough and the picture is quite small. So my bad, I guess.

        Edit: Yep, you’re right. Checked it. The 109 has the supports on the horizontal stabilizers, while the Spitfire I confused it with doesn’t.

        • Premium User Badge

          wengart says:

          Those are 109s. The only two planes in the game right now are P-38s and BF-109s.

          • heledir says:

            Still weird, 109s really weren’t ground support planes. But well, I’ll stop griping and nitpicking now.

  9. Derppy says:

    Sound really interesting, but 20% as generals sound weird for a game like this.

    I’d like some sort of currency system, where you gain currency over time and by winning battles, the currency then allows you to play various roles on the battlefield.

    The role of a general would be very expensive and you’d lose it as soon as you lose a set amount of battles (1-5, depending how long the battles in the game are).

    Developers would then have a pretty good control over what people play, by reducing the price of the roles that aren’t as popular and increasing the price of the very popular roles, such as the general. It would also ensure generals do their best to win the game, or they would quickly drop out of the role.

    Among other things, I hated how DICE didn’t include the commander in Battlefield 3. Some of my best FPS memories are from the Battlefield 2 / Forgotten Hope / Project Reality matches, where the commander and the squads knew what they were doing.

    Being a part of a squad, receiving orders from the commander, successfully completing them and getting a compliment from the commander felt great, just like being a commander, issuing orders to squads, supporting them and seeing them request more orders as soon as they were done.

    Playing RTS with real people is amazing, because your each unit is individual and the fights are unpredictable. There’s a real morale you can boost by encouraging and complementing your units.

    This game has potential, I just hope they make the right choices in development and don’t make it a game where incompetent people with money get to screw over everybody else.

    • tigershuffle says:

      ..get back in the fight soldier..
      Picked up BF2 for 99p the other day

      I played Forgotten Hope for the first time last night on 64player server. Loved it.
      Another update 2.45?! is due v soon

      Might try Project Reality tonight :)

      ive applied for beta on this :)

      • godwin says:

        Beware of uptight tacticool arses who think they’re roleplaying in PR though. Usually found in specialist roles – armour, mortars, such and such. It’s pretty unforgiving to a newcomer and you’ll be stuck doing grunt work for a while – individualism is discouraged and you must adhere to regimentation and hierarchy or you’ll be called out (some people like this, some don’t – I can follow orders fine, but seriously, it’s a game). Game can be fun without those types around (have some great memories of intense urban infantry combat), but it’s only a matter of time; encountering them on my first attempt at gunning for an IFV utterly tarnished my experience with the mod and its community.

    • Splotch says:

      Just wasted so much time on youtube watching bf2 mods :(

  10. thebigJ_A says:

    Five maps doesn’t sound anything remotely like enough. If it’s supposed to be battling across Europe to the enemy capitol, you’d need maps for all the sorts of places you’d need to fight through on the way, and very preferably more than one for each.

    Otherwise, for the soldier if not the general, it’s just a very short playlist or repeating levels. “Oh, it’s the river map again” is not something that invokes a long campaign.

  11. Leaufai says:

    I have a feeling they’ll add more. That other F2P WWII game World of Tanks had six maps in early beta. Now it has almost five times that much maps. H&G is still in alpha, so I think it’ll pan out.

  12. thenagus says:

    20% Generals sounds absolutely ludicrous to me!

    I never really understood why they chose to emphasise the `generals` aspect of the game, given that (I had presumed) only a tiny amount of players would ever get to see it. Also, it baffles me given that this sort of strategic control structure is not even slightly new. The sides in WWII Online have high command structures, full of people who make all the strategic decisions, control where the battles can take place, distribute equipment, that sort of thing. I’d imagine the same is true of Planetside.

    I’d also imagine that just 5 maps are going to get old pretty quickly. Comparing to WWII Online again, they have one continuous map for the whole of western Europe, with each town being totally unique. Granted, they are essentially randomly generated (and touched up afterwards), and the landscape and buildings looks essentially the same everywhere. But it makes a huge difference to how interesting the battles are. Also in WWIIOL, the equipment steadily progresses as the war goes on, which adds a little variety, as does day/night cycles and weather and so on. I’m not clear whether H&G is going to have any of this stuff?

    Having said that, being a one-time WWIIOL player, I do really want to like this. I’ve been waiting a lot time for a more arcade-y WWII MMOFPS. It certainly looks a hell of a lot better visually!

    • Premium User Badge

      wengart says:

      There will most certainly be more than 5 maps at release. They are in alpha right now.

      I think that strategic structure is unique enough to tout. I can count maybe 4 games that use that structure and some of those are nearly a decade old at this point.

  13. tigershuffle says:

    thought id post a link to the actual site …….and you can watch the WIP of the alpha.

    http://www.heroesandgenerals.com/2/index.html

  14. Premium User Badge

    Chaz says:

    Buy your own weapons eh? In that case I’ll have the phased plasma rifle in the 40 watt range and an UZI 9mm.

  15. Havok9120 says:

    Holy Naysayers Batman!

    Its in Alpha, people. Its a quarter-realized idea. I think it sounds fantastic, if for no other reason than Planetside-type experiences.

  16. buxcador says:

    Excellent!

    This is the game I ever dreamed to play.

    Something like Command & Conquer, but commanding real soldiers. It should have not just generals making strategy, but officers commanding tactics.

    Best players should be more expensive to acquire, and best generals should have more purchasing power.

    Objectives should be “take that place”, “clean that hole”, “retire along this trench”, “attack that tank”, “destroy that fuel reserve”, “protect this convoy”, “carry at least 55% of this fuel to that city”, look and “clean the sniper from that city”, “stealth to that place, and install a camera” to remove fog of war, “infiltrate and collect intelligence”, photographing enemies like in Bioshock, and finding the strategic locations, like railways, bridges, ammunition deposits, fuel lines and storage, etc.

    Imagine generals playing Command & Conquer style with Age of Empires resources managed by civilian players, and an economy like Railroad Tycoon. It could have technology upgrading like Civilization.

    Based on your stats you will be able to contract or associate with, or against higher level players, making difficult leveling automatic.

    Players with lower stats could play against higher level ones by equilibrating experience with numbers.

    Your platoon gets an order to assemble a machine gun armed firing tower over those hills, and the lieutenant commands the platoon to clean the hill, secure strategic places, and keep the enemies at the line until a player assembles the tower managing logistic constrains, or until bots carry enough stone to raise the tower.