Interview With D20Studios’ Ross Przybylski

Take us through a typical game session once the player has registered an account. What options do players have when it comes to unit selection and determining the participants, victory conditions, and other aspects of a match?

Immediately after registering, you’ll find yourself in the main lobby. This is the central hub of your multiplayer experience. Here you can chat with other players, create or join games, and spectate live matches currently in session. You can view the play statistics of any user in the room with you or visit the leaderboard to see a list of the top-ranked players for the last two weeks and/or use the member directory to look up any registered player’s records.

Creating a game is very similar to creating a game of Starcraft on The game host (typically the room’s creator) has access to a wide selection of customization options: you can add computer opponents, assign teams and starting locations, and change the game objective. You can play competitive free-for-alls, or play cooperatively against bots. Perhaps the most dramatic option is the turn time. By changing the default time of 1 minute to 15 seconds, you transform a casual Turn-Based Strategy session into a frantic feud that closely approaches Real-Time Strategy. A map without any walls called “Circle of Slaughter” is included especially for this blitz-style gameplay. As the host configures game options, players assemble their party of heroes consisting of one mage and two guardians from a roster of six very distinctive fantasy characters.

And how does the game’s expanded content play into all this?

Hero Mages was designed from the onset to expand in diverse and engaging ways akin to how games like Magic: The Gathering change the playing environment with each new release. There are currently two expansions available for Hero Mages: the Arcane Disciples and the Dark Avengers. Each expansion adds three unique characters to the player’s party roster for a total of twelve characters.

This may not sound like a lot, but in a game of Hero Mages, each character adds such a tremendous amount of diversity to your playing styles that you’ll discover a certain elegance in the “quality” vs. “quantity.” Players can also expand their experience by purchasing map save slots, which will allow you to build custom levels. Oh, there’s also an exclusive 13th character that can only be acquired via special promotion.

It seems you’ve run into some hard barriers trying to implement an In-App Purchase system for the expanded content in the iOS edition. Will there still be some way for iOS users to access it if they want?

One of the biggest challenges of mobile marketplaces is that each store requires you to use their specific In-App billing API. I currently sell expansions in the browser version using PayPal, and there is a marketing agreement infringement if I use my existing billing system instead of the App Store. During the development of the iOS version, In-App billing could only be achieved using native code, so my interim solution was to simply remove all of my custom In-App billing and references to expansion content entirely from the app.

Adobe has recently added Native Extension functionality to AIR, which will allow me to incorporate App Store governed micro-transactions in a near future update. Existing Hero Mages players seeking to buy the iOS version of the game may be wondering, “What happens to all of the content I’ve already paid for?” Expansion content is tied to your multiplayer account, not your device, so the good news is that you can use it whether you play via web, Android, or iOS, further adding to the value of the Hero Mages customer experience.

What do you have in mind for the future? Any plans for a full single-player campaign, more character classes, etc?

I have three primary goals for the near future: player rewards, In-App billing support, and more content! As the multiplayer community is so valuable to Hero Mages’ growth and continuing success, the idea behind player rewards is to trade “participation” for “goods” in lieu of spending money for goods. The system would allow players to earn points for playing multiplayer games, posting on the forums, referring friends, etc. These points could then be spent to buy new abilities, characters, maps, and other game content.

Of course, with all these points flying around, there will need to be lots more content to spend them on. For starters, I’ll be adding what I call “character aspects” that will allow you to further customize the abilities of existing heroes. For example, the Rogue’s abilities currently focus on ranged attacks. His new aspect will allow players to build stealth-oriented assassin rogues or devious trap-laying rogues. Some players just don’t care or have time to participate in the community, and that’s okay! For these players, I’ll be adding In-App billing so you can purchase points and get all the new content you desire to expand your playing experience.

Along with asynchronous gameplay, D20Studios has plans for a future title that will include a fully immersive single-player experience. It’ll focus on dungeon exploration, character growth, and dynamic monster encounters that will offer endless hours of exciting challenges that our players will love!

Our thanks goes to Ross for taking out the time to answer our questions about Hero Mages and his future plans for the game. Here’s the Hero Mages website, Facebook page and Twitter feed, and we’ll be back with a full review on the other side of the weekend!