I had a different agenda, so I tracked down Hi-Rez chief operating officer Todd Harris to talk about upcoming changes to the game. He admitted to me that his team isn't doing a lot of big changes, but that is largely due to the game's continuing success. He did have a few things to show me, though.
SMITE gets a huge facelift
Visual updates might not be as exciting as gameplay changes or new maps, but they can do a lot to sell the game to onlookers. The new visual overhauls for SMITE look to go even further than that! While it's true that the new maps looked absolutely gorgeous (I saw some people playing on the new Conquest map, and wow!), Todd told me that the team made a big effort to create visual recognition of the map by making areas of it distinct.
The two side lanes are now visually distinct from each other, and the areas of the jungle have some gorgeous new landmarks that show players exactly where they are without their needing to look at the minimap. All this is done to improve the ease of learning the maps. I joked that I play SMITE on minimum settings anyway, and Todd laughed and said maybe I didn't need visual updates to learn the maps.
Tournaments for numerous games were all over PAX, and SMITE was not one to be left behind. I asked Todd whether Hi-Rez will transition SMITE into extended e-sports-related events, and he was excited about it, but I didn't get a lot of specifics.
Currently Hi-Rez is focusing on big tournaments, but it wants to start building the infrastructure for more structured league play. "We have a lot of partners that are really interested," he said, referring to league play. "It's just a matter of building up to it, and we're learning some things from other games that have come before us."
The big new thing that he hit me with is the introduction of 10v10 gameplay for some of the existing maps. "It's not going to be a normal thing," he explained to me. "If you're familiar with our current Match of the Day system, we will occasionally make it a 10v10 Conquest or 10v10 Arena."
"That has to be totally crazy," I said to him. He agreed with me, explaining that 10v10 was not intended to be a serious hardcore mode, that the devs want it to be a "just for fun" match, similar to ARAM matches. "Sometimes you just want to do something fun and a little crazy, so we add this kind of stuff in too." Crazy indeed.
The story of the SMITE show was really the tournament, which I unfortunately didn't get to watch due to other appointments. You can check out the rebroadcasts on the stream page and on the official Twitch stream. It is a bit tricky to find the SMITE videos on the Twitch stream because the entire day's streams were lumped together, but SMITE was typically one of the last things to run each day. Either way, I was pretty excited to see Hi-Rez pushing the e-sports scene. I won't spoil the winners, so check the stream rebroadcasts out!
Massively's on the ground in Seattle during the weekend of August 30th to September 2nd, bringing you all the best news from PAX Prime 2013. Whether you're dying to know more about WildStar, The Elder Scrolls Online, EverQuest Next, or any MMO in between, you can bet we'll have it covered!