The first annual Hi-Rez Expo has concluded, the banners have been dropped and the fans have gone home. What does the HRX mean for the future of the SMITE game developer? A lot, actually. The HRX makes a statement, one that the studio wasn’t known for before. This declaration is of complete support for the current properties being produced by Hi-Rez. This year, as in previous years, the SMITE World Championships were the main attraction of the event. Showcasing the best teams from North America and the European regions as well as invited teams from the growing Latam, Oceanic and Asian servers. The fans packed the Cobb Energy Center to see these players in the biggest of the battleground of the gods. This year the SMITE Xbox edition was featured on the main stage demonstrating the ferocity of competition on the console. As good as the SMITE MOBA is doing there lurks in back of the venue the future of Hi-Rez Studios.
That future is the expanding breadth of the Hi-Rez library. This year guests had an opportunity to get a first-hand look at where the true evolution of Hi-Rez lies. Not in the games necessarily, but in the technology behind it. Last year Hi-Rez released Jet Pack Fighter on to the mobile marketplace as their first published use of the Unity development system. As expected, there wasn’t a presence of the running game at the expo but the studio showed the latest of their creations on the platform, SMITE Rivals. Expanding on the SMITE universe into a real-time strategy tower defense game for your mobile devices. This new game is incredibly addictive and features gods, characters and creatures from the popular SMITE game.
Rivals was not the only expansion to the IP as Hi-Rez revealed SMITE Tactics, a turn-based tactical card game. The gods of SMITE take to a smaller field to battle each other with the help of the lesser creatures. This game represents a massive leap for the game studio, not because of the game itself but again the technology behind it. This game will be the first Hi-Rez game to be built on the Unreal 4 game engine. This is a great step in the right direction because this latest iteration of Unreal offers extraordinary potential for future games. The bulk of Hi-Rez studios games are built upon the Unreal 3 engine. A great tool for anyone to use but for a developer looking to truly push the boundaries an upgrade was needed. With this technology in hand by the talented crew it is not unfeasible to see Hi-Rez compete with the next generation of arena twitch shooters making their way to gamers this year.
Rising like a phoenix from a disastrous closed beta, Paladins made a bigger appearance at the HRX this year as well. The majority of the games were played on a smaller stage in the expo area of the event. The crowds fighting for the limited seating available but willing to stand to watch the world’s best Paladins teams battle it out for the championship trophy. Paladins is one of those games that the more you watch, the more you want to play. Now that the game has moved to an open beta and the gameplay has stabilized it is well worth the time and attention for anyone looking for a competitive first-person shooter. The finals for Paladins was featured on the main stage of event and had some of the biggest plays and heart-pounding comebacks in the game’s short history.
What’s next for Hi-Rez Studios? That’s the question on the minds of the fans. Previously the studios reputation for supporting its games was shaky. The constant development and improvement of SMITE is simmering some of those feelings. With the continually expanding universe of SMITE, will Paladins receive similar treatment to Tribes? Or will Hi-Rez look for avenues to enlarge the stylized shooter’s world. Only time will tell as Hi-Rez improves its pool of assets and tools making the future bright and full of possibilities for this creative team.