Whether you’ve been trawling through your chosen platforms store, browsing the internet for a fun competitive team based game or been looking at a way you can take the form of an ancient god to unleash your wrath online (yes, people do that. Don’t judge me), you’ve most likely come across a Hi-Rez game. And if you haven’t heard of them? Well, you’re about to.

All good stories start with a history lesson. So listen up, our story begins in 2005. 2 envisioned people, Todd Harris and Erez Goren came together to establish what is now a top eSports contender. Little did they know what they were doing, was building the company where gods are forged. Hiring experienced game makers, ones who helped create our childhood memories that turned us into gamers, with experience from some of the older call of dutys to the sacred, beautiful Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion they created Global Agenda, a pc team based shooter released in February 2010, being made free to play the next year.

Now, I won’t lie to you, I haven’t played that. I actually didn’t even know about it. Thing is, free to play team based online shooters, are what Hi-Rez have become known for. It was SMITE that really put them on the map, but we’ll get into that later. I was given the chance to visit the studio in Brighton UK, a mere mortal among titans, and got to speak with their very own Daniel Staggenborg, the senior community manager. Daniel started working there in April 2016 after falling in love with SMITE and reaching out to Hi-Rez. Now Mr Staggenborg is working his dream job in this amazing company. Jealous? I am.

I spent a couple of hours with this man, we spoke about the company, the games and the stories, and if I can take one thing away from it, and one thing I want to share with you all, it’s pride.

Hi-Rez is proud of what it has achieved, and so it should be. This is a community driven company, with a dedicated team fighting the good fight. As a war on 2 fronts, they listen to player feedback, listen for ideas, pay attention to the characters being played, or avoided. Making sure it’s a good, fair game for everybody. All the while, keeping the creeping toxicity out our beloved servers. That is hard work, and I am not pointing out names here, but we all know some game companies that can’t do that…..

For those of you who do know Hi-Rez, there should be 2 games in particular that ring out to you, SMITE and Paladins. Starting with SMITE, who’s official release was on pc in 2014, is a free to play MOBA in which you take control of a god from a variety of ancient religions, from the bright eyed Athena, to the Norse world eater Fenrir. Using team based skills and tactics, this follows the same premise as the current MOBA style, lanes, towers, minions, nothing exactly new or unique there. But SMITE is different. It’s a 3rd person fully controllable team based game, not a simple point and click top down. This slight, but major difference is one of the keys that makes SMITE the dominating eSports title that it is now. I get to see my good boy Cerberus in full 360 degree 3d rendering. As far as I’m aware, there’s no other games I can have that, standing between Cupid and Apollo, while running away from Ra and Ares.

Smite

Sounds chaotic? I know, but it works, and very impressively may I add. Standing tall at over 100 gods to choose from already (though not complete just yet… still waiting for the day I can pick my all-time favourite, Polyphemus the cyclops, there’s still time).

Making that game itself was a huge accomplishment. It’s different, it’s unique, and yet it’s strangely familiar to all sorts of gamers. Though requiring a great deal of dedication to perfect, this is easy to learn and great fun to get into, and if you haven’t played it yet, why not? For those who fancy a more hands on approach, there’s Paladins. This team based game is also free to play, but this is a shooter. Thinking about that, can I really call it a shooter? Magical balls of death, throwing axes from a giant tree, bombs from an overly happy monarch with an explosive personality, crossbows and sword swings. Sound fun? You bet it is. From bouncing around as cheerfully cute fox creature to tearing rifts in reality as an undead pirate, this is the lighter side of competitive gaming. A vast array of characters, skins, whacky weapons and hilarious voice lines, you can be serious, and smile. Again, free.

Now, let’s think about free to play games. Most of them are small, not much content, the graphics are similar to those of a mobile game, at best, and the team behind them, just don’t seem to care. It’s all about micro transactions, gold bars, protection shields, or maybe some extra hearts to crush more little candies. We’ve all heard it before, but this is different, the only paid content is cosmetic, or maybe for a season pass, for cosmetics. The characters across the games you can purchase with premium currency, or you can earn in game currency by playing. And you’ll have so much fun playing them, you won’t realise how much time has passed and you’ll be quickly on your way to unlocking another. For a company, to release a fully multiplayer online, varied, competitive game across all major consoles and platforms while STILL maintaining a presence in the community? Hi-Rez deserves a standing ovation for this level of commitment to us gamers.

This is what Hi-Rez are good at. This is what they do. Keep it fresh, new and exciting.

They received this in 2012, they were voted as one of the top 30 game developers. A prestigious title that is no easy feat in such an aggressive, competitive market. And yet month after month, they still pump out gold material. New features, new modes, new characters, across many of their games. This is seen with their latest, Realm Royale. But wait, isn’t that just Paladins, with a little less teamwork? Well, yes. And no. actually its no. Battle royales have become the “go to” mode to pull in new players and keep the fans loyal. It’s like dabbing, wanting to be a youtuber or communicating only in emojis, everybody’s doing it. Call of duty has a battle royale, respawn have just brought theirs out, and even battlefield is jumping on this train. But before you grab your pitchforks and start joining the trend of angrily judging a game before trying it, you should know a little something.

I actually raised this to Daniel Staggenborg about how battle royales are becoming a little overplayed, cliché and some are even being overshadowed, so I asked about where this idea came from. Raise your hands if you’ve played Paladins, let’s see, oh, millions of you. Grover. The healing, axe flinging tree. In a game where it’s a large map, a character who’s weapon is so much stronger depending on how far away you are, that’s a little OP. January of 2018 had what I can only describe as a rigorous test with 100 pcs, with 100 players, fighting it out on this realm royale, on paladins, as a new mode. As you can probably guess, it didn’t go down too well with the non-grovers. Now Hi-Rez are tasked with a challenge. Making this mode, but making it fair. Being community focused, they wanted to keep the fans happy. Restricting some people’s favourite character, well, that’s not going to make anybody happy. So they just pushed it to one side, out of paladins, and made it its own thing. So rather than get annoyed that they’re “following” this trend, remember they did it for you people, they did it for you!

Let’s address the elephant in the room. I had to ask. The chickens. What started as Pip’s ultimate in Paladins is now, in my opinion, a running joke. Being turned into a feathery little bundle of annoyance, well, it’s embarrassing. But you can’t help but laugh. 10 seconds left to capture the point before being greeted by the noise, and feathers. So annoying, hilarious. But annoying. It’s one of those things you appreciate. We have almost all raged at being downed, or eliminated in a battle royale game. But what if, pip’s magical elixir returned, this time, rather than crawling around on the floor screaming at your teammates to revive you. You’ve been turned into a chicken. Tears of laughter streaming down your face as you hop and cluck about struggling to get the words out for help. Even through discussing this, I had a hard time holding back my laughter as Daniel was explaining to me the ruckus coming from the test rooms as people were turning into chickens left and right. More feathers flying around than a cliché pillow fight.

This is what Hi-Rez are good at. This is what they do. Keep it fresh, new and exciting. Innovating the online world, while still being a serious name in the world of competitive gaming. From the large, dominating head office in Atlanta, to the quaint, hidden office in Brighton, Hi-Rez has got many divisions looking after its key elements, rather than having the entire load on their shoulders. The eSports division, is actually Skillshot Media, this is just one of their teams that help keep everything in balance. From inspiration to dedication, there is a huge team of people trying to provide you with one of the best gaming experiences you can have, and it won’t cost you a penny to try it. From the ideas of 2 gamers, to being a household name of competitive gaming all over the globe.

Hi-Rez, here’s to your hard work and dedication, don’t give up. We’re all behind you. And gamers, get going, protect the chickens.

SMITE, Paladins, Realm Royale and Global Agenda are just a few of the Hi-Rez games library, varying between consoles and platforms.

SMITE and Paladins can be found on Xbox one, PC, PS4, MacOS and Nintendo Switch.

For all contact go to hirezstudios.com or @HiRezStudios. They also have a YouTube channel and games have their own dedicated twitter profiles.

Good Game. You rock.

@DwarfsDigs

George Shine