We speak to Ubisoft about turning Might & Magic into an action-RPG.
By Joe Robinson on August 15, 2012 at 11:10 pm
Ubisoft are all about Might & Magic this year – from known quantities such as Heroes VI’s first set of DLC and Clash of Heroes on iPad, to newcomers such as Duel of Champions. Amongst the other, so-far elusive new titles is Might & Magic: Raiders — a free-to-play action-RPG based on the franchise that delivers its own spin on the world of Ashan, and is composed of short, episodic bites of gameplay. We spoke to Jean Francios Vallee, Producer at Ubisoft Chandu, to find out more.
games.on.net: If you were to quickly sum up ‘Raiders’, have you simply taken the concept of ‘Raids’ from MMO’s and crafted a game around it?
Jean Francios Vallee: Yeah, that basically sums up how we are structuring our game, however there’s an extra layer on top of that. When you log into the game, you’re in a persistent world called Hammerfall, and there are different sections to Hammerfall that you unlock as your character progresses. In each section of the city you can launch raids, to several locations around Hammerfall. Before you go on raid though, in the persistent part of the world, you can talk with friends; sort your character and loot out, etc…
There’s two main ways to launch raids – if you have a group of friends, you group up and launch the raid yourselves, or if you don’t really have anyone to play with, we have a group finder that can match make you, and you can raid from there.
games.on.net: Considering this is going to be an online game, and considering the potential scope of the world… limiting co-op to just four players seems a bit restrictive, doesn’t it?
Jean Francios Vallee: Well, for the beginning, we decided that the ‘psychological limit’ of four-man teams suited small, short gameplay segments like the raids we’re going to be creating. I mean you can always come back and play with other people, and we’ll be keeping an eye on things like this for future developments, but for now we think that is a good limit.
What’s important for us right now is to make the best action-RPG experience we can, focusing on enemy AI etc… loot, unique bonuses, each with their own twist.
games.on.net: Interesting that you mention focusing on short-terms goals of making a good game. From where I’m sitting, at this point there doesn’t seem to be any long-term plan… what’s the ‘point’ of doing all these raids?
Jean Francios Vallee: Well we’re part of the wider Might & Magic storyline, we’re going to be a part of the new ‘Void’ cycle storyline, and each of these raids… they’re not just pure-raids without story. In fact we’re going to group raids into ‘books’, and offer multiple books to the players. Each book as 15-20 chapters and each chapter is a 20 – 30 minute experience, so each of these books has a storyline to it, developing a story within the book. Each book also exists within a specific area around HammerFall, could be a cave, could be a fort… ancient ruins? Each has their own specific monsters and treasures.
We see it like seasons or story-arcs within a TV show. The idea is to have some books ready at launch, and then add to them post-launch. That’s what we’re really working on right now, to develop this system of delivering this episodic content.
games.on.net: What kind of PC game are we talking about it here? Is it client based?
Jean Francios Vallee: It’s client-based at the moment, so you have to download a client, and we’re aiming for it be able to run on a wide range of PC’s. We’re envisioning a very large community with this game, so we need as many players as possible to join up, so we need to cater for as many PC’s as possible.
games.on.net: Would you want to see this game going cross-platform? You’ve said so yourself the gameplay revolves around 20-30 minute raids, which is something someone could easily do on a lunch break or something, but they’d need a personal device to play it on.
Jean Francios Vallee: Well, obviously it depends on the success of the game, but for the moment the game is very click-intensive… I don’t think it would work well on tablet devices right now.
games.on.net: Let’s look at the RPG side of the game quickly – how much can you customise your character? How deep is the progression there?
Jean Francios Vallee: We have multiple systems that manage your progression, and I’ll talk about two of them: The first, when you level up, is that you make a binary choice: Do you want to increase your might, or do you want to increase your magic? (I get it. -Ed) So you have some control over what you want to do but we don’t want it to be too complex. Each character class will each have two specialisations, and it’s a tier based system, and I can either go full out into one ultimate path, or I can have a more balanced character.
games.on.net: How does the game scale in terms of difficulty when your party is without certain classes, like a healer or a DPS or something?
Jean Francios Vallee: Well, there is match-making to help you there. That will be set-up so that it can find complimentary classes for you. Although if you’re playing with friends and are missing key classes, you’ll be able to purchase items that can help you in the game and shore-up your weaknesses. Health, buffs… even abilities.
The more the merrier… if you play along, even with a lot of items, we’re balancing the game so that the people you play with, the higher chance of survival, less people, lower chance… there’s also multiple difficulty levels that you unlock as you go.
games.on.net: What would be the absolute worst combination of classes do you think in a four-player team?
Jean Francios Vallee: We tried a group of assassins, actually, and even though it worked fairly well with low-level monsters, when it go to the boss fight things got really hard. There are intricate patterns that you have to discover whilst fighting… it was pretty painful! But I suppose the absolute worst would be four healers or something.
games.on.net: As far as the Free-to-Play model goes… how far can players go before they have to start paying for things?
Jean Francios Vallee: Well I personally don’t have a philosophy that you need to pay-to-play or pay-to-win… so what we’re trying to do is give you the entire campaign. As to what we’ll monetise, we’re still working that out right now.
games.on.net: I imagine fans might be a bit sceptical of a brand new spin-off product…what would you say to those fans?
Jean Francios Vallee: Well we were in Poland recently, actually, and a group of guys came up to me after the event and were saying how worried they were about Raiders. They’d heard about it on the net and thought it was going to be some cheap Facebook game or something, but they were pleasantly surprised. Most fans seem to react more positively to Raiders after they’ve actually seen it, so the only thing I would say is give it a go! It’s free.