Turbine's DC MOBA title Infinite Crisis is just a few days away from an open beta release, and promises many hours of superhero violence and getting shouted at by your own team for being rubbish. At a recent preview event, I got the chance to speak with developer Leo Tan about the game.
Strategy Informer: First off, could you tell us a little bit about the game's setting?
Leo Tan: Essentially you have to save the multi-verse, so you're recruiting your side to help overcome this struggle, and you have to recruit both superheroes and super-villains. You want to prepare them for the oncoming onslaught, so you take them all to this place called the Bleed, which is in-between universes, reset their powers so they're all on the same level and then they fight. Each match is actually a training session between you and another protector. As the heroes progress they get their powers back and become stronger, they can also summon artefacts back from the real world. So like, you can summon Two-Face's coin back to him and it builds up stats over time, that's kind of the reason behind the artefacts.
Strategy Informer: Sounds like DC are right behind you too. The presentation earlier mentioned a tie-in comic book, and they're creating action figures for some of your characters.
Leo Tan: I actually don't know anything about the comic. I'm very excited about it. I know we have our back story, we want to talk about it later because we have some exciting things coming. They're [DC] definitely helping us flesh out the multi-verse in general. We're definitely creating something separate from their line. I guess the New 52 is kind of represented by our Prime universe, but they're really separate entities and DC are helping us produce them.
Strategy Informer: So what would you say is the main thing that makes Infinite Crisis stand out in the MOBA genre?
Leo Tan: Apart from the obvious, we have Batman and Superman, when they fight each other you expect buildings to be destroyed, cars to be thrown and we have all that. Everything that we do revolves around aggression and the visceral nature of that aggression. We call that our kill-collide model. Hopefully as well as it looking very district, everybody's mode of thought is different. So you come into lane, you see your enemy and you immediately go for them. Because you would! Doomsday and Superman, they meet in lane, Doomsday wouldn't hang back and say “I'll wait until I'm strong enough.” You'd immediately collide. That's how we want the game to work.
Strategy Informer: How do the farmable monsters work in Infinite Crisis compared to something like League of Legends?
Leo Tan: If you're an experienced player, the way that manifests is, those little drones you fight, you don't need to hit them last to get the experience. If you get the last hit you get the money, but when it dies it also drops a coin so you can grab that. That means you can focus attention of the other person. Also if you attack the other person the drones don't attack you, so they're more like a thing that's there to help you advance to the turrets rather than part of your force, so they don't interfere when Superman and Doomsday go at it.
Strategy Informer: So the mobs are important, but in this game its much more about the hero fights?
Leo Tan: Yeah, they're still important, but if you see someone else and want to attack them, you should be able to attack them. Obviously it's not just free-for-all, you can hide under your turrets and so on, but we want that aggression to be a main focus.
Strategy Informer: Environmental devastations are clearly a big draw here, can you tell us a little about how deep that goes into the game's philosophy?
Leo Tan: Sure, so mechanically after you choose your champion you can pick two Stolen Powers, these are like additional abilities chosen from a pool. One is super-strength which lets you pick up cars, there's invulnerability which pops up a shield for a short time. For me the super-strength is the most exciting one. You can pick up a car and throw it at someone, it does percentage damage so its' always useful in any stage of the game. Cars also block paths, so once you pick up that car it might make it easier for your Jungler to move through, so there’s gameplay ramifications there. You see these mini-asteroids on the ground, and Mecha-Superman summons these sun crystals, rather than damage these actually stun. They're like particularly skilful trick shots. That's kind of the way in which our battlefield comes alive, unique to us.
Strategy Informer: Sounds like that's quite a big difference in how this game will play compared to others in the genre.
Leo Tan: Actually in the beginning it was much bigger, the beginning we'd drop a massive asteroid down in the middle and blocked off loads of areas. We'd envisioned all these crazy things like an asteroid coming down and opening up new lanes, stuff like that. It turns out that’s too unpredictable, and it's tough for a professional payer to handle all that; they require a degree of predictability and reliability in their environment, so we tuned a lot of that back in the last year. Playing aggressively is still super-important in our game, if you take out a turret the explosion crater widens the area and opens more avenues for you to attack and be attacked. It does change things. We're still finding out the exact impact, but the feedback we're getting right now from players is that it's exciting and manageable.
Strategy Informer: Must be difficult finding a balance between spectacle and that reliability for the hardcore players.
Leo Tan: Exactly, balance is the most difficult thing. Predictability and reliability are super important and you're right. That's always in our minds. But once you create the rules for the ability, Superman will fly to that target regardless unless someone body-blocks him, all the other stuff around those core rules is cosmetic. You can do what you want with that as long as you keep your rules of communication within your graphical style consistent, so then people can operate within that.
Strategy Informer: How do those different Stolen Superpowers interact. Can you change them up?
Leo Tan: You can swap them out. Each character has their own version of one power which is better. Nightmare Batman's consume, where he destroys a small creature, heals him, while the regular version doesn't. Atomic Green Lantern's costume gives him a movement buff. But if you play enough Nightmare Batman, you unlock that stolen power to give to other heroes. That's why we call it a Stolen Power.
Strategy Informer: Could you explain how the post-battle rewards work?
Leo Tan: We haven't finalised this yet, but when you finish the game you level up the champion you played, and you level up your overall account. Levelling your hero unlocks those Stolen Powers, levelling your account unlocks amplifiers and gives you boosts to different things. We haven't worked out everything there yet, but essentially amplifiers are mods you attach to your champion before you go on. So say you want Green Arrow to move faster but be a little more fragile, you can open that up before you go in. It opens up theory-crafting for the more experienced players which is really important to us.
Strategy Informer: What's your plan for new characters, do you have a schedule for additions?
Leo Tan: New champions, our cadence at the moment is one every three weeks. It might slow down or speed up, creating a champion is hard, there’s a lot that goes into it, but we're confident in one champion every three weeks this year. Then after that as many as we can muster!
Strategy Informer: I imagine it's pretty fun creating those characters with all the options you have to play with?
Leo Tan: Balancing takes a long time. It's very difficult. Fun is... almost everyone at Turbine is emotionally invested in DC, it's an American company, everyone grew up with their favourite character. So John Stewart's the best Green Lantern, Hal Jordan's the best Green Lantern. So there's a fight over which Green Lantern it's going to be, and then which storyline because everyone has read different things. It interesting and fun, but it's definitely not easy.
Many thanks to Leo for speaking to us. Make sure you check out our preview of Infinite Crisis, and the open beta hits March 14 if you want to check it out first-hand.