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Bringing the Franchise Full Circle

William Murphy Posted:
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Orcs Must Die is a well-received game franchise, one that Robot Entertainment has been working on for seven years. We caught up with Vice President of Production Chris Rippy to talk about the franchise, Orcs Must Die Unchained and the future of the series. 

MMORPG: It's been five years since the original Orcs Must Die launched. Robot itself a 7 years old. How does it feel to be on your third game in a cult hit series with Unchained in such a short period of time?

Chris Rippy:  Very strange!  On one hand it feels like we're just getting started, and on the other it feels like we've been cranking on this for a long time.  Either way, it's very cool to know that people like what we've been up to.  We started with a tiny team on the original game, and to see it grow to something of this size has been great. 

MMORPG: Is there anything you would have done differently these last years? Can you speak to specifics?

CR: I think it's easy to think of things we could have done better or differently when looking at decisions in hindsight.  Really though, you learn from each decision that you make…whether good or bad, and our studio is better as a result of the last five years. 

MMORPG: The Orcs Must Die franchise has always been about Tower Defense. With Unchained, the game blended this with MOBA Mechanics. You're removing that game mode in an upcoming patch. Why did you decide to do so? Feel free to go into as much detail as possible.

CR: Yeah, this was a biggie for us.  After working on Siege mode for several years, we just felt like it wasn't working.  We tried a number of different things and really wanted it to succeed, but it wasn't clicking with players. When we'd look at our data, we found that people weren't sticking around when they'd play this mode, especially when compared to our more traditional OMD! mode, Survival. 

Also, having a mode like Siege clashed with our traditional Survival mode.  We found ourselves making a balance or gameplay decision to help one game mode, and it would either adversely impact the other mode, or we'd make a watered-down decision that didn't really help either mode. This split focus threatened the health of the entire game.

So, in the end, as much as we loved Siege, we made the tough call to devote our full focus to Survival.  I will say, since we've made the decision, the game has progressed by leaps and bounds. It feels great, we're able to be more innovative, and I think fans of the franchise will be really happy with the results. 

MMORPG: There was, without a doubt, a contingent of OMDU folks who loved Siege Mode. How do you reconcile for them the removal of their preferred game type?

CR: Unfortunately, there will be folks that we will lose because of this decision.  We take our relationship with our community extremely seriously, so this part of the decision has been very painful.

I do think we've got something special going with Survival now, though, so I hope they give it a shot.   

MMORPG: MOBAs quickly became an all too crowded genre. Do you think OMDU just didn't come out fast enough to truly capitalize on that surge of interest? 

CR: I'm not sure, honestly. I think it's more complicated than just timing. It could be that folks already have their MOBA and aren't interested in another. It could also be that people just weren't expecting that type of gameplay from an OMD! game. I think it's probably a combination of many things.   

MMORPG: How will OMDU get back to what made OMD popular in the first place?

CR: Bringing back the old OMD! feeling has been exactly what we've been working on the last couple of months. I think players will see a game with a faster pace, more strategy around traps and heroes, crazier physics, and more humor. It'll feel very familiar, yet still really fresh with the new features and content we've added and are still adding. 

MMORPG: It's a risky move completely wiping progress and basically re-starting the game. Do you ever wish you would have just made OMD3? Is that how you see these changes now?

CR: No, not really.  I think as I mentioned in the previous question, all these decisions, as painful as some are, help get us to a better spot.  We've learned a ton over the last few years, and made some great gameplay strides that I don't think we would have made had we made a more traditional OMD3.  For example, we're doing some great stuff with our heroes now.  We've got more than 12 in the game, they each interact with each other in really fun ways, and they've got far more depth than anything we've done in the previous games.  This is a direct result of the decision to push ourselves with OMDU, and OMDU is a better game because of it. 

MMORPG: Once the change happens, where does the game go from here? How will it grow and evolve as a live service over time now?

CR: We've got a lot planned.  Certainly you'll see more maps, minions, heroes, and gear, but we have bigger plans than just that.  Without being specific, we definitely want to bring more story into the game soon.  We've also got some great plans around new ways to play the game that we're really excited about.  Of course, everything we add to the game will support the core OMD! Experience. We’ve got some great stuff coming soon!


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.