At QuakeCon, I had the chance to speak with Lucas Davis, Design Director of BattleCry Studios, and the driving force behind the studio's premiere game, the arena brawler BattleCry.
MMORPG: First of all, give us your elevator pitch: What is BattleCry?
Lucas Davis: BattleCry is a 32-player, team action-combat game. We wanted to create a distinct multiplayer experience, so we combined melee and ranged together and brought in over-the-top, visceral, fast melee combat and brought that into a world with ranged combat, balanced them out, and made them work together on fun an intriguing maps.
It's a third-person game, with a very intimate camera, so you're right up there in the action. We want you to get into the action quickly, and if you die, we want you back in the action quickly. We want the kind of objectives and frenetic gameplay you'd get from a shooter, with a whole new type of combat that you've never played before.
MMORPG: Why did you go with this distinctive look and feel for the game?
LD: Everyone on our team was passionate about doing something stylized. The story we wanted to tell was, imagine throwing 20 screenshots onto the wall... we want you to be able to stand across the room and say, “There's BattleCry.” We can tell the look of it anywhere.
Victor Antonov, our creative director, and Andrew Collins, our art director, have done a fantastic job of going in there and pulling something unique and very unusual out of the world and creating this distinct painterly style that you see that has a lot of details in the foreground and essential shapes in the background.
MMORPG: Apart from the aesthetics, what makes BattleCry different from all the other arena brawlers out there?
LD: We saw a lot of what was out there and decided that was not what we wanted to do. There were a lot of things that we love about shooters – we love the design, we love the verticality, we love that the world is part of your combat strategy. But there are a lot of shooters out there, so we didn't want to do that. There are a lot of MOBAs out there, there are some interesting aspects of those, but everyone's doing one of those these days.
We looked at what could we do, what is new to the space? So we looked at a lot of the action/brawler games out there that have been dominantly single-player up until now. We thought, OK, you can jump in, you can have a lot of fun with them, you're doing all sorts of crazy combos, you're killing all these monsters... you don't really see anything like that in multiplayer, at least not with that kind of fluidity and visceral action.
That was kind of the idea: How do we bring that into multiplayer? How do we bring two people in there, fighting each other, still keep it fun, make it so that you can jump right into the combat, you can do all these over-the-top things with your warrior, and whether you're on the losing side or the winning side, you come out of it with a smile on your face and you're ready to do it again.
MMORPG: What kind of game modes are there?
LD: The only thing we've showed off so far is Team Deathmatch, but we'll definitely be showing off a lot of objective-based game modes in the future. There's a sort of over-the-top mode we're working on in-house, and we're really looking forward to showing that at some point, but there will be some familiar objective modes. Even with those, we're trying to say, “How do we make those unique to us and make it a unique experience?”
MMORPG: From the website: “BattleCry's highly stylized environments change depending on whether you are winning or losing in the arena.” Say what?
LD: One of the things we talk about with our style is “the analogy of war,” the idea that as a warrior entering into these WarZones, adrenaline's coursing through your veins, everything seems larger than life, and everything seems surreal. It's like the version of the story you're telling your grandkids 30 years after: “The sky was larger than life and the sun was bleeding, everything was huge and the shadows loomed ominously.”
Those are the kind of things we actually play with in the game. When the game ends, you actually see the sun weeping blood across the sky, or you have storm clouds that move through the sky depending on how you're doing... a lot of those dynamic elements that are just there to look beautiful and majestic.
MMORPG: How does advancement work? Is it skill-based, weapon-based, or both?
LD: As your warrior progresses through levels, you're able to unlock your skill tree, which is used to build customized loadouts with. The skill tree will allow you to power up your weapons, but whatever you want your weapon to look like, that's what it will look like.
MMORPG: Speaking of which... cash shop details?
LD: We're still building the store, so we'll wait until we can really reveal it before we talk about a lot of that stuff. The main thing we're stressing is the vanity stuff, because we have these absolutely gorgeous characters with great personalities and a lot of style. Any time we do new armor or new weapons or new skins or ethnicities or even gender options for each of our warriors, we take a lot of time and effort to make these characters look unique and have really strong personalities. It's a really high value for you; like, you're not just a slightly different enforcer, it's a completely different character.
MMORPG: Gender swaps? (Insert “women are too hard to animate” comment here.)
LD: Yeah, already in the game we have lots of warriors of different genders on each faction, but as we push through beta, we want every single warrior to have either gender.
MMORPG: This is the first F2P game under the Bethesda banner. What was it like, trying to convince them of that kind of product?
LD: Surprisingly easy! Once Rich [Vogel] approached them and let them know that AAA is what he wanted to execute on that level, they were very supportive of that. That's what Bethesda does, these high-quality AAA games. I think that really appealed to them, because it was a new space they could enter, and they could still keep it at the quality level that they've always been known for.
MMORPG: OK, turn on your fanboi switch and just tell us something cool that you love about the game!
LD: So, our duelist has the ability to cloak herself and get behind the enemy lines and hit the enemy where they least expect it. As a duelist, I love just coming in, juking, messing up the enforcer... we've got this Phase Strike ability that allows you to go through an enemy and damage them, so you kind of lead them toward you, come back behind them, and as they've been trying to protect the tech archer behind them, now you're on top of the archer, and you're destroying them.
MMORPG: What's your time frame for early access/beta/launch?
LD: What we've announced so far is beta in 2015. The game's still in a pre-alpha state, so we're still working quite a bit on it. As we get closer to 2015, we'll have a lot more details on exactly how it is and how people can sign up for it.
MMORPG: Sounds cool, we can't wait! Thanks a lot for your time!
LD: My pleasure!