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Ryan Bednar on All Things Infinite Crisis

Michael Bitton Posted:
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Turbine was out in force at this year’s PAX East. The team was showing off its latest project, Infinite Crisis, a new F2P MOBA based on the DC Comics multiverse. We had a chance to sit down with lead designer Ryan Bednar at the show and pick his brain on all things Infinite Crisis.

We learned the genesis of Infinite Crisis was borne out of interest by the Turbine team to pursue a new project outside of the MMO space. The team, comprised primarily of MMO developers and a common love for MOBAs, discussed its plans with Warner Bros and ended up settling on DC Comics for the game’s IP. As Ryan explained to us, DC Comics characters are incredibly relatable. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t recognize Batman or Superman. This is a significant advantage for Turbine in what is an incredibly crowded space. Additionally, the DC Comics multiverse is as wide as it is deep, with 52 alternate versions of Earth and DC Comics characters to explore, there’s a lot for Turbine to dig into.

The DC Comics IP is one thing, but as Ryan noted, just playing as Superman isn’t enough. Given the superpowered nature of most of the cast, the team couldn’t simply plop all these characters down into the same ‘ol MOBA map experience. While Infinite Crisis’ maps will easily be familiar to just about any MOBA player, one of the major things that sets them apart is the map interactivity. Players can pick up fallen meteors, cars, and other objects and throw them at other players. Parts of the map can break away to create new paths, and sometimes, major map events can make entire areas of the map impassable.

Tweaks to pacing represented another important change Turbine had to make from your standard MOBA experience with Infinite Crisis. Given all the rivalries found in the DC Comics universe, it would be a bit odd to have Batman and the Joker passively farming near each other in lane for the entirety of the match, so Turbine has done a couple of things to keep the action going. The main thing players will notice is that missing last hits isn’t the end of the world in the game. If a drone isn’t last hit by a player, the enemy drone will drop a significant chunk of its last hit credits as a coin that players can pick up right off the ground. This allows players to be a bit less tied to lane and able to make moves on opportunities they see while being able to return to lane without missing their entire farm. It also creates a line of scrimmage in the lane, as enemy players can stomp out dropped coins, denying you the ability to pick up farm you’ve missed. As one might imagine, this does a great job at driving aggression in the lane.

While Infinite Crisis currently features three maps, the game made its debut with a single map called Gotham Heights, which is fairly similar to League of Legends’ Dominion mode. Ryan explained that the team went with the faster-paced control point style map in their initial release because it allowed them to get a whole lot of data on how their characters play while also testing the overall balance of the game. Anyone who tries the game out now will also find Gotham Divided, which is much closer to the 5v5 tri-lane map you’ll find in most MOBAs today. Ryan explained that the community is split roughly 50/50 between these two maps and they haven’t had a whole lot of issues with regards to balancing characters or items across the currently available modes. However, Ryan did admit that some characters are better suited for one more over the other and that the team is investigating options for tweaking items to better fit different modes. For example, there are certain items in the game that power up through farming coins and these items aren’t so hot on a map like Gotham Heights where you aren’t spending as much time farming, so Turbine is looking into accelerating the time it takes to power these items up on maps like Gotham Heights.

One of the major issues I brought up in my preview of the game was my confusion and frustration over Turbine’s roster choices so far. There are far too many non-Prime characters in the roster at the moment, more than should be present with so many iconic Prime characters left unaccounted for. In my experience, friends I have introduced to the game were also equally perplexed, so I wanted to pick Ryan’s brain on this issue and find out what he had to say.

Ryan explained to me that they wanted to get a bunch of these non-Prime characters into the game early on because the team finds those characters interesting and they also wanted to explore these multiverses in the game proper. For example, Gotham Divided is split between two universes, the Prime and the Gaslight universe, and so having these characters in the game was important. That said, with multiverse variants for the game’s major characters now in the game, Ryan confirmed that the team will be dipping back heavily into the Prime universe, though they aren’t abandoning the multiverse characters by any means.

On the subject of eSports, Ryan admitted that eSports wasn’t a core focus of Infinite Crisis’ initial design, but the team at Turbine began to realize more and more over time that there was a significant opportunity for them to develop Infinite Crisis as a viable eSports game. Ryan noted one of the particular advantages Infinite Crisis has goes back to the game’s IP. While there are a couple of popular MOBAs out there with a strong eSports presence, they aren’t necessarily relatable to someone who catches a broadcast and doesn’t recognize the characters. It’s not only recognition of the characters that’s important, but more importantly, understanding what they do as a result of recognizing these characters that offers Infinite Crisis an advantage. If you don’t know anything about League of Legends, you probably aren’t going to understand at a glance what characters in a match are capable of doing if you just come across a broadcast. On the flip side, if you’ve never played Infinite Crisis and spectate a match, you’ll probably have a good idea of what The Flash can do in combat just by recognizing the character. This gives Infinite Crisis a significant advantage as a spectator event.

To wrap things up, we wanted to find out what players could look forward to in Infinite Crisis over the next few months. Ryan gave us a preview of the game’s next major update, which will include a surrender option and the all-important tutorial. Looking further ahead, Ryan revealed to us that Turbine will be adding bot matches at some point in the future and this will tie-in with the team’s plans to introduce some sort of PvE content, though we weren’t able to pin him down on exactly how that will manifest in the game.

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB



Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB