KurtzPel Dev Interview - The Hammer Falls On A New Update
KurtzPel, the anime-inspired online title from KOG has just unleashed a massive new update to their online brawler. After a weekend of furious testing, we got a chance to sit down and talk to Danny Noss, VP of KOG, and Malcom Yeo, Community Specialist, to talk about to latest update and what it is about to bring to KurtzPel.
I was lucky enough to take a look at KurtzPel when it first launched into Early Access. You can check out my initial impressions here. After nearly sixth months I haven’t found that it held my attention for as long as I’d like. With so much time elapsed, I wanted to find out why this is the time for players to make a comeback. As if to answer my question Danny points at the number of changes that just dropped in the new update.
“We’ve been incredibly busy of late,” noted Danny. “The patch notes alone are eight pages long, so that gives you an idea of how much is coming in just this update”
One of the most significant additions to KurtzPel is the introduction of Lime. For those that haven’t played KurtzPel or simply aren’t aware, KurtzPel isn’t a completely isolated narrative. It takes place around 400 years after the final events of the mobile game Grand Chase. It even has links to other KOG games like Elsword. The KurtzPel are inexorably tied to these chasers and Lime is undoubtedly a massive addition to the current game. During our chat, Danny described Lime.
“Lime is a new character and the NPC that introduces the Hammer. Anybody who is coming back to the game is going to love that this is the first time we have introduced a support character.”
Originally a Holy Knight in the world of Grand Chase, Lime is a young girl who wields a holy hammer. Her introduction to KurtzPel does not deviate from this idea. While small in stature this young girl has held onto her hammer in the intervening years between Grand Chase and KurtzPel. In both games, she used this oversized melee weapon to assist her comrades as well as face-off against incoming damage. You can check out the hammer in the release trailer.
Now it’s not only Lime that gets to play this hybrid role. Players will get access to a new Karma. For the uninitiated, Karma are akin to classes in KurtzPel and allow players to unlock access to different weapons, as they progress through the game. Players who complete a series of quests or opt to purchase the DLC content can start utilizing the Sacred Guardian class to assist their fellow KurtzPel. This means that with the right selection of karma Crystals the Sacred Guardian can block projectiles, drop healing over an area, or rush in and break an attack before it becomes fatal. It’s a varied range of options that moves away from the traditional damage focused approach of KurtzPel and potentially changing up the whole of the game’s meta.
The introduction of a support character is unusual for KurtzPel, simply because this was not how the game first started out.
“When we started this, we walked in with an idea. However, one of the great things about launching in Early Access is developing with the players. The logic walking into this is that we were not going to have healing based characters because heals prolong combat and protracted matches are boring.”
That changed. The introduction of the recent Dual Souls Karma brought a super fast class that could turn the game on a knife-edge, dishing out ridiculous damage in the blink of an eye. Akin to an assassin style class, this nudged Kurtzpekl a little closer to a traditional MMORPG style class structure and provides players with a different way to play that still doesn’t move too far away from KurtzPel’s focus on action.
“We developed the game with the concept that we want to see blood, we want to see guts, and we wanted to see it over fast,” confirmed Danny. “Fast matches can be fantastic when it’s calculated but things change. We figured that with this particular karma we get to bring fast attacks, healing and res support character which plays against the last karma we introduced, a blindingly fast interceptor that’ll have you down in a flash and this hammer is the embodiment of a Paladin. It can heal, it can battle res, and it can tank.”
The Proving Grounds
Still with this huge change to the meta. The team at KOG couldn’t just expect a new class to distract from other, more core, issues. To that end, the team has been working with their community to produce the aforementioned eight pages of patch notes.
“With that in mind, we introduced the Eltheca proving grounds and had our best players come in and tear down our Karmas. From that, we took all the feedback from the players and the dev team and started making eight pages of patch notes”
The Eltheca proving grounds provided three distinct tests for the team at KOG and involved the game’s best and brightest. They brought the fight to the 30 odd strong team behind KurtzPel and took combat apart. The result wrapped up just a few weeks ago, just prior to the 10 Oct launch of the latest patch and the game has seen some significant balance changes. These tests have been invaluable in getting the game right, according to Danny
“They (the players) are the pro players,” said Danny “I liken it to professional guitarists. You’ve got the people that design the guitars but are they the best guitarist in the world? Hell no, but you put a talented musician behind that and you might hear things that you didn’t imagine. It’s the same for our players and the game. It’s really exciting to see what they do. The benefit of getting the Sacred Guardian on the test realm already and getting that feedback is that we are seeing players already starting to seed a new meta into the game.”
In addition, keeping in contact with the community through these test servers has allowed KOG to get to the bottom of one of the biggest issues that has dogged KurtzPel combat since shortly after launch.
“One of the big issues that plagued players from quite early on in the game was something we call Fast Falling.”
This describes an issue whereby the players would find after throwing their opponent up into the air, the enemy character would descend back to the ground without an opportunity to follow through and build a combo. This ended up being linked to a collision between the game engine and source code. This issue, where the server was unable to register a character location correctly is now resolved and should drastically improve the quality of life for players jumping back into the game.
With jumping back into a game for the first time, you’ll always come up against the pro player that can crush you without batting an eyelid and Danny feels just as strongly as you’d expect about this.
“Any time you have to hands-off keyboard, that is no fun for anyone”
This is especially problematic with games that have player base shrinkages. KOG confirmed that while the game managed some serious numbers after the initial Early Access launch, it has seen natural shrinkage. While this allowed KKOG to focus their efforts with a relatively small development team, it does mean that there is the potential to simply stop and drop your hands from the keyboard when the experience gap becomes insurmountable. Hopefully, the new update has something to give players a fighting chance. This change is the Rage Break system.
Like many fighting games that rely on juggling and combos, KurtzPel has come up with a breaker system that now allows players a fighting chance to escape a combo lock. The Rage Break utilizes a player’s rage bar to break a combo. This provides the opportunity for players on the back foot to switch from dropping an ultimate skill to instead get breathing space. It also injects some tactical opportunities. With more than one potential use for the Rage Meter, it may be more opportune for players to hold onto their rage in case things become problematic.
It’s a whole other way to play and should make PvP much more interesting for new and old players alike. While KurtzPel has a ton of lore from Grand Chase and a PvE mode, PvP is king and the latest update will inevitably throw the current PvP balance out the window.
Making a Meta
Talking about the ethos behind this, Danny remarked that “When Kutrzpel was in its infant stages the foundation was 2v2 PvP. This is the first time that as KOG, we’ve developed a game that is so PvP orientated, the first time we’ve used the Unreal engine, the first time for a lot of things. We built that foundation with 2v2 combat because we’ve noticed that over our 15 years in the game industry, the 1v1 game is firmly established. It’s been done. The number of elements that come together for combat in a 2v2 format adds so much depth and complexity. It can flip games. You can go into a game evenly matched at half time and the whole game flips because one team got its stuff together and turned the game on its head.”
With a new class of combat coming into the game, the Ethica proving grounds have given the team an idea of how things might play out as the game progresses.
“The proving ground tests have already shown us what can happen when the players seed the hammer into the meta but we still haven’t seen what happens when players start to develop tactics on the live game. We’ve yet to see it with the Blazing Fist, with the Diabolical Witch, and so on. We haven’t seen that side of the meta develops fully yet and that is the most exciting thing.”
For anybody who is looking to jump back in, all this change may even play in your favor. Danny explained that “every character in Kurzpel, so far, is aggro in your ace. Many players are initially going to take this tanky, hammer-wielding wrecking ball and try to hit people with it. The character, however, includes healing concepts. The short burst AOE heal changes the way people need to play together to get in for the heal. The same with the res and the projectile barrier”
While the team is anxious to see the results of this you’ll also be able to watch the fallout from these new additions as they play out. With a primarily PvP focused game, KurtzPel has an ESL tournament ongoing and the Sacred Guardian is going to have an impact on the way this tournament plays. While the cup kicked off on 13 October, players competing will have until 26 October to grind out the quests or otherwise unlock the Sacred Guardian because that is when it lands in competitive games.
Danny confirmed that “That two week time period is for free to play competitive players to go unlock the hammer without having to buy the DLC.”
Between the new Rage Break system and the Sacred Guardian launch, the whole game is likely to shift and shakeup. We don’t know what it means for KurtzPel’s future but Danny did note that goes "depending on how our players respond to the Sacred Guardian, we may start to introduce a couple more Karmas”.
We’re can’t wait to meet Lime and bring down the hammer. If you happened to step away, or just are interested in the changes coming to KurtzPel then you can jump into Early Access for free via Steam.