Recently, Shadow Arena - the arena fighter from the Black Desert Online developers - has hit closed beta. We had the chance to sit down and chat with Kwangsam-Kim, Shadow Arena's Executive Producer about the upcoming game's development.
MMORPG: At what point during the BDO development process did you know that you wanted to break out what would eventually become Shadow Arena into its own game?
Kim: We saw a lot of potential in Shadow Arena while we were thinking about what new directions we wanted to go with Black Desert. However, we faced some limitations with Shadow Arena being a mode within an MMORPG. Eventually, we had the idea ‘what if we make Shadow Arena into its own action-packed game?’
From there, we developed more ideas about the structure and rules that would accompany a stand alone version of Shadow Arena. We did not want to make just another battle royale game. We wanted to make a PvP game that utilized more MOBA-eque rules instead of the way it was structured in Black Desert. These ideas and the desire to expand on the original Shadow Arena outside of the MMORPG setting is what led to what we have today.
MMORPG: Can you walk us through the development process to get to that point? How does one take a portion of another game and craft a whole new experience from it?
Kim: To begin, we needed to ask ourselves “what do we want for the core system of the game?”
The old version of Shadow Arena was, in a broad sense, a battle royale game. However, features such as the way you customize and build your characters, were based on an RPG.
For example, gear farming was a huge focus of the original version of Shadow Arena because powerful gear could often times be more impactful than skill. Even very skilled players could end up doing negligible damage if their opponents gear was extremely high level.
So we focused on re-constructing the basics of the game. We changed the rules of PvP to something that is more similar to classic fighting games that mixes RPG elements and skill more closely which we think is much more fun.
After creating the core system for Shadow Arena, we went back to looking at the rules of the battle royale genre. Our goal here was to create a fun PvP action tournament with the matching system of any great battle royale game. To achieve that goal, we knew we had to mix the Shadow Arena PvP and battle royale systems well. The result was what we revealed at the end of last year.
For the beta test starting Feb. 27th, we added additional rules and systems to the foundation of the game. The result is very close to the Shadow Arena we wanted from the beginning
MMORPG: What are some of the challenges of doing something like this that your team had to overcome?
One of the most challenging aspects was overcoming a certain amount of fear and anxiety that came with creating a game that we all love and are happy with but knowing how much competition there is in this genre. Fortunately, all of the team members enjoy PvP games so getting to play Shadow Arena matches over and over to make sure everything is perfect was a lot of fun!
MMORPG: Can you breakdown some of the design decisions that went into deciding that Shadow Arena become the arena game it is now?
As a game designer, I really like to analyze the nature of existing games and then add a twist to create a new experience.
I want Shadow Arena to be the ultimate version of "modern" session-based PVP game. It is a game that you play like a MOBA with intense PvP action but also adds enough elements from the battle royale genre to make a unique experience.
MMORPG: How has the feedback been to the experience so far? Are there any changes you can point to that came directly from player feedback during the testing phases?
The dev team plays Shadow Arena everyday, and we have had frequent ‘play tests’ among members of Pearl Abyss. Also, we had focus group tests, demos at game shows, and three beta tests so far. The feedback from each test is of course reflected in each build of the game.
For example, we tested the skill point system in a focus group, but participants said the system makes the game slow in its early phase. So, we brought the skill book system back.
It seems like a small detail, but the skill system is a huge part of the whole game.
MMORPG: Is the BDO universe the backdrop for Shadow Arena given its kinship in its development, or will it have its own contained world?
Black Desert and Shadow Arena share the same universe. The story of Shadow Arena is connected to the future of Black Desert, and there could be details about the universe that can only be seen in Shadow Arena.
Adventurers who are interested in the story of Black Desert can enjoy learning about the characters in Shadow Arena.
MMORPG: Can players expect more game modes from Shadow Arena apart from the MOBA/Battle arena Hybrid gameplay currently in the game?
Currently, we are not focused on other game modes for Shadow Arena. We want to make sure we can deliver the most polished experience possible with what we are creating. Nothing is off of the table but we want to remain focused on perfecting the core game.