Infinite Crisis Interview
with Ryan Bednar (Turbine's Lead Designer)
With the new added characters, Nightmare Robin and Atomic Joker, which would you choose if you had to pick between the two?
Atomic Joker! Nightmare Robin is a great assassin, and his unique style and high skill cap are exciting to play for someone that plays a lot of MOBAs (like me), but Atomic Joker is The Joker’s disembodied head in a jar riding around on a massive mutant, who is in turn on a unicycle. And he throws banana skins as traps to make people literally slip up. I can’t imagine a situation in which I wouldn’t want to be Atomic Joker.
Could you tell us a little more about the tutorial mode?
We do have new tutorials, but I think what’s more important is the experience for a new player as a whole. When you start playing, you’re greeted with a basic tutorial mission that teaches the most basic of things, like how to move and how to attack. When you’ve completed that, we reward you with your first champion, Gaslight Batman. From there, we continue to reward you with more champions as you complete more tutorial missions that culminate in you playing against AI (alone or with friends) in our coaching mode. It’s the coaching mode that we’re particularly proud of.
It begins when you select your champion. The game identifies what role you’ve selected and then assigns you an appropriate coach. So if you’ve chosen a Blaster your coach would be Green Lantern. He then talks you through various tasks as you do them, like building artifacts, how to lane through and why you died – which, 90 percent of the time, was because you ran into the tower. New players do that a lot. And other coaches sometimes chip in with advice. Wonder Woman, for instance, is happy to help you jungle if you happen to leave the lane and start attacking jungle camps. It’s a lot like having the Justice League looking over your shoulder as you play; they’re all there to give you advice and, perhaps more importantly, encouragement – something that every new MOBA player can benefit from.
We want new players to have a safe environment to learn in for as long as they need to. It doesn’t completely prepare them for playing against people (nothing can adequately prepare someone for that), but it does a better job than a tutorial alone.
What differentiates Infinite Crisis from other MOBAs other than the obvious?
That’s difficult in that everything about Infinite Crisis that’s different is, I hope, obvious! It’s obvious that you can throw cars around, opening up new routes in the jungle. It’s obvious that the map has a much more flexible meta than most other MOBA games, since the objectives’ positions are defined by the players. It’s obvious from the small things, like players being able to build items at their towers, that we want them to stay in the action longer. And we really want more action. More team fights, with both sides knowing when specific objectives that are important are ready to be fought over. We’re building the game to be as much fun to watch as it is to play. That’s why we’ve had timers for objectives on screen at all times from the very beginning. That’s why we made Gotham Heights’ center point so pivotal to the flow of the match. We want teams to meet and have a massive fight, because that’s what superheroes and villains do.
And I think the fact that you control superheroes and villains in Infinite Crisis is not just a superfluous one. We spend a lot of time making sure that each champion feels right. If you’re Superman, you need to feel like you’re Superman. That’s why it took us so long to get him in the game. We had to remake him three or four times! And now he feels like Superman, without being invincibly broken. Which is not a small thing, in my opinion.
What is it like working with the DC license?
DC Entertainment has been absolutely great to work with! We have been entrusted with some pretty big characters and we take that very seriously. It’s an honor to bring to life heroes like Green Lantern, and it’s an even greater honor to be given the freedom to create our own versions of those characters, like Atomic Green Lantern, a Green Lantern from an earth ravaged by nuclear war. And then, for DC Collectibles to decide they like our characters so much they make them into toys! That was a really great moment for us. And the comic is going from strength to strength, with DC Comics creating new characters from OUR worlds now, like Atomic Two-Face! We have a fantastic relationship with them, and we’re all really looking forward to collaborating more in the future.
What other MOBAs do you enjoy and have they inspired your work with Infinite Crisis?
We all play pretty much every MOBA there is, from Dota 2 to Awesomenauts, and I hope that we learn something from each of them.
What is your favorite part of the game's PvP?
The flexibility of our meta, hands down. Having the freedom to solo or duo any combination of Champion roles in any lane on any map, and actually have it be viable (relative to the rest of your team comp, obviously), is very refreshing to experience in the MOBA space.
What was the shift like from working on an MMO to working on a MOBA?
Turbine’s original background was actually online PvP. We made one of the first PvP MMO’s, Asheron’s Call, more than 15 years ago, and you’d be surprised how much of that skill set carries over. MOBAs, like MMOs, have complicated gameplay systems that revolve around the same math (they’re essentially RPGs from a numbers perspective), and they’re a live service, which means you need everything that comes with an always-on game. Networking expertise, server maintenance, live customer service, these are all things that are important to a player’s experience, and Turbine has been a leader in these fields since our inception.
Why did you go with the free-to-play route?
Turbine was the first company in the west to both try and then fully embrace the free-to-play model when we switched DDO to free-to-play in 2009. It’s something we’re good at, and it’s also the commonly accepted model for MOBAs. It’s hard to imagine how we would do it any other way.
How many more characters should we expect before the end of the year?
I’m not sure when this will go live, but we’re releasing one every 3-4 weeks right now. Get ready for Starro, the conqueror of worlds! (He’s next.)
Infinite Crisis - What Do You Fight For?
Is there anything else you would like to say?
We’ve just made our game super friendly for players who are new to MOBAs. If you’re new to the genre and are curious, but afraid of the often-harsh world of online PvP, consider Infinite Crisis. I don’t think you’ll find a more welcoming MOBA.