Infinite Crisis is WB Games’ answer to the growing popularity of the MOBA. In a decidedly smart approach, they’ve decided to use their licenses to the DC Universe to hopefully create a more engaging and dynamic game than we’ve ever seen before. Will it have what it takes? We sat down with the fine folks at Turbine, the development team behind the project, to see what we could discover.
What we discovered is that the genre is something they know more than a thing or two about. Throughout the interview, we will be referring to the following map of Coast City.
What exactly is Infinite Crisis?
Basically – super heroes, super villains, fighting each other in an urban setting.
Intermingled? So, we’ll see some untraditional alliances?
Yes, because, in the story, the universes are all combining so before they all go back to killing each other, they have to sort of settle the universe; figure things out. Then they’ll go back to killing each other. There’s more to the story than that but that basically lead us to “great, so how do we make these characters larger than life – which they are – even though the cameras pulled back and the guys appear so small. Well, obviously, we have to show the impact on their surroundings, right? These guys are going to be battling it out in Gotham and such, so that lead us to allowing [players to] destroy things.
Yeah, I saw them throwing about 10 cars at each other out front. What’s going on with that?
Right! Why not? They’re super heroes. [If] there’s a car on the ground, you should be able to pick it up and throw it. [If] there’s a wall on the ground, you should be able to break it down, which will become part of the gameplay so that’s kind of what we’ve done. We’re building three maps. The first one is Gotham Heights, which is all Batman, all the time. Dark, foreboding, kind of Goth. It’s [a] fairly well understood domination, capture the point kind of map which we did intentionally to really give short sessions of only 20 minutes. We start with 5 people.
5 on 5, on all maps?
Alright, that’s the perfect number.
We started experimenting with this catastrophic event and said, “well, what if a big giant meteor came crashing into the map and changed things”, which was really, really cool and exciting and fun. We made some adjustments along the way so we can see out there today that it’s a little bit [of a] different map. Rather than the meteor coming, you know where it’s going and when it’s going but you had nothing to do with that happening. That should change the dynamic. First map, it’s now, take control of the point instead of a lane.
Yeah, people seem to play their MOBAs rather formulaically. You know, same thing every time. So, will there be random elements disturbing that sort of gameplay?
No, not random. Never random because random and MOBA do not go well together. You practice all your strategy and, well, it’s kind of like moving the goalposts in the middle of a football game; it’s no good. But, the meteors are something that will happen periodically throughout the game that you don’t cause, so you know they’re coming and when. They’re just another thing that you have to plan around; control points that you have to take, which should feel more MOBA-esque. The map that we’re talking about today, which is Coast City, it’s not finished but we wanted to start talking about it early. It’s going to come online sometime this summer and it’s really taking it to the next level where destruction is a big part of the gameplay.
It’ll be two lanes. We’ll talk you through it and at great length. [There are] two main goals for this map. Firstly, we wanted it to environmentally feel different. So, you know, Gotham was dark and such, but this is a sunny, beach town like San Diego. Also the home of Hal Jordan – the Green Lantern – who’s a really big, best friend of Batman, but all of a sudden, they hate each other. We thought that it’d be a fun choice. It’s also a place that has been destroyed a number of times throughout DC history, so, destruction? We’re there. That’s the way this game runs.
What kind of destruction will we typically see on a map, affecting gameplay?
Basically, we’ve talked about cars and walls and other objects of various sizes. Well, as you destroy them, they effectively allow you to pass through them so, the person earlier mentioned Battlefield as a good example; Battlefield has a lot of destruction in their maps. We don’t quite want you turning everything into dust but we’re hoping what we do is that we’ll let that destruction open up new pathways for you which will allow you different gameplay options. Differences like different ganking opportunities.
Are there some characters who are better equipped to destroy the environment?
Yes, there are certainly characters that tend to lend themselves to it more. There are even characters that get special benefits by, for instance, using environmental objects. So a good example might be Doomsday. He will smash the person and basically charge a person. If you charge them through a wall, you will do extra damage to them. And there are other characters, where you might be like, “Ok, if you knock a person into this vehicle, something else [that’s] bad will happen.”
I had a feeling Doomsday would be something like that. I mean, he’s Doomsday, right?
Yeah, he kind of had to be like that. So, this map actually has a traditional laning phase, so a person would start off facing these two big lanes. You might have one big set of back and forth on the bottom lane by the cars and junglers, who traditionally come through there, might come through by their base and gank from back there.
All the way from around their base?
They can walk right through there. Actually, there are creeps in this path, too. On coast, which is a versatile map with lots of options, we still find that people gravitate towards and dual bot lane and a single top. And with all the options that everyone in [the neutral space] has, you can never really rest too easily. So, if you have dual people there, and you don’t know where the enemy jungler is, you have to be careful because it’s very possible that the person may come in from the side.
They may come in through a wall which was once solid but is not solid any longer because Ghastly Joker or Doomsday or someone [else] picked up a car and smashed you with it. And once that car is gone – it’s gone. Now that person can consistently gank from that point. The good news about it though is: let’s say you’re playing and you’re being chased and you were being chased for a gank. This person could be jumped by a team mate, if you have the foresight to guess that they’ll try to exploit that gap.
So, if there are jungler type characters, that means there are neutral mobs as well?
Yes, there will absolutely be neutral creeps. We’re going to have neutral creeps everywhere. It’s to the point, where I don’t think I’ve ever seen a MOBA map that has as many neutral creeps as we have.
Are the creeps going to be like thugs, or something similar?
There are different types of beings, some of whom are infected with this alien technology. Sometimes they were world citizens. Sometimes they were thugs. Sometimes they’re these strange, robotic alien devices. But for the most part, a lot of them are these rogue, alien, tech-like beings. The jungle path is so large that no single jungler can clear it all out. So, that has lead to some pretty interesting meta. We’ve seen double jungles, and I’ve seen no jungle at all.
What’ll happen [is that] people will just push their lane and then they’ll dive back through the unused jungle just to keep the pressure on. But if you have enough presence, you can start taking it over to negate that. And if you do take their jungle, they may not want to fight you for it because they may have enough minions in the lanes to sustain themselves. But at that point, they lose a lot of lane pressure. There are just a lot of options.
What are the Power Relays?
Essentially, there are three power relays. Each time you take a power relay, two things happen. One of them is, all your minions get tougher. The other thing is that you spawn basically a mobile camera that kind of moves around and basically patrols that section of the area that you unlocked.
The map on the user interface – does it convey everything that is going on in-game and everything there is to see, to the same extent that this printed map does?
It’s pretty detailed. It’s enough that you’ll be able to tell, and see at a glance, that Nightmare Batman just ran up here.
Are cars marked on the map?
Cars are not marked on the map. We wanted to make sure that it didn’t get too cluttered.
Apologies, I interrupted you about the power relays. Does gaining more than one serve a purpose?
Well, if you get one of them, enemies get tougher but if you get two of them, all your minions are tougher and you spawn a super minion in the top lane. If you have all three, all your minions are tougher and you’re spawning super minions on both lanes.
Oh, very cool. Is there any other way to gain an advantage for your team?
Yeah, definitely. The last big thing that we’re kind of focusing on is the Doomsday device. [The] Doomsday device is no joke.
No, I wouldn’t imagine it is.
It’s such [a big thing] that it’s something that everyone really wants, [or even] more so, they really don’t want their opponents to get it because,when we were talking before about the things that made Gotham Heights good, we [thought] it was with our solar powers and with our destruction driven objects. We wanted to make sure that this map used those in more interesting ways. The Doomsday device is our answer to the catastrophic event in so much that it lets you trigger a catastrophic event, and take hold of it, and aim it and fire it like a cannon. That was the point of the Doomsday device.
I feel it’s very successful because you first start off with the Doomsday device having a defense grid – it’ll basically stop you whenever you try to take it. When you blow that up, the firing pin for the doomsday device appears. The first person who takes it then gains control of the doomsday device and it’s almost like accessing another skill. It’s used just like you’d use a skill in the game and you can target with it and use it to blow up minions, towers, the enemy team; you go nuts with it.
After the match, when the leader board appears, are players going to be primarily evaluated on Kill to Death ratio, or are there some things to emphasize? Are there other ways that players can gauge how well they did?
It’s going to be a combination of kills and structure damage and probably the doomsday device captures. We might even do controlling points because that’s super, super important for your lanes to push.
Now, this may be super surprising, but MOBA players aren’t typically too nice. League of Legends has their tribunal system, I believe it’s called. Anything like that in play here?
We’re still in closed beta so we don’t actually know what we’re dealing with. We’re working with our community [and we’re] trying to figure out “what do you guys think about this solution?” And we’ll really try to police it because, [even though] we’re new to the MOBA space, we’re not necessarily new to the online market. We’ve got a pretty good handle at working with our community and making sure they feel included. We want to find other ways in which we can surface community concerns and find a way to either rehabilitate people or to stop them from becoming cancerous to our community. Our goal here isn’t to be assholes. Our goal here is to preserve the fun of the game.
Yeah, people seem to get pretty passionate during matches.
Yeah, and that’s the thing we sometimes hear customer service say. They say, “look, maybe the guy is having a bad day.”
It’s not to say people get free passes, because if you’re f’in up the game for other people, that’s a no-no, but on the other hand, rather than just “bad! ban! bad! ban! bad! ban!” we’d rather work with them. Guys, we’re here to have fun, you’re obviously not having fun. What can we do to fix it?
League of Legends just recently introduced a quest system where you’ll be given a quest, sometimes character specific mid-match that will grant you bonuses if you complete it. For example, “this person should kill this person because they’re associated in the lore in such and such a way.” Can we expect anything like that in Infinite Crisis?
Not so much for us. I think that those are all nice bonus adds, but we have a lot more dialogue options because every single character has an antagonist and a friend. And you can hear those conversations start in game. We don’t have League of Legends’ problems in many ways. We have some of them, but, I don’t have to worry about making you care about spinning guy with a sword. You know who Batman is. You want to talk about Batman, well, most of those questions will be, “Oh, is Kevin Conroy voicing him or not?”
That’s a good question, and we can’t wait to find out. In terms of personality, most of our characters are already established enough that people already know what their personality is, so in that sense, what we’ve been doing more of is making sure that when you are in the game and the Joker and Batman are on the same team, you hear their interactions. There are often times where they have some pretty interesting things to say; they’ll do the smack talking for you.
And when they’re on opposite teams, it’s exactly what you’d expect. Nightmare Batman in our game says, “I never get tired of killing you,” every time he kills the Joker. That’s really how we wanted to push that personality into the game. When they’re not [on opposite teams], expect stuff like, “we’re on the same team, but don’t think I’ve forgotten.” or, “make no mistakes, Bats.”
From the sounds of it, you don’t really need it, but are there any cut scenes anyplace in the game?
Nope, you’ve got it. There’s just no need.