Rise of Immortals Interview: Free-To-Play, 3D-Enabled MOBA Launches
September 13, 2011
By Andrew Burnes
The Massively Online Battle Arena genre is one of the fastest growing segments of the PC gaming market, and now there’s a new contender vying for your attention: Rise of Immortals. Read on to learn all about the newly-released game, the MOBA genre in general, and how Rise of Immortals' use of 3D Vision can possibly give you an edge. There’s even some exclusive info about forthcoming Immortals and new additions to the free-to-play title...
GeForce.com: Today we’re speaking with Petroglyph Games, a strategy specialist formed by members of Westwood Studios, the developer behind Command & Conquer, the best-selling, much-loved game that popularized the entire real-time strategy genre. Could you introduce yourself please?
Hi, I'm Steve Wetherill, Producer on Rise of Immortals. I was also Technical Director on the original Command & Conquer, so I have quite a history with the genre, and with this creative team.
GeForce.com: You’ve just launched Rise of Immortals, a free-to-play Massively Online Battle Arena game. For those unfamiliar with the genre, could you please give us a general overview of how they’re played and what a MOBA match entails?
Steve Wetherill: MOBA's are typically team-based Player versus Player games. Teams are up to 5-players, and the battle is enacted on a map with several lanes connecting the team bases. Teams consist of heroes such as melee weapon-wielders, ranged spell-casters, armored tank-characters and combinations thereof. Players vie for control of the lanes, using friendly autonomous minions ("creeps") and towers for cover while they jab and poke at enemy heroes and try to land killing blows on enemy creeps in order to gain gold and experience. Control of lanes is established by pushing enemy towers and moving the battle line toward the enemy base. Ultimately, the victor is the team that destroys the enemy base.
GeForce.com: Rise of Immortals is one of many in-development and available MOBA games, most of which are all very similar to Defense of the Ancients, the first ever MOBA game, developed for Blizzard’s WarCraft III as a mod. To differentiate yourself and to innovate in a genre full of similar titles you’re doing some interesting things with the characters and player progression, I do believe?
Steve Wetherill: Yes, we've placed much more emphasis on an Immortal-centric meta game (in RoI the heroes are referred to as Immortals), with persistence on experience level, and items such as Artifacts and potions attached to the Immortal rather than to the player account. Players can level each Immortal to persistent level 50, unlocking their signature at level 21 and unlocking progressive tiers of Artifacts - persistent items that provide ability and stat boosts. Additionally, each Immortal has a unique discipline tree, into which players can sink discipline points (earned by increasing persistent level) to provide further boosts for base stats and abilities.
GeForce.com: In addition, you’re allowing players to socialize in in-game hub areas, whereas in most MOBAs players are kept isolated from one another, and are only able to interact on official forums where names may be different. Do you foresee these hubs helping players find new compatriots to group up with and perhaps help alleviate some of the player hostility that is often associated with MOBAs because of the highly-strung gameplay where mistakes can turn the tide of entire matches?
Steve Wetherill: During our beta period, we've seen a definite benefit arising from this increased socialization, with interactions between players extending beyond the game into the forums. Our community has been noticeably more considerate to newer players than you might see elsewhere, and many beta players have commented how friendly the forums are compared to other games. Perhaps players are held to be more accountable when they are not just a name in a list. We've also seen players rise to become champions of the game (helping new players, etc) and their presence in both forum and in-game social hub is empowering in this respect.
GeForce.com: Speaking of hostility, the main root of such strife in MOBA matches is due to inexperienced players or those deliberately griefing or trolling – does Rise of Immortals have a training facility for players to learn the game or other methods of people learning to play, such as co-op versus A.I.? And what of the aforementioned troublemakers, how will they be dealt with and kept from the rest of your players?
Steve Wetherill: We're rolling out a full tutorial during launch week, and in addition to that we have a practice scenario (a simplified map with 1 player vs an AI bot). There are also 3vBot scenarios that are enabled periodically depending on server population, and we're testing other scenarios such as 1+2botV3bot in which you play cooperatively with two bots against three enemy bots. We have some pretty interesting ideas for new scenario types, some of which will hopefully be released as post-launch features.
As for troublemakers, we have various means by which we can control player access to the game, and while we don't yet have in-game player reporting tools, we do have a network of community moderators who have eyeballs on the hub and forums, so we get good coverage that way.
GeForce.com: For those who have prior MOBA experience, does Rise of Immortals feature any unique elements on the Player Versus Player map, or other unique elements elsewhere within the game that we have yet to touch upon?
Steve Wetherill: With PvP, we aim to deliver a competitive, responsive gameplay experience that will be familiar to players of other MOBA games. Aside from the meta game differences, and how they feed into ability and stat upgrades, other unique elements of PvP include the item store and upgrade system, which is very streamlined compared to other MOBA's; the ability to upgrade tactical abilities based on persistent level (through the Immortal branch of the discipline tree); One of our other differentiators is the 3vE (cooperative three-player vs environment) mode in which players team together in an encounter based scenario with AI bots and other MOBA-like elements.
GeForce.com: As mentioned earlier, Rise of Immortals will be free-to-play, allowing everyone to try the game without charge, which in turn will hopefully enlarge the player base. Game development does cost money of course, and any game is intended to enter into profitability, so how will Rise of Immortals be monetized and what are you doing to ensure that those utilizing real-world money won’t have an in-game advantage?
Steve Wetherill: At launch, we start with 12 Immortals. Of those 12, 8 are "unlocked" so that you can play them without buying them. The remaining 4 can be unlocked using either Prestige Points (earned currency) or Petroglyph Coins (Real Money Trading). Prestige Point and Petroglyph Coin balances are account-wide, so by playing the unlocked Immortals you can earn enough Prestige to unlock new Immortals. Each Immortal has a selection of skins at launch, skins are unlocked with Petroglyph Coins only, and you have to own the base Immortal to unlock skins for it. In addition to skins, players may buy XP and Prestige boosters as well as Artifacts using Petroglyph Coins.
We expect to see players level their Immortals much more quickly in this game than in an MMO, for example - players should be able to get to end game levels within a few weeks on a given Immortal without boosts, and so while a player can power-level by spending money on artifacts and XP boosts, in reality all that happens is that that player will attain end-game level more quickly. Player skill is by far the most significant factor in how well a player at a given level will perform in-game.
GeForce.com: Technologically, MOBAs are deliberately designed to be scalable to allow anyone to play from almost any piece of hardware, though you are catering to high-end gamers also by including full NVIDIA 3D Vision support – how does stereoscopic 3D add to the experience?
Steve Wetherill: Stereoscopic 3D adds an amazing depth to the gameplay, the technology is quite incredible and really has to be seen to be believed. I think there's also a gameplay benefit in that objects tend to "pop" out of the backgrounds which can really help when there is a lot happening on screen at once, but it's certainly not disruptive the gameplay like you occasionally see 3D objects in movies being thrown at you.
GeForce.com: What’s next for Rise of Immortals – do you have specific plans in mind to evolve the game, or will you react to what your players want and ask for?
Steve Wetherill: We have plans to release new Immortals at a pretty aggressive pace - at least one per month. In fact, in our launch month we'll be releasing Talia and Trovoc, neither of which has previously been announced! In addition, I as touched on before, we have ideas for a whole bunch of new scenario types that make complete sense with this sort of gameplay setup and yet which really have not been done in the genre. In addition to that, we have a list of activateable tactical items that we have been keeping under wraps.
Outside of the game itself, we're looking carefully at supporting territories outside the USA - we'd love to get local servers for Europe, South America and the Asia Pacific region.
GeForce.com: Thank you very much for your time; do you have any final words or comments you wish to make about Rise of Immortals?
Steve Wetherill: It's been my pleasure to chat about Rise of Immortals! As you mentioned, we just launched on September 12. I encourage everyone to visit to create a free account and join us in the game. The developers will be in the game around 5pm PST most days, so we're looking forward to seeing you in the social hub!