Infinite Crisis is a serious, competitive MOBA. That much was readily apparent at PAX East, where the game’s sprawling booth was hosting a professional tournament.
As such, it’s not about to dumb anything down that genre veterans have come to expect. But it’s also got an additional challenge not all other MOBAs have to face, one that also happens to be a tremendous opportunity: it’s based on a super popular IP, with the emphasis on the word “super.” People are going to check out this game just to have a chance to play cool versions of their favorite DC heroes and villains, and not all of them will have previous MOBA experience.
How does Infinite Crisis walk the line between satisfying hardcore players and welcoming newcomers? It’s a tricky balance, but one that Turbine has a plan to tackle.
“These games are always going to be slightly intimidating,” Executive Producer Jeffrey Steefel said to Gamesided at PAX East. “It’s like learning a sport that you’ve never played before. There’s no question about it. And from the very beginning, you’ve got layer upon layer upon layer of complexity that you’re trying to manage. So what we’re trying to do is sort of pull some of those layers to side for new players who haven’t played MOBAs before. It’s still a challenge to pick up. We’re actually in the process of finishing up some tutorials and things like that. We’re not quite there yet.”
One thing that will help in that effort is the inherent familiarity of the characters. Everyone knows Superman, and since he feels like Superman in the game, even the greenest players will figure out quickly that he’s not the type of character that will be lurking in the shadows or sniping from a distance. The Man of Steel needs to be in the thick of the action.
But even if the play styles aren’t hard to deduce, it doesn’t help new players figure out the natural progression needed during a MOBA match. That’s a tougher nut to crack, though one Turbine has also been thinking about.
“You’re gathering your currency, which we call credits, you’re spending them in items, which we call artifacts, and that’s how your character gets more powerful over the course of those 35 or 40 minutes,” Steefel said. “You have to understand how to push your character through that. Otherwise, later on in the match, the other characters are so much more powerful than you are, it doesn’t matter how much player skill you have, you can’t overcome that. In these games, often that’s not clear.”
Emphasizing the credits is one part of the solution. Turbine figures that picking up loot dropped from enemies is a reflex action for most gamers, so beginners will intuitively know to accumulate what’s left behind. There’s still a last hit mechanic to meet veteran players’ expectations, but having the credits on the ground gets new players involved.
When it comes to spending those credits and improving skills, a little hand-holding is in order. Infinite Crisis will prompt players with recommended purchases as soon as they become available.
“When I’m playing, without even going into the store, when I have enough currency, it’ll just pop up on my screen: here’s the next thing you should buy,” Steefel said. “Just click on it, boom, done. And the same thing with skills. You also are collecting points and spending them on your skills, but what’s the right skill to spend it on and what order for this character? You’re told that too.”
The idea is simply to reduce the number of things players have to worry about.
“It’s not going to teach you how to play the game well, but what it does do is move some of those complexities off to the side so you can focus on two things at once instead of ten things at once while you’re figuring out what’s going on,” Steefel said. “And eventually, you’ll want to do more yourself, and that’s there for you.”
Turbine is well aware that some people will never get over the hump, yet the hope is that anyone attracted by the DC brand plays enough matches until they “get it.” The various aides are there to provide guidance, not serve as a substitute for putting in time and learning by doing.
It remains to be seen if Infinite Crisis can achieve the equilibrium it seeks, but players can rest assured that the development team isn’t going to sacrifice depth for accessibility.
“All the things we’re doing contribute to making it certainly more welcoming and making the curve a little easier to get over,” Steefel said. “But it is still a competitive game.”