If the massive cash purses, e-sports tournaments, and ravenous fan bases surrounding games like League of Legends and Dota 2 are any indication, MOBAs (multiplayer online battle arenas) are the new genre du jour for competitive multiplayer gaming. So, when DC first announced it was entering the MOBA arena (pun intended) with Infinite Crisis, it seemed like a natural fit. After months of carrot-dangling and wishful thinking, the open beta is finally upon us, and there’s a brand new CG trailer to boot, with some of the DCU’s finest heroes kicking ass and taking names. To help give you a sense of what you’ll be in for when the beta kicks off this weekend, I caught up with Infinite Crisis lead designer Ryan Bednar to pick his brain over what they hope to get out of the beta, what players can expect, and whether he had any pro tips to help you step up your game.
Nerdist: You’re about to enter open beta. What have you learned from closed betas, and what are you hoping that this open beta will tell you about the game?
Ryan Bednar: All data is good data, but going into open beta is less a matter of looking for something specific as it is your game reaching a sufficient quality threshold and stability to allow you to open up access to as many people as possible. Our data collection tools are sophisticated, but nothing beats increasing the sheer volume of information we have to look at, to aid with client performance, game flow and overall balance. And our game is ready for open beta now. We’ve gone from one map to three, we have 27 champions (which is enough for basic competitive play), we have pro teams forming in Europe and North America, and we now support French, German, and Russian. It’s time to open the doors.
N: What can players expect from the open beta? Tell us about the new Gotham Divided map and the new champions.
RB: There’s so much! There’s three new champions (we normally release one every three or so weeks), Aquaman, Mecha Superman and Green Arrow. There’s a new practice mode, which lets you start a game on a map with no opposition. It’s not quite a tutorial (coming!) or matches with bots (coming!), but it does let new players wander round and get to grips with basic functionality. Due to insanely high levels of demand, we’ve brought back drone aggro, which was something we wanted to try removing while still in the safety zone of closed beta and didn’t quite pan out. And then there’s a sweeping balance pass and lots of small quality of life adjustments.
Gotham Divided is going well; It’s been out for a couple of months now and the feedback has been great. We’re still missing some pretty important art, but we felt it’s better to get the map out there and played on as soon as possible. More data is good data, after all. We’re continuing to make small changes as we tune the map, but generally it’s in a pretty good place. And of course it’s the map that the pros want to play on the most, which means we get a LOT of great feedback from our burgeoning e-sports scene on Gotham Divided.
N: What’s the biggest challenge in designing a MOBA for today’s competitive market? In terms of pick-up-and-playability, how does it compare to games like League of Legends and Dota 2?
RB: Our biggest challenge right now is everything! Making a game is never easy, especially when the audience has such high expectations for quality. We have a clear goal in our mind of the minimum standard Infinite Crisis should be when we decide to “release” it, with a minimum number of champions, and we’re working feverishly on a tutorial and bots that are fun to play against right now, but we know it’s going to be a challenging road. In terms of pick-up-and-playability, I don’t think any MOBA has achieved that. I’m not even sure any MOBA wants to achieve that. These are incredibly complex games on their own before you even introduce human competition, and part of the appeal is the long learning curve. Even after hundreds and hundreds of hours of play, there’s always something to learn.
That said, making your game’s depth as accessible as possible is something we feel is important, and we’re always working on ways to make it clearer to our players what’s going on in game. For example, our objectives timer at the top of the screen means you don’t need to keep a mental track of a map’s objectives in addition to everything else you’re already dealing with.
N: How long will the open beta run and on what platforms is it available?
RB: The open beta is on PC only, and it will run as long as it needs to and is on PC only. We are hoping to release it before the end of the year, but we’re not going to rush into anything.
N: Any inside tips you can give prospective players to make the most of their beta experience?
RB: Watch the tutorial videos! And try out the practice map first. And then, I would choose your first matches to be on Gotham Heights, where the focus is on all-out brawling and capturing points. And if you’re coming from another MOBA and you’re already a pro, play Aquaman on Gotham Divided.
Are you going to join the Infinite Crisis open beta? Let us know in the comments below.