How the Dragon Mania Legends team keeps things fresh after eight years

We spoke with Gameloft's Botond Szalacsi and Gabor Megellai about adorable creatures, the future of Dragon Mania Legends, and the creative process

Dragon Mania Legends interview - a group of dragons celebrating an eighth birthday

With all the mobile titles available these days, it’s rare to see something last for a couple of years, let alone eight. But that’s exactly what the team at Gameloft Budapest have managed, with their primo dragon training simulator Dragon Mania Legends celebrating its eighth birthday this January, with the title continuing to grow and pull in new players, thanks to some adorable creatures and a continuous stream of exciting events.

So, to celebrate the milestone, we got to talk to Botond Szalacsi, Game Producer and Gabor Megellai (Megsz), Lead Designer over at Gameloft about its fire-breathing title, discussing everything from how to balance a game after years on the market, to the team’s personal favourite winged terrors (we say terrors, some of these dragons are super cute), and everything in-between.

With that out of the way, it’s time to take flight into our Dragon Mania Legends interview.

Pocket Tactics: Eight years on a live service game means plenty of updates, can you share with us what are the most memorable changes to the game? And what are those you’re most proud of?

Botond: This is a tough question as we had so many great moments and features over the years. I could maybe highlight the introduction of our clan system – which didn’t exist when the game launched – or our first mega-event featuring Divine dragons inspired by Greek mythology. The whole team worked enthusiastically on this one as we dug deep into Greek cultural elements. Seeing the community’s feedback on this update was amazing!

Megsz: I would also mention an update releasing a Divine mega-event, but my all-time favourite is the Egyptian one. Originally, the game used Scandinavian elements, inspired by the Viking culture, so it was interesting to mix these with ancient Egyptian symbols. The narrative was outstanding, and getting deeper and deeper into an Egyptian tomb while progressing in the event was exciting.

Besides that, in general, I enjoy working on modernizing legacy elements of the game.

Can you share the process for introducing new dragons to the game? (in terms of visual design/balancing/anything at all really!)

Botond: Of course. As we are approaching the 1,000th dragon soon to
be introduced in Dragolandia, you can imagine the team can draw inspiration from almost anything. We introduced dragons inspired by constellations or animals so far, to name a few, but even a hamburger for lunch can result in funny ideas.

Dragon Mania Legends interview - a dragon with a massive burger on his back

Besides our artists, our community often submits amazing fan art that usually ends up in front of our 2D guys as concepts as well.

Megsz: While we are producing dragons for important real-life occasions that dictates their visual direction – think Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day or Christmas – we love ideating on the narrative that gives us the opportunity to create something new.

Our time-limited mega-events are introducing unique storylines circulating around a specific element, which pre-defines the upcoming dragons’ visual identity. (Think of the Divine events we mentioned earlier, inspired by ancient cultures.)

Luckily enough, we had the opportunity to work with a wide selection of brands and influencers, too – turning their visual identity into dragons in Dragon Mania Legends.

Dragons are one of the most commonly appearing mythical monsters in entertainment, how did you approach creating a dragon-based game that stands apart from the crowd?

Botond: Our goal was to create a game where players can not only collect and level-up dragons, but can take them into battles, interact with them in their habitats, and can participate in adventures with them on the campaign map. From a visual standpoint, we wanted to create a direction that stands the test of time.

Megsz: In most RPG games, the dragons are strange, evil, otherworldly creatures. When we were thinking about Dragon Mania, I wanted to create intelligent, lovable, unique creatures that can become companions of our players.

How do you think Dragon Mania Legends has continued to thrive in the last eight years?

Botond: Building a highly committed, engaged community is one of the most important reasons why Dragon Mania Legends has passed the test of time. Their enthusiasm helps keep our energy levels high while the team regularly produces new content. When it comes to new players, we believe the game is still visually appealing, making it stand out from the crowd of competitors that are also on the market for almost a decade.

What were the intentions of Dragon Mania Legends to begin with? And how much do they differ eight years later?

Botond: In the beginning, we wanted to create a game where – besides the generic collection aspect – players can fight with & strategize their dragon teams. This hasn’t changed foundationally since then.

Megsz: The aspects I want to put a larger emphasis on nowadays are: the social experience, the features that are available and a leaner UX. We are currently working on these currently.

Dragon Mania Legends interview - a dragon with a block hole on its back, a dragon with a panda on its back, and a dragon with holly on its back stand against a blurred background

Of all the available Dragons, which are your personal favourites and why?

Megsz: Black Hole, it’s one of the most beautiful ones.

Botond: Bamboo, he has a baby panda on his back! I don’t need to say more, also Holly dragon, it’s so ugly, it’s mesmerizing.

How much has the community helped to shape the future of Dragon Mania Legends over the eight years of play?

Botond: Before DML, we didn’t have the chance to work with a community this engaged. Even though some ideas coming from our players may seem silly at the beginning, we are able to gather useful insights that can result in inspiring changes.

We have a group of committed players that understands the game’s economy and strategical approaches as well as our designers, providing feedback continuously that helps us improve constantly.

Megsz: I would say that our players’ insights help to shape the events’ structures the most, even though we may receive the occasional less-than-kind feedback. This helps us implement modifications that can shape the general sentiment. To give you an example, our recently introduced Tyrant event received several comments that we are turning into action points within the upcoming updates.

Where do you see Dragon Mania Legends in another eight years’ time?

Botond: As a game that can remain true to its origins, but fits the then-current market standard both in its outlook and its features.

Megsz: I’m envisioning a game with more opportunities for social interactions.

A black and white dragon that looks like a sea horse

How much has the changing landscape of mobile gaming over the last eight years affected your approach to the continued development of Dragon Mania Legends?

Botond: This is a constant challenge for us as there are parts of the game, both content- and feature-wise, that we have to renew radically to reflect recent trends in the mobile gaming market.

Megsz: We constantly see trends come and go in the mobile gaming market. The fact that after being live for 8 years, DML being able to keep its core features as they were at the beginning is a big achievement.

What I would highlight is that being able to interact with other players, the feeling of being part of a community, is now much more prominent and we want to build on this within the game’s ecosystem as well.

Here on Pocket Tactics we look forward to seeing what the future holds for Dragon Mania Legends. If you’re yet to download the game, head on over to the official website to find a link for your device. In the meantime make sure you take a look at our lists of the best mobile games and the best mobile RPGs.