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“Marvel trust us” - Kabam on taking risks with Realm of Champions

Find out much more about Realm of Champions ahead of its release next month

Following on from Marvel Contest of Champions, the fighting game featuring over 150 characters, Kabam is ready to reveal its latest title: Marvel Realm of Champions. In this reimagined version of the Marvel universe, you must fight your way out of the dangerous Battleworld. Inspired by the 2015 Secret Wars comic series, expect to see a number of your favourite characters with a few new twists on their designs.

The latest trailer for Realm of Champions showed just how trusted Kabam is with the Marvel IP. Showcasing characters like President Peggy Carter and Queen Shuri give us a glimpse of how Kabam is able to freely experiment with the deep lore. Realm of Champions goes even further by offering unique sets of armour, once again digging into decades of comic book history.

We had a chance to speak with Scott Bradford, senior quest designer, and Alberto Braga, lead designer, over at Kabam to get their insight into the game’s development process. Find out what it’s like to work with Marvel, what makes Realm of Champions stand out from its competitors, and much more.

Pocket Tactics: Can you give us a brief overview of Marvel Realm of Champions, please?

AB: Marvel Realm of Champions is a new imagining of the Marvel universe that takes place in an action RPG game.

SB: The game is focused on PvP combat and highly focused on customisation as well. You can customise your own Marvel hero and team up with two teammates to fight against another team of three. There’s a PvP focus, but there’s also co-op experiences for players to team up and battle.

AB: It’s going to be team fights of superheroes. If we’re going to compare the game to a movie, you know in Captain America Civil War, the airport scene? That’s what we’re going for, in all the game modes. This is basically what kind of the feeling we’re trying to create in the game.

PT: How did you manage to get Marvel’s approval on allowing this level of customisation?

AB: Kabam has a really good relationship with Marvel, a relationship that has been going on for over six years now. They trust us a lot. We’ve been innovating and taking risks. Marvel knows that we understand and respect the IP really well, they trust us to take this leap. I don’t think it was as big of a struggle as people think it was for us all to get on the same page.

PT: Was this customisation element something that was encouraged by Marvel, or was this something Kabam pushed for?

AB: I believe the initial proposal for the game having customisation options was our decision. We didn’t specifically propose the idea in the beginning of wanting to visually change each part of the champion. It was just in the pitch of the game, in the universe the characters will have gear and they’ll swap around. Marvel really liked our pitch and said to be able to do this properly we would have to be able to customise the champions visually.

SB: The origins for that are in the comics. The game is pretty heavily inspired by the Secret Wars 2015 comic. If you’ve read that comic, there’s a very rich culture for each of these sorts of Houses in this world, or these groups of people in this world. When you create this world, it begs to allow people to customise their champions to express themselves in that way. That really spoke to Marvel, so they were really excited about it.

PT: Of all of the Houses in the game, which one has been the most difficult to create?

SB: One of the hardest ones has actually been the Temple of Vishanti. That’s mainly because people are familiar with Stephen Strange, they are familiar with the Ancient One. But in our game, he is the Ancient One. But he’s sort of this very aloof character, he has knowledge above all other people. It’s very difficult to write for that character, to make it a relatable character that people want to like know more about, but also still sort of maintain that mysteriousness. The history of Doctor Strange and that universe, the multiverse and all that stuff is so wild and so crazy, that oftentimes, it’s hard to know where to pull from because there’s a million different places you could go. You could do literally anything that you want, especially when it relates to Sorcerer Supreme and stuff like that. It can be quite difficult to know what you want to pull from and how you want to express that through the character.

Our creative director, Gabriel Frizzera is a really good leader for that story stuff because he has such an encyclopaedic knowledge of the comics. It’s absolutely absurd. There’s one territory in the game that’s a reference to a very, very limited run of comics from the 60s called Khobar. Some people in Marvel were like, what? We had to say, “Oh, it’s in this comic.” There’s just so much history to pull from.

PT: What was the response like when you revealed all of the new additions in the Council of Shawarma trailer last week?

AB: The response for the latest trailer was extremely positive. When we showed the first one last year revealing the game, there’s a lot of confusion about what the game was. Now we’ve given an expanded version of that trailer as we didn’t want to reveal too much on the first one. One thing we thought was gonna happen was how people are going to react to all the changes we’ve made. We’ve got Peggy Carter as the President now, Wolverine as a Shogun, but it looks like people have been loving it.

SB: A lot of these trailers are sort of revealing this world that we’ve been building for so long. It’s a little bit like watching your kids open their Christmas presents, like slowly, one by one. We know what’s in the trailer, and we’re just waiting for people to see it. It’s honestly super exciting to see them. You know, that there’s characters in that trailer that they see, like, “Who’s that?” and then all the really sort of deep comic book nerds are coming in, like, “Oh, that’s this person from that comic, and you should go read this.” It’s really invigorating for everybody on the team to see people’s really positive reactions to this stuff. It just makes me want to keep adding more cool stuff

PT: When you take into consideration what the general public knows about Marvel these days, people are more familiar with these characters now than ever before. Do you think you would’ve made this same game ten years ago?

AB: If we did this, let’s say ten years ago, before the MCU, we wouldn’t be able to cut so deep with the references. Right now, there’s some clear references that all fans are going to get, even if you just watch the movies. Then there’s references all the way down to what Scott was saying about the limited run comic book from the 60s. I don’t think we would have that big of a range to play with. Things would have to look a bit more traditional, where the characters have to be more recognisable. This is probably a really good time for us to do it because Marvel basically just got ten years of mainstream education with the movies and everything. I think the timing worked out well for us.

SB: Yeah, I agree. I think the fact that Marvel as a brand and those characters are in the cultural zeitgeist now. Everyone knows Marvel, family members who don’t know anything about deep comic lore, they know who Iron Man is, they know who Black Panther is. That really allows us to use that foundation of understanding that people have and go a little bit weirder with some stuff, which is great for us because it means we can do super obscure references and specific pieces of gear and just get wild with it.

PT: What has been the main piece of feedback from the community who tried the technical beta you released a couple months ago?

SB: There’s a lot of quality of life changes that we’ve done. Specifically, players wanted to know what the max possible rating of their gear was before they started upgrading it. That’s something we added in beta to improve their experience.

AB: In terms of big changes that we’ve been getting from the community, a lot of them are related to matchmaking. There’s not one single, big shocking piece of feedback we’re getting. A lot of the feedback is around the problems of being in beta. We don’t have the volume of users that we want to have. If we have more users, we can get into matches faster and the match can be more fair. When we actually launch the game, we will have a bigger volume of users which should address that problem.

PT: Realm of Champions has been in development for a while but has never been given a public release date until today. Is it difficult to nail down an exact launch date when you keep wanting to add new things to the game?

AB: When we showed off the first trailer, we’re still a bit early in development. The first thing we got that we could show our players was the universe, the story, and the character design. In terms of the gameplay and some systems of the game, we’re still kind of early in development, they were still being built in it.

As for the release date, specifically at that point that we didn’t have one. We were aiming towards December next year. We were focused on releasing the game when we’re comfortable with it.

PT: Compared to other action RPG games on the market, what do you think separates Realm of Champions from the rest of these titles?

SB: I would say that it’s the depth of customisation we have, I don’t know many other games that obviously allow you to customise your character in this way. But we’re focused on allowing you to customise really deeply. You’re not just choosing the way you look, you’re choosing the way you play, you’re choosing the weapon that you have, which influences your abilities, which changes the way you want to build your team. Maybe you have synergies on your gear that interact with your team in a different way. The biggest thing that sets us apart is the depth of the customisation, and the co-operative aspect.

PT: Do you have any plans for post-game support?

AB: We definitely have a lot of plans for supporting the game when it comes out. We will be adding new characters to the game, new gear, weapons, and abilities. It’s the same thing with what Kabam has done with Marvel Contest of Champions. We’ve been supporting the game and adding new things and tried to keep it fresh for many years. We plan on doing the same thing with Realm of Champions. We are going to release the game, people will see what we have, and overtime we’ll be adding more and more to the game.

SB: Even if you just look at what we’ve done in the beta, I think that’s a good example. We’ve added three new weapons to three of the characters, just in beta. We’ve added new story content into the game, new systems for telling stories into the game, and new game modes. What you’ve seen in beta is a good example of the type of continued support after the game is live. We definitely want to support the game for a long time.

AB: For the players that played the beta, we had six characters in total. As you saw in the new trailer, there’s a lot of houses, there’s a lot of characters to explore. We’re going to be introducing things over time.

PT: Did the depth of the customisation aspect cause any problems?

AB: I don’t think it caused any problems, but it definitely made the job harder. We’re trying to make a fair and balanced team-based multiplayer game, you want to have the right champion dynamics. Every time we add a weapon to the game, or a character gets new abilities, this changes the game quite a bit. Adding a new character changes the entire balance of the game.

We also want to respect that every superhero has to play like themselves, like, you’re not gonna make Hulk a caster that hides in the background. That’s not gonna happen. I think we definitely signed ourselves up for a lot of work there, but I don’t think he actually caused any problems. We knew what we’re getting ourselves into.

SB: As a quest designer, a lot of what I work on is the content in the game, levels, missions, and things like that. I work very closely with the RPG designers who create these characters and the gameplay designers who create the abilities, and the gameplay mechanics for these new weapons and these new characters. It’s definitely a daunting challenge sometimes, because there is that level of depth. As a company, we have a lot of experience with that sort of thing, Contest of Champions has over 180 unique characters that all have different abilities. That process is the same across both games, and it’s really exciting to build these challenges.