Exclusive Core Blaze interview reveals MMO platforming and secret boss encounters
Nobody likes a mindless grind in their MMOs, following in the footsteps of the countless players who have already optimized all the content. One upcoming MMO hoping to shatter the mold is Core Blaze, the Unreal 3-powered hack-'n'-slash from Gamania. We asked Jacky Chu, chief operating officer at developer RedGate Studios, how Core Blaze will differentiate itself from the pack. Check out his responses, translated into English.
PC Gamer: What sets Core Blaze apart from other action-MMOs?
Jacky Chu: A good action game should allow the player to perform combos, dodge, and block enemy attacks. While Core Blaze also has these elements, it’s much more than a mindless adrenaline rush. It's also very cerebral, in the sense that players must figure out ways to work with each other to carry out a plan. The key element in this type of game is not only character design, but also the enemy AI. Each boss monster can be seen as a puzzle that can be solved in multiple ways. We didn't design the game to rely purely on button-mashing or twitch mechanics (though we believe this should be viable on some levels). If you can make use of elements in the environment and your items, you’ll receive better rewards.
PCG: How much depth will there be to character customization? Talent trees, gear, etc.
JC: We can't yet tell you how many skill trees or weapon types there will be in the game, but we can tell you that the players decide how they want to advance their character because there are no pre-determined paths for character advancement. Other than character stats, we came up with many statistics that are specific to action games, such as the length of combo attacks, attack range, movement speed, rolling distance, double jumps, or weapon-specific attacks.
PCG: What are the mechanics behind each of the four weapon styles?
JC: Each style must be played at a different rhythm. For example, a player using the dual blade style may mash the combo button as soon as he can, and dodge whenever the enemies attack. But a great sword user will have to play very differently to be effective. Due to the weight of the weapon, a great sword user can’t dodge freely while he’s attacking; he’ll have to find the optimal moment to strike instead of mashing buttons blindly. Conversely, when facing larger enemies, a dual blade user, while fast, can't do as much damage compared to the great sword, which has more power and longer range. Also, for all of the weapon styles, we've designed at least one special mode: the shield and sword user can perform crippling shield attacks, dual blade players can enter a berserk mode, great swords can store up power to perform one devastating attack, and longbow users can utilize a special aim mode.
PCG: How will Core Blaze's itemization work?
JC: All of the weapons and equipment in Core Blaze are crafted by the players and not dropped by monsters. This means that players can decide for themselves what equipment they want to make. All items have different properties, and players will be able to level up a weapon in specific ways, such as increasing damage or enhancing a stat. For players who don't want to spend time crafting, they'll be able to purchase basic weapons from the in-game store. However, they'll be somewhat weaker than crafted weapons.
PCG: Is four people the party limit? What happens if two people in a group want to use the same weapon style?
JC: Core Blaze is designed to encourage players to make use of all game mechanics to come up with the best experience that’s specific for them. Except for in rare cases, players can solve any stage however they see fit. The key to doing well in the game is not only the quality of the equipment or class choice, but also the players’ skill and teamwork. Therefore, there are no optimal builds, just builds that are suitable for you and your party.
PCG: Will players be casting spells, or are the attacks purely weapon-based?
JC: Other than weapons, characters in Core Blaze can also perform Oriental magic, or “Tao.” They involve items, traps, and magical weapons. Players will have to perform the Tao by using magical items or runes, such as Qi Men Dun Jia (Chinese metaphysical arts), fengshui, and chi.
PCG: Will there be any platforming-type segments to the levels? What kinds of items, like the hookshot, can the player use to access new areas?
JC: In Core Blaze, the stages are designed like a platformer. The players will have to use tools (such as a hookshot), jump, or climb in order to proceed. We want the players to look like an action hero. After getting past an obstacle, the player may find a hidden location with a key NPC or a treasure chest. What we want to do is design levels so that when a player meets a new obstacle, they’ll be able to find a solution intuitively. And the most important thing is that the players will be able to choose freely among multiple solutions.
PCG: What's usually in these hidden areas, besides new bosses? Will they be accessible to anyone, provided they know how to reach them?
JC: Exploration is an important element in Core Blaze. Exploration can open up many possibilities in the game, such as a hidden quest, hidden NPC (maybe a hidden trainer that can grant players new abilities), a secret monster, or a secret group of mobs. And during the exploration process, the game will provide the players with many hints. For example, you may find a hidden path, or obtain information on a secret location from an NPC in town. The key elements in the exploration process are hints and information sharing, with a bit of random chance thrown in (for instance, some locations may not be accessible unless it’s raining). Most importantly, the world should be fun to explore.
PCG: What can we expect from boss fights? For instance, Liang Qu can have parts of his body, like his teeth, destroyed for bonus damage. Will all boss fights have these kinds of unique mechanics?
JC: The destruction of body parts will be presented in a very clear manner, with each destructible body part having a unique look. With one swing of the blade, a player might hack off a huge limb of a monster, and that monster will react accordingly (like doubling over in pain). This kind of gameplay mechanic can be very satisfying and we're incredibly happy with it so far. We want to ensure that players have to do more than just hacking at the monster to destroy key body parts. In some cases, players must wait for the best moment to strike. Or in other cases, players will have to use special items or objects. The key is that every boss monster can be dealt with in a variety of ways. Our AI design forces players to stay aware of subtle cues and changes to the monster’s body and behavior. Even if its outside appearance seems the same, its behavior can still change drastically. How players deal with and adapt to these changes when killing a monster affects their bonus.
PCG: Thanks so much for your time! Anything else you'd like to add?
JC: Core Blaze has a very high degree of freedom. We want the players to decide on their own how to solve the problems they encounter and create entirely unique gameplay experiences. The last thing we want is a fixed and restricted path for all players.