Creators of new Ubisoft shooter didn't have a 3D animator, so they made the characters spheres—and it works

Image for Creators of new Ubisoft shooter didn't have a 3D animator, so they made the characters spheres—and it works
(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Before it was picked up by Ubisoft, free-to-play early access arena shooter BattleCore Arena—which (re)launched on Steam today—was a three-person project. There was one problem: none of the three friends, who met at work, were 3D animators. 

The plan: just make the characters round.

"We found ourselves without a 3D animator," said lead programmer Romain Bienkowski in a dev diary, translated from French. "And we said to ourselves, 'How do we make a videogame without animating characters?' That's when we said, 'Actually, we can simply maybe make spheres.'"

Spheres were "perfect" for their concept, anyhow, said Bienkowski, because BattleCore is an arena shooter whose focus is squarely—or roundly, I guess—on movement and physics. The team battles take place on floating arenas, and eliminations are Smash Bros style: Shoot another player to deplete their health, then hit them again to launch them out of bounds for a point.

Players can save themselves from elimination with double jumps and air dashes. The trickiest movement ability to come to grips with—Ubisoft let me play a couple rounds last week—is like a gravity multiplier that makes your sphere drop out of the air and (you hope) onto solid footing, where you're not as easy a target. Some pretty fancy maneuvering is possible with all the abilities combined, though I was just doing everything I could to avoid rolling off the map of my own accord. The main thing I noticed was that teamwork feels essential: It's really hard to eliminate another player on your own. 

BattleCore currently includes a 3v3 mode, a free-for-all mode, and "competitive team-based Q-Ball Mode, where catching and passing as long as possible the quantum ball will lead you to victory."

The game is no longer a three-person project: The trio of friends landed at Ubisoft Bordeaux after winning an award for BattleCore at an indie gaming event, and there are now more than 20 people working on the game, according to Bienkowski.

This is technically a re-release, since the first version of BattleCore came out on Steam in 2017. That version got its last update in 2019, and the new Ubisoft version of the game has switched to a free-to-play model—BattleCore will now make its money with cosmetics. 

It seems Ubisoft is relaxing its old Ubisoft Store and Epic Games Store exclusivity policy, because BattleCore's relaunch includes a Steam release, as did the early access Prince of Persia roguelite the company just published.

It's always tough to say how these niche multiplayer games are going to do. They can be brilliant, and still not make it very far. We loved Knockout City, for instance, but its servers closed up after just a couple years (though the developers did release a standalone client for fan servers, which was nice). I'm also reminded of Diabotical, a free 2020 arena shooter on the Epic Games Store—it also happens to involve round characters, and never gained much traction, but its developer recently announced that it's giving the concept another go on Steam.

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley during the '80s and '90s, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on early PCs. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now, and PS1 classic Bushido Blade (that's right: he had Bleem!). Tyler joined PC Gamer in 2011, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. His hobbies include amateur boxing and adding to his 1,200-plus hours in Rocket League.