Lead Developer Says MultiVersus Made Free to Open Door to More Players, Will Avoid ‘Predatory’ Practices
MultiVersus is finally here, at least in a closed alpha test that has allowed more players to try out the game for themselves and see what the block’s newest platformer brings to the table when it’s finally launching in full later this year.
The game emphasizes two-on-two mechanics while maintaining balanced gameplay for other modes, allowing for a deeper and smoother doubles experience than any other game in the genre.
This, in addition to providing full cross-play support, dedicated server-based restore netcode, and general cross-progression on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC in a free package, puts Warner Bros. and Player First Games in a strong position as it continues to announce more content and collect data from testing.
Ahead of the official closed alpha launch, Dot Esports spoke with Player First Games Lead Developer Daniel Kraft about diving into the free-to-play space with a big-budget fighting game, what it’s like this model from a development perspective and how the team has tackled bringing some of the most iconic characters to life in new ways.
What have you and the team been working on before MultiVersusmaybe individually when it comes to fighting games or community projects, because the Player First Games name makes it clear that you aim to keep those communities in mind when building them?
Daniel Kraft: It’s a different story for each member of the team, isn’t it? But many of us have been in the industry for a while. Some of us have been at a lot of high end studios, working on games like League of Legendsup to games like Call of Dutyso a fairly large breadth of experience in the team.
We have a lot of people on the team who are also very interested in the fighting game community, I know [Player First co-founder Tony Huynh’s] had a great story about how he met his wife through that, so I’d say we’re pretty invested right off the bat.
How excited were you working on it in the background? What was it like finally being able to show the public exactly what it was and confirm some of the rumors?
I was ecstatic. I’ve always wanted to work on a platform fighter. And then we had this incredible cast of characters that we can work with. I’m a big fan of a lot of these franchises.
I grew up on scooby-doo e Love you adventure time, as well as all DC characters. So you get all these iconic characters and go “oh, my God!” Now I can work on it!” That was pretty crazy.
On the development side, we’ve been head over heels for a while, and to have it kind of unearthed, let players see it and get their hands on it, it’s really exciting. But it’s also quite stressful because we have a lot to do. We want to gather as much feedback as possible and we want the community to be involved so that we can continue to move the game in the right direction that is best for players. So we know we also have a lot of work ahead of us. But it’s also very exciting because the game is getting better and better.
As a developer, what was your favorite part of working on this game? Is there a character or feature that you are most proud of?
I was a big fan of adventure time. I remember watching the very first pilot before it was even a real show, messing around with friends saying things like math and diamonds and then the show took off and it ‘was great. And now I have to work on Finn and Jake. It was amazing.
I also did the animation and design for Tom and Jerry, which you know, classic. I think I’m really proud of these two because we went down a really interesting path where we caused collateral damage after deciding “hey, make ’em fight!” I think it went well and I was proud of how it turned out. And people noticed, which is always nice to see.
For characters like Tom and Jerry, moves like Wonder Woman’s lasso, and a bunch of other features in the test, how did those kinds of two-on-two mechanics take shape in a way that saw the game s towards a concentration in this area?
That’s what we wanted to do from the start. We knew we wanted to make it a two-on-two game because one of the goals is that we wanted to make it, you know, a more social game. That’s one of the reasons we went free-to-play, we wanted to remove those barriers to entry for as many people as possible, so people would pick it up and play with their friends.
It’s a much more enjoyable experience if you’re able to play with your friend and it’s not just, you know, beating your friend. Now you can help your friend instead of just hitting him, especially when trying to get him involved in the game.
So we designed it from the start to emphasize two-on-two mechanics, which was a challenge because we also want to make sure these characters work one-on-one. We don’t want to just completely remove that aspect of the game, so we try to ensure the design allows for deep co-op mechanics while still allowing one-on-one gameplay to work and thrive.
With free-to-play being such a big area of focus from the start, how do you work as a team to balance the casual and competitive player elements of your community? Even at the start, it’s clear the game has mass appeal and combat that can be expanded with practice, but are there any specific areas you dig into?
I’m sure anyone can be a competitive gamer, it’s just a matter of keeping them behind the controllers or on the keyboard long enough. But you have to get their interest, you have to get them into the game before they pass the time.
And allowing that also helps the competitive community because if you have a bigger player base, then you have more people moving up the ranks, and you have more people improving the game, learning the game. And so you have bigger audience, more people to play, you get better matchmaking, you get all that stuff.
We’re definitely working on more modes for the future, we’ll make sure we have more competitive capabilities, matchmaking, and other things down the line. We don’t have a specific timeline for when these will arrive, but they’re a priority for us, and we’ll be focusing on lots of different game modes and ways to interact with the game, to make sure which you can choose and play the game as you wish.
And if one day you want to switch from one to the other, he should be there for you.
It will be the first big budget free-to-play fighting game to hit the market since killer instincts hybrid model and brawlhalla. As a team, what do you think this helps you achieve?
Basically, we are still in development. We have this closed alpha coming up, and we’ve had previous closed alphas, and a lot of that is just to get player feedback so we can pivot based on that. But going into free-to-play, we basically went into it with the mindset that we don’t want anything that’s a bit predatory.
Nothing should give an inherent advantage if you come in with cash. So anything that will affect the game should be won, we want players to feel that is fair. And moving forward is one of our pillars. We want to make sure it rings true.
Free play simply opens the doors to a lot more players, and a larger player base will often be a healthier player base.
What do you think have been or could be the biggest challenges after launching this type of game with this free-to-play model from a development perspective?
You certainly approach it differently. You have to make sure the options are, you know, purchasable, so the customization options, we have unique ringtones, we have skins, stickers, all these different things. It’s a delicate balance because they need to add to the game and be something that players want to interact with, without making players feel like it’s something they can’t get or that gives an inherent advantage to them. one way or another.
So it’s definitely this balance of “how can we do something that’s very valuable without going over the top, going over the top”. So where can we add these value points? compared to a non-free model, i.e. when everything is in one go, so you don’t have to worry about that balance as much.
Where is the team at when it comes to thinking about ways to teach players the game directly through new modes similar to the Advanced Tutorials section, or is this something that will come over time as more more and more players will provide feedback after actually trying to learn the Game?
We want to keep adding more content to the game: more modes, more ways to engage with the game, which I think will be a great learning opportunity.
Again, we want player feedback. If players think more is needed, we will try harder to add more. We also know that a game like this with a community can do a lot. And often they end up creating a lot of quality content that is more appealing to a gamer.
They can engage with the community and learn a lot, and they can go for tutorials, and players are going to find things that we hadn’t thought of where we are like, “wow, that’s amazing!” We also don’t want to take those moments away from the community. We want the community to become a place where players can engage and learn, but if players think they need more from us, we’ll step up and add more.