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Magicka: Wizard Wars streamlines the PvP experience of the original and makes it 'twitchier'

Magicka: Wizard Wars – depth in PvP

Magicka: Wizard Wars will take the player versus player experience of the original Magicka and turn it into its own complete game with streamlined design and twitchier gameplay, according to developers from Paradox Interactive.

In a demo shown to Polygon at the Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco, lead designer David Nisshagen and the EVP of Paradox North, John Hargelid said Wizard Wars is something the studio created for the Magicka PvP community.

"When PvP was introduced to the original Magicka, so many players just lit up. It was like, 'Oh! This is what we've been waiting for!'" Hargelid said. "So we really wanted to give the PvP community a full, dedicated game experience."

Cue Magicka: Wizard Wars, an online PvP game that removes the campaign and puzzle modes from the original Magicka and focuses on the PvP aspect. The game features the original "Robes" from Magicka — personality-filled, faceless, androgynous wizards who dash around maps casting spells, attacking, counter-attacking and blocking — as well as four new wizards, all of whom are customizable.

"We really wanted to give the PvP community a full, dedicated game experience."

Players will notice a lot of elements of the original have remained, such as the Magicka sense of humor that sees the wizards (often accidentally) killing members of their own team and injuring themselves, and the endearingly expressive animations of the characters. But in creating a standalone, PvP-focused game, the developers have had to make a slew of important changes.

"First thing we wanted to change was the accessbility," Hargelid said. "When David [Nisshagen] came on board 10 months ago, I told him I wanted controls that were easier to use. So, basically, I said here is the mouse. I want to be able to do every action with left and right button mouse clicks."

In the original Magicka, players would merge elements and control them on the fly. A player could merge fire and earth to create a fireball, or fire, earth and shield to create a series of mini exploding volcanoes that would act as a barrier around them. This system has remained, but the control scheme has been streamlined, so instead of having to hold shift and control in addition to hitting keyboard keys and using a mouse, the game's controls are now context sensitive. Everything can be done with a combination of the elemental keys on the keyboard and the left and right mouse buttons.

"40,000 spells was an overwhelming amount."

Previously, players also had access to more than 40,000 spell combinations. This has now been reduced to 300-400.

"I wouldn't say we simplified it — I'd say we focused it," Nisshagen said. "40,000 spells was an overwhelming amount, and lots of people would find a few key things they could do, and from that 40,000 they would end up with five spells they repeated.

"It's also really difficult to balance 40,000 things. So we tried to focus it, remove the redundancies, streamline it and do it with as few button presses as possible."

Nisshagen said there are still a few "wonky" spells in the mix, so players can combine life and fire to heal their teammate while also setting them on fire. "These combinations need to be in there for it to be Magicka," Nisshagen said.

In the demo shown to Polygon, Nisshagen demonstrated the depth achievable in battles, even with the reduced spell numbers. The objective of the particular match shown was for players to capture respawn points. When one side captures all respawn points, the opposition can no longer respawn if they are killed, so players then have two objectives: capture all respawn points and eliminate every member of the opposing team before they have a chance to recapture a respawn point and respawn the rest of their team.

Players can combine life and fire to heal their teammate while also setting them on fire

In the demo, wizards shot water and tornadoes at each other, sending opponents flying across the screen. A wizard charging up a fire attack had its fireball countered by a burst of water, and another player being hunted by an enemy raised the earth as a shield to slow down opponents. The pace was frantic, the players were strategic in their movements and spell choices and, according to Hargelid, the fights between wizards have a resemblance to fighting games in the way players attack, parry and counter-attack.

Hargelid said that as players become more skilled, it will become more and more difficult for them to kill each other, and the battles will also become more interesting as players master the nuances of the spells and when they should be used.

Magicka: Wizard Wars is currently in its pre-alpha stage of development at Paradox North. A release date has not been announced.

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