"Our reputation is at stake," says Tadeusz Zieliński, the man at the helm of a new take on The Witcher franchise.
Zieliński, creative analyst at Polish studio Fuero Games, to bring the role-playing series to uncharted territory. The narrative-driven single-player game will become a multiplayer online battle arena release for iOS and Android devices later this year.
Called The Witcher Battle Arena, players can take on the role of characters from the Witcher franchise, including Saskia, Eithne, Zoltan, Iorveth, Philippa, Letho of Gulet, among others.
But Zieliński is keenly aware the team faces the pressure of presenting their case to a skeptical audience who inevitably will consider this a cash-in on the success of other popular arena games. But for the game's developers, Battle Arena is the result of the same uncompromising principles that are at the foundation of CD Projekt Red — a studio that has brutishly fought off digital rights management technology and similar questionable development trends.
The game's philosophy is "free is fair," Zieliński tells us. And with that in mind, Battle Arena will launch as a free title. "This is a free game," says Zieliński. "Not free-to-play. Everything is unlock able with gameplay and there's no pay to win."
Likewise, there's no enforced waiting — a controversial system featured in the resource-farming mechanics for the recent Dungeon Keeper reboot, among others, which creates a time gate that players can only bypass by purchasing in-game currency with real-world money. The team is also offering an AI-based offline mode to players, in response to difficulties found in always-online releases.
"We don't want to fight with League of Legends or DotA," he tells us. "This was designed with mobile gaming in mind, and to be honest it's not easy to transfer MOBA to mobile. I dare you to name three MOBA games on mobile. But mobile is the direction we wanted to go because they're finally powerful enough to let us do everything we want on that small screen."
Unlike League of Legends, matches in Battle Arena are short and last at a maximum 10 minutes, which the studio is calling a respectable length for the quick-burst mentality of mobile gamers. The map shown to us, a conquest mode, tasks the two opposing teams of three players with taking over three control points using a maximum of three abilities picked from a minimalist and mobile sized skill tree after leveling.
Unlike your typical MOBA, Battle Arena is centred around losing points. Each side starts with a 500 point total which slowly gets whittled away as control points are won and lost. The first team to reach zero loses, naturally.
But while Fuero Games' current focus is on mobile development, Zieliński tells us that the game's Unity-based game engine means there's a chance it could also come to PC.
In fact, the game includes few features that are more typical to strategy-centric PC MOBAs than those of the watered-down mobile gaming ilk. The studio has also introduced a mini-map in the top corner, the ability to lock or unlock their camera and access to a basic weapons locker where they can purchase upgrades using in-game points.
While this MOBA is condensed for the mobile gaming platform, the result is a game with the potential for deeper strategy based on Zieliński's decision to adopt mechanics that will make those familiar with the genre feel more at home. Battle Arena is in essence an example of how to compress the mechanics at the core of traditional MOBAs. Like the best games in the genre, it encourages skill.
Correction: The quotes in this story were initially attributed to Fuero Games' Stanislaw Fiedor. While Fiedor was present in the interview, the quotes were actually from CD Projekt Red's Tadeusz Zieliński. The story has been corrected to reflect that. We apologize for the error.