Might & Magic will always have a nerdy stigma. It’s a card game that’s been around for 25 years, and it moves in the same circles as Dungeons & Dragons and live action roleplay. However, to call it a geek relic would be doing the series an injustice, and with millions of players worldwide, it isn’t exactly niche either. So, with the recent release of Might & Magic: Duel Of Champions – a free-to-play game that breaks new ground for Ubisoft by offering “true” cross-platform multiplayer – we spoke with producer Stephane Jankowski about ensuring the experience remains consistent across all platforms, using free-to-play to attract new players, and blurring the line between the physical and digital world.
Is free-to-play the perfect model for bringing in new players to a niche experience like Might & Magic?
Free-to-play is a perfect fit for a card game, sure. Might & Magic Heroes 6 was a retail game, with that kind of mentality – fixed price, boxed product, things like that – and I don’t think that’ll be something the M&M series will abandon. However, it works well for a card game like Duel Of Champions. When we were making this game we really did our homework, and we think it’s great, but we can’t wait to see how fans of the genre react to the free-to-play model. So far it’s going really well – people genuinely appreciate that they can try the game for free, and that they can play for hours without paying for a thing.
How have you balanced the game to ensure it isn’t pay-to-win?
The rule that we have is: all the content is accessible for free. There are no special cards that give you different abilities or stats which are only available for paying users. We wanted to be sure that, if you’re good at the game, you can be a top player without paying any money. And actually, we’ve seen that in the open beta. Some of the best players have never paid since they started, and they’re really kicking our asses with the cards they have. We’ve done some tournaments with these players and they’re good, but they’ve never put any money into the game.
How much of a challenge was implementing cross-platform multiplayer?
We’d been thinking about the possibility of cross-platform play since the beginning of the project – as soon as we started the PC version we knew that we wanted the game to be playable on tablet. So, a lot of the decisions throughout the development cycle were influenced by us saying, ‘Will that work on iPad?’ or, ‘Would that really work on PC?’ So the controls had to be carefully built, the camera angles, the input, the user interface – everything has been designed to make sure Duel Of Champions works on both platforms.
Now that we’ve finished, we think it’s really paid off. We have a production pipeline that lets us make games that work across PC and iPad. So there’s little difference between the builds – things like the touch inputs on iPad versus the click on PC. In the end it’s exactly the same game, exactly the same code, and both versions share the same logic and the same rules. This makes M&M the first true cross-platform game by Ubisoft. When you’re playing online, whether it’s against friends or strangers, you simply don’t know what platform they’re playing on. That’s the beauty of the experience.
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