Guardians of Middle-Earth chat with the devs
Do you know what a MOBA is? If you don't, it's pretty much a symmetrical three lane map that pits five players against another five players in an attempt to get through the enemy's towers to destroy their base. MOBAs like League of Legends and DoTA are played on PC — until now. The team at Monolith is bringing the MOBA experience to XBLA and PSN this fall. We had a chance to get in on a call with Ruth Tomandl, producer on the dev team, and Scott Compton, lead designer.
Scott mentioned how a lot of the team played MOBAs and really wanted to explore the idea of bringing the genre over to the console, so they created a strike team to adapt MOBA from PC to console. Things like controls and camera had to be figured out. After some initial and successful testing, they searched for a recognizable wrapper for this game — and that's where Middle Earth comes in. It brings a rich world setting and recognizable characters (like Legolas) that people would have expectations for. It helped the designers actually design the characters because they would already know what the expectations for those characters would be — abilities and what they could do out on the battlefield.
So how does Guardians of Middle Earth work as a MOBA on a console? Well one thing that they discovered in early play testing was that putting the player in direct control of the guardian was a really satisfying experience. Normally in MOBAs, you control a character, but it is through clicking with the mouse and then they respond to your movements. In GoME, the player is in direct control of the character with the left analog stick and driving the character around the battlefield. It's controlling instead of directing. They also wanted to develop a control scheme that would be to the liking of core gamers and veterans of the genre, as well as new players to these types of games.
This led them to come up with a twin-stick shooter type of feel to the game — where the left stick controls movement and the right stick controls targeting. They realized early on that targeting was going to be a major point that they really had to nail. With ranged and melee attackers, they had to make sure that the attacks could be pulled off very fast and timely; also, they wanted to make these iconic characters feel powerful with just their basic attacks. For example, the dwarf character has a basic attack that is a wedge and hits multiple enemies at a time. It feels very satisfying for even a novice gamer.
Abilities are mapped directly to the four face buttons, and guardians have four abilities, with one being an ultimate ability. The intuitiveness of the controller was a natural translation of controls coming over from keyboard. In addition to cones, other targeting systems are aoe around your character, aoe circles, single targeting, and others. With this, they decided to come up with two control schemes — basic and advanced. Basic has attacked triggered by the right trigger, and if you just tap a face button your ability will go off. If you tap and hold the face button, you get a pre-visualization to time the attack and see the range.
More MOBA-saavy players that want fine-tuned controls will like the advanced controls. Here, when you tap a face button, it give the pre-visualization and won't activate the ability until you use the right trigger. It gives you the ability to lead your skillshots. Depending on the guardian you're playing and the types of abilities they have, you might find yourself switching between the two control schemes. They also made sure they had a very forgiving camera that is set to let you judge distances on your abilities well.