Questions by Vincent Haoson (Vincenthaoson), OnRPG Journalist
Answered by Argi Baltzi, Game Creator
Masters of Belial is one of those MMOs that have taken a different path in both its storyline and its game system. This separation from the norms is one of the game's main attraction and has in fact intrigued us here in Onrpg.
To answer some of our lingering questions about the game's development and future we were given an opportunity to talk to Argi Baltzi, Masters of Belial game creator.
Onrpg: It's been a year since you launched Masters of Belial, How has the game fared?
The game had a very warm welcome so far, players are pleased with the concepts, themes and general game direction and eagerly wait what's in store for them in the coming months.
Onrpg: What were the difficulties that you faced during game development?
I think I can write an essay about the challenges we had so far but I will try to be brief. The first major problem we had was to make a very high quality game with the budget we had. I think we spend somewhere around 45.000 -60.000$ to get to this point. Second biggest challenge was to find skilled artists to work part time for less money and produce better art than they have before. Third and most difficult challenge was for me to manage and code the game part time.
Onrpg: What was the solution you took for it?
The only place I was going to get workforce that is skilled and cheap was in the Far East. I spend a lot of time in forums looking for people and thankfully I hooked up with guy who helped me make connections with freelancers in china. Next was the coding of the game and it's safe to say it would be impossible to achieve this quality in the constraints we had if we didn't use C# and XNA to create all our tools and engine to power Masters of Belial. XNA was the key for our company to develop the game and I am surprised so few companies are using this new technology.
Onrpg: What was the reason for you taking this different approach in the angels and daemons concept?
In western civilizations most kids grow up with the idea of angels being good and daemons being evil. I was no exception to that but as I grew up realized that angels and daemons aren't as good and evil as they told us so... I was fortunate enough to meet with some highly spiritual people in my travels and that helped a lot in getting ideas in my head about the story of this game.
Onrpg: Don't you think that the changing the concept on angels and daemons would put the game in a bad light?
A lot depends on how is it presented in game and I think they way we have it increases the interest of players as you are longer bound by traditional ideas in one of the most popular concepts. Our main emphasis with the story is that there are almost as many evil angels as there are good ones. Look out for the Evil Angel hero in 1.2..!
Onrpg: What was the response you received with the story concept?
Lots of people I talked to seemed hooked just by reading a few sentences of the story in the website. They look at some of the heroes and the story and they are like who would have thought there could be good daemons and bad angels. I did get a couple of odd hate email from some people labeling me an evil Satanist and that I would burn in hell for doing this game...
Onrpg: What were the things you considered as you created the gameplay system of Masters of Belial?
The main goal was to make an online game that people can play against each other and also be able play together to defeat challenging AI Encounters with each session lasting anywhere from 15 to 60 minutes. We looked at World of Warcraft PvP Battlegrounds and Raid Instances and we realized that is something similar to what kind of gameplay we want to do. So the next step was to isolate that experience and enhance it in order to make a stand alone game. Other games we looked at was in the FPS genre like Unreal Tournament and Counterstrike, what is great about those games is how competitive they are, how short matches can be and how easy they are to get into. Final and most important game I looked at was Dota Allstars. After I played a few sessions it seemed clear to me how all these ideas would come to play together and create deep, satisfying gameplay experience.
Onrpg: Why do you think that current third person perspective gameplay is the most suited style of play for the game?
Masters of Belial is a very competitive game and you need to have a good overview of the area around your hero. Third person is a very good choice for these kinds of games and couple that with the fact we are big fans of isometric games it was an easy choice to make.
Onrpg: What do you think would attract players to the game? Why?
One of the biggest attractions is the PvP we have implemented in the game in unlike any other PvP you have experienced before. We focus a lot on adding strategy behind player's actions, so everything is designed with that in mind. Another big thing is the frequency of updates and refinements being added to the game. It's quite hard to balance and perfect games like this so updating the game often is a key element to success.
Onrpg: Why did you include an offline training system to the game?
Due to the competitive nature of the game lots of people want to try out things in their own time and plan strategies out. That's the main reason we added that and offline mode. Although the game is primary online the game mechanics and AI are good enough that provide a decent offline experience.
Onrpg: What's the most used hero in the game? Why do you think players prefer that hero among the others?
The most popular here in the game is the Angel of Death followed by the Prince and Horseman of the Apocalypse. I can't recall a game where you could actually play a creature such as the angel of death or the horseman and I think that's a big factor why people like these heroes.
Onrpg: Will you be adding more storytelling elements to the game as it progresses?
One of the games biggest features which we didn't have time to work on yet is the online campaign mode, which is a series of cooperative story based missions. The main focus of the game so far was PvP combat as it is a lot easier to establish the core game ideas and implement them well. With the next version we will have two different style maps, PvP and Cooperative Story-based AI missions. Story elements will be one of the main attractions in those missions.
Onrpg: How is the development of Masters of Belial 1.1? Do you think it would be released anytime soon? Why?
Masters of Belial 1.1 will be released around September. We were initially looking to release it around May-June but we decided to delay a bit to ensure the game is completely bug-free and online connectivity is robust. Beta testing for the new version is underway and players can join the beta by applying in the forums in the game's website.
Onrpg: Would you include more game features when 1.1 is released? Can you give us an idea of what you have in store for 1.1?
Absolutely, our plan is to keep releasing a major version with new content every few months. In this version we took a dramatic step forward with the game. We added dedicated servers, 3 new maps, Hero Bot AI, Ladder, Player Profiles, new gameplay mechanics, widescreen support, new shadow and lighting engine and lots more!
Onrpg: What's in store for Masters of Belial in the months ahead?
We are taking part in Microsoft's Dream-Build-Play competition with an Xbox360 version. One of the greatest things about XNA is that it works straight out without any changes on both Windows and Xbox360. Once this version is out of the door we will begin working on the next major version which I can't say too much about other than it will have new heroes, a game changing new spell system mechanic and will see the first few maps of our online campaign mode. So stay tuned for an Xbox360 version and soon after Masters of Belial 1.2!
Onrpg: Thanks for your time!