Raiders of the Broken Planet's outlandish design has had us enthralled since the episodic adventure began late last year, so naturally we jumped at the opportunity to interview the team behind it. Game Director and MercurySteam co-owner, Enric Álvarez (@Enric_Alvarez), answered the call and joined us to discuss the game's inspirations, community, future and much more!
With a successful track record for handling legendary third-party properties (Castlevania, Metroid), what prompted MercurySteam to strike out on an independent project?
We are immensely proud of the games we have created for both Konami and Nintendo (you could say MercurySteam is the only true Metroidvania studio!), but Raiders of the Broken Planet is a passion project, and those kinds of projects demand nothing less than total creative freedom in order to keep their essence intact. Working with publishers in the past has made us better game developers, and we are now putting that expertise to use in Raiders of the Broken Planet.
"We are immensely proud of the games we have created for both Konami and Nintendo, but Raiders of the Broken Planet is a passion project, and those kinds of projects demand nothing less than total creative freedom..."
This is the team’s first independent venture - one with a large budget (relatively speaking) and plenty of eccentricities - do you feel like you're taking a bit of a risk?
Risk is like fear: Most people in the industry want to move away from it and that is a perfectly reasonable action to take. However, can you imagine, Indiana Jones running from danger instead of facing it? What a boring movie Raiders [of the Lost Ark] would have been! Maybe the first - and right - question to answer is how confident are you in your own ideas and how capable do you think you are in making those ideas happen. Depending on your honest answer to those questions, then you can properly judge the real risk you are entering into… We felt confident that we could make something exceptional that people would be interested in, despite the risks.
Whilst the team have been active in optimising the game for storefronts (rebranding the free starter campaign, releasing bundles), they’ve been even more committed to in-game updates. How important is it for Raiders to keep evolving over time?
It’s not only important - it’s essential. Raiders of the Broken Planet is an ongoing game, an evolving project. In order to keep the community engaged, you need to update the game regularly. That not only involves launching new campaigns, characters, weapons and skins on a regular basis, but also adjusting the game to your community’s tastes, constantly tweaking and rebalancing characters and missions as they get affected by the new content we add to Raiders of the Broken Planet.
As Raiders’ continued support has illustrated, you take feedback from the community very seriously. Just how important are players and critics in shaping a game under continued development?
Community feedback is the base of the game’s evolution. The best part of the radical redesign that accompanied the third campaign’s launch was a direct answer to the fans’ feedback, potentiating what they liked and getting rid of what they didn’t. We are in contact with players every day, interacting with them on Twitter, Facebook, the official forums or in Discord, and the advice they offer is absolutely brilliant. We can say that Raiders of the Broken Planet is a better game now thanks to them.
Enric discusses the changes implemented in Raiders of the Broken Planet's recent redesign, which you can read our thoughts on here.
Microtransactions are currently a hot-button issue within the industry; from an independent developer’s perspective, just how much has their implementation impacted the project? For example, could the ticket system (which allows players to join friends on premium missions they haven’t purchased) exist in their absence?
Microtransactions are part of most videogames nowadays. We have included them mainly to acquire cosmetic character skins that don’t affect the player’s performance in the game. But our business model is based on offering premium content for a very reasonable price – 9.99€/£/$ per campaign. We also gave away a sizeable part of the game for free, with the Eternal Soldier campaign, as well as introducing the ticket system and the Mission of the Week to allow them to invite friends to give those free to play gamers more freedom and options to explore the Raiders of the Broken Planet world and decide if they want to invest more on it.
With recent changes to the game’s ecosystem, namely halving the cost of every character, has that changed at all?
The introduction of the new progression system has been incredibly well received by the community. Characters are now unlocked as part of said progression, depending on the player’s level. That sets goals for the player to plan their advance through the game, always having something new to achieve. Halving the in-game currency cost of every character was also something our community demanded, and we happily obliged.
How do you feel the audience response towards Raiders has changed over the nearly seven months since it first launched?
Raiders of the Broken Planet has a really strong, committed and proactive core of fans who have been involved with the game since the early beta process. They have seen the game evolve since we launched in September 2017 and kept on playing even if they didn’t agree with all the design decisions that we took. Now, with Hades Betrayal’s launch and the new redesign, they feel that their opinions are being heard, and that we take these very seriously when deciding our next moves and how we’ll take the game forward. Raiders of the Broken Planet is now their game as much as it is ours.
"[Fans] feel that their opinions are being heard, and that we take these very seriously when deciding our next moves... Raiders of the Broken Planet is now their game as much as it is ours."
Can you give us a taster of what to expect from Council Apocalypse, the fourth and final premium campaign in the current Raiders season?
Council Apocalypse will be the final campaign of Raiders of the Broken Planet's first season. Harec and his band of Raiders will be pitted against the Fifth Council, the most calculating and technologically advanced of all the factions fighting for the control of the Broken Planet. As it happened with the previous campaigns, there will be a new Raider to recruit from that faction, Valeria. She will be vital to put an end to the Council’s insidious plans.
Similarly, can you offer any kind of hint as to what to expect after Council Apocalypse? Post-campaign cutscenes have offered some tantalising glimpses into the Broken Planet’s past - could we be in for a prequel season?
Once the players complete Council Apocalypse, the whole picture of the post-credits sequence will be revealed. Is it just an echo of the distant past, or does it have something to do with the future of the Broken Planet? Only time will tell!
Are there more Antagonists or Raiders on the dev team, and who’s the most popular character for each role?
There are an alarmingly high number of Antagonists in the studio. I guess we all like to vent off steam by playing the bad guys and ruining each other’s games! Until recently, Lycus was the character of choice for playing the Antagonist, but Doldren seems to be very popular these days - his special ability to sneak behind his enemies’ backs is just perfect for that role!
Thanks to MercurySteam's José Herráez, and, of course, Enric Álvarez for taking the time to answer our questions!
Keep an eye out for our upcoming Hades Betrayal let's play, and be sure to enter our giveaway for a chance to win one of five Raiders of the Broken Planet - Ultimate Edition PS4 keys by clicking the banner below. The Ultimate Edition bundles all of the episodic shooter’s standalone campaigns alongside five exclusive skins, with now being the perfect opportunity to get involved, as the package is set to exit digital storefronts stage left next week.