How a Fighting Game Became an MMORPG-MOBA-Battle Royale Hybrid
The developers at Mantisco, an independent South Korean studio, have always wanted fighting games to expand their reach. As self-professed “hardcore gamers” and passionate fans of games like Tekken and Street Fighter, they recognize that the genre’s main barrier of entry for new and casual players is an absence of technical skill and knowledge.
“New players are likely to face obstacles due to complicated controls, combo systems, and a lack of a sense of accomplishment,” Technical Director Park Kwangsuk said. Pit a veteran against a newbie and the latter could never stand a chance, making them much less likely to try again.
“This is where we began to wonder: ‘How can we make an awesome combat system that could become popular among both casual and hardcore players?’” Park said. As Mantisco continued development of their debut title, they started to consider other means of attracting a wider audience. They had a compelling set of 1v1 fighting mechanics — they just wanted more players to be able to pick them up without feeling intimidated.
As the game grew, so did Mantisco’s aspirations. Eventually, the fighting game they’d begun developing became Hunter’s Arena: Legends. The core 1v1 fighting experience is still a prominent part of the game, featured as a “Tag Match” mode. But the “Battle Royale” mode synthesizes these mechanics with a much larger, even more ambitious experience than what the studio had originally planned.
The game’s battle royale mode (just called “BR” here) features a unique blend of elements borrowed from MMORPGs, MOBAs, and battle royales alike. At the beginning of every match, 60 players are set loose in a map filled with loot and thousands of AI enemies. Every round of Hunter’s Arena imagines the MMORPG as a microcosm; within a single match, a player can pillage a number of dungeons, shop for gear in a town full of merchant NPCs, and traverse the span of the map on horseback.
The twist, however, is that the playable area contracts periodically. True to typical battle royale conventions, the playable area is represented as a circle on the minimap; linger too long outside of its bounds and you’ll perish. The game’s combat mechanics and leveling systems, on the other hand, borrow from MOBAs, forcing players to choose upgrades and commit to strategies on the fly. All of these elements combine to deliver matches that become more and more dramatic as the circle continues to diminish.
Introducing this variety of systems allows more players a chance at success, regardless of how experienced they are. “Even unskilled players can survive to the last moment by making the best use of constantly changing environments and their own leveling-up strategy,” Park said.
Designing a game mode of such a massive scale, however, presented Mantisco with a few technical challenges. “The key design of the BR mode lies in the well-balanced combination of PvP and PvE, and the dev team tried to provide enough of a number of monsters so that all 60 players per match may experience it directly during the gameplay,” Park said.
Up to 10,000 AI enemies can populate the map at once, allowing every individual player to feel as though the world is ripe with opportunities for grinding and looting. This is an essential part of the BR mode; the game is most impressive when it’s capable of allowing multiple players’ individual journeys to intersect, creating explosive moments of conflict amongst AI characters and human opponents.
“But that was a challenging job as the server in BR mode is supposed to handle all specific battle situations,” Park said.
Fortunately, Mantisco had the opportunity to turn to Intel for help. Intel provided Mantisco with assistance in optimizing both the game’s dedicated servers and its utilization of the CPU. They also provided access to analytical tools like Intel® VTune™ Profiler, which collects key profiling data to help a user identify the most effective means of optimizing software.
“Thanks to the cooperation with Intel and R&D by the dev team, Mantisco can now present a unique BR mode where players can experience MMORPG content in a single match,” Park said.
All the hard work paid off. Ultimately, Mantisco managed to merge the best of both worlds by designing a game that’s accessible to a wide range of audiences without compromising the integrity and complexity of the core fighting system.
Mantisco is proud of the team’s technical accomplishments. “Enabling optimized gameplay experiences on cloud servers was not an easy task,” Park said. “Mantisco will continue to optimize dedicated servers for better gaming experiences based on the technical cooperation with Intel.”
Hunter’s Arena: Legends will be available for PC sometime in summer 2020.