Inside an MMO about hunting monsters based on Pokemon weaknesses

Artwork depicting Temtem-like Pokémon running across the grass.

Image: cream

When monster catching role play Temtem Debuting in January 2020, Spanish studio CremaGames had a fairly simple plan: launch the game in Early Access, use it to support ongoing development, and release version 1.0 a couple of years later. But, as is often the case with plans of this kind, what may be simple in theory is rarely so simple in execution. We recently had a conversation with Temtem Game Director Guillermo Andradez on the difficulty of balancing Early Access, the backlash over the recently added Battle Pass, and why Crema believes its game deserves to be treated as something more than Pokemon clone.

“When you went through the campaign, there was really nothing to do in the game. [early on]”, He speaks Temtem Directed by Guillermo Andradez. “We ended up including some repetitive actions because we saw our users spend hundreds of hours playing basic content.”

Temtem is an MMO that takes the traditional Pokemon Formula and attempts to make it your own. There are creatures to catch, tamers to defeat and bad guys to beat, but there are also plenty of new ideas that make it a worthy contender to Game Freak’s beloved RPG series.

Andrades is confident that early access was the ‘right way’ to roll out Temtem, but if he did it again, he would definitely make some changes. “Instead of putting the game in early access with less than 50% content,” said the developer. Kotaku, “we would wait until there was a lot more.” He would also like at least some of the final game’s content to be intact from the start so that the most dedicated Tamers don’t have to spend most of their time waiting for future story patches. As a longtime player, I can personally witness the pain of your detective buddy Carlos saying “Let’s go after the Belsoto clan!” before seeing something like “…in a few months because the people in the studio haven’t actually developed that piece yet.”

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In doing so, Crema has learned many valuable lessons from Temtem through early access. Developers never expected people to stay after each patch is completed, so seeing how tamers start hunting for glitz (called lume hunting in Temtem) or the shredding of competitively viable topics even before there was a competitive scheme came as a shock. As Crema continued to work on the game, players began to voice what they would like to see in future updates. As you compete against giant RPG series such as Pokemonlistening to what longtime fans want from new experiments is a sure way to keep them interested, especially when your competitor is as notorious for resisting change as Game Freak.

Perhaps that is why Andradez cites the creation of a dedicated customer support team as one of the most important steps taken by Crema when developing Temtem. “Before Early Access,” Andrades says, “we didn’t even think about the need for a special person, and after the release, it immediately required our full attention.” While this may not seem like the most exciting aspect of game development, if not bordering on bureaucracy, it has proven to be crucial to the game’s ability to create its own identity. Without it, Temtem could easily get a plot in the ever-growing monster tamer graveyard at the bow.

When Temtem originally came out, people were quick to label it as another Pokemon clone. It made sense – if it walks, talks, and in the case of some creatures, screams like the most profitable entertainment franchise of all time, it probably owes it at least part of its existence. Interesting, Temtema Success could be largely due to how he deviated from Pokemon formula. While Andrades claims he is neither superior nor inferior Pokemon (in his eyes, it would be more correct to call him “other”), some of his most impressive features are direct responses to relevant tasks in other catch-ups. In particular, he talks about how a competitive player misses two attacks with 90% accuracy in a row during an official match. Pokemon WGC Tournament.

“It was really awful,” says Andrades. “After that, I began to rethink all combat systems to remove every bit of randomness and simplify everything to reduce possible [battle] formats. So we could only focus on 2v2, which gives us the most depth.” This is also the official format for Pokemon VGC tournaments though these games have a wider range and the layout changes with each new generation.

“The solution worked perfectly,” Andrades continues. “I think battles are one of the things we really excel at. Temtemand the system has allowed the community to create a small competitive scene that we are really proud of and look forward to expanding with the introduction of ‘Temtem Showdown’ in a future patch.”

An officer-level security guard is enjoying a damn tasty cup of coffee.

Screenshot: Cream / Kotaku

At the time of writing, Crema is in the process of developing several patches, the most notable of which is related to the Showdown feature. This is to update the current matchmaking system and make competitive play generally more accessible. According to Andrades, all players will be able to participate in the official leaderboard without having to personally spend hours searching for the perfect squad. Given the success of the fan-made combat sim Showdown Pokemonwhich allows people to build strong teams in minutes, it’s no secret where the new Temtem feature got its name from.

Additionally, Crema says that Temtem will continue to expand beyond 1.0 in future seasons. This will see the introduction of a third Mythic Theme – rare, powerful monsters that are remarkably similar to Legendary Pokémon – and another new area. However, they will be wary of any changes, given that attitudes towards another recently implemented feature have been mixed to say the least.

After the launch of version 1.0, Crema added a battle pass to Temtemwhich immediately made longtime players play for review-bombing game. The main issue they cited was that Temtem is not a free-to-play game, and that the original purchase price does not suggest that the game also has premium currency locked behind this newly implemented payment structure.

Speaking as a player, I’ve always loved battle passes – the fact that the game has a battle pass draws me in to play it,” says Andrades. “I speak as a developer, Temtem has some operating costs as an MMO, but only has an upfront payment. There are no subscription fees, so we needed to have an additional revenue stream to support that.”

Despite the fact that many players are unhappy with this, Crema sticks to it. “The inclusion of a cosmetic battle pass, which is completely optional but may help some players get more out of the game, has always been in our plans,” Andrades explained to me. “We know there are serious concerns about such systems, so we tried to make them friendlier by setting a low price, bringing back enough premium currency, and only providing customization options.”

This, of course, does not directly solve the main problems of the players, and many will still be disappointed that the developers do not refuse additional payments in the game for the full price.

Temtem creatures will come together in battle.

Screenshot: Cream / Kotaku

Anything that affects the game’s internal economy is also a huge effort for the developers. Andrades refers to design and balancing Temtema player economics as the most unreliable problem developers have faced while making the game and says it is still difficult to maintain today. This is directly related to the battle pass in that, according to Andrades, Temtema the economic structure is designed so that casual players can get in and out of the game, while more hardcore tamers can actively participate in its financial structure. He says balance changes are being made to tweak the economy functionality in every single patch – after all, the game was meant to be an MMO from day one, so it’s a fundamental building block at its very core.

The rest of the building blocks are somewhat more surprising, especially given the perhaps unfair notion that Temtem unashamedly lifts most of its structure straight out of Pokemon. In fact, his inspirations are much more varied. Andrades says the aesthetic is directly inspired by third-person strategy battles. Giantwhile the competitive scheme of the game was influenced by rocket league. Hell, Pokemon not even the only Nintendo game where Crema looked for ideas: Zelda also played a role in informing the game’s setting of Airborne Archipelago. Andrade even quoted Destiny 2 as a game they got ideas. There’s a lot more going on under the hood than meets the eye.

Still, Pokemon this is the most obvious and noticeable point of comparison of the game. However, what distinguishes them more than anything else is that Temtem noticeably less forgiving experience than Pokemon. In fact, it looks like it shares DNA with the popular, notoriously difficult ROM hacks for Game Freak games, even though Andrades himself never played them. He believes that any common ground that exists here is due to the fact that both efforts are an attempt to create something different from Pokemona series that has remained more or less constant for the past two and a half decades.

“ROM hacking is a way to add or edit these things, it’s like developing a whole new game in this genre,” he says. “Bye Temtem very different from Pokemonthis is most obvious if you spend quite a lot of time in the game.”

More than anything, Andrades just wants people to play his game before they dismiss it as a clone. “If you judge it only by its appearance or by what you can see without playing, then you will think that this is Pokemon rip off. But we were always ahead of that Temtem designed to attract Pokemon fans and offer something different that they might like.”

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