2016 was a huge year for Paladins: Champions of the Realm. They went open beta on PC, alpha on console and hit the milestone of 5 million players worldwide. Most important of all, they successfully stood against competitor Overwatch and established themselves as a serious and in some ways superior alternative to Blizzard's popular game.
C.O.O of Hi-Rez Todd Harris assures me Paladins has it's foot on the gas in 2017. I spoke to him about the current state of the game, it's future, new champions, and why the hell Bomb King is roaring in the new trailer.
Mick: So Paladins in 2017. It seems skins are a focal point for this year, you have the new map as well. What are some additional things that players should look out for this year?
Todd: The two biggest things in 2017...the biggest thing is new champions. We're on a really rapid pace where we basically have three mini teams working on a different champ. We have 20 in the game and we want to get 15 new ones before next year. That is a crazy pace. We had that architecture in Smite in the early days and so hopefully we will hit up...but we're going to aggressive with that.
The second priority for us is releasing the game on console. Both Xbox One and PS4 are coming along really nicely...we're hoping to release them around the same time but it doesn't look like they'll be out at the exact same time. Then from there, try to keep the console version as in sync with updates as the PC version. You'll always be a little bit behind because of certification times but we're going to try and minimize that.
Those are our biggest priorities, but as you mentioned players like skins and they help pay the bills so definitely more cosmetics....we'll be showing a preview of the first new map this weekend...and we'll be exploring some new game modes as well. Those are a little harder to hit a timeline with as they're very experimental.
Mick: Can you share anything on the game modes?
Todd: Um...I can't really. I'll just say we're testing a number of different mechanics right now. I won't spoil any of those yet!
Mick: We saw the Chinese trailer for Paladins a couple weeks ago, and now that the English one is out Bomb King is still roaring! What is that about?!
Todd: (laughing) Maybe the Bomb King lore will reveal all! It was a case where we worked jointly on that trailer release. The Chinese one got done ahead of time...they did a great job with it...but obviously the roar was a reinterpretation by them and I guess for giggles we decided to leave it in the English version. It's really not anything more than that!
Mick: I'm not complaining! I loved it! So are we going to learn more about the lore of Paladins in 2017?
Todd: Yeah. Compared to the other two it's not as big of a priority...but we will be revealing more backstory and lore in 2017. That is important. As a studio we focus on making sure the core of the game is solid first...and then when that is done we will devote more resource to bring some of that lore forward.
Mick: So competitive matchmaking, by the way, this is more of a personal gripe for me...I have a brother in law I play with and a cousin I play with...but I can't take both with me into competitive! I know at one point you could take more than 2 people in your party into competitive...any chance of that returning?
Todd: It's unlikely right now, but we continue to look at it. It's one of those issues where matchmaking is never as good as anyone would like. A bigger population in Paladins...that helps...but at the end of the day you're ultimately balancing the desire for people to play with their friends and the desire to not have one sided matches. Whatever system you have is going to favor one over the other but I think we're in a pretty good place right now. I can only guarantee we will continue to listen to feedback from the community and the other thing we do a lot is look at the algorithm and see if party size can be increased.
Mick: In terms of Champions right now, do you think everyone is in a good spot? Do you think any champion is better than the rest especially when you're watching the picks at the Paladins Invitational? There's a lot of picks that are coming up more consistently than others for sure.
Todd: This is similar to Smite as well, but there's the newer player experience, the competitive queue, and the eSports 5 man teams. We continue to watch it, but I think we're in a pretty good spot. We know that this early in the game's lifecycle it's gonna happen and we just have to be agile in making adjustments. We have Rory, his team and the eSports commentators in weekly meetings looking at stats and soliciting feedback from the competitive community. In between that, we feel like we're getting a pretty good feel of things.
Mick: I love the crossovers of having Ares skin in Paladins and Smite having Fernando. Can we expect more stuff like that popping up?
Todd: I think naming the event Hi-Rez Expo signals our intent to create a community across our games. We're going to look for opportunities for cross pollination but we want to be careful and make sure each game doesn't become a mishmash of the other and that each game has it's own identity.
Mick: One more question...is there any chance we are going to see more cards for champions? Do you think we've hit our limit?
Todd: I will say...we're testing some enhancements to the card system that will give players significant choice...that's all I'll say.