Flame Vs. Blaze (called Flame X Blaze in Japan) is a bold attempt to bring the MOBA genre to mobile, compressing the long, complex matches into short ten minute bursts.
To learn more about how the game’s developers intend to do his, and delve a little bit deeper into the world of Flame Vs Blaze, Siliconera spoke with producer Hironori Okayama, asking about how they intend to distil the genre’s complexities into short matches, and what other changes they’ve made to leave their own mark.
What did you want to do with the MOBA genre with Flame Vs Blaze?
Okayama – MOBA. I know that there are a lot of people that like that kind of game in the world. But it’s a very difficult kind of game to get into to even start playing. So, for this title, we created a game that you would let you experience a lighter version of MOBA. We aimed to create fast-paced MOBA action with this title.
If I do go into detail with what I did to make it happen, it would just be a long, long conversation. I did have six main things that I did with this title.
Can you tell us about those six main things?
Okayama – One was that we worked really hard to be able to play within ten minutes. We thought that it was a necessity to keep it that short, which leads into my second point, which is, in MOBA titles, if you have Team A and Team B, what you try to do is try to defeat the other team’s home point. In this game, instead of hunting down the home points at different locations, the reactor (the home point in Flame Vs Blaze) actually moves and goes to the middle of that map and brawls there. That helps to shorten the time as well.
The third point is that, of course, the objective of this game is to have your reactor win against the other team’s reactor, but not all users have the same skills. For example, you may have an inexperienced friend play a MOBA with you, but they might try to go beat a tower and just get defeated by it. That’s part of the usual flow in a MOBA title, but, in this game, we made it really easy for you to understand how strong enemies are through visuals.
We made them all monsters – all non-player characters are all monsters within this game. Their strength equals what they look like. You want to defeat the smaller enemies first because they look a lot weaker, and they are a lot weaker. So, you go from a smaller monster to a bigger monster to level up that way. It’s really easy to grasp.
My fourth point is that Japanese players don’t really like PVP games – they don’t really like to fight against each other. I’m sure that there are a lot of people like that worldwide as well. So, in this game, if you defeat these monsters, some of them will actually follow you around and assist you. Just by beating these monsters, the opponent will see that you have a lot of these monsters following you, so even if your opponent is strong, they might not even try to attack you. You therefore don’t necessarily have to attack other people – if you have monsters around you, that’s all you need to contribute to your party.
The last two points might actually get MOBA fans a little bit worried. The fifth point is that, typically in a MOBA game, the rule is that, in the game, you defeat an opponent and get money from that. Then, you purchase items and stat increase with that money. I did away with all that. What I have instead is all these characters in the game can evolve whenever you want them to. That just completely changes the way you’d play within that same match.
The last point is that, usually in a PVP game, you just fight another person and that’s it. When I thought about what light users like, I thought that they like that something will progress when you beat someone else. For instance, an RPG player might want to see more of the storyline when they progress through the game.
So, in this game, I have sphere grid like in Final Fantasy X where you try to fill in the nodes. You get points when you fight against other people, and you use those points to fill those nodes to be able to get items or see stories for the characters. The more you play, the more you get that kind of reward. I do feel that will keep the motivation up for players who don’t typically like PVP matches.
Many successful MOBAs feature memorable characters for players to use. what work have you done to create interesting characters?
Okayama – There’s a lot of things I do have to keep a secret, but, just like in Street Fighter, and this game as well, we have to have characters that have different kinds of action sets and moves. So, when we create characters, we do think, from a system perspective “Maybe we should have a character who uses magic, or another one who does hand-to-hand combat, or like a bow and arrow.” That’s where we start thinking of what kind of characters we want to create.
In this game, each player will reach a certain point to a story element to it. We’ve been planning and creating the story for a little more than a year now, and so I do think that a lot of these characters do have that kind of appeal and charm because of that. I would like everyone to look forward to that.
The transformations are an interesting way to let players use two characters at once. How drastic is the play style change when players make that switch?
Okayama – It really depends on the character. Some will change drastically, some not so much. One of the easier-to-understand characters would be the protagonist, Yasaka. Before he mode shifts, he uses a spear. He can plunge it into an enemy or twirl it around when he fights against others. When you do the mode shift, he becomes a wind god-like character. Now, he’ll use skills that will unleash wind attacks on other people, or, when he raises his spear, he creates a typhoon. So, his powers become more of a technical skill that is a little bit harder to use.
Where did the idea of the living reactors come from? The idea of having your base fight, rather than just protecting it?
Okayama – To wanted to eliminate, as much as possible, that feeling of “We won thanks to this person!” or “We lost because of this person!”. So, just having these bosses fight together, you could actually make it their fault if you lose. I think that really helps for people who don’t like to play PVP battles, making them able to play without having to worry about that.
Another reason was that, in order to shorten the gameplay time, I was thinking that I should just make the home points move closer to each other as time passes, and maybe they should move on their own.When we first started thinking about this, I thought i would be very difficult or impossible to do, but we did really think hard about it, and I do think we came up with a very good solution for it.
Can you give any details on the story?
Okayama – I guess I can tell you a little bit of the story. This title, Flame Vs Blaze, is not just some random set of words. It’s a little bit difficult to explain, but there’s a group of people who are protecting a blue flame, and then another group of people who are protecting the red flame. That’s where this comes from.
A lot of Square Enix’s mobile titles features cameos from other games. Do you have any special events or appearances you’re looking forward to now?
Okayama – We’re currently only thinking about having original characters in the game, but there may be some appearances if this game becomes popular.
Will there by any sort of offline mode with bots for players who may not wish to play online, or who cannot play online?
Okayama – Yes, of course. As long as it’s within one to six players, it doesn’t really matter how many people you have to play along with. The computer will generate AI players to fight with you. In general, it’s a 3-on-3 battle, but if you only have five players, the computer will generate another character for you, and it will fight well with you.
You do a lot of work to make sure players who aren’t comfortable in a genre become comfortable in it. How do you apply that thinking when creating a game?
Okayama – My personal belief is that, you know how these days, for the young programmers, it’s easy these days to just put it online and have people play it. I think those indie titles are where you get those (sorry for my word) weird, over-the-top, crazy kinds of titles. So, when I thought about that, I personally thought that our role was to think about how to spread that fun genre to a wider audience.