To celebrate the release of its popular new collectible card game, Might & Magic: Duel of Champions, Ubisoft is holding its “Road to Paris” tournament series around the world with online qualifiers and live tournament events. In addition to registering for live tournaments on-site at the events, gamers who are unable to come along can participate in online qualifiers. Ubisoft has already had thousands of participants, but only eight competitors from the qualifying events will be invited to participate in the World Championship during Paris Games Week, 30 October to 3 November.
The Australian qualifier was held at PAX Australia in Melbourne, 19-20 July, where we caught up with Ubisoft Quebec producer, Stephane Jankowski, to talk about the development and popularity of the game.
What brought you to Australia?
Ubisoft Quebec producer, Stephane Jankowski (SJ): We were presenting Duel of Champions at PAX Australia in Melbourne. We were also here to promote the game, as well as hold a local competition for the world championship we are holding. The main tournament brings eight of the best players from around the world in Paris later in the year, so we did some of the qualifiers at PAX. In the process, we actually found one of the eight players who is going to represent Australia in Paris in October.
What has been response to the game in Australia?
SJ: It has been really good. Before and during the show we already had a lot of people registering online to try the game on PC and iPad. We’ve been working on building a small community, which has been growing and growing. It was a good decision for us to come here for one of the big qualifiers we wanted to hold, because the community is growing quite quickly here.
How did the concept for the game come about?
SJ: It’s actually a passion story. [Laughs] We had a team of developers at the Quebec studio that were starting to work on a Might & Magic game, so they were getting into the IP, the logo, and the different gameplay points that come with the game brand. They were also card players themselves, often playing the game at the office. So the idea of mixing both into a game came very quickly, so we decided to make a digital card game in the Might & Magic universe. The paper and digital prototypes were turned into something very cool in the end, which we then pitched to Ubisoft top management. They told us to go for it and that’s how it all happened. So now we have a full production team in Quebec, with approximately 40 people working on the game creating new content and features. So basically, it was a labour of love.
Why PC and iPad as the starting platforms?
SJ: We wanted to create something that was online and connected in a natural way. Initially the concept was more solo and single player in focus than cross platform and open to connectivity. But as the concept evolved, we went down the road to PC and iPad. The iPad was chosen for the ease of programming and development on the device compared to Android, where all the different screen sizes and resolutions are more difficult to manage. So we basically went down the easy way to ensure that we created the cross platform experience we wanted to have. This way, the player is able to take their account wherever they go and play at different locations.
Why make the game free-to-play?
SJ: It is a natural fit between the genre and the free-to-play model. When it comes to physical card games, people have always used money to buy booster packs. In Duel of Champions, the monetisation is even simpler. Each time you play online you are given some gold, and with that free currency you can purchase booster packs. So if you want, you can acquire new cards without making a purchase with real money. If you want to play for free, then you can. And if you want to purchase cards, then you can do that too. The only time we will have monetisation and make money is when players want faster access to the content. But there is no restriction in the content. There are no cards that you can get if you pay with cash, such as super powerful cards. We don’t want to fall into the pay-to-win model. We just want people to play the game, and if they like it, we feel at one point they will pay.
Might & Magic X: Legacy is coming out soon. How does Duel of Champions fit into the release of that high profile game?
SJ: Duel of Champions has been in open beta since September last year. So we have already been out for a while and have thousands of players already active in the game. Legacy is the next step in the expansion of the brand into the traditional, core game group. It is a dungeon crawler with monster hunting, so we wanted to have something that makes sense from a Might & Magic perspective. Even though it is a card game, Duel of Champions is in the same type of genre that requires deep thinking on behalf of the player. Duel of Champions is definitely not a free-for-all game and not everyone will like it, nor will everyone like Legacy. But we still aimed to be true to the Might & Magic franchise.
Duel of Champions looks to have a big fan community in Poland. What has enabled the game to be so popular there?
SJ: If you have the answer, let me know. [Laughs] Poland has been one of the biggest supporters of the game since the game’s release, particularly in the beginning. The Might & Magic brand has been popular in the Eastern European countries, so as soon as we released Duel of Champions, we have a crowd of people in Germany, Poland, Russia and the other neighbouring regions go crazy for the game. For us it is wonderful, as game makers we want to have as many players as possible. We naturally went to those countries first to ensure we understand what players were expecting in a Might & Magic being a card game. We did several events in Europe and met players in person in Poland to really understand what is happening there. That helped us put the game in the right direction in the beginning, and the fans of the genre and the brand were okay with what we were doing.
Which card in Duel of Champions is your favourite?
SJ: Recently I’ve been using Ishuma a lot. She’s from the Sanctuary faction. I like the card because it is a control hero, which helps to drive the control of the battleground. You have the ability to outmanoeuvre some of your opponent’s cards and change their defence on the battlefield. It kind of forces your opponent to think twice before doing any kind of move, because you never know what is going to happen when it becomes your turn.