Home / Uncategorized / Why Heroes of the Dark is Gameloft Sofia’s most ambitious project to date | Pocket Gamer.biz

Why Heroes of the Dark is Gameloft Sofia’s most ambitious project to date | Pocket Gamer.biz

No matter how big the game is or how long it ultimately takes, every new title takes a lot of hard work, tough decisions, and a bit of luck before it even gets out the door and on the machines.

And that’s just the first step towards the title’s success.

To highlight the extensive work that cannot be seen in the background, PocketGamer.biz reaches out to developers with our ‘Making Of’ series to learn more about the process of releasing a video game.

This week we spoke to Gameloft game manager Damian Damianov about how Heroes of the Dark is a game that is all about the players and the difficulty of creating a hybrid video game.

PocketGamer.biz: Where did the original idea for Heroes of the Dark come from?

Damian Damianov: Funnily enough, the original idea for a 4X game about vampires, albeit in a different shape and form, came about in Transylvania, on the Gameloft Cluj.

Although this team embarked on a different project instead, a force of their super talented artists found their way into Heroes of the Dark, contributing a sizable amount of the finest art you see in the game today.

Heroes of the Dark is the fifth strategy game from Gameloft Sofia. A high production value, a bold, groundbreaking take on the strategy category, and a brand new IP – it is possibly our most ambitious and challenging product to date.

Heroes of the Dark is a bold, disruptive take on the strategy category.

Damian Damianov

The concept is a unique blend of strategy and role-playing DNA, combining brand new ideas, important insights from previous projects, market research and of course mechanisms and paradigms that we ourselves love and appreciate as gamers.

How long did it take to develop and how many people worked on the game?

The core development took around two years. In the run-up, a lot of brainstorming, worldbuilding, visual development and market research was carried out, and at the same time the engineering team laid the foundation for our future persistent online world.

Today we have over 65 employees in the arts, design, tech, product, production, UX, narration, user acquisition, marketing, audio and QA.

Although most of them are based in Sofia, we are very fortunate to have access to Gameloft’s global talent pool and our team is spread across different studios, countries and even continents.

What was the biggest challenge you faced during development?

We knew from day one that the bold, ambitious strategy-RPG hybrid we wanted to create would involve significant risks. Building a brand new IP with a strong identity, a persistent, real-time, server-authoritative 3D world are all pretty high on the complexity scale, but what kept me awake the most at night is the unique and hybrid nature of the product.

Hybrids are difficult. A very fine line between the best and the worst of both worlds. One misstep and you end up in a confusing mess of incompatible ingredients, a niche product for no one. Scary!

What kept me up the most at night is the unique and hybrid nature of the product.

Damian Damianov

With this in mind, we remained particularly vigilant throughout the process. We designed the riskier parts first so we could prove the formula and give it time to spin if needed. We did a lot of research on the high concept, art style and setting, and we put a lot of play tests through every major milestone build.

At what stage of development did you feel you had a game that you were happy with?

It was an incremental process to improve the mood during user tests, internally within the team and for the senior editorial team at Gameloft headquarters.

We focused disproportionately on the core gameplay and the fun factor. As directed by our user research team, before we measured whether the game was fun or not, we had to make sure that the players “understood” it. Once the ease of use clicked we could focus on the real fun, and when the first 10/10 reviews came in we knew the game had a chance.

How satisfied are you with the game’s release so far?

Very happy. We’ve seen a lot more organic interest than expected, we’ve had no outages, and we’re seeing a passionate community in the game.

Most importantly, the live phase presented us with several quantitative data points which, when combined with player feedback and user research, have been invaluable to us in making massive improvements to the ecosystem.

How do you approach live ops?

4X games are sandboxed experiences, and bringing exciting new gameplay and flavors to players on a regular basis is absolutely critical to strong engagement.

Having played live games for more than 10 years, we have an arsenal of live ops frameworks and tools that allow us to run live events, update assets, push balance improvements and new offerings in great numbers provide short lead times.

We usually expand our live ops calendar to bi-weekly cycles, but remain reactive the entire time and implement improvements and optimizations as often as a couple of times a week.

What can you tell us about your plans for updates?

We’re down over 100 features and quality of life improvements we’d like to introduce, but at the end of the day it’s all about the players.

We built Heroes of the Dark for them, and their feedback, either directly or through their actions and involvement in the game, is crucial in how we define our priorities. Deep and meaningful social gameplay is always high on the list and raid bosses may be on the way, who knows?

What in-game events are you planning for Heroes of the Dark in the future?

All of them!

We have a robust and flexible framework that we are constantly expanding

Damian Damianov

All jokes aside, we’re going to go live this Halloween, and while the whole game is Halloween-themed by definition, we’ve got a full chain of Halloween events planned, including brand new content, badass new heroes, and a slew of surprises to add to all of our new ones Welcome players to the world of Tenebris.

In addition, we have a robust and flexible framework that we are constantly expanding so that we can continue to introduce exciting new events.

What can you tell us about your future mobile projects?

There are some overwhelming products in the works, and while I can’t go into the details today, keep an eye on the big and established platforms, but also emerging hardware, platforms, and business models.

You can now pre-register for Heroes of the Dark on Google Play.


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