During our afternoon hands-on preview with a near-final build of Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope, we set aside a brief fifteen minutes to sit down with one of the men spearheading the project: Quentin Correggi, an Associate Producer on Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope.
Were you also working in the same position during Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle?
Yeah, so as an Associate Producer, my job is mainly to coordinate all the different teams: designers, artists, and animators for a specific part of the game. My domain of expertise is the combat in Sparks of Hope, so everything related to combat.
The combat itself is the biggest change so far to Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope. Can you talk about your design to shift into the real-time focus while still keeping a turn-based element?
When we released Kingdom Battle, we received a lot of positive feedback from the players mainly, of course, from the combat and the twist that we added to the tactical genre. We realized that players really enjoyed the possibilities and freedom that were offered by all the movement actions in Kingdom Battle. You could dash, team jump, take a pipe, et cetera, which gave you a lot of freedom. When we started to think about Sparks of Hope, we knew that we wanted to go even further in that movement aspect and freedom. So we made a lot of trials and errors with lots of different prototypes until we got to the point of okay, why not directly give the control to the character? We don't necessarily need a cursor or grid. Of course, we want to remain a turn-based game, but this is basically what kickstarted giving even more freedom in the player's movement and direct control of the characters.
There's already a little bit of element to timing with moves, such as dashing into the Bob-ombs, picking them up, and throwing them before they explode.
Basically, at first, we didn't really know where it was going when we unlocked what we call the Real-Time Control. As soon as we started to get control of the character, we saw a lot of opportunities that would now open up to actually use real-time events within the combat. The Bob-ombs are a very good example because when you touch them, it starts the timer and you have a couple of seconds to pick them up and throw them before they explode. Later on, and you might see it in the preview session, you also have real-time events within the battles themselves. For example, we have a battle with huge stone masks that blow wind in a regular rhythm, so you need to move around and adapt your movement to avoid being pushed by the wind. It really enables us to bring a lot of real-time events aside from just a simple control in combat. The tricky part, of course, is that we want to remain a tactical game at first. The most important thing for us is that the player finds the fun in thinking and planning the action rather than just focusing on the skills or execution. We have to find the right balance to not push too much on the character skills but remain mainly on planning and thinking.
In terms of accessibility and also for those who want to be a little bit more methodical and take a slower approach, will there be the option to either increase the timer on some of these real-time events or even just turn them back into regular turn-based events?
We have a lot of different accessibility options to adapt the difficulty of the game, but for everything regarding the Real-Time Control, no, there is no specific option. When we did that, we decided to go in the direction that we want to give as much time as possible to the player. If I take the example of the Bob-omb, you actually have a lot of time. It seems a bit scary because you see that the Bob-omb is going to explode but you have quite a lot of time before the Bob-omb actually explodes. As long as you don't throw the Bob-omb, you actually have quite a lot of time but as soon as you throw it, then it explodes almost instantaneously on impact. It gave us the opportunity to give enough time to the players who want to take it but at the same time, as soon as they are done with the action, they see the result and execution without having to wait too long for other things to happen.
I did see that some of the characters do have kind of like an overwatch ability where if the enemy moves into range, they'll counter. Will enemies also have similar abilities?
We have one enemy, the Lone Wolf, that you will see also in the second part of the preview. The Lone Wolves have a similar Hero Sight, in this case, an Evil Sight ability. You will see the area displayed on the ground. so you will need to be very careful where you are going in order to not trigger it, or maybe you might want to trigger it for a specific reason.
There have already been some similarities drawn already about the combat, with some saying it may be inspired by Divinity: Original Sin. Have you looked at other RPGs on the market to inspire this real-time focus?
A huge portion of the team are fans of tactical games and strategic games as a whole. I think there is always an inspiration that we can draw around from the market as a whole, even if it's not conscious. Of course, there is a lot of inspiration from Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle at first, but we really wanted to do something unique with Sparks of Hope. At least as far as I'm aware, I don't think that there is any other game that really pushed the boundaries of Real-Time Control in a turn-based game. It was really important as well to have our own identity, the same way we did it for Kingdom Battle at the time, but even further with Sparks of Hope.
In the first section of the Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope preview that we're playing, we just have the two playable heroes so far. Why did you want to focus on keeping the teams at two or three rather than expanding?
We [learned a lot] from the player feedback on Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. We want as part of the ambition of the Mario + Rabbids brand, we want to appeal to any kind of player, even the ones that don't have any appeal for tactical games, or maybe are just beginners to the tactical genre. We want to be sure that we can onboard them properly. For us, it made perfect sense to have the two characters at the very beginning and you will unlock a third character slot after roughly about one hour of gameplay. It really enables us to onboard players to start to understand the new mechanics because we are adding Sparks, we're adding the real-time movement, the new techniques and weapons of each hero When we feel that the player is ready, then we can add a third character, which increased the opportunities and the synergies that you can have in the battle by a lot.
Right now, it looks like the roster has nine playable heroes. Why did some of the heroes, such as Donkey Kong or the two Yoshi, not make it into the sequel?
It was never really a constraint. We are in the same universe of Mario + Rabbids, but we knew when we wanted to do Sparks of Hope that we didn't want to feel blocked by whatever we did in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. It was important for us to still feel free when we started to think about all the different heroes that we will have in Sparks of Hope. First of all, we knew that we wanted some new faces, so we have Bowser but we also have Rabbid Rosalina and Edge that are each their own really unique character that is really tailored for the Real-Time Combat in Sparks of Hope. In a way, there's no special reason. It's not like we don't like Yoshi or Rabbid Yoshi on the other side. We like them a lot, but it made more sense for us to have those new characters in Sparks of Hope in the context of the story and the gameplay.
What kind of archetypes or classes do these new characters embody?
I would say Bowser is considered the destructor. He has a lot of abilities that enable him to destroy a lot of things in battle and he's really explosive. He has a huge bazooka-like weapon with a big area of effect explosion. When he lands on the ground, you can also deploy some kind of explosion around him in an area of effect that can also destroy covers. Every week, I tend to change my mind about who is my favorite character, but at least as of now, it's Edge.
Edge is very close quarters. She's a very badass character and you can feel it in the gameplay. She's really focused on mobility because she's the character that has the highest number of dashes to dash and defeat enemies. She has a sword that can pierce through several rows of enemies. She is really about positioning. How can I maximize my movement by dashing around and finding the best spot so that the enemies are aligned and I can pierce through all them?
Finally, Rabbid Rosalina is more of a control-slash-support character. Her weapon shoots a lot of bullets and enables her so to destroy a lot of cover. This way, she can open a line of sight for another character. So in this way, she's a support and she also has a technique that enables her to lock the enemies in place. So she's also a very powerful control character.
Now you talked about that ability for Bowser with the shockwave when he lands. Is that an enhancement of his team jump ability?
Yeah, exactly. Each character has some enhancement to their weapon behavior, technique behavior, and movement abilities within their skill tree. For example, Mario can unlock the stomp, so when he's gliding after a team jump you can stomp on the top of an enemy and then keep gliding. You can even unlock in the skill tree an ability so that you can stomp up to three times so you can stomp an enemy, move around, stomp, move around and stomp, which enables him to cover a lot of ground while still dealing damage. Edge, for example, can unlock multiple dashes; Rabbid Mario unlocks explosive dashes so every time you dash into an enemy, it yields a small area of effect exposure around him. For Princess Peach, every time her team jumps on a character, she will grant them a shield. So yeah, all the characters have specific movement abilities that are unlocked through the skill tree, including Bowser with his landing explosions.
Will we expect to see different weapon types for each hero?
No, each hero comes with a very unique weapon that is specifically made for them and each weapon has very specific abilities. So for example, Mario is dual-wielding guns so that he can shoot at two different targets in one attack. Luigi has a very long-range sniper-like weapon where the further away the target is, the higher the damage it deals. It was really important for us to have each hero with a very unique and specific identity, which of course applies to their own weapon. But of course, in the other skill trees, you can improve not just the stats, but also the behavior of the weapons. You can also customize the visuals of the weapon through weapon skins that you can find and unlock within the game or buy at the merchant with the coins that you collect.
I want to follow up on the weapon skins. Is that purely just going to be purchasable in-game with the coins, or are there plans for cosmetic/paid DLC?
So most of them are purchasable directly in-game. We don't have any monetization or alt currencies. We just have some weapon skins that are unique to the Collectors and pre-order editions. But aside from that, all of them are purchasable strictly with the in-game currency that you collect.
Can you explain a little bit about Rayman and what his character archetype will be?
For the character archetype, it's a bit too much in detail and a bit too soon, but at least for the context of this expansion, it will be a specific adventure that will be specifically tailored for Rayman, Rabbid Peach, and Rabbid Mario that will go on to a journey with story content, which is the perfect occasion for us to finally reunite Rayman and the Rabbids.
One last quick question. For the new Sparks system that's in Sparks of Hope, will there be any character-specific sparks, or will they be available to everyone in the cast?
It was really important for us that when we started to think about the Sparks feature, it was all about player agency. It was really important for us that no, there are no Sparks that are locked to a specific character. You can freely equip any Spark on any character and each character can equip up to two Sparks. It was really important for us that we give the freedom to the player to combine them however they wish because it can really impact the archetype of the actual character. If you want to put a defensive spark on an aggressive character or offensive character for balance, you can also go all in and put a lot of offensive sparks on top of an already offensive character. Everyone also has Sparks that you may prefer to use for a specific character because some of them have very cool synergies. For example, Edge who can dash multiple times works really well with the Sparks that upgrade the dash ability. But no, it was really important for us that every Spark can be used on any character,
Thank you so much for your time.