Orcs Must Die 3 Q&A – Campaign Length Around 12-15 Hours; Players Will Be Blown Away by War Scenarios


Orcs Must Die 3 is coming soon, with a release window still pinned for this Summer. The third mainline entry in the 'action tower defense' franchise will be released as a Google Stadia exclusive, even though Robot Entertainment already confirmed that the game will eventually release on other platforms as well.

We recently had the chance to chat with Jerome Jones, Lead Designer at Robot Entertainment, to learn more about Orcs Must Die 3 ahead of the impending launch.

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Can you give us an overview of what players will find in Orcs Must Die 3?

For starters, it's directly in line story-wise so basically if you're a fan of the franchise and you're a big story gamer, the story of Orcs Must Die 3 falls directly in line. It's set around 20 years after the end of Orcs Must Die 2. That's where the story takes up our two heroes, Maximillian and Gabriela. Another thing that might be interesting is that we didn't really give the heroes names in the previous games.

They were just the Sorceress and the War Mage, but in this one people will learn their names. I mean, the story has been going so long it makes sense. The War Mage and the Sorceress have rebuilt the Order, they're training new War Mages to continue defending the Rifts and trouble ensues as usual. We got some new, really big features that seem to be what everyone wants to talk about right now, the War Scenarios and the War Machines, which are a pretty impressive jump from [inaudible] as far as scale, so to speak.

In a normal scenario in Orcs Must Die 2 over, let's say six waves, you might see 400 to 600 units coming at you over the course of that entire scenario. In a War Scenario in Orcs Must Die 3, you're going to see that many units in a single wave. It's colossally bigger in scale, not only from the standpoint of the enemies that are coming at you and trying to get into the Rift but also from the standpoint of the level itself. In the previous titles you never got to go outside of the castle you were defending or the fortress you were defending. You could never go outside the door, players didn't really know what the world outside looked like. In War Scenarios you can venture beyond the door itself and outside you'll find a giant battlefield. That entire battlefield and the outside of the castle and the bridges, everything you see out there is also trappable. It's a little bit more like the battle at Helm's Deep from Lord of the Rings, instead of, you know, if you were to just fight inside the castle itself.

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Then we give you special traps for this, they're called War Machines, and the war machines themselves are much bigger in scale as well, they're much more efficient at killing large hordes of enemies. You can only use those out on the battlefield, but there are quite a few new War Machines, there's a lot of new stuff for the player to play with once they venture into a specific War Scenario and they start trapping up the battlefield and everything. The gameplay though technically is the same, which I think is sort of the beauty of it all. It's not going to confuse players entering the War Scenario other than the fact that it's bigger and more intimidating, given the gameplay and the goal is the same. I think the fans will really dig it because they're always asking for more orcs, more levels, they just want to be bombarded with trouble and see if they can get out of it. So that's what we did in these War Scenarios.

You've mentioned that Orcs Must Die 3 will have a lot more orcs on the screen than previous games, right?

Yeah. I just did a panel on Stadia the other day and they were putting up some footage where you could see a battlefield full of orcs and it looks unbeatable. I always tell people that from a design standpoint and I don't mean this in a negative way. I mean it in a good way, we design these levels to feel like you just can't win.

My point is that we want you to feel like 'Wow!' when you're done and you actually beat the scenario, you feel like you killed a lot of stuff, you beat a lot of stuff. And we give you a lot of weapons and traps and trinkets and things and upgrades to do that with. In the War Scenario (there's five, by the way, in the campaign), the first time you play and those enemies start coming over the ridge, it looks like they just don't stop. It's like water running over the ridge. It's different than what you've ever seen in an Orcs game before, which is pretty cool. It was very difficult balancing them because we get a huge variety of skill levels in our game.

We offer three difficulties, but we default the game on the intended difficulty. When you're going from a normal scenario to a War Scenario you may be like 'Oh my gosh, how am I going to beat this?' It's a little intimidating, but I assure you that they are all beatable and at a variety of levels. But yeah, what you said is true. There's a lot of orcs coming at you at one time and that includes ogres, trolls, and other things too. It can be pretty impressive the first time you deal with a War Scenario.

Yeah, I get that. You want to let players feel like they have insurmountable odds stacked against them.

The odds are against them, but we give them all the tools they need to be a hero in the end. And that's the goal, for you to feel good about it. We also want a big variety of winning in our game. That's another thing I always bring up in interviews, one of the things we combat from just feedback at the office per se, is like, you know, in our game you get rated on your victory. You can get a one skull, a two skull, a three skull, a four skull, or a five skull victory. Think of it as your regular stars, but we use skulls, little orcs skulls. To beat a War Scenario and receive a five skull rating is hard. But to get a one skull rating is still a victory, it's still a win. You still get the progress through the campaign, even though you may not have five skulled all the levels.

And that's a big thing for completionists, right? Gamers these days, they just got have a five skull on everything. They got to own everything, they got to unlock everything, but you can still go through the whole campaign and one skull the whole campaign even on the lowest difficulty, get through and see all the content. And then it's up to you how much you want to challenge yourself from there. If you want to try to five skull stuff and beat stuff under the par times and learn how to kill orcs faster and be more efficient, that's up to you. And that's how I like to make it, but a lot of players play and if they get one skull level, they're like 'Oh, I lost'. And it's like 'No, you didn't lose, but you can play better'. That's always the goal.

Is it the Google Stadia hardware in the cloud that's enabling you to have these huge battlefields, or is that something you could have done in the same way on PC and consoles as well?

We had been called by Google and gotten to go and see Stadia very early in its development. The conversations were about us creating a game for Stadia or ideas we might have for Stadia. Back then it was called something different, had a codename or something. When they finally came to us and said 'Hey, what about Orcs Must Die 3?' we hadn't even considered doing another game yet. We were letting some time pass, right? So when they came to us and said 'Hey, why don't you guys throw us a pitch on what an Orcs Must Die 3 might look like on Stadia?', that spawned the idea of War Scenarios because of the concept of Stadia and the benefits of cloud gaming.

What I'm excited about Stadia is that depending on the power of your computer, it dictates what your game looks like. So you may have to turn off shadows and a bunch of other things to play a certain game at a frame rate that's acceptable to you. The big benefit about the War Scenarios on Stadia is that once we're done with that scenario, once we design that War Scenario to be however we want it to be and we get it running good, we get it working how we want it with that crowd of orcs coming at you, every player that plays on Stadia regardless of their machine quality gets to see that same experience, which is pretty comforting as a designer because you just see people not experiencing normal PC games the same as everyone else.

Of course, if you have a $3,000 gaming PC, you know, you get to see all the bells and whistles and the graphics, but on Stadia, that doesn't matter. It really doesn't matter. You could have the worst computer you can imagine in today's age, if you've got a decent Internet connection and a screen to play on, you're going to get what we put in the box so to speak, regardless of the quality of your machine. And that's pretty cool. We also benefit a lot from the development advantages of Stadia. You don't have to download anything. We can update the game and the consumer doesn't even know it, it's just seamless. We tell them about it 'Hey, there's an update' but they don't have to download it and install it as with any other platform.

You don't have to do any of that. It just happens. Cloud gaming is, we're early, but it just makes sense. There's going to be haters out there at first, but the same thing happened when everybody's music started getting shared on the internet. People were freaking out 'Oh my God, I have to have the record in my hand!' I understand that. Some people like to own their game boxes and stuff, but I think cloud gaming is a pretty cool concept. And I think it's going to slowly take over.

Can you share if Orcs Must Die 3 is going to run that 30 or 60 frames on Google Stadia?

Orcs Must Die 3 renders at 4K and 60fps using a variety of upscaling techniques and dynamic resolution to keep the frame rate smooth in complex situations. Part of the beauty of OMD!, is that players can create very unusual trap layouts that can stress the game in ways we haven’t thought of. Should that happen, we do allow the frame rate to drop, rather than limit the creativity of the players.

When you play a War Scenario, I think everybody's going to be surprised at how well it runs when they see all those units on screen. I think people are going to be blown away by War Scenarios, I really do.

You've mentioned before that there are multiple difficulty levels, right?

Uh, yes, sir.

Do you have leaderboards for players to compete on?

Absolutely. We have a leaderboard per difficulty and per co-op. I guess technically that's six leaderboards per level, because we have three difficulties, Apprentice, War Mage and Rift Lord. Those difficulties divide by whether you play solo or whether you play co-op. And then there's going to be other different types of leaderboards in the future.

You can imagine, I don't want to give away any of our future ideas, any of our future plans for content, but we plan to support the game for as long as necessary on Stadia and there will be other types of leaderboards in the future, so the answer to your question is yes, the leaderboards are very important to us. It's very important to Orcs Must Die fans. Then you'll also be able to divide those leaderboards into just your friends just or globally, by the way.

Okay. In terms of co-op, I think you've mentioned that it's just two players, right?

Yeah. Single player or two-player co-op.

Can you reveal why you didn't go with the most traditional three or four player co-op in Orcs Must Die 3?

For the type of game we've designed, to establish a consistency of balance regardless of the amount of players, one or two, it's very important for us to keep it to our co-op our traditional one or two players. I also think that opens it up to a bigger audience. Anybody can play Orcs, you don't have to go look into being matchmade or anything like that. You can play with just a buddy. You can a father and son, a mother and daughter, and you can just play the game. There's not a lot of outside requirements other than just having Stadia or owning the game.

This game balance is the best across three difficulties and across the tons of traps and tons of upgrades that we have and the different heroes you can play, it balances the best at two or less two or one players.

How many characters are going to be in Orcs Must Die 3 when it launches?

I don't want to give away any spoilers here that I'm not supposed to give away. In the end, there are six playable characters in the main game. You unlock them as you go through the campaign. Obviously there's our War Mage who is our main guy, Maximillian, there's Gabriela the Sorceress, and then two new heroes, Egan and Kelsey. You'll be able to unlock a total of six character playable characters, as you play through the game.

Roughly how long should it take for the average player to complete the story?

Well, there are 18 scenarios. It's a pretty big campaign. Five of those are the War Scenarios, I've been using the term boss scenarios, but I say that with air quotes. It doesn't mean there is some boss that you fight like in a Nintendo game or something, it just means the scenario itself is very different than the regular scenarios. So it kind of creates these sort of peaks and valleys as you go through the campaign because you have to beat the War Scenarios to continue on. I would say, I think we've been saying it's quite a few hours to beat the campaign, depending on your skill level.

We have guys at our office that are unbelievable at the game. They played through it all four or five, 10, 20 times. We have people who are just experts at Orcs Must Die, who are going to beat the campaign faster than others. But I would say the average player, it's probably going to be up between 12 and 15 hours once a play and beat the campaign. That's just like part of the content, accepting your skull rating for every level and not retrying to get a better skull rating. And then we have endless mode, which is an entirely new mode you can play with, there are seven scenarios in the endless mode campaign.

I don't know if you know much about our endless mode, but there are videos on YouTube of people playing previous Orcs Must Die games in endless for mode six hours, like one level for six hours. In Orcs Must Die 3 there's dozens of traps, a bunch of weapons and a bunch of trinkets and War Machines. And this plethora of traps, they all have upgrades per trap. And then they have unique upgrades and you can't have both uniques on the same trap, so you have to make a choice. The variety of which you can alter your build or your loadout can really be diverse from player to player. If you just glance at a few YouTube videos from the old games, you'll see a huge variety of how people beat scenarios in our game.

You can play Orcs for a really long time. We have a really good retention of gaming time with our game. Players play it for a good session and they come back and they just replay it a lot. It's very replayable, you want to try and do different things in our game. You can make a different mousetrap every time you play a scenario, once you start to unlock and get a bigger and bigger inventory.

I'm assuming you are planning to support the game post-launch with more content, correct?

Yes, yes, sir. I can't give away any of that, but there's quite a bit planned. We're very close to being done with this game and we're starting to move in that direction already. We're starting to think about the support and all the things we're going to do after the game releases.

Okay. Is the target release date still for this Summer?


One more question that I've read from the community. Several fans would like to know if some of the characters from Orcs Must Die! Unchained will be acknowledged in some way in this new game, or even become playable at some point, despite the game having been written off as non-canon.

Acknowledged in some way is an interesting question.

I guess the fair and honest, safe answer for me is no, but I don't want anyone to think that's taken off the table. Do you get where I'm going? There are some cool characters from Orcs Must Die Unchained. I don't want to close my mind to never considering some of those guys in the future, but they're not going to be in Orcs Must Die 3, where we'll have six characters as mentioned above.

There are some very interesting new ones though that I can't really speak about, you'll just have to play the story to figure out how they work into the whole world. But our world is getting big now, you know, there have been three games. I know everything going on in the story, I'm the one that writes all that stuff. It's really starting to get rich and interesting and we have a lot of choices going forward. So the answer is no, but I don't want people to think that I'm never going to consider stuff like that, because it's always possible.

I guess it also depends on what the community's feedback is in a way.

It does. And we have a really hardcore group of people. When I say hardcore, I don't mean hardcore gamers, so to speak, they're just hardcore fans. We call them the Red Pod. They're actually a group of people that we use for this kind of feedback. Before we ship games, we bounce things off and we run the game by them. We let them beat up on us with feedback and they're quite aware of OMDU as well. And they asked the same questions, right? They'd bring us the same kind of things to think about. We take our fans and our community really, really, really seriously when it comes to feedback. I would bet we take feedback more seriously than most people could imagine.

There are literally thousands of lines of feedback from people outside the company, people inside the company, fans. And I address all of it. I read all of it. I answer all of it. I try to get honest answers to things and the fans will influence stuff going forward as always.

Is there anything else you want to add about Orcs Must Die 3?

Just that it's really solid, we're starting to feel really good about the way the game's playing and the way the game feels, it's fun. There is a very simple, easy to enjoy fun about Orcs Must Die games. I think we've done a really good job continuing that with Orcs Must Die 3, plus all the new features. It's just a really solid, fun, and easy to play game with a lot of depth. You just gotta find the depth, you gotta play and the depth will just come to you.

Thank you for your time.