How we decided to kill a hero in Realm Defense
What do you do when your players dislike a character in your game so much that they have almost become a meme? We were posed with that question last year in our game Realm Defense and wanted come up with the best solution we could. As the art director here at Babeltime inc. I called a meeting to try and brainstorm creative solutions to this problem. How can we save these unloved units from being forgotten and discarded in the metaphorical dustbin of disuse?
We decided to start with Connie, our lovable vole caster. She has always been a favorite character of ours and we find her design fun. She summons groups of bunnies that explode on death with AOE damage! Her passive creates a giant helper unit that smashes foes with a giant carrot. These are creative and fit with the theme of the game but unfortunately didn’t resonate with our player base.
Creating an event that goes into our game Realm Defense is not a small task. Babeltime inc. is a small group of developers and we have a collaborative philosophy of design. Anyone on the team is free to pitch an addition to the game and more get shelved than created. This collaboration has helped our mobile game to keep its heart and our team to keep its passion for over three years!
Adding something of this size leads to desks full of post-its, 20+ page design docs, and chat logs that go on for miles. While it may not seem like it from the outside, we worked on it for months! We would like to share a bit of the behind the scenes work that goes into something like our Connie event.
Before any story was developed for this event we had one question that drove our decisions — “How can we take one of the team’s favorite characters and make them a more competitively viable hero?” Sure, we could patch some stats or add a passive skill. That wouldn’t really solve the issue. Visuals need to match the design and players have already decided she isn’t “cool” and stats won’t fix that. We decided to put her through some trials and have her come back upgraded in both stats, lore, and artistic design!
We knew we had one choice-
We had to kill Connie and resurrect her with all the skills and tools she learned while battling back from her time in the Realm of the Dead.
With that idea we got started!
One of our concept artists, Sora started in on these ideas. In this example we can see Connie as more of a bard type character, using her instrument to summon spirit animals. As you may have noticed these are quite different from what we ultimately went with, but they served as good talking points for the team to see which directions we liked and which weren’t working. We really tried to push the creativity and fun with these early designs!
After the team came together and agreed on a design, Curtis, Sora, and I created the final in-game assets. While Curtis worked on the in-game model, Sora was tasked with creating the portraits! Here is a little step by step process on how these are usually made:
These portraits generally get a lot of feedback. I go back and forth with paintovers and provide direction for how the FX will work in Unity. Sora did a great job with this one and kept the friendly feeling of Connie while adding some “edge” to her that hints at all she has gone through during this event.
One of our favorite bits of this event was getting to hint at it early! We added secret changes to current level maps and tournament levels. Dead bunnies (which are Connie’s active ability) started appearing on levels.
We were so excited when players took note of them and began the hunt for more details on what they might mean. Then we started to release teaser images for the event. We saw there was a lot of feedback that players didn’t want a Connie “awakening.” An awakening for a hero in Realm Defense is a way of leveling them up and players didn’t think the grind was worth it, she was past saving. We were excited that the event would be much more than an awakening.
With this rework, Connie has earned a spot alongside some of the most powerful heroes in your tournament teams.
With Sora’s initial sketches and a variety of other ideas pitched by our design team in mind, Curtis explored some options for Connie’s in game model.
The first roughs are a pretty wide range of hero themes but ultimately we decided a necromancer summoner felt the most fun and was the perfect match for a death/rebirth themed event for Connie. Since she would be killed by the Death Knight it made sense she would come back infused with some of his dark powers and able to bring her ghost bunnies back with her.
Next came finalizing the art for her default and champion skins, the bunnies and of course bunny mama to get them ready for animation!
We also took on creating a brand new event UI interface specifically for this event! Curtis and our game designer Jo worked closely with me to create a special “necrodex” to feature the event progress bar, illustrations with FX for each day of the event and access to our event bundles.
As the design team began to work out the details of the new Connie, addressing the original version’s lack of a clear strength was the main priority. She was able to do a small amount of damage on a fairly large number of units with the explosions of her summoned bunnies which also had stopping power. Connie herself was limited in her ability to assist in this which wasn’t very strong or cohesive.
Replacing her Snares with a Rank 2 talent that adds a stun to her Spirit Bolts increases the reliability of her Crowd Control. The addition of a slow debuff from Grasping Apparition when her bunnies die at Rank 5 expands that even further. Finally, adding Necromantic Rights which gives Connie the ability to decrease revival time for all heroes makes Connie an incredibly valuable asset to have on your team in any fight!
With each release we are trying to push the quality and level of content we include. For this event we made some very specific animations for Connie to help tell the story of her capture and rebirth.
All of us here put a lot of thought and love into making the content for this event. It was really fun to revamp one of our favorite heroes. It has been awesome to see the community response. As always, thank you for your continued support! There are more fun events and content coming your way!
You can check out the game here -