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HomeDiscoveryHow D&D Helped Form The Heart Of This New Looter-Shooter RPG

How D&D Helped Form The Heart Of This New Looter-Shooter RPG

Brazilian developer Rogue Snail and Gearbox Publishing have announced that the upcoming top-down looter-shooter Relic Hunters Legend will launch in Steam Early Access on September 25. Featuring an assortment of story-driven single-player missions and chaotic multiplayer missions, Relic Hunters Legend is my type of game, borrowing inspiration from one of my favorite TTRPGs: Dungeons & Dragons. As huge fans of D&D themselves, the Rogue Snail team looked to the tabletop RPG when crafting Relic Hunters Legend’s five playable characters.

Ahead of the game’s September launch, I spoke with Rogue Snail CEO Renata Rapyo, Relic Hunters Legend programmer and director Gabriel Leite, and Relic Hunters Legend lead artist Betu Souza about their team’s take on the looter-shooter genre, how they pulled from D&D in creating their playable characters, and what inspired the vibrant art style.

Is this a co-op game you can play solo or a single-player game you can play with others? Which style of play was your focus?

Leite: It’s mostly a multiplayer-focused game. All the systems were always directed to that, but we really wanted to have a really strong story perspective as well. So we have single-player focused story missions where you get to know the characters themselves, and the main plot advances on single-player missions. But we have everything that we always wanted in multiplayer games. So we have party management, we have an endgame for multiplayer, grinding, and all that. We have a bunch of synergy between different characters so they can play cooperatively, and we actually have missions that you must [play] multiplayer, but mostly in the endgame where it’s really important for you to cooperate with friends.

What was your design philosophy for the playable characters? What central theme did you have in mind while designing these five heroes?

Leite: Okay, so gameplay-wise, they are very different in their own way. Each of them has three skill trees. They can specialize in different things. They also play very differently because all of their skills are different. They all can use the same weapons, but they have very different skills. Their toolkit is very different.

Narratively, for each of the characters that you unlock in the game, they each have their own personal stories, and there’s different content for them that’s specific for them in which you have to use them to play this content. But generally speaking, the whole game, besides those specific Hunter stories, you can play however you want for the whole game.

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So there are extra missions that you can play through that are separate from the main campaign?

Leite: Yes, whenever you unlock a new character, you get their unique stories–specific story missions for them–but you can also just play regular multiplayer missions with them as soon as you unlock them as well.

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Rapyo: And also just to add to what Gabriel was saying, when you unlock these characters, you can use memories to upgrade them and get them to a playable level so you can still keep all your gear and have fun with your friends, and you won’t be such a low level that you won’t be able to keep up.

How big of a focus is the story in this game?

Rapyo: The game is a multiplayer game, but we also love the story. All the characters are fantastic, their background stories and what we’re trying to build with the community and stories to tell about friendship, about love, about forgiving people for mistakes they made. And you get to fall in love with the characters when you play the game because all of them. In my opinion and from my perspective, they’re super charismatic. So story is important, but it isn’t the main thing about the game. The main thing is about being a rebel and being a Relic Hunter, and trying to progress as far as you can.

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Why the decision to make five different characters instead of one character that can be played in multiple different ways?

Leite: We are primarily a looter-shooter RPG, and we thought that having more classes adds more diversity to the gameplay, and it makes the gameplay richer. Our version of classes are actually those characters. They all have their own backstories. They all have their own personalities. They all have their different gameplay skills and all that. And we also intend to build upon that eventually.

Rapyo: We’re both a true believer in diversity, and we try to bring this to all of our games. We don’t get to be a single person playing things. We are a multitude of people with different backgrounds, different stories, coming from different places, and we always want to have this in our games. So this definitely is a design decision based on how we believe things should be.

So what role does each playable character fulfill? Or can they fulfill multiple combat roles in a squad? And how do their abilities inform their characterization, if at all?

Leite: All right, so we are huge fans of D&D. We’re huge fans. We’ve played a lot of RPGs and all that. So Pinkyy is our fearless leader. She leads into battle, she punches evil ducks with her own fist and all that, and she’s always in the front of line. So she’s like our warrior I would say. Seven is our mage. As in D&D, Seven’s skills are all about freezing enemies and tossing them around, maybe through holes and all that. And also there’s this skill that pulls everybody into a single place and you can just bomb them afterward, things like that. It’s about manipulating the field like a mage or something. Jimmy is more of our sniper. I know there’s no sniper in D&D, but picture that. That’s kind of the tendency. So it’s all about damage dealing and being extremely focused on that. He’s all about precision shots. You don’t have to play that way, but it’s like the skill tree incentivizes you to play either through throwing a lot of grenades or sniper shooting everybody. And there’s also Ace. Ace is like our scoundrel or rogue. He deals more damage when shooting from behind. He’s got some crazy gadgets that we can use to distract enemies. He likes to joke around too.

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Rapyo: Yeah, he’s our jokester, our pranker.

Leite: Yeah. And there’s also Raff, which is our party engineer as we say. She’s either into support or into dealing heavy damage. She has that awesome keytar to blast or heal, to blast enemies or heal friends. And there’s also the whole thing about switching her music around that she’s playing to either increase the damage of the party or keep healing them and stuff like that.

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Oh, that’s really cool. She’s like a Bard in D&D. I love playing Bards.

Leite: Yeah, pretty much.

What mechanics or features are in the game to encourage players to work together and not go off and solo tasks?

Leite: Okay, so we have this combo system in which a few characters can prime enemies to then be detonated. So you need to have two characters to do that. Let’s say Pinkyy is priming enemies by using a skill. Whenever she hits some enemies, they will get primed, and then Jimmy tosses a grenade and detonates those enemies that were already primed. So there’s this huge combo that appears out of the blue, and this big explosion happens.

And all of the game levels were designed to keep players together as well. So it’s not like everybody can go to one corner, and loot is everywhere because you have to run around and pick up loot. No, it’s not like that. They were all designed to keep players together. So King of the Hill, for instance–which is actually called Scavenge in our game–there’s one single point on the map. There’s one single point on the map that you have to stick there and stay there, and enemy waves are coming in, and you have to defend the place. So it’s going to concentrate enemies all in one place.

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Rapyo: There’s also a system in which high anchor players get to help players that aren’t as strong. So that helps [keep people together]. You can jump in and help someone finish a mission, and you’re going to get rewarded with kindness. And you can use this to buy special pieces of clothing paint too. You can get some cool things by helping other people.

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How did y’all arrive at this art and visual style and how does it inform the characterization of each playable character?

Souza: The original character design came from our first Relic Hunters game, Relic Hunters Zero. That game was started in a game jam with a very short period of time to create it, so my initial goal was to keep the characters simple and easy to animate so I could have time to finish it.

Designing characters for Relic Hunters Legend was a huge challenge since the game’s style was changed. Relic Hunters Zero was pixel art, and Relic Hunters Legend is more soft brush. Since I wasn’t under the pressure of a game jam, I could explore more colors and shapes. In Relic Hunters Legend, I brought more strong, saturated colors and soft shapes.

Since the characters, most of the time, are carrying huge weapons, the colors and shape of their hair has to be the main silhouette to make every character distinct and unique. Across the light spectrum, Jimmy’s hair color and Pinkyy’s hair color are opposites, and Seven, the main character of the game, has white hair as a mix of all characters’ wavelengths. I tried to run away from the classic stereotypes of character colors. For example, normally you see colors like red or black for strong rebellious leaders, but our leader, Pinkyy, has teal hair. Jimmy, despite being more calm and collected, has magenta-red hair. And so on.

To the enemies, I brought more sober colors and very sharp shapes, like the duck beaks, their hair and feathers, turtle shells, etc. Everything has a sharp corner to make their silhouette different and more menacing.

At the beginning of development, we wanted the shape of our weapons to be different from real-life weapons and pulled in inspiration from Nerf toy guns to feel more fantasy and friendly.

In the VFX, we keep the style very cartoonish, simple, colorful, and fun, and bring in some iconic comic book references like an onomatopoeia and screentone.

This interview was edited for both brevity and readability.

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