The pitch for Microsoft's latest new IP ReCore is a simple one.
According to its lead writer, Bungie alumnus Joseph Staten, it consisted of Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune and Mark Pacini, a veteran of Metroid Prime maker Retro Studios, wanting to combine the best parts of those series for the new generation.
The result is an open-world title with a focus on combat and exploration – the essence of the Metroidvania ‘genre'. 2D entries in this area have been rather common, including the likes Guacamelee, Axiom Verge, Ori and the Blind Forest and Song of the Deep. But 3D entries have been fewer and further between.
A lot of it is because – and this isn't an pejorative comment – 2D platformers are relatively easy to make,” Staten says.
It's a familiar kind of game and there's nostalgia for designers who grew up playing those titles, fell in love with them and have always wanted to make projects like that. It's not surprising that you see developers jumping back into that genre.
But there hasn't been a great 3D platformer in a while and that was very much Mark and Inafune-san's pitch: a 3D slightly open-world great Mega Man/Metroid Prime mashup.”
The Metroidvania genre is rather niche, but Staten believes that ReCore has a broader appeal.
We want to make a game that's great for core players,” he explains.
It's a pretty challenging game once you get into encounters with multiple enemies. There's no cover: players need to dodge and move. It's not like Gears of War where you can hide behind a wall. To survive, you need to move quickly. From a mechanics point of view, it's really a core game.
At the same time, we want to make sure the title appeals broadly. Like with any new IP, you have to go out and get as big of an audience as you possibly can. The art style, the characters, the humour, the charm... that's hopefully what willl make it more attractive to a broader audience, too. It's core first and then broad.”
When it was announced at E3 2015, ReCore was set for a spring 2016 release date. The title missed this and was pushed back until this month, September. This time allowed the team to flesh out some modes within the project.
A lot of it has just been polish and just making sure that the things we wanted to do are as good as they can be,” Staten says.
But also we wanted to invest in systems that we weren't originally planning to. We haven't shown much of it yet, but there's a really deep crafting and upgrading system, and we wanted to spend more time and effort making sure that was great. Beyond the 12-hour campaign, there's a whole set of open-world areas, hidden dungeons and we wanted to make sure players could come in and really have a good time.
That allowed us to bring on another partner, Asobo, a studio in France that has helped Microsoft out on a number of different titles, including Quantum Break and a HoloLens launch title. We were able to bring them on board, with a little bit of time and extra money, to flesh out the dungeon crawling and loot grinding part of the game.”
Being delayed until September also gave Microsoft the chance to promote ReCore over the entire summer period, something that Staten says was worth it.
It's been nice, frankly, to be able to spend this summer going to E3, doing a press tour, going to Gamescom,” he says. It just gives us a little bit more time to build up momentum and awareness, which if we had launched in the spring we wouldn't have had necessarily. That has been a great part of releasing in September.”
"When I worked on Halo, my goal was to make a game
that was good enough that people would want a sequel.
I have the same goal for ReCore."
Joseph Staten, Microsoft
ReCore is being developed by a number of teams. There's Armature – formed by veterans of Metroid Prime maker Retro Studios – alongside Keiji Inafune's outfit Comcept, as well as Asobo and Goldtooth.
Earlier this year, Inafune and Comcept launched a spiritual successor to Mega Man named Mighty No.9, a title that was wildly successful on Kickstarter in 2012 raising $3.8m (2.9m).
But when the final product hit shelves, many consumers were disappointed and said that the game did not live up to their expectations.
Thus, Comcept and Inafune have had their fair share of negative press. And while this is something that concerns ReCore's lead writer Joseph Staten, he points out that the way the title is made – and Comcept's involvement – is very different compared to Mighty No.9.
Yeah, I am [worried about the negative press Mighty No.9 has received],” he says.
But they're really two different games. And the thing to keep in mind is that they're made in very different ways. ReCore is a joint effort between Comcept and Armature. The way the work breaks down is that Comcept is really in charge of story, setting and characters – the big fundamental ideas.
Yet when it comes to the grunt work of actually making the game fun and perform well, that's all Armature, bolstered by some really great partners, like Asobo Studio, Goldtooth, which is doing our cinematics, and us on the Microsoft publishing side.
ReCore has a tremendous amount of support across the board. Really it's like comparing apples and oranges from a development perspective.”
The game's price tag is also an advantage. In the UK, ReCore will set consumers back 30, lower than the typical price of a triple-A title.
It really came down to us thinking about what we can do pricing-wise to give this game the highest chance to succeed,” Staten says.
For us, this is an experiment and seeing if it helps ReCore as a new IP. Everybody is smart about the money and tries to spend it wisely. Our hope is that by reducing the price a little bit, it just lowers the barrier to entry and people who wouldn't normally try a new IP, maybe someone who is a little bit unsure about the action/platformer genre, is more willing to jump in. That's really the goal – to make it as easy to jump into as possible.”
Being a new IP, it can be hard to accurately gauge how well the game will perform. But Staten is dreaming big with his expectations for ReCore.
The simple answer is as with any new IP: we'd love to earn a sequel,” he says.
I felt the same way when we shipped the first Halo. There was a time when Halo was not a big franchise and my goal back then was the same as it is now: create a game that's good enough and touches people well enough that they want a sequel to it.
It's the same goal with ReCore. That's hard. The games industry is littered with the bones of new IPs that didn't make it. But for me, that's the challenge – how do we put enough quality and enough heart to give it a last