Minecraft Legends, the upcoming game from Mojang Studios and Blackbird Interactive is “not your normal strategy game,” according to Principal Design Director, Craig Leigh. Appearing on the Xbox Podcast last week, Leigh dove into multiple ways the new title (coming on April 18 for Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC (Steam & Windows), Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation 4|5) offers a very new twist on the genre. “We get that all time,” he explained, “People are like, ‘This is not the game I thought it was, this is an action game!’, and that’s what I love about it.”
When you’re blending genres, you need to come up with fresh ideas for how it will work, not least in Minecraft Legends’ 4v4 PvP mode, which was introduced during the Developer_Direct last month. The developers have come up with multiple ways to do that, and Leigh explained several of the ways PvP has been innovated on in this new twist on the formula.
Not something you’d necessarily associate with strategy games, Minecraft Legends introduces a fast travel system to help players balance the various activities they’ll need to do to conquer their enemies. While base building is a key part of the picture, players will also need to venture out, explore, gather resources, and attack enemies to win a round – and that means offering them an easy way home to keep their base safe.
“So if you’re out in the world and you’re far away from your base and you hear that you’re under attack, you can fast travel,” Leigh explained. “So you can open the map, click on your base and go ‘whoosh’, be back home really quickly, because we didn’t want players running, panicked, ‘oh I can’t get back home in time’.”
Fast travel doesn’t just apply to player-characters, either. “If you’re at home as well, and you get attacked, you can go to a spawn and recall units, units that are out in thew world that maybe aren’t doing anything, you can call them back quickly to your base,” Leigh added. “You’re not running around looking for them, ‘Where are those Cobblestone Golems?’, you can just pull them back to help you with defence.”
It’s clear that Minecraft Legends will have players doing a lot during rounds, but its NPCs are pretty busy too – and may even offer players new ways to take down their opponents’ base:
“The thing I think people will be most surprised about is the game’s PvP, but there’s a little PvE in there as well,” Leigh revealed. “The Piglins [the enemies in the game’s story-led campaign] are also in PvP, and the Piglins do whatever the Piglins want. So the Piglins are attacking both teams, and there’s a day-night cycle going on during the battles, but the Piglins attack more ferociously at night – so do you time your strategy when the Piglins attack at night and wait for them to break the walls down and sneak in? So you’re not only dealing with the other team, you’re dealing with the Piglins are well.”
The Ping System
With a shared pool of resources, multiple activities to do, and attacks on multiple fronts, communication is key in Minecraft Legends’ PvP. Thankfully, the team has a neat solution for that, beyond the expected:
“We also have ping system,” Leigh said. “It’s really important to work together, because you’re sharing resources and so with the ping system you can say, ‘I want to build a Redstone Launcher’, and the team go, ‘OK, let’s save up our Redstone. Or you could be like, ‘I want coal!’, and so people go ‘OK let’s save up our coal’. You can use voice chat, and it’s great, but also we wanted to make sure there was a system that people could give out the basic commands because you are sharing resources.”
Seasoned strategy players will be used to multiplayer matches that can take a very long time to finish, battling through stalemates to earn a hard-earned victory. Minecraft Legends wants to offer that same experience, but in a more manageable time frame, letting players constantly start new games, with procedurally generated maps offering fresh experiences every time they play.
“We’ve worked really hard, so games last between 20 and 30 minutes,” Leigh explained. “It does depend on the strategy; if teams have a crazy strategy they might win earlier if they take the team by surprise, or if both teams decide, ‘We’re going to build bastions with stone walls and massive towers,’ then the games might go on a little bit longer.
“But we’ve been working really hard to balance the games this way, because we don’t want it to be a 14-day siege of the Blue Team, and so our longer games have lasted around 30 minutes. It’s an old-fashioned thing to think about, but we wanted players to get two games in in a lunchtime, be able to play a couple of games in they were playing in their lunch. “
Strategy games are traditionally the dominion of PC, but Minecraft Legends is coming out on every major gaming platform, simultaneously. In doing that, the team’s worked to make sure that not only can you play with anyone, on any platform, but that no one will be disadvantaged by playing on a specific machine.
“We thought it was really important, regardless of what platform you’re on that you could play together, we want as many players as possible playing together,” Leigh made clear.
“It doesn’t matter where you play, on launch day you’ll be able to play on any of those platforms in PvP and it plays perfectly on any platform. The way we’ve designed it there’s no advantage to be on a keyboard and mouse versus a controller, it’s not a first-person shooter or anything, so it’s been designed that way, so it’s perfect for cross-platform play. We thought that was really important, so we’ve designed it that way.”
And with a huge pool of players across platforms and continents playing together, that just means there will be more twists to PvP that even the developers can’t see coming.
“I’m particularly excited to see the crazy strategies that people come up with in PvP,” finished Leigh. “Because we think we’ve done everything and then someone will come in and just do something crazy that we haven’t thought of. We all joke on the team that we’re going to be good at the PvP for about and hour and then all the community will just crush us because they’ll come up with new strategies.”
Minecraft Legends launches April 18 on Windows PC (day one with PC Game Pass), Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One (day one with Xbox Game Pass), Xbox Cloud Gaming, PlayStation, Steam, and Nintendo Switch.
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