Powered by UE4, Midnight Star: Renegade Looks To Revolutionize the FPS Genre on Mobile
There was a time when the idea of a satisfying, commercially successful first-person shooter on home consoles was unthinkable. Too many obstacles separated the genre from being successful on anything but PCs including internet connectivity, hardware limitations and, most importantly, precise controls.
By now we all know that Bungie’s innovative, action-packed Halo helped to negate the notion that consoles were no place for FPS fans and after a decade and a half of thriving success for that franchise and many others within the genre, the next great leap is ready to be made - this time on mobile devices.
Fortunately, Bungie co-founder Alex Seropian, Tim Harris and Brent Pease have teamed up to not just think about porting the current console FPS experience to mobile devices, but rather to construct a whole new type of FPS experience that’s built upon the unique qualities of mobile devices, trends in mobile entertainment consumption and the tendencies of core FPS players. The result is Midnight Star: Renegade, an all-new, Unreal Engine 4-powered experience that is building upon the lessons learned from the original Halo, countless other attempts at success in the genre on mobile and even the franchise’s first effort, 2015’s Midnight Star, to deliver something that consistently brings core FPS fans coming back for more.
“With Renegade, we’re looking to change expectations for what kind of experience core gamers get from their mobile devices,” said Industrial Toys CEO Alex Seropian. “We’re breaking new ground on everything from the visuals to the story to the ongoing support we’ll provide in the way of content, events and player involvement. It’s gonna be nuts.”
The game features a control system built around native touch, tap and swipe inputs to allow players to run, dodge, chase, fly, shoot, blast and destroy like a boss. To get more insight into the project, which launches this week on iOS, I caught up with Seropian to discuss this ambitious title and how Unreal Engine 4 has helped bring it to life.
Q: Let’s start with the story. What can you tell us about the plot of Midnight Star: Renegade?
Renegade starts off twelve years after humanity's first contact with an alien artifact at Titan. To say it went poorly would be an understatement. But in the time since first contact, Earth has moved to a war footing and established the Renegade Program: an elite fighting force to defend against the newly discovered alien threats in our galaxy. Our story is about the discovery of the artifact’s power and the fight to protect humanity from those that seek to control it and destroy us.
Typical game mechanics for storytelling don’t always work in the short play sessions on mobile. With Renegade we've teamed up with getbound.io - they are developing a brilliant platform for short form and episodic stories that are rich with graphics, imagery, maps, etc… Perfect for exploring the universe and prose of a game world.
Q: Traversing the environment in a mobile FPS could be tricky. What did you learn from the original Midnight Star about this aspect of the game and what method(s) have you utilized to address character movement in Renegade?
We strongly believe you have to design for the features and strengths of the device. In the first Midnight Star we really focused on the shooting - using the pixel accuracy of touch and tap to provide a really satisfying shooting mechanic.
In Renegade, movement is a major part of the play and we took a new approach that’s all about releasing the satisfying move-mechanics you want in an FPS - dodge, evade, chase, moving to advantage - from inputs that are native/common to touch screens - the swipe. It’s very different from the emulated virtual sticks of most mobile shooters. But after a few levels (and a legendary pair of jump boots) there’s no going back. The kinds of movement, action and viewpoint you can get from the swipe based mechanics really support our fast and frenetic gameplay.
Q: What can you tell us about the diversity of the weapons and armor in Midnight Star: Renegade?
Renegade has a really cool and unique armor/gear system. It’s all built up from parts. Each weapon is built from six different parts and you can mix and match them for the style you want. For instance, building a sniper pistol is totally possible by pairing an 8x zoom sight with a bullet mag and a single shot grip. Would you put that sight on an autofire rocket rifle? You could! With all the different kinds of parts and rarities there’s really a ton of combos. Right now I am rocking a rifle that auto-fires spread shots. All six of my parts have Electricity Damage too, so it’s able to cause Electroshock Damage that does a sweet chain lightning effect arcing out to multiple bad guys at once. So there’s a lot of diversity in play and a lot of depth in the builds. The armor encompasses all your defensive stats plus things like movement - so stay on the look out for the jump boots as my guess is you’ll want to get those equipped as soon as you get ‘em :)
Q: Upgrades and customization play a key role in the overall experience of Midnight Star: Renegade. What can you tell us about the crafting options that are afforded to the player?
Items are rewarded to players when completing campaign levels and when playing in events. Sometimes you may get items you already have or aren’t looking for. Which is cool, because you can salvage items for Scrap. Once you have enough Scrap you can then take it to the Crafting page to build out a very particular item that you are looking for. Players can select the category (armor, pistol, rifle, grenade), the specific type (sight for example) and even the rarity to craft.
Q: How do players build up their character’s “power level” and what impact does it have on the gameplay?
Player Power Level is the sum of the power for all your character’s parts. We give every part its own Power Level to make it easy to get a sense of what’s better than what. Power Level has a high correlation to damage per second and might not always be what’s most desirable for a particular situation, but it really helps new players get a sense for what they should start with. Building up your Player’s Power Level is all about getting and crafting new parts to raise your combat effectiveness.
Q: As a mobile title, the opportunity for engagement is always by the player’s side. What types of modes, events and ranking systems does Midnight Star: Renegade offer to keep its community coming back for more?
We run multiplayer events every day for rewards and also every week. The daily events change maps and have objectives like score, headshots, speedruns, untouchable, etc… The daily events are also pretty quick, letting you get in and compete in a few minutes. We are also running sign-up events each month for bigger prizes (in fact we’ll be awarding some awesome Epic Swag Packs in our first monthly event!). Coming soon will be more multiplayer options too as that’s the direction we plan to go with the game.
Q: How deep is the game’s single player campaign and how long do levels usually last?
We have a sweet campaign of 150 levels with three achievements to earn per level. You earn items, currency and badges for your progress through the campaign. We’ve purposely made these levels quick to play (1-2 mins) so that you can hop into the app when you just have a moment to fill.
Q: What can you tell us about earning or otherwise acquiring Bits - Midnight Star: Renegade’s in-game currency?
Bits can be used to buy item crates, skins for you weapon/character and boosts for play. We reward players every day with a free item. It’s chosen randomly between bits, scrap, boosts and items. So checking in each day is a great way to earn bits. Bits are also rewarded for earning stars in the campaign and from killing bad guys. So you can grind them in the single player. The daily and weekly events pay out nicely with bits and items. So that’s also a great way to get a daily fix onto Bits.
Q: What type of player are you aiming for with Midnight Star: Renegade?
We are aiming at the core gamer on mobile. We realize that mobile is such an awesome and unique platform, it’s really important to design to its strengths. We’ve tried to make Renegade a truly mobile game - but with the content and mechanics that FPS and rpg players will love.
Q: What type of reaction have you had to the project thus far?
It’s been fantastic. Our players are really digging the style and controls of the game and playing the events. We have beta players that are very deeply engaged in the game. One player has racked up so much play time that their character has run the real-world equivalent of Paris to Berlin. That’s a lot of Schnitzel.
Q: How has Unreal Engine 4 allowed your team to realize its vision for the project?
We could not have achieved these results without UE4. There are all the obvious things like the asset pipeline and rendering capability that I think everyone takes for granted with Unreal Engine, but from my perspective the biggest boost for our team has been Blueprint. Blueprint has allowed us to move so quickly from idea to prototype to implementation of features. And it’s allowed our design team to participate much more in that process and create features without relying on the engineering team.
Q: When can fans expect to get their hands on the game? Also, where should people go online to stay connected to the project?
You can download the game for free right now on iOS and sign up for the beta on Android over on www.renegadeprogram.com. You can also follow us on Twitter at @industrialtoys for all the latest updates.