Celsius Online Interview

Celsius Online Interview

Founded in 2004, Celsius Online is an independent studio with a focus on websites, video games and mobile applications. Their work on games such as ‘Renaissance Kingdoms’ and ‘March of History’ has shown a solid grasp of what makes these markets tick in the past, and their latest game, ‘Celsius Heroes’ capitalises on a number of different mobile trends to produce a truly gratifying RPG experience. My Boxed Universe sits down with a representative of the Paris-based company and quizzes them on their body of work.

MBU
First and foremost, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak to us today. For those not already familiar with your company, could you give us an overview of your mission statement and your personal role within it?

CELSIUS ONLINE
Hello, I’m Gary Laporte, Community manager for the French indie studio Celsius Online. As usual in such a small studio (we are a team of twelve), all of us have many functions. I also help in testing and reporting bugs, I translate our games in English and then work with the players who are kind enough to help us translate our games in their languages, and I also take care of the announcements and news concerning our games.

RKingdoms 2

Renaissance Kingdoms offers a huge world to explore.

MBU
Renaissance Kingdoms found critical acclaim and was translated into 25 languages, becoming the highest ranked browser-based RPG experience in Europe. Did you always have high hopes for the title? What do you think gives it so much appeal?

CELSIUS ONLINE
Renaissance Kingdoms has been released about 12 years ago and part of the success of the game and its longevity are probably due to the fact that we tried to listen as much as possible to the players. The community around the game was a seminal part of its success and we wouldn’t be here without them. As we try to stay close to our players, we organize an annual IRL meeting with them, where we see about 150 of them. The game is still very well alive and we are working on a new mobile version with improvements which will be released next year.

RKingdoms 1

Renaissance Kingdoms is the #1 browser based RPG in Europe.

MBU
What drew the team together to develop an RPG?

CELSIUS ONLINE
What we wanted to do with Celsius Heroes was to try and help people to discover what an “old-school” RPG feel s with a “new-school” Match-3 mechanic. Lévan Sardjevéladze, the co-founder of Celsius online, has always been a huge fan of games such as Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder II, so he was the main drive behind the project and we’re quite happy how it turned out.

MBU
Celsius Heroes has been released after a period of soft-launch, has the response so far been what you expected?

CELSIUS ONLINE
Actually, the soft launch reception was surprisingly positive. For instance, players of the Renaissance Kingdoms, who are usually not that much into mobile games, loved it and other audiences, such as tabletop roleplayers, loved it too. It turns out that we were helping people who are into old-school RPGs to discover that they can enjoy a game with a Match-3 mechanic too, so we were very happy with it. 🙂

MBU
The game is playable through browser, mobile and tablet devices, was it always your plan to target all three simultaneously and are accounts cross playable between these versions? If not, is this a feature you strive toward?

CELSIUS ONLINE
Celsius Heroes has been designed to be cross-platform from the get go, so you can start playing on your mobile phone in the train on the way home, then turn on your computer once you’re there and keep playing with the same account on Facebook. This is a rare feature that we’re quite proud of as Celsius Heroes was our first game on mobile.

MBU
Celsius Heroes is obviously a self-titled game. How did the decision to name your new RPG after the company come about?

CELSIUS ONLINE
I must admit I wasn’t part of the decision process about the name of the game, so I’ll ask Lévan about it. 🙂

MBU
Marketing on Celsius Heroes puts a firm focus on its storytelling and interactive fiction elements. Why did you choose to focus on these aspects of the game instead of the match-3 mechanic used in battle of the large world to explore?

CELSIUS ONLINE
We chose to focus on these aspects as we really wanted to make it clear that Celsius Heroes was a RPG at heart with group management, levelling up, dialogues and decisions to make. There are a lot of other Match-3 games out there, but I think we’re the only one using the Match 3 mechanic in a “real” RPG.

Cheroes 3

Graphically, Celsius Heroes looks great.

MBU
In your mind, what defines the term Role Playing Game?

CELSIUS ONLINE
To me, a Role Playing Game has to have several elements: a feeling of freedom, the ability to manage a group as well as the fact that the story is at the heart of the game. I’ve also played a lot of RPGs, like Arcanum for instance, which put the players in front of dilemmas. That’s the sort of things we wanted in Celsius Heroes. For instance, at one point the heroes have to cross two Baronies, Anvil Rock and Twin Lions, which are on the verge of war because of long-term tensions, political differences and a failed wedding. Anvil Rock is a welcoming, multi-cultural, and democratic labor society while Twin Lions is an aristocratic society with rigid structures, practicing a form of slavery. However, Anvil Rock officials are misogynistic whereas men and women have equal rights (inside their social classes) in Twin Lions. Which side will you choose? 🙂

MBU
Was Celsius Heroes inspired by any existing games or properties?

CELSIUS ONLINE
Dungeon Master, Eye of the Beholder II and a lot of old-school RPGs were inspirations for the game. For the Match 3 mechanic, we wanted something more complex than Candy Crush, so Puzzle & Dragons was a good inspiration. We wanted the Match 3 battles to “feel” like a true battle with the heroes using their spells and abilities and the monsters using them too (I hate the ice witches freezing my orbs when I play against them!).

MBU
The title uses a freemium model, which does attract a negative response from some groups of gamers who choose to simply ‘skip’ these titles. Was there ever a debate on making the game pay-once or incorporating an in-game payment to remove the Action Point for those who wanted to really get stuck into playing over longer sessions?

CELSIUS ONLINE
We’ve always thought about Celsius Heroes as a game which will continue to evolve as we add new chapters to the main quest monthly, so the freemium model was the way to go for that. We also didn’t want to end up with a pay-to-win, so we’ve made sure it is entirely possible to finish the content of the game without any purchases.

MBU
Music and sound effects are used quite selectively in the game, with dungeons containing soundscapes rather than backing tracks to set a tone and only the games title screen and battles featuring music. It’s a bold choice that works extremely well. Who was behind it?

CELSIUS ONLINE
This choice, as many (he is also the one writing the script of the game and 99% of its dialogues), was made by Lévan. As we had a limited budget, we knew we had to make the right choices when adding music and sound effects to the game. Good to know that you find that it works well.

MBU
Is there a master document somewhere outlining the rules and history of the fictional world you’ve created for Celsius Heroes? Who is responsible for the bulk of story-driven content?

CELSIUS ONLINE
Lévan is the one designing the world and the bulk of the story with Arthur Riolland, the game designer of the game, in charge of the secondary quests, among other things. Lévan writes lengthy documents explaining the geopolitics of the world as well as the new regions that will appear in future updates and the plot twists that are planned for the main story.

Cheroes 2

Exploration scrolls smoothly and seamlessly.

MBU
Can we expect to see regular updates and new chapters?

CELSIUS ONLINE
That’s indeed the plan! We have monthly updates to add new content to the games, with the main plot advancing and new secondary quests, as well as additional character development for each of the heroes. There’s a lot in store for the players of Celsius Heroes in the future!

MBU
Will previously cleared missions always be available to replay and for character grinding? At the present time, how many characters are available to recruit?

CELSIUS ONLINE
They will always be available, although some rare characters which are linked to the main quest can no longer be fought once you defeated them.

MBU
Can we expect to see sales and special offers in the in-game store?

CELSIUS ONLINE
We’re working on that too, we’ve just added the adventurer pack, which is a -60% discount offer to new players available once and we have other things in the work.

MBU
What advice do you have for new players?

CELSIUS ONLINE
Organize your party according to the monsters you expect to encounter! In some quests, a balanced party will be best while in others, favouring a specific color will help a lot. Also, plan your move before starting to move an orb so that you can combo as much as possible to maximize your health regeneration and damages. And don’t forget that you can trade AP and gold coins with other players on Facebook, which helps a lot to play even more.

Cheroes 1

Dialogue branches have serious gameplay reprecussions.

MBU
Was there anything that had to be cut for time or didn’t make it into the final build of the game that saw launch?

CELSIUS ONLINE
Nothing in particular, however we’d like to add a coop or PvP mode to the game in the future if we can. Still trying to decide which one, though.

MBU
What advice do you have for budding indie developers?

CELSIUS ONLINE
I’m not sure I’m the right one to give advice as I’m just a community manager, but from what I see, marketing is often overlooked by indie studios and to be honest, we’re not that good at it either (but we’re trying to improve!). So I’d say it’s important not to underestimate this area. After all, what’s the point of making a great game if no one hears about it?

MBU
Thanks again for your time here today. For those who are interested in learning more, Celsius Heroes is available on Google Play, the iStore and through Facebook free of charge and its official website can be found HERE.

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