You'll often hear Hi-Rez described as a company living in Blizzard's shadow. Sometimes, that rings true. Other times, they go ahead and reveal a black female character for Paladins the week after Overwatch fails to - a character named Imani, a mobile damage dealer that can turn into a dragon. You win this round, Hi-Rez.
They've also revealed plans for the Assembly of Champions, an elected group of eight players who'll collaborate with the devs from the start of next year. I'm at the Hi-Rez Expo in Atlanta, and had the chance to ask Paladins brand director Alex Cantatore about both dragons and democracy.
First up, here's the lowdown on Imani:
"This Damage champion wields the elements of fire and ice, casting powerful spells with impactful, martial arts-inspired motions. She surfs through the air on ice, propelling herself with fire. And when she uses her ultimate ability, Imani summons a massive player-controlled dragon, breathing frostfire down upon her foes."
Wizard. I asked Cantatore what she's for - was Imani designed to fill a specific gap in the current roster?
"We saw that players really like damage champions, but almost all of our damage champions feel very like typical shooter characters that have been plopped in a fantasy world - they’re not as integrated as they could have been. I think we really saw an opportunity to do a fantasy shooter character, to really capture the essence of what we’re trying to do with Paladins."
Which is neat, although I had mechanics in mind rather than lore. Fortunately, Cantatore said more:
"She’s kind of like an in and out of the action damage character, she's not just like ‘I’m gonna sit here and shoot you with my gun for a while’. And then she ults, she summons this dragon, which I think is a really cool moment when it happens in game. At least in this current version, this could change before we release, but you can use the dragon to capture a point. So if you’re about to lose the point, you could summon this dragon and have the dragon hold the point until your frontline respawns."
Cantatore went on to explain how Imani is vulnerable while she ults, incentivising flanking characters to dive in and mess with the opposing team's backline. She sounds like a worthy contribution to Paladins' current 39 strong roster, and will appear on the public test server on December 17th.
Speaking of worthy contributions, Cantatore also explained how the player council will work. Eight player-elected community figures will form the Assembly of Champions. Four of them will be there as specific representatives of each platform, and the remaining four will be whatever mix the public elects. In addition to "bi-monthly" teleconferences, they plan to fly the council out to Atlanta once a year.
The council will be under NDA (non-disclosure agreement), allowing Hi-Rez to get feedback on their ideas at their earliest stages. As Cantatore told me, "They'll get very early looks at concepts, we’ll talk ideas and design with them, get their thoughts on if we're solving the communities wants - or even if it’s something the community even cares about!"
"Like, we think persistent lobbies is a big thing for us, because we’re only of the only shooters that doesn’t have persistent lobbies, and it’s something that we really want to do next year. But it could be that the community is like ‘we’re actually fine with this weird mobile hybrid system you have now’. So stuff like that, where we can sit down and have an honest discussion with people."
He also confirmed that the idea was indeed inspired by Eve's player-formed Stellar Management Council - and that several of the people behind the original idea at CCP are current Hi-Rez employees.
If you're thinking of running, more details can be found on the Paladins website.