Singapore’s Mighty Bear Games Details Iconic Character Adaptation For Disney Melee Mania MOBA

Disney Melee Mania is a 3v3 Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA), bringing the beloved family-friendly characters from Disney and Pixar to a game genre known for being rage-inducing due to its highly competitive nature, so why not with popular whimsical characters?

Developed by Singapore-based developer Mighty Bear Games, there are 12 champions for players to choose from, each with their own unique set of moves and roles to play in this team-based competitive game.

The more sharp-eyed fans already noticed that there will be more champions coming to the game, as there’s a total of 13 characters revealed in the various promotional images and videos – Buzz Lightyear (Toy Story), Wreck-It Ralph, Moana, Elsa (Frozen), Mickey Mouse (Fantasia), Frozone (The Incredibles), Bing Bong (Inside Out), Jasmine (Aladdin), Timon (The Lion King), EVE (WALL-E), Mulan, Corey the Manticore (Onward), and Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty).

There are also two game modes available, Spotlight Dash and Team Rumble. The former is a fight over territory, while the latter is a direct mano a mano battle between teams.

Game designer Cornelia Dyana Rastiti shed some light on the development process and challenges of bringing the world of Disney to the MOBA realm, and one of the key things that addressed was how MOBAs lend easily to toxicity and hurt feelings, and their focus was on how to move away from it.

“We thought a lot about how we could reduce toxicity via certain gameplay features and systems,” Rastiti said. “ For example, we have a ping system for in-game comms instead of allowing open chat or even voice chat. Players are only able to ping to communicate, and do so within a specific set of commands that will not allow for any vulgarities or toxic behavior.”

The approach of streamlining and minimising methods of player-to-player communication is one that has been used before, and is effective in preventing players from directing their overt rage towards others. Even if players were to try and find other ways to externalise their rage, be it in terms of trying to spam pings or attempting to throw matches, such engagements become much easier to ignore and eventually leads to fewer conflicts. This means that Mighty Bear Games is starting off on the right foot, with the healthiness of the community experience in mind.

“We also decided to have Disney Melee Mania be team-based, so players don’t have to compete against others on their team for ‘prizes’. We felt that design would actually encourage better behaviour, since it’s a case of winning or losing together. They would have to cooperate and work well together!”

This team-based approach is achieved by doing away with a competitive ladder at launch, thus lowering the stakes of the matches, steering the game towards a more casual atmosphere.

Inclusivity is the name of the game here, as the Disney and Pixar characters appeal both to nostalgic adults and also children. This is why the game cannot have a steep learning curve that some MOBA titles, such as DOTA 2, are infamous for.

“We tried to make the game enjoyable for everyone. Disney Melee Mania is something you can enjoy while goofing around with your family, or seriously coordinating attacks with your friends,” Rastiti explained. “It was a challenge to design champions and certain gameplay elements to have the same depth as other games of similar genre, while still being easy to learn. What we tried to do is make elements in Disney Melee Mania easy to pick up but hard to master.”

The “easy to pick up” part is much easier said than done, as many game designers struggle to strike a fine balance between simplification and oversimplification without having to rely on an overly long and elaborate tutorial.

“Simplifying things while still maintaining its objective is more difficult than creating something with tons of features. Simplifying a feature takes tons of iterations. It’s a time-consuming process, but you get better at it the more you try it out.”

This is where Mighty Bear Games draws on their sharp understanding of what makes a MOBA fun.

“We took some of the core elements of MOBA games and started taking them apart piece by piece,” Rastiti said, “Then we built on top of what we had left, a core design pillar for each and every feature, which we made as accessible as possible. However, accessible doesn’t mean easy. Accessible means it’s easily comprehensible.”

As an example, Rastiti mentioned the time it takes to complete each match.

“Something that people tend to shy away from in MOBAs is the long session length. We knew we wanted to keep each game fairly short, so in development, we took out parts that we felt extended how long a typical MOBA lasts, like jungling and farming.”

The care and attention to detail also apply to the character creation process, which, according to Rastiti, “usually takes a few months, from planning to asset creation and its assembly.”

There are also intricacies that likely would go unnoticed by most players.

“Even the tiniest detail, such as which button Buzz Lightyear presses to deploy his wings, has to be correct.”

Of course, in adapting film characters into game characters, the approach has to be more grounded in maintaining game balance and what will make a character fun to play.

“We plan out what archetype the characters will represent first. Is it a glass cannon type character with strong offensive capabilities but that is easily punishable? Or is it a swift character with less offensive power? After we decide on that, we slowly build through their moveset,” explained Rastiti.

“Then, we go through internal approvals and discussions for it before it gets sent to Disney. Once Disney is good with each champion’s design, that is when we start creating assets and stuff them with code in Unity. After a whole bunch of iterations and testing, that becomes a playable character in the game!”

It is clear that a lot of hard work and effort go into making each character playable while keeping their defining traits intact, but what is her favourite part of the game?

“As a player, I like winning!” she proclaims. “Jokes aside, I do love the Star Journey mechanic and how it affects you in a match. It makes you more motivated to ‘main’ a character.”

The Star Journey mechanic allows players to earn Star Points to unlock rewards each time they bring a character into battle.

”And before anyone asks, my favourite character is EVE!”

Disney Melee Mania is out now exclusively on Apple Arcade, so go give it a shot!

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