Atlas Reactor Interview with Lead Designer Will Cook

Recently I got a chance to get in front of Atlas Reactor and spend some time harassing Executive Producer Pete Ju and Lead Designer William Cook in London.

Jonathan: Just for everyone who will read this can you tell us who you are?

Will: My name is William Cook and I am the Lead Designer of Atlas Reactor.

Jonathan: I’ve asked what I shouldn’t and when it’ll be coming out but we’ll go with Soon.

Will: As the designer, I just want to keep tinkering till it’s perfect but then half my brain says “I just want to finish it and release it and let people play with it” and see what happens . I’m just very glad that Trion is very supportive of growing the game, that’s why we’ve been in closed beta. We’ve just been growing the community and they don’t want to release it till it’s ready.

Atlas Reactor Dash Phase

Jonathan: Will you be at Gamescom do you think?

Will: We will! Gamescom actually marks the completion of a very significant milestone for us and I wont say that means in terms of features but part of it, our journey to Gamescom will be accompanied with the full release of the Blur trailer for our game, which is phenomenal. We finished a while ago and have been sitting on it for this. Very soon you’ll get to see the whole thing.

Jonathan: In terms of the story I know you plan to release it through seasonal play.

Will: So the story is one of those things where I feel like I snuck it in. What I mean is that a lot of it is not even in yet. We recorded hours of VO for these characters, more than I had experienced playing these games. we realized early on that we weren’t going to do huge pages of text and get people to read that, we wanted it to come across form the characters first, conversations between characters revealing bits about their backstory or the world that they’re in.

A lot of those are recorded but not in yet. The character backstories are not in the game yet, there’s just bits on the website. Part of that was prioritizing Mechanics and getting those right because we started as a small team. We have a dedicated writer on the team, Catherine has been doing fantastic stuff. Finally that stuff is going to start showing up in game and the seasons themselves are a way for us to tell a story that gets to be live. That is the one point where there are paragraphs of text for people to peruse if they want.

Jonathan: I’ve loved meeting all the characters and there’s so much backstory implied but no one will give it to me.

Will: Well hopefully rectify that for you soon.

Jonathan: It’s even in the name of the game and with the tutorial. Lockwood is running away from a heist and there’s the line talking about how he can revive because “the reactor is still on.” What does that even mean?

Will: I appreciate you paying attention. Some of that Easter egg seating of new lore will always be present because we’ll always be teasing out new elements. I actually have a packet with me on this trip that I have to review that is the lore of the world for the past thousand years. Catherine has done lines and lines and lines on how we’ve got to where we’ve got.

The biggest and most important facet to the reactor is Immortality and that has all kinds of interesting consequences, especially with a comedic world. We’re looking forward to revealing more of that.

A big part of telling a story is also art support. You can tell a story in text and you’re only going to reach a small portion of users. We started with taunts. Taunts were a great way of getting across the flavor of the character immediately. So that’s where we wanted to build the story from, the characters first. I’m excited for what’s to come.

Atlas Reactor Resolution Mode

Jonathan: An unfair question now: why is the model for Atlas Reactor to Buy-to-Play?

Will: Well I can tell you why that is. I play tons of free-to-play games but I can tell you a couple of reasons why I as a designer I can get excited about mechanics. When it comes to things like seasons or ranks, I don’t have to worry about what people have access to. If you’re playing a ranked game and your favorite character gets banned or half the characters you know how to play have been picked already, I don’t have to worry. You have the entire roster to choose from. Or when it comes to how much characters should cost individually based on their popularity and release dates, all that design time I now get to spend on balancing the game.

There’s some side effects like you also have far fewer trolls because everyone is invested. When you ban people they can’t just make a new account because they have to buy the game so there’s loss aversion. I don’t have to worry about monetizing power. We value the competitive nature of the game and the buy-to-play model is our way of doubling down and saying look guys for a very low price in video gaming terms you can have access to the entire game and all characters forever. There’s so many factors in to why that was a good move for us but we’ll see if it works out.

Atlas Reactor

Jonathan: Is there anything you’d like to say to the readers at MMOGames?

Will: It’s rare that you get to work on a game, promote it, say the usual line of “look it’s new, it’s flashy, it’s unique and you’ve never played anything like it.” Everyone says that, but you know…

Jonathan: Yeah it is true…

Will: If there’s any reason to give a few matches, and you probably need to give it more than one, give us a shot.

Head over to our preview to see what I thought of the game or the news on the Free Mode, and why not try it out yourself?

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About Jonathan Doyle

Once long ago Westwood made a space game. Earth And Beyond was the start of the journey. From there, through Paragon City and to the fields of Altdorf, there were battles. Westwood brought me to MMOs. City of Heroes refined my love for them. Warhammer brought me to writing about them. He loves all things space, sci fi, Warhammer or heroic.