It seems like every game company wants to prove it has a better take on the battle royale genre than PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and Fortnite. Hi-Rez Studios is one of those companies. Earlier this year the company behind Paladins and Smite introduced Realm Royale. Now, following widespread criticism, Hi-Rez has announced today a studio called Heroic Leap Games devoted specifically to making Realm Royale.
Heroic Leap Games will be a "new studio under the Hi-Rez Studios publishing group," the company said in its announcement, with the hope being that establishing a new studio will allow the team "to stay hyper-focused on continuing to improve Realm Royale with our community." It's not clear how much freedom Heroic Leap Games will have from Hi-Rez or what changes players can expect after the new studio's creation.
We first checked out Realm Royale in June. At first it seemed like a refreshing take on the battle royale genre because players have to choose between unique classes with their own abilities, can forge their own weapons in locations sprinkled throughout the map and can "disenchant" items to make sure they aren't picked up by someone else. The result was a battle royale game that incentivized boldness instead of cowardice.
In the last few weeks, however, Realm Royale has been engaged in a constant tug-of-war between its developer and its fans. The changes have been wide-ranging: hitscan weapons (the kind that immediately hit anything in their path instead of having travel time or arcs) were added, removed, re-added and tweaked; forges were disabled then re-enabled; powerful legendary weapons were dropped from chests...the list goes on.
Many on the Realm Royale subreddit have been quick to say the game's issues--both technical and design--shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who's played Paladins or Smite. This could just be the grumbling you hear on the subreddit for any game, because many people love to hate on developers, but the backlash never ends. As soon as one thing is supposedly "fixed," something else changes a fundamental aspect of the game.
That problem isn't unique to Realm Royale. Epic Games has made a series of controversial updates to Fortnite over the last few weeks, Blizzard's updates to Overwatch are oft-maligned, and Riot Games has been criticized for several months over drastic changes to League of Legends. The difference for Hi-Rez is that all those games have established audiences; Realm Royale is vying for attention in an increasingly crowded market.
It makes sense then for Hi-Rez to see if giving Realm Royale's developers more autonomy from the studio at large might help appease the fan base. Fortnite's monumental success will be all but impossible to emulate, and having a singular vision for Realm Royale's development could help the game find its own identity and convince people who played before all these drastic changes were made and left to give it another shot.
The future of Realm Royale--not to mention its nascent esports scene, which offers $100,000-plus in weekly tournaments--is unclear. We'll find out soon enough whether the creation of Heroic Leap Games will actually change the way the game is developed or if Hi-Rez is merely paying lip service to all the people who want to see Realm Royale succeed despite their (many) complaints about the studio's other titles.