Crucible, Amazon's first major foray into gaming, is a third-person hero shooter that seemingly splits the difference between Fortnite and Overwatch with a unique blend of game modes and mechanics that'll feel familiar. We've just never seen them come together in a combination that looks quite like this.
While the game does enough interesting things — incorporating player-versus-environment with team-based zone capture, along with small-scale battle royale modes — Crucible is entering a crowded multiplayer game space where it'll have to compete with heavy-hitters like Fortnite and Overwatch, but more importantly, Riot Games' Valorant, the most recent hero shooter to become a runaway success thanks to a novel streaming campaign on Twitch.
During a developer preview event and Q&A session attended by Inverse, developers at the Amazon-owned Relentless Studio discussed what it's like releasing Crucible at a time when Valorant's shadow looms large.
Just how much, or how little, has the game's greatest competitor influenced development?
Is Amazon's Crucible a response to Valorant?
Valorant from Riot Games entered Closed Beta in April 2020 but has managed to become a massive hit despite being difficult to access. The only way to access a beta code is via a Twitch drops. Like Blizzard's Overwatch, Valorant is a team-based hero shooter that games like Crucible can learn a lot from, especially because Valorant's success was fueled by Twitch, an Amazon-owned platform.
So how hasValorant influenced Crucible, if at all?
"Honestly, not a whole lot because ... by the time they were announced and we got to see everything, our plan was kind of locked in place," said Creative Director Eric Flannum. Crucible has been in development for about five years and was originally announced in 2016, so despite the coincidental timing of these two games, plans for both were made independently long before Valorant began to dominate Twitch.
Still, Amazon isn't ignoring Valorant entirely.
"We definitely follow every game that comes out and are just excited when another great game comes out, especially one that we think can expand the shooter space and bring new people into it," Flannum continued. "That's an opportunity for us as well to show people a different part of the shooter space."
"[Valorant and Crucible] are very different games," he said, "and the thing that Jon [Peters, Senior Combat Designer] is very fond of saying is that we really just tried to make a game that would stand on its own and was unique."
Crucible's Creative Director also asserted that these two games are not in direct competition. "[Crucible is] composed of a lot of familiar elements but hopefully feels very unique in and of itself when you play it." Combat is all in third-person, so can you really compare it to something like Valorant?
The Inverse Analysis — As the two big new shooters of spring 2020, Crucible and Valorant will be pitted against each other constantly despite their differences. Relentless Studios and Amazon seem to be ignoring Valorant for the most part as they ramp up to launch Crucible. They should take cues from Valorant, specifically when it comes to post-launch support and content rollout through Twitch that drove up enthusiasm for the game.
Valorant took a novel approach to the game's promotion by incentivizing streamers and esports professionals to play it, and leveraging Twitch viewers — particularly during the pandemic when gamers are stuck indoors — worked brilliantly as a way to make Valorant one of the most talked-about games in recent memory.
Crucible probably won't have as much buzz surrounding its launch given its more traditional release on Steam, but it being a live-service game does mean that a lot can change, especially over longer periods of time. Flannum acknowledges that the shooter genre at large can "evolve and change over time," so wherever Crucible starts out, it probably won't look the same a year later.
Crucible's devs want to differentiate the game from its competition, but what if it just used the same successful strategies that Valorant has proven to be successful?
The free-to-play Crucible will be released on PC May 20, 2020.