Nubs met Plarium 1
Published On: May 2, 2024
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Visiting Plarium HQ – NubRaids Story

What do the developers really think about the game? Which champions are the most overpowered? Do they listen to our feedback?? Do they even PLAY the game?!?… Last month when I flew over to Warsaw, Poland (the current main location where Raid: Shadow Legends is developed by Plarium) to film my part in the Raid Community Awards, I had the opportunity to get some of these questions answered. 

Nubs met Plarium 3

The main Plarium office in Warsaw is slick and modern. A giant statue of Arbiter stands triumphantly in the lobby and many of the actual rooms have fun themes that you might recognize, such as individual work booths designed after Mech Arena mechas and meeting rooms themed after Mystery, Ancient, Void and Sacred shards! (No primal shard room though… Or perhaps it was too top secret to reveal…?!)

Nubs met Plarium 4

Even though it’s a really nice place, Plarium might not be staying there for long. Their original main office was of course in Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, but had to be evacuated after the 2022 Russian invasion of their country. It’s a pretty heartwarming story to hear how Plarium moved many of their staff to the safety of Poland, setting them up with their current office and accommodation nearby. Chatting to one of the lead developers about it, he reflected on the immense challenges their workers were faced with then, and are still facing now, because of the war. Most of us probably remember the emotionally charged interviews from that time and the delays to regular game activities such as fusions and new game features. A couple of years on, they’re proud with how they kept the game afloat and how quickly they got back on target with their development. Many of the staff are looking to move out of their first apartments in Warsaw and a move to a bigger office is potentially on the cards. Many employees are even back living in Ukraine now, though as I was starkly reminded by air raid warnings for their hometowns coming through on their mobile phones over the course of my visit, the war is still far from over.

“The developers don’t even play their own game!” is, in my opinion, one of the laziest ways to criticize game devs across any type of game (Asmongold popularized this with World of Warcraft, for example). There’s plenty to legitimately criticize: if don’t like something, just say so! Making stuff up is pure tabloid nonsense. My favourite rebuttal to these arguments of all time is when Mortdog, the lead developer of Teamfight Tactics, gave his take, showing that aiming to be an extremely hardcore player of a game can actually make you a worse game dev.

That being said, I was definitely delighted that, yes, the Raid devs DO play their game… even more than I expected them to, to be honest! While touring their office after day one rehearsals, I spotted one of the top devs grinding the Fire Knight tournament for the Armanz the Magnificent fusion on his second monitor. “Are you going for the fusion?” I was asked over dinner that evening. I said I was, and most of the team said they were too. No surprise, considering how insanely strong he turned out to be.

I was curious if the devs get any perks for being part of Plarium: do they get any free shard packs? If they’re too busy to do a fusion can they simply get it for free in-game? Surprisingly, the answer was no: as a rule, they don’t give the devs any freebies; If you want to get the fusion, you have to grind it yourself. The test server (which a few of us content creators have access to as well) is very limited in terms of access. Simply put, playing the game for real is a real company value. (Without naming any names, apparently, there’s a range of types of players within the office as well, from free-to-play and low-spenders to even some big whales!)

Another thing which is obvious within minutes of talking to the devs is that they’re extremely proud of their game. It’s not just a job to them: they are making the exact game that they want to play. I recently discussed how I think that the difficulty of the game goes too far at times, but this is an aspect of the game that the devs are committed to. “It’s a hardcore game, for hardcore players,” they said, distinguishing it from other games in the genre that put more emphasis on casual accessibility or afk and auto-play features. In their eyes, the identity of Raid is as a hardcore game with top-notch graphics; it looks realistic and it’s complicated and they feel like that’s a niche that’s in high demand.

The world of mobile gaming is a tough one to get into though. It wasn’t surprising to me to hear the devs say that they had no clue the game would do so well when it first released or that they’d still be going so strongly 5 years later. They shrug and grin a bit sheepishly and say that so long as the finance guys let them do it, they’re going to keep pumping out content for as long as they can.

Perhaps my biggest takeaway from my visit to Warsaw was this: the game devs are very much ordinary people like you and me. I think a lot of us have a view of Plarium as a bunch of 60-year-old CEOs in suits who are totally disconnected from us. During my visit though, I got to meet the actual devs and the community and production teams and these people were all friendly, welcoming and down-to-earth. They’re mostly young 20 or 30-something people who are happy to be doing the job they have.

Nubs met Plarium 5

Let’s dive into the big questions though: what sort of content are they working on? Interestingly, they revealed that major updates for Raid are developed on a 6-month cycle. For example, in 2023 they delivered Live Arena in the middle of the year, then built and delivered the Cursed City in its entirety over the next 6 months, arriving in December. I was surprised that content was developed so quickly, to be honest, but it seems to be the nature of a live service game.

This short development cycle has a big downside though in limiting how quickly the devs can react to player feedback. “Sometimes we see feedback and people want it to happen right away,” they say, “But if we try to change things that weren’t planned it can throw the whole schedule off track.” From my perspective as a player and content creator, it’s obviously very frustrating that it can take weeks or even months for issues to be addressed, but it seems like changing the workflow to handle that is a much bigger job than we realise. “On the other hand,” they joked, “Sometimes when we see you guys asking for a change, we have already done it and it’s ready to go live in the next patch. Then when we release it and we see all these videos saying, ‘FINALLY THEY LISTENED!’  we just have to laugh and say, ‘Well, we always try to listen, but of course, this content has been in the works for months, it’s not because of the videos.’”

They were tight-lipped about what is coming for the middle of 2024. All they would reveal was that quality of life updates would be a huge priority for them and they seemed confident that we would be happy with the changes they have planned. “It’s coming very soon,” they said, “You’ll just have to wait and see.”

One thing I spotted on a developer’s screen while I was walking by was modelling for a new dungeon stage. “This is actually something we started to develop after talking to the Content Creators at the start of the year,” they said. “We wouldn’t have made this without you.” It looked fairly early on in development to me, but perhaps could be a smaller content drop later in the year, along the lines of Sand Devil. I’ve no idea what the dungeon will be though: draw up your wishlist from the things we discussed with the devs back in January and, who knows, you might be lucky!

I did get to chat to the associate game director about some of his early ideas for the big content he’s working on for the end of this year. It’s too early to reveal what it is, but all I’ll say is that it’s going to be BIG. These major features are also used as platforms for developing other areas of the game. He talked about how they wanted to do mythical champions for a while but never had the tech to do so. By developing Hydra, the tech that was used for allowing the heads to be decapitated and respawn was then able to be repurposed to bring mythical champions to life. It seems like this multi-purpose style of development is a big deal for them for maximizing the content they can bring to the game on a regular basis. It will be VERY interesting to see what might come from the tech being developed in 2024…

Nubs met Plarium 6

During dinner with several folks (some whom you will recognise I’m sure!) from the dev and community teams I asked them if there any cool strategies or champions that we’ve overlooked in the community? Yes, sometimes there are things that take a while for people to discover, they said, but they don’t like to give things away. One example they gave was Nogdar the Headhunter: they were surprised (after his buff) that there was so little discussion about him online, since they think he’s a strong option for taking down tanky champions in the arena. When they looked into it though, they found that one single content creator (sadly, I didn’t catch who!) was doing videos on him. For the devs, they think that’s great: maybe more people will find that content in the future and it can give that CC a boost.

On the flip side, the community can also find things that the devs didn’t intend. “Let’s be honest,” the associate game director told me, “Geomancer should be nerfed.” They didn’t mention Seer at all, but I’m sure that’s another champion they felt similarly about in the past. It’s easy to see where they’re coming from: Geomancer made developing bosses more complicated than it should have been due to his insane damage potential. They even tried to nerf him once before and clearly didn’t go as far as they probably should have. However, you’ll be glad to hear that no nerfs will be coming. “We’re not going to nerf him though,” he said, “People would get mad and it’s too late to change him at this point anyway.” Balancing in a gacha game is a challenge, as I well know from the many outraged comments I get whenever I suggest a champion should be nerfed in any way *cough* Trunda *cough*. People put a lot of time and effort into building their champions and don’t want that work to be undermined.

Nubs met Plarium 7

All in all, I really enjoyed my time meeting the Raid team in person. They were great to get along with, and it makes a huge difference to put human faces to what can seem like a faceless corporate company. My biggest takeaway was definitely the passion that they have for the game, and that many of the devs I talked to were ordinary people and gamers who are simply proud that their game has found an audience who (mostly) love to play it.

What do you think of Nubs’ trip to meet Plarium? Let us know in the comments!

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Morten Sørensen
Morten Sørensen
21 days ago

This article was probably sponsored by Raid Shadow Legends.
No mentions on the 4 popups I have to close every time I visit the Bastion so it actually feels like I have installed some adware.
Then there is the 5+ clicks different places on the screen, I have to do every time I want to level and upgrade a champ in the tavern.
A last honorable mention is the overpriced offers in the store, where the prices in the store are 30% more expensive than the USD counterpart in my local currency.
I though this could actually have been an opportunity to take some concerns from the community to the developers

Fulcrumwiz
Fulcrumwiz
4 days ago

I enjoyed this article. Thanks for the efforts.
I’d don’t think I’d still be playing Raid if it were not for the the camaraderie I get from the community, websites and YouTube videos.
It is great to hear about the human aspects on the other side of the the curtain and I always enjoy those types of articles and videos.
Thanks for giving us some insight into how the Community awards were presented and it is awesome to see that the experience was very positive as a whole.