Iron Galaxy is a developer with a lot of merit, in my book. Responsible for nearly 15 years of great contract work, the studio is also known for producing its own projects every now and again, all of which bears marks of its own brand of action. You may know them for the latter seasons of Killer Instinct, Divekick, and now Rumbleverse.
A venture into the battle royale genre – albeit with guns and firefights traded out for a vastly different gunshow packed with big muscles and wrestling – this is the first big in-house IP release from the studio for some time. To find out the origins of this game, as well as how the team at Iron Galaxy plans to differentiate its game in a saturated market, and its overall hopes for the title, I sat down and talked to co-CEO Chelsea Blasko about everything Rumbleverse.
It’s been widely reported that Blasko was the source of the original wrestling battle royale idea, stemming from their desire to recreate the fun of classic wrestling and the high-flying stars of the Macho Man era.
“I just wanted something to be fun. Who doesn’t remember wrestling with their siblings on the floor of the living room?” exclaims Blasko. “I have two sisters and a brother – we were wrestling all the time – I was wrestling people in college! It brings joy and silliness. Sure you’re working out some aggression but it’s just fun.”
It’s that borderline after-school-cartoon style of wrestling, with colourful characters and wacky hijinx, that is expressed in the Rumbleverse world and characters. “Definitely a goal of ours is to make it fun and accessible. The art style is kinda cartoony – it’s colourful. We harken back to characters, things squash a little, it’s a little exaggerated. It’s not realistic and it’s meant to be funny, to harken back to the early cartoon days and that fun that was ever present back then. Things like bouncing on cars and scurrying up the side of buildings all play into that over the top silliness.”
So with all this emphasis on wrestling, why hasn’t it been marketed as a fighting game battle royale? Well, this seems to have been a conscious choice, done to remove any perceived barriers of entry. “I think fighting games can be intimidating for people. I love them because I like jumping in and beating someone’s butt, but they can be very technical with a lot of practice required in order to become a proficient player. We wanted to make this title a lot more accessible, to bring some depth, but also be something you can pick up without having to remember too many combos, or things like that.
“So that’s really why we say a 'brawler royale'. We also add this sense of verticality which in turns brings another layer of strategy to the game. The idea is that – even though we have this combat system which does have a lot of depth in it – anyone can pick up Rumbleverse and have a good time.”
That desire for accessibility – or more accurately, inclusivity – extends to one of the most popular tools in the live service tool kit: customisation through cosmetics. Rumbleverse features costumes that come in pieces, which means you can either match each slot together or mix and match to create your own unique wrestler.
“We really wanted the title to be inclusive as possible and allow players to make a character that’s really special to them! Also, when you’re running around, having a lot of customization points lets you tell the difference between different players at a glance. One thing I’m really proud of is the fact that we have 14 different slots for customisation on our characters, I don’t think I’ve seen that in another game. Even if everyone seems to wear the cat head, which seems to be very popular, there are plenty of ways to differentiate players in-game”.
Customisation is important, of course, but the future of Rumbleverse comes in more forms than cool drip for your character. With launch just around the corner, future seasons are being planned out.
“We definitely have a lot of ideas for season 1.5 and season 2 where you can interact with players and have a coop experience, whether that’s through duos or quads. We’ll continue to provide tonnes of customisation. We’ll introduce different places to fight in, new environments, new things to interact with, and a few other ideas that we’ll add too.”
All in all, this is set up to be a major stepping stone for Iron Galaxy, bringing in learned lessons from previous projectiles into this vibrant twist on the BR genre. Blasko explains: “I look at everything we do at Iron Galaxy as different stepping stones. We’ve had the honour of working on several different fighting games. It started with Street Fighter 3: Online Edition where we cut our teeth and Killer Instinct Seasons 2 and 3 where we were able to show off our creative chops. We learn so much with everyone we work with and every project we’re on.”
But can it cut through the competition? As zesty as Rumbleverse seems to be the battle royale genre – as well as the wider live service market – seems unable to fit in more and more great games these days like a past-their-prime wrestler struggling to fit into their spandex leotard.
In spite of the odds, Blasko doesn’t seem to know for sure, but remains with high hopes. “You know what, I have no idea! I don’t know! It’s really up to the fans. Hopefully what we’ve created is very fun for them, and accessible to a lot of people. We hope they get the joy of wrestling, the costumes, and colour we’ve poured into the game. We’re crossing our fingers that people love them game once it releases, and that it’s received positively too! So far, during play tests, people seem to really enjoy it. We hope that carries through, we’re really proud of it.”
“We hope with RumbleVerse people see that Iron Galaxy can make great triple-A games, and that it leads us into creating more big games in the future. We still love doing our work with our partners – the port work and tech fire-fighting – but we want a part of our business to continue creating and developing our own IP.”
As a final light-hearted question, I had to ask whether other co-CEO Adam Boyes legendary fried chicken has him reigning as the best cook at Iron Galaxy. It turns out that the studio is stuffed with talented cooks, punching up at the studio founder.
Chelsea Blasko fills me in: “I’ve not had the pleasure of eating everyone’s food at Iron Galaxy. I would have said Adam Boyes. He was on a Canadian cooking show, and he can crack 20 eggs in a row off each other. But we have a lot of great chefs – before we released an Iron Galaxy Cookbook last year we were doing cooking shows, and one guy, Micheal Metts, did a fantastic dish on video. It all originated from our Hispanic / LATANX ERG (employee resource group) put together their own cookbook.”
We've been finding ways to keep each other entertained as we work from home during quarantine. Enjoy this glimpse into some of our kitchens from over the past year! pic.twitter.com/QUjvYcrpb8— Iron Galaxy Studios (@IronGalaxy) September 2, 2021
“I do have to say we have a former chef on staff now – Cleetus Friedman. He was a chef here in Chicago for many years. I would be failing if I didn’t mention them. We used to do a Chili cooking contest – Chad Simpson makes the best biscuits, for sure. Aside from the Cookbook, we made an iron skillet with our logo and gave it to everyone on staff.”
Rumbleverse is launching on August 11 on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC.