Solstice Arena

Above: Solstice Arena ditches the minion farming and goes straight to player-versus-player fights

Image Credit: Giancarlo Valdes/GamesBeat

Solstice Arena

Developer: Zynga
Platforms: iOS
Release date: Out now

The iOS-exclusive Solstice Arena puts its own spin on the popular multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre that’s been proliferating on both PC (with games like League of Legends and Dota 2) and mobile. Frederic Descamps, the general manager of the team behind Solstice Arena, touts it as the “first speed MOBA in the world.” By that he means Solstice breaks down the MOBA formula into short gameplay sessions: Player-versus-player fights (3-on-3) last less than 10 minutes, a huge difference over the half-hour or longer matches usually found in MOBA games.

“It’s a constantly evolving genre,” said Descamps. “It’s a genre that wants to stay. And there will be new innovations [that will define] the way we look at the genre. We want to make a MOBA because we love MOBAs. And how can we innovate? Innovating for us was putting [Solstice] on tablet and mobile first. And second, making a speed MOBA.”

Solstice Arena was already in development at Descamps former studio, A Bit Lucky, when Zynga acquired it last September. Members of its team already had experience working on live titles in the massively multiplayer online (MMO) sector, which Descamps says is similar to the process of creating and shipping a MOBA game.

“There aren’t that many real-time multiplayer games on mobile and tablets,” he said. “And therefore … you could think, ‘Well, hold on. Maybe there aren’t that many players and that many games because maybe there’s no market.’ Or maybe because nobody has done it yet. And I think we’ve proven that we can break new ground there and bring super-high quality, real-time multiplayer games to the phone and tablets knowing that we also payed very, very close attention to single-player mode and our cooperative mode.”

Solstice Arena

Above: The central part of the map is crucial because of the pick-ups it contains, like a giant chest of gold coins.

Image Credit: Zynga

Certain MOBA characteristics are still in the game — buying items to boost your hero’s stats, buying new champions with either in-game cash or real money (as well as vanity items like new skins), destroying A.I.-controlled towers — but Solstice gets rid of the more time-consuming elements (like farming for experience points) to encourage faster, snappier matches. Though MOBA veterans can jump into it with no problem, the streamlined gameplay also reduces the learning curve so that new players can enjoy it, too.

“Hardcore gamers are hardcore gamers,” said Descamps. “Hardcore gamers don’t define themselves by — not anymore, anyway — by ‘Hey, I’m a hardcore, super-high-end PC gamer.’ Sometimes they still do. I would surmise that some of the hardest core gamers are sometimes Farmville or Farmville 2 gamers, because they play a lot. … There’s this whole new generation of younger people who have not played even on a console, and they’ve never played on a PC, except maybe a web game.

“But they are definitely playing: like 12 year-olds are playing Minecraft exclusively on the tablet. We’ve seen that. So [the hardcore audience on mobile is] definitely coming. I think we’re on the forefront of that. … If you look at the success of midcore and hardcore games on tablets, it’s just the question of time. For us, the time is now.”