Roll back the curtain and discover epic fantasy multiplayer adventure!
Marble Knights, WayForward’s most recent original title, rolled onto the scene only a short time ago, bringing with it four-player adventuring, sword-swinging action, awesome elemental abilities, and environmental puzzle-solving. It’s all set against the backdrop of a unique, colorful fantasy world of good versus evil where the inhabitants roll around on magical marble-like orbs rather than walk on legs.
And with 10 playable characters, 22 levels spanning eight worlds, seven orbs with individual powers, and numerous epic boss battles, the game is no slouch in the content department either. Marble Knights was even recently updated with two brand-new minigames for up to four players — O.R.B. Jam (a two-on-two basketball game where the characters ride the balls!) and Bowling (featuring 100-pin setups!) — with more on the way!
So where did the Marble Knights idea come from, and how did it all come together? To find out more about this Apple Arcade exclusive, we went straight to WayForward’s own Matt Bozon (creative director) and Austin Ivansmith (game director) for insights into what you’ve been missing if you haven’t yet given Marble Knights a spin.
Question 1: What was the driving force behind creating Marble Knights? What did you want to achieve with this title, and how did you bring that to reality?
Matt: Our goal with Marble Knights was to create a four-player, family-friendly adventure that could be played by linking any Apple devices found around the home. Up to four players can use an iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple TV to join in. We also had the idea of creating a new cast of characters for WayForward that can be built upon over time.
Question 2: Can you explain more about the setting of Marble Knights? Why do these characters have orbs for the lower halves of their bodies instead of legs?!
Matt: This is a fantasy setting where orb bodies are a way of life! We wanted to make a strong visual connection between the characters and their magical orb-swapping gameplay. It’s intentionally absurd, and tells players that yep – this is a game about swinging a sword, and riding atop magical marbles. Each character hails from their own land, which has fallen under attack from Lord Terroball, and joins up with our heroes Orbin and Marabelle to save the day. Together these “Knights of the Round” set out to save the Kingdom of Roundingham.
Question 3: Action and puzzle-solving are key parts of the experience. How are the gameplay and level design balanced around those aspects?
Austin: The game is all about adventure first, but you can’t have a rolling-ball platform game without some kind of Marble Madness/Super Monkey Ball pitfalls. So it was definitely a challenge to encourage exploration and adventure while still having some pathway/mobility challenges without making them unfair. There are challenging enemies, but they’re mostly around only when you don’t have to worry (as much) about falling off a narrow ledge to your demise.
Adventure and puzzle-solving tend to go hand-in-hand, and for Marble Knights, the puzzle solving is almost always tied to the type of orb a player is riding. Players may need to remove ice walls to reveal a hidden path, or freeze a body of water to hit the switch on the other side. It really creates a unique gaming experience where your orb is both your key for a unique lock, as well as your means of attack.
Question 4: How many players does the game support? How does the number of players affect the dynamic?
Austin: The game supports 1-4 players, and what’s great is that you can all play on the same device on a couch, or over the internet if your friends aren’t close by. The game is fun solo, but it really comes to life when players work together as a team. There are treasures hidden in spots unreachable for a single player, so you must use teamwork and all of the various powers of your orbs to solve the puzzles and gain the rewards. There is also a tally at the end of each stage, so you know who did the best.
Question 5: The game has 10 playable characters with distinct personalities and seven orbs with unique powers. Do you have any personal favorites?
Austin: At various stages of development I’ve fallen in love with different characters, but in the end they really are a great ensemble. Each one has some quirk or personality trait about them that I love. It’s hard not to love Catsci, who has the most amazing little voice, especially paired up with Oblate, who is deathly afraid of cats. Our writer, Eric Stirpe, did an amazing job capturing the unique personalities of everyone, and the voice actors were mind-blowing. But if everyone in your household has the same favorite, don’t worry because there are plenty of color swaps to support four players being the same character.
Question 6: Even though Marble Knights is an epic fantasy adventure, it’s also lighthearted and humorous. How important were puns and a sense of humor to the game, and what was it like writing the story?
Austin: I don’t think it would be a WayForward game without a great sense of humor. I think lighthearted games are more inviting to all players, like when a game takes itself too seriously you might be more worried about making mistakes and playing perfectly. And it’s great for families too, where parents aren’t worried about inappropriate content, and when they play with their kids they’re facing a fun challenge and laughing at jokes their kids don’t get.
Writing for Marble Knights was a challenge I have never faced before, because any of the 10 playable characters can be involved in the cutscenes. Luckily, our writer, Eric Stirpe, was undaunted and took this challenge head on. For every single NPC interaction, all 10 character lines were written at the same time, so each of them were saying broadly the same thing that a single response could work for, but with their own unique personality. Some characters might be shocked or angry, while another character would be laughing in the face of danger. And when playing with two or more players, the other player characters will join in the conversations, so game sessions are different if you choose different characters. And it’s especially fun to see how Gutter feels about talking to himself in the dungeons.
Question 7: How is the game controlled? What options are available?
Austin: For iPhones and iPads, players can use an on-screen thumbstick, or tilt their device using the accelerometer, making it feel like a classic marble-in-a-maze toy. Players do short attacks by tapping the onscreen button, plus they can also do a charge attack by holding the button — and it doubles as a kind of emergency brake, dampening the player’s speed and allowing them to go through some tight squeezes with more control. The game is also playable on the Apple TV with the Siri Remote, or on a Mac with keyboard and mouse.
But the thing that I love about Apple Arcade is being able to connect my PS4 controller to any of my devices. We developed the game with every control scheme in mind, but I’m old-school and still prefer using a controller, so it’s ingenious that Apple opened up console controllers to use on their platforms.
Question 8: What was it like collaborating with Studio TRIGGER for the opening animation?
Matt: It was awesome! As with the Shantae and the Seven Sirens opening animation, producer Naoko Tsutsumi (Little Witch Academia) worked with producer Erin Bozon. I had the fun of drawing rough storyboards, and Austin and composer Dale North put it all to music. The resulting animation is high energy and super fun. I can’t wait to see fans of both WayForward and Studio TRIGGER’s reactions to this!
Question 9: What makes this title a good fit for Apple Arcade?
Matt: Marble Knights was specifically designed for households with multiple Apple products. We considered which combinations of products an Apple-centric household might have, and pitched a game that would play off that idea. So, it is a 100% “pure Apple Arcade” product. Not to say it couldn’t one day be enjoyed on other platforms, but that is not the reason it was created. The playful characters, family friendliness, and overall disposition is catered to the audience we expected might gravitate towards an Apple gaming subscription service that works across all devices in their family plan.
Question 10: Is there anything fans of other WayForward games will especially enjoy?
Austin: Marble Knights has the same charm our fans have come to love with gorgeous character designs and portraits, a hilarious script, top-notch VO, and an amazing soundtrack by Dale North. We also have color swaps for all 10 characters which took heavy inspiration from other WayForward fan-favorite characters. I think fans will really have fun unlocking all the color swaps to see how characters like Cpl. Gendarmor, Squid Baron, and Bolo are represented.
Question 11: What are the plans for additional content?
Austin: We have a slew of minigames coming to Marble Knights. We just released the first two: O.R.B. Jam and Bowling. Since we are riding these neat spheres, my brain instantly went to real-world games involving balls we could use, and how these games would be different if you were riding the ball instead of just holding or kicking it.
In Bowling you ride a special bowling ball orb down a huge lane, and try to knock down 100 pins using your player attack. This mode is for up to four players, so the more people you have, the easier it is to hit all the pins — but your friends’ attacks can knock you off the lane and out of the playfield so you need to work together (unless you did it on purpose, cuz you like to play that way with your friends!). Bowling fans will be happy to know we use real bowling score formats, except expanded to 100 pins, so I am looking forward to seeing someone scoring a perfect 3,000 point game!
O.R.B. Jam is two-on-two streetball in the most classic sense. Players can attack their opponent to steal the ball, shoot three pointers, and even slam dunk. And if you make three shots in a row your player will be “On Fire” and have a much higher accuracy on their shots. It was so much fun to play at the WayForward office that we even had a tournament between the dev team and the QA team, along with a trophy (which now sits in the QA area until our next rematch)! And if you just want to play it alone, there is a solo mode where players try to get a high score within a time limit.
But that’s just the beginning. We have six more minigames slated to come out in 2021, as well as a Battle Arena mode where players can clash and smash with their friends, building up damage and knocking players out of the arena to be the victor. I can’t wait for people to play all these fun modes!
Question 12: Do you have any closing comments or anything else to share about the game?
Austin: Marble Knights is such a fun world to be in. It’s great to expand the WayForward universe with these new heroes, and we hope that anyone who has access to Apple Arcade is willing to check them out. We can’t wait to see where this new IP goes from here!