Epic Games is unleashing its latest free-to-play game, Paragon, across PC and PlayStation 4 today. The multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game is available in free open beta, allowing anyone to jump into the action – while giving the development team time to fine-tune the game prior to its official launch (which hasn’t been announced yet).

The studio releases new free heroes for the game every three weeks. And once launched, the game will offer in-game items for sale, also called “micro transactions.” The third-person perspective game pits teams of five players against each other on a battlefield with upgradeable heroes. Each map runs from about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the skill level of the players and the team-based action.

(Watch a video preview at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1ZGtsuO6Bs)

Paragon will go head-to-head with another third-person perspective MOBA, SMITE, as well as Blizzard Entertainment’s MOBA hybrid Overwatch, as well as traditional top-down-view MOBAs such as Valve’s Dota 2 and Riot Games’ League of Legends. Steve Stuperville, creative director of Paragon at Epic Games, explains what separates Paragon from the pack in the first of a two-part exclusive interview.

What were your goals heading into Paragon?

We wanted to make the most competitive game we could. We didn’t really know we were going to be making a MOBA. We set out to discover what makes competitive games tick and how we can pull the best parts of all the competitive games out there and make a game out of it. At some point we realized that the games we talked about after going home and playing games each night were MOBAs. We would tell stories about the fantastic team fights we had, the big victories we pulled off, who we met and who we talked with.

That gave us the idea that MOBAs are one of the most popular genres in the world. We wanted to take our love of MOBAs and our pedigree of action games and bring those together. A lot of MOBAs out there sell you a heroic fantasy through their trailers that the game doesn’t match up with. The trailers are vastly different from what the actual gameplay is, and we thought with our background we could bring those two things much closer together.

What does being on the battlefield open up for gamers in Paragon?

We wanted to take you away from being a puppet master with a top-down view and your character is very small on the screen and you don’t have direct control. We wanted to give you this feeling of being a superhero, that feeling that kids have when they climb up on the back of the couch, strap on a red blanket and jump off like Superman.

Having the camera down on the battlefield makes it a lot more visceral, more impactful, and you get the sense of being a big bad superhero who can bodyslam people or fly through the air all the way across the map. You get a lot more of the action orientation. Gamers prefer having direct control, being able to move your character exactly where you want and being able to jump off ledges. We’ve added verticality to our map, where most MOBAs are very top-down and 2D.

MOBA’s traditionally are fantasy based. Talk about the setting of Paragon.

We wanted to try something a little bit new. We have all the veteran artists of Epic Games who made Gears of War and Infinity Blade and a lot of other great franchises and we wanted to see what they could come up with. We love science fiction and we love fantasy. Instead of choosing one or the other, we decided to make a science fantasy universe where the two things can operate side-by-side.

What can you tell us about the world and the storyline of the game?

We haven’t talked a lot about story, and that’s been intentional. We wanted to get the map Agora out there. It’s a fantastically beautiful paradise world with flowers and jungle canopy overtop of this ancient architecture. The architecture has some technology elements in it, but no one really knows how it got there or why you’re fighting. What we want to do is engage the community by not telling them, “Hey, you’re this person, here’s the story of the universe, and you go from this place to that place and you do these things.”

We want to give them clues and have them ask questions and speculate among themselves. We’ve already seen some fantastic fan fiction pop up around what the play space is and how the heroes got there and why they’re there. As time goes on we will reveal just a little bit more. It’s a little bit more like Lost than a corridor shooter that we previously made.

Coming in Part Two: Paragon’s heroes – and more

Learn more about the game at: