Smite 2 Interview: Devs Are “Keenly Aware” Of Shortcomings Of Other Live Service Sequels

Hi-Rez Studio will learn through the mistakes of other live-service games.

Story Highlights

  • Smite 2 is the sequel to the critically acclaimed MOBA and was revealed in January 2024.
  • It is a complete graphical and technological overhaul harnessing the power of Unreal Engine 5.
  • We interviewed Travis Brown and Alex Cantatore, developers of Smite 2, via an email Q&A session.

Ten years have passed since the monumental release of Smite, and it still holds itself as one of the best MOBA video games. It features over 130 playable characters, that you can control across various PvP modes. Due to the game’s competitive nature, it has also seen immense growth within the esports scene. Still, Hi-Rez Studio — the publisher — decided to take its title one step further as they revealed Smite 2 earlier this year.

Smite 2 utilizes the technical capabilities of Unreal Engine 5 to deliver a better visual and gameplay experience. It is a significant improvement upon the first game, and unlike Overwatch 2, will not replace its predecessor. To learn more about its features and the other things we can expect from the title, we spoke with Travis Brown, Creative Director of Smite 2, and Alex Cantatore, Executive Producer of Smite, over an email interview.

Smite 2
Cinematic Screenshot From Smite 2 – Via Hi-Rez Studios.

It is clear now that Unreal Engine is a big reason why the team felt more open to the idea of a sequel. But what are some specific aspects that you are now happy to reiterate with the help of UE5.2?

Travis: Working with UE3 has been great in the past. We grew to love it and really didn’t know how green the grass was in UE5. We were blissfully ignorant… and happy! Once we got under the hood on UE5, it was like the weight of 1000 albatrosses were lifted off of the development team’s shoulders. As we discussed before, the toolset available to us in UE5 gave us the confidence that now was the time to build the future of the Smite IP. With UE5.2, we are anxious to dig into the Procedural World Building Tools to see if this provides what we need to consider new map-altering abilities for Smite 2’s gameplay!

Smite was designed on UE3, and I am curious whether the idea of a sequel was brought up during the UE4 period or subsequent updates. If not, what would you say the UE4 lacked to carry the future of Smite?

Travis: We had considered beginning to work on Smite 2 during UE4’s life cycle. We knew that transitioning from UE3 to UE4 meant we would have a massive project in front of us. If we wanted to create the future of the Smite IP for the next 10 years, we knew we wanted to keep up with the latest engine with access to the most current technologies and tooling. Our decision to move to UE5 was less about any shortcomings in UE4. It was more about being current on the latest engine. That said… having Lumen lighting has been an exciting bonus to our plan!

Smite 2
Gameplay Screenshot From Smite 2 – Via Hi-Rez Studios.

In what ways will Smite 2 be different from the first game as a MOBA?

Travis: Jumping from Smite to Smite 2 is like going from mythology textbooks to being part of the pantheon—it’s a whole new realm of epic. With Unreal Engine 5, we’re not just upping the graphics but reimagining the battlegrounds where gods clash. The gameplay essence is distilled to its purest form, focusing on impactful strategies and a refined Conquest map that cuts the excess and magnifies the excitement. It’s about enriching the core MOBA experience while introducing fresh tactics and visuals that make every clash of deities a thing of beauty.

We’ve also revamped the item system and the jungle layout, challenging players to adapt and strategize in new ways right from the get-go. Removing starter items and redesigning jungle camps means both junglers and laners will find early-game dynamics more engaging. This rebalance aims to invigorate the pacing and strategy, offering a gameplay experience that feels familiar yet distinctly more nuanced and thrilling.

Alex: At its heart, Smite 2 is a visual and strategic evolution, a game where ancient myths get a next-gen makeover. By leveraging UE5, we’re crafting a world that’s as visually stunning as it is strategically deep. It’s still the Smite universe, retaining the essence of what fans loved while pushing boundaries to offer a richer, more immersive MOBA experience. We’re paying homage to the original while making sure we create a foundation for a more impressive future, and we can’t wait for players to embark on this new adventure with us.

Will you continue to update Smite 1 as frequently as you have been after the release of Smite 2?

Alex: Smite 1 will continue to receive regular updates, and the servers will remain online for the foreseeable future. We understand the importance of supporting our existing player base while we venture into the next chapter with Smite 2, ensuring that both games thrive and offer dynamic, engaging experiences for all our players. We’re committed to continuing to provide a great experience in Smite 1 alongside the launch of Smite 2.

Smite 2
Screenshot From Smite 2 – Via Hi-Rez Studios.

Depending on the success of the sequel, and once other Gods make their way into Smite 2, is there a chance that the studio will shut down Smite 1 sometime in the future, as there will be few reasons for players to choose the first game over 2?

Travis: We have no plans to shut down Smite 1. Our dedication to supporting Smite 1 remains unwavering, as evidenced by our commitment to regular updates and maintaining the servers. We recognize the value and the unique experiences that Smite 1 offers to its community, and we intend to preserve these for both new and veteran players alike.

The introduction of Smite 2 is about expanding our universe and offering additional choices to our player base, not about replacing the original game that so many have come to love. We’re building Smite 2 from the ground up, and it will take time to develop new versions of the features we’ve created in Smite 1 over the last 11 years, especially as we want to ensure that whatever we add is strictly better for our community.

Speaking of Gods, can we expect to see an overhaul of their abilities and stats in Smite 2?

Travis: Absolutely. We’ve reimagined how we approach god stats with Smite 2, with a particular focus on balancing the Strength vs. Intelligence attributes. This reimagining is designed to unlock way more build options for each character than before, allowing for a richer and more personalized gameplay experience. By fine-tuning these core attributes, we aim to empower players with the flexibility to experiment with various strategies and tailor each god to their play style. This evolution in character customization underscores our commitment to enhancing strategic depth and player creativity within the Smite universe.

For example, with Chaac, you can choose to focus on building out Strength to focus on your in-hand attacks, or Intelligence to make your lightning-based abilities more powerful, or a myriad of different other combinations. This should add a greater variety of options for players when entering the battleground.

Smite 2
Image From Smite 2 – Via Hi-Rez Studios.

Several studios have made a sequel to their well-established live-service games, only to be met with heavy criticism. Is that something that has concerned the team? And how does it plan to avoid that outcome?

Alex: We’re keenly aware of the challenges faced by other live-service sequels and have taken this into consideration throughout the development of Smite 2. Our guiding principle is to ensure that every change and addition is “strictly better” than what exists in Smite 1, refining the core experience while preserving the essence of what players love.

We’re not taking the dedication and investment of our players for granted; instead, we’re honoring their journey in Smite 1 through initiatives like Legacy Gems and the Divine Legacy system, which acknowledge and reward their achievements and contributions. Moving to Unreal Engine 5 also allows us to address some of the fundamental concerns that players have been frustrated with in Smite 1. As we start to roll out alpha testing, we will keep a close eye on player feedback to ensure that the changes we’re making are exciting them as much as we hope they will and adapting as needed.

The Legacy Gems system has received mixed responses, especially among frequent spenders. Is Hi-Rez still looking into other ways to improve it further? If so, could you explain how?

Alex: One of our core goals has always been to respect and honor our community. Legacy Gems is a part of that and allows us to find the balance between honoring players’ spend to date, while investing in the future of Smite. Players will be able to pay for up to 100% of the cost of ported skins and up to 50% of new content. Owners of the Founder’s Editions will also unlock double their Legacy Gems balance. We don’t take the passion and loyalty of our fans for granted and will continue to evaluate everything we’re bringing to Smite 2 to ensure it’s benefiting them.

Smite 2
Screenshot Taken From Smite 2 – Via Hi-Rez Studios.

Since revealing the game, what sort of feedback have you seen from the community? Are there any specific features that everyone wishes to see?

Travis: We’ve been amazed by how positively received Smite 2 has been so far! The team is putting all their soul into ensuring we deliver on our strictly better promise, and it’s great to see players excited by this work. Obviously, there have also been some areas where the community has suggested improvements or changes. Rest assured that we’re taking them all seriously and working through them to make sure that Smite 2 is the best game it can be.

Alex: The most requested additions we’ve seen have been around gods and game modes. Smite 1 has 130 gods, and we know we can’t have them all there from day 1 while still delivering a great experience for the players. It will take some time, but we’ll eventually get to everyone’s favorite god. Our plan is to release a new one every week from the start of beta until the end of the year.

Similarly, with game modes, our current focus is on making sure that Conquest feels and plays great, but we know many of our players love other game modes. We’ve already started working on bringing more of these to Smite 2 and making sure they feel strictly better than what already exists.

The live service genre has become really popular recently, but it's something that only some studios have adapted as successfully as they want. What would you say are the key components of making a good live-service title, and do you think Smite 2 will create some shift in this recent trend?

Travis: The most successful live-service games combine listening to their players and surprising them repeatedly. When you’re playing a game for hundreds or thousands of hours, you enjoy part of the familiarity that it brings, but you never want it to feel stale. We’ve learned through over 10 years of experiments with content in Smite what does and doesn’t work for our community. We have so many ideas in the works for things like events and game features, but first, we have to make sure that the core feels familiar and exciting. Then we can build on that.

Smite 2
Image Captured From Smite 2 – Via Hi-Rez Studios.

Any chance that we get to play Smite 2 on mobile devices?

Travis: The team is currently focused on providing a great experience for PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers? Something we haven't touched upon yet.

Alex: We’ll have more info to share on the start of our Alpha really soon. We can’t wait for you to get your hands on it!

YouTube video

Smite 2 is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) developed by Titan Forge Games and published by Hi-Rez Studios. While the release date is still not confirmed, it will arrive on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC. We thank Travis Brown and Alex Cantatore for participating in this interview and Maria Khodaeva for helping us.

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Mudassir is a seasoned journalist with a passion for uncovering the stories behind our favorite virtual worlds. Armed with a trusty notepad and a keen curiosity, he dives headfirst into the gaming industry's most exciting personalities. His knack for insightful questions and his ability to connect with developers and gamers alike makes his interviews a must-read. While on the lookout for the next person to interview, Mudassir keeps himself busy by writing news surrounding the gaming universe. Experience: 4+ Years || Senior Journalist || Education: Bachelor's in Psychology.

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