Exclusive: nWay comes out of stealth, unveils ChronoBlade

San Francisco-based developer nWay has come out of stealth today and unveiled its first game, ChronoBlade. We got a chance to sit down with some of the company’s founders and check the game out, getting a hands-on demo of how the title will (hopefully) re-establish the classic arcade experience on the web by using social mechanics.

Recreating the arcade’s social experience

ChronoBlade is an action role-playing game that casts players as part of a pact of heroes fighting off a cross-dimensional invasion. As a result, the environments span a wide variety of sci-fi and fantasy settings, with various enemies tailored to each world. As players go through the game, their characters level up and they can spend progression points on skill trees to customize the character to their play style.

The game is designed to let players on any platform drop in and out of gameplay with both friends and strangers. CEO Tony Harman and COO Taehoon Kim tell us, “the goal of this company is to bring back arcade games to the masses.”

In the 1970s and 80s, arcades were huge social scenes, with people jumping in and out of games to play with others. Although the physical arcade has since fallen out of public favor, nWay’s founders believe the social experience of playing with others on arcade cabinets can be recreated on social and mobile platforms. As a result, the game will first launch on Facebook, with mobile and open web versions to follow. We’re also told an Ouya version is being considered because of the console’s Android-based OS and the game’s combat is very controller-friendly, but it currently isn’t in the game’s development roadmap.

The goal of the game is to support instant drop-in for players in both co-op and player-versus-player gameplay. “We wanted that feeling to come out and still use the hooks of social gaming,” Kim says.

When played with a keyboard, players configure the control scheme to how they want to play. During our hands-on demo with the game, we used the directional arrows on a standard keyboard to move, while various letter keys controlled light, heavy and special attacks. The combat allowed us to chain together attacks to form different kinds of combos, and the overall play experience was highly reminiscent of early 1990s Beat-Em-Up titles like Konami’s 1992 X-Men arcade game or Capcom’s Final Fight.

Kim says the game is just the first step for nWay to bring the console experience to the web and mobile devices, which he believes is the way of the future. “We just see this huge shift away from paying for a packaged game to the free-to-play movement,” he tells us.

Harman then chimes in about how many larger game publishers are losing out on huge markets because of their inability to evolve past the traditional publishing model. “There’s a treasure trove of IP that’s out there,” he says. “[Publishers] didn’t grow very fast with the growth of gaming in Asia and they just got left out.”

Harman explains how the combat is like that of deeper fighting games, where button-mashing will carry players for a while, but probably won’t work in later levels or against savvy opponents within the PvP arena. “Micro-timing becomes increasingly useful for chaining combos or avoiding attacks,” he explains. “As you gain experience, you’ll be able to beat the people who do nothing but button mash.”

Meanwhile, nWay is incorporating viral social mechanics like Timeline posts and requests to help users spread the word about the game. Because the game is coming to Facebook first, users will be able to play with their Facebook friends, and future platforms will all be compatible with one another.

The studio designed ChronoBlade to work as a free-to-play action RPG, similar to how Riot Games’s League of Legends operates. All monetization comes from microtransactions, where players buy things like vanity items, equipment and temporary boosts. However, Marketing Director Alex Pan is adamant that “one thing we don’t want to do is enable people to pay to win. It’s something that frustrates us as gamers when we see it.”