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Rogue Company's Incredible Story Revealed

The gaming industry has experienced a major transformation regarding arena and hero shooters, as well as battle royale titles. Over the past few years, gamers have seen the likes of Fortnite, PUBG, Overwatch, Apex Legends, and Valorant all compete to become the most popular arena shooter, with each getting their respective time in the spotlight. A new contender has since entered the fray: Rogue Company.

Rogue Company entered early access in July 2020 and has been a popular choice among Twitch streamers for its similarities to existing hero shooters and distinct third-person shooting mechanics that take more of a cue from Gears of War than Fortnite. As with any game entering a saturated market, Rogue Company faces considerable competition, but with a dedicated team and rich development history, it seems Rogue Company is well-equipped to be a major player in the expansive arena and hero shooter genre.

Rogue Company's publisher has extensive free-to-play experience

Publisher Hi-Rez Studios has a rich history with free-to-play titles. As a company that's "all about games," its portfolio includes not only Rogue Company but Smite, Paladins, and Realm Royale. Smite, available on PC and modern consoles, has proven a particular success. Former Hi-Rez CEO Erez Goren discussed this in a 2013 Reddit post, stating, "Smite is one of those rare games that's actually growing every month, and is also profitable." Additionally, he mentioned the interest of many outside publishers, including Tencent, and described the massive company as "the most prestigious partner we can have for our type of game."

With Smite, Hi-Rez has familiarized itself with the saturated esports arena, though the company's humbler beginnings include 2010's Global Agenda and 2012's Tribes: Ascend, both of which are free-to-play multiplayer titles, with the latter releasing to a decent reception. While Rogue Company is a different type of free-to-play multiplayer experience, Hi-Rez has reliably nurtured its other properties, most notably Smite, to the point of profitability.

Rogue Company's developers have worked at a variety of game studios

It's one thing to have a talented publisher behind a game, but it's another to have a skilled developer. Rogue Company creator First Watch Games seems to be up to the task to deliver a great free-to-play experience with a team drawn from companies like Blizzard Entertainment, Vicarious Vision, EA, and others.

With Blizzard behind renowned multiplayer titles like World of Warcraft and EA behind massively popular games like Apex Legends, the team's collective experience speaks for itself. Hi-Rez Studios established First Watch Games specifically for the development of Rogue Company, illustrating the focus on competing within the free-to-play niche. Given Rogue Company could chip away at games like Fortnite and Overwatch, both of which were published and developed by comparatively large companies, it will be more of an exception in terms of successful free-to-play and battle royale shooters.

Rogue Company utilized cross-play from the get-go

An advantage some multiplayer titles have over others is the inclusion of cross-play, and Rogue Company got that right from the start. Unlike much of its competition, which only received cross-play features well after release, Rogue Company prioritized cross-play from the beginning, providing a much larger pool of rivals for hardcore Rogue Company players.

While cross-play is a nice feature in and of itself, the game also allows for cross-progression, which carries over any experience from one platform to another. Fortnite added cross-play in September 2018 – a little more than a year after its July 2017 release. Rogue Company's cross-play feature may set a precedent for free-to-play titles to come. In an industry slowly warming up to compatibility, Rogue Company has jumped at the opportunity to implement a feature once dismissed as taboo. With any luck, cross-play will become the new standard for online games.

First Watch developers are shooter fans

In a November 2019 Dev Insights video, the First Watch team discussed the effort and history behind Rogue Company's development, which included their personal experiences. In fact, lead game designer Scott "Gandhi" Lussier is said to be a "world champion Halo player." With Halo serving as a definitive title in the broader shooter genre, Lussier is likely familiar with the requirements for tight gunplay and solid mechanics.

"A core shooter is one that focuses on the gunplay experience," First Watch Games creative director Scott Zier explained. "At the end of the day, your skill with shooting the weapons — with knowing the right weapons to use in the right situation — is still the dominant factor in whether you win an encounter or lose." This illustrates the development team's deep understanding of the shooter genre and its ethic in Rogue Company's design. With the sheer variety of weaponry, it's also clear the team is all about creativity and originality in a saturated genre.

Rogue Company's development was influenced by past Hi-Rez Studios titles

Developers typically draw from experience with titles in their back catalogs. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a great example of this, which mines aspects from other Rockstar projects, including Bully and GTA 5. Similarly, Rogue Company pulls from Hi-Rez's previous offerings as well, albeit with less regard to gameplay.

In an interview with TheXboxHub, Zier said the company is "always applying lessons we've learned from our previous games" and explained that these lessons have refined its operations as a whole. Zier also discussed cross-play, explaining that they included the feature from the beginning due to the "staged launch experience we had on our previous games."

Instead of launching betas on different platforms at different times, Hi-Rez learned that it could be more beneficial to run one launch across all platforms to avoid hassle. Hi-Rez's free-to-play and live service niche also likely contributed to Rogue Company, which utilizes both.

The Rogue Company team consulted influencers and everyday players

Live service developers have grown quick to incorporate player feedback, and Hi-Rez and First Watch Games are no exception. In an interview with The Loadout, First Watch Games brand director Bart Koenigsberg spoke about feedback from "content creators and esports pros." According to Koenigsberg, esports players haven't offered that much input. This is largely because First Watch Games isn't designing the game with competitive play in mind, as was the case for Hi-Rez's Paladins.

With Rogue Company, First Watch Games is more focused on "building an awesome multiplayer game," which places a greater focus on the everyday players, who have been consulted regularly. Koenisberg said that players offered a wealth of "good feedback" during the alpha phase. Many of these players had experience with previous Hi-Rez efforts, as well as Lussier's personal network, which includes fans of the shooter genre. Aside from this, "FPS influencers" were consulted on a contractual basis. As such, there appears to be no shortage of feedback for First Watch Games.

Dr Disrespect has even contributed to Rogue Company

Dr Disrespect has also played a role in Rogue Company's development. In August 2020, The Doc pitched a flythrough of a map he designed for the game via a tweet with an attached video clip. The clip is fairly thorough, showing points of cover, as well as both the interior and exterior areas, called "The Arena." The map appears to be based on a rooftop decorated with a garden. All and all, it seems to fit the general tone of Rogue Company.

Rogue Company's official Twitter account was quite receptive to it, tweeting, "No one does it better Doc." Evidently, Hi-Rez accepted the pitch and is now putting it in the game, which hearkens to First Watch Games' implementation of player recommendations and feedback, even if Dr Disrespect takes it a bit further. As an avid player of other free-to-play titles and hugely influential figure in the industry, Dr Disrespect's input here is highly significant. Perhaps future design decisions will be influenced by the streamer as well.

The "Vice" map was influenced by Miami, Florida

One of the more colorful areas in Rogue Company is the "Vice" map, which was deeply influenced by the city of Miami. Senior concept artist Will Burns outlined the map, referring to an "earlier 'Disneyland' concept" to "help the modelers." Further, Burns explained that the map drew from the "architecture of Miami," which sports many tall, light-colored buildings and a pristine coastline.

Before Rogue Company hit the scene, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City took inspiration from Miami, Florida. And before that, Tony Montana experienced his rise and fall in Miami in Scarface. While Rogue Company doesn't explore the city in the same ways as GTA or Scarface, both of which highlight the gritty and disturbing part of Miami's underworld, it is nonetheless incredibly reminiscent of the neon-lit coastal city that remains.