Why Did Hi-Rez Forget About Realm Royale?
Realm Royale was (and still is) a free-to-play battle royale, full of fantasy elements, colourful vibes, and most importantly – chickens.
Published by Hi-Rez Studios (Paladins, Smite, Rogue Company), and developed by Heroic Leap Games, the 2017 title was met with pretty favourable reviews, and welcomed into the BR genre with open arms, playable on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
Choosing from four classes of hero (Warrior, Assassin, Hunter, or Mage), you, the player, choose from a myriad of weapons including standard fare such as rifles and shotguns, to throwing axes and crossbows, to staffs. Each class was better suited to a particular type of weapon, for example, a Mage class may have better luck with an Ice Staff than the Hunter, who might prefer the Longbow.
Along with this veritable feast of weaponry, you can also equip abilities to help out in the fight, and includes everything from temporary invisibility to placeable turrets, to healing abilities. Again, each Class will use each ability differently.
All weapons and abilities are subject to a rarity system, the generic ‘common, rare, epic, legendary’ system.
Along with all of these choices to personalise your gameplay, when you drop into the map you are greeted with several different biomes, from deserts (Badlands) to lush forests, to cities.
Solo, duos, and squads modes are all available too, so you can duke it out with your magic mano-a-mano, or pick a friend to join the fight.
Why did the chicken cross the road? Because he was knocked in Realm Royale!
Getting downed results in a transformation to a chicken, where your only options are to flee, peck your enemy, or be eliminated. It’s definitely an…. interesting choice for knocked players, and adds a new aspect to Realm Royale, affectionately termed “KFC Royale” or “Chicken Royale” by some in the community.
Realm Royale has entered another realm (cough) lately, however – the void of unupdated, unpatched, and unattended games. Realm has been lying dormant for some time, with no fixes being made for some of its game-breaking glitches, and no Battle Passes either. What was once a fun fantasy game, has pricked its finger on a spindle, and is now in a deep slumber.
So, what happened? Why did the game that was nominated for “Fan Favourite Battle Royale” by The Gamers’ Choice Awards in 2018 suddenly fall so flat?
Bok To Black
When having a peek at the patch notes on the official website, we can see there has been no real update since “OB23: DEVILED EGGS” about a year ago. The official Twitter account for Realm Royale hasn’t tweeted since October 2020 either, casting a further shadow over the chance of an update.
The Realm fans have noticed this lack of care for the fantasy BR, and have even resorted to tagging the Hi-Rez staff for answers.
Twitch streamer and very tall man Gentle Giant streams Realm Royale, and his Twitter is inundated with his thoughts about Realm, including this plea for life support.
The Steam forums have also posed the question about the game’s future, with one user asking if the community thought “they will keep the servers on for longer than 2020?”
The commenters appear to stick to one common theme – it’s dead. Or at the very least, dying. With no attention seemingly being paid to Realm, in favour of another game.
“Hi-Rez already works on a new game, so I think they may just dump Realm Royale.”
A Roguish Company
Rogue Company is a free-to-play third-person shooter, published, again, by Hi-Rez Studios. Announced in September 2019, with the closed beta beginning in July 2020, and the full release just a few months later in October 2020, Rogue was well-received by players on all platforms.
Rogue and Realm share very few similarities. Rogue Company isn’t a battle royale, and includes 4v4 and 2v2 game modes. Rogue also implements an economy system, similar to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), wherein between rounds, guns can be bought using in-game currency based on earnings from the previous round’s eliminations and completed tasks.
Rogues, the playable characters, all boast different skill sets, but none are magical or fantastical, such as in Realm Royale.
Just a month after the full release, Hi-Rez announced Rogue Company had reached 15 million players. Hi-Rez could be forgiven for focusing on a game that was getting players, rather than Realm, which was receiving paltry stats in comparison to other battle royales.
Data from Steam Charts (February 8, 2020), tells a woeful story for Realm, when compared to one of the biggest BR games on the market – Apex Legends.
There is some correlation (however vague) between the beginning of development (and perhaps the announcement) for Rogue Company, and when Realm Royale seemingly stopped being cared about. This is, of course, all speculation, but it does make some sort of sense.
Streamer and former-WoW content creator Dorne (also known as "dornewow") was active on a few Realm Royale forums and had interactions with the community and often chatted with Heroic Leap staff, is an avid fan of Realm, and has his own theories about the demise of the game, and what may have happened.
Dorne knows both current and past employees who worked on Realm Royale, who, in his words “I believe worked on level design, the world design, as well as spells and abilities.”
As to why Realm has “died”, it comes down to a few reasons. One being the root of all evil – money, and another being an unwillingness to help the project grow.
As Dorne explains, “based off of what I believe was Hi-Rez’s CEO (Stewart Chisam) said in that letter, it wasn’t profitable even when it was at its best, but I think the game was a victim of not being ready for itself – I’m not quite sure why Hi-Rez decided that it wasn’t a project they wanted to expand on, when they already had such a loyal player base that was willing to help it grow, and a lot of players who had simply gone away and tried other things because it wasn’t satisfying their wants or needs. I feel like the players were completely transparent about that, so I’m really not quite sure."
There really was no reason outside of that, that’s all that really echoed, so I can only take that as the truth. I don’t think there’s any hidden motive behind having it go down, however, it still remains a mystery to me, at least, why the game isn’t further pursued.“
The game is still live, the servers are up, and according to all sources, a skeleton staff keep it going. As Dorne perhaps wishfully thinks, “if the servers are still up, there’s some sort of potential because there has to be some sort of return”, and says “it’s definitely no secret there are still people on the team.”
According to the official Realm Royale discord, you can see who the staff are, and who’s on Heroic Leap, and Dorne believes “that that has some sort of reflection. I’m sure it has some sort of loose connection as to who’s on the team, or at the very least who’s monitoring feedback. The team is definitely small.”
So, were developers moved from Realm to Rogue? Dorne thinks so, stating “I think it’s fair to assume that some employees or some developers were moved from that project (Realm Royale) to another. If something isn’t working out, a lot of those people are victims of somebody else putting them in someplace else, because a lot of them really wanted to stay on that project (Realm Royale). To correlate Rogue Company’s development or announcement with Realm’s demise – I think, yeah. I think you could say that. I think the decision was already made to recall resources from Realm and allocate them to new projects who deserve that same effort. This isn’t anything any sort of connection has ever said to me, even the people that I know at Hi-Rez, they are black-boxed, information comes in, nothing comes out. “
Speaking on how the developers themselves may have felt, Dorne says there was no lack of love for the game, it was merely “out of those guys and gals’ hands” where they were moved.
Pros And Con(vention)s
Hi-Rez Studios‘ annual celebration last took place in November 2019 – the Hi-Rez Expo, which Dorne attended, and noted how, while it included solid announcements, and the presence of Rogue Company as the showcase, Realm felt deserted.
“What everybody saw was what we saw on the big screen – there’d be weekend events, and servers were going to be maintained. That was literally it. A guy walking around in a chicken suit.
"It really did feel heart-breaking, especially for those of us that were there specifically for Realm Royale. But we also knew that this was coming, as the content creators for Realm Royale all kind of realised ‘yep, I’m not quite sure this is going to happen, but we’re going to go, and we’re going to have a fun time no matter what.’”
Forgotten By Some, But Remembered By Many
Realm Royale still has a loyal fan base – the support and the love still exists, and the hope that it will one day be revived is strong.
Dorne believes a key moment for the resurrection was missed – quarantine due to the pandemic.
“Let’s pretend they were like “alright, big things coming to Realm Royale, SoonTM”, and that’s all they said - the amount of hype that would have happened. The pandemic hits, and what is everybody doing? They’re at home, wanting to play Realm Royale. If they had just hung on… It had all the support and all the love it needed, it had everything, it just needed the resources, it needed the signature at the bottom of the cheque, that’s all it needed – it didn’t happen, it sucked.”
Obviously, no one has a crystal ball, but it just goes to show how unpredictable opportunities are, and that's what Realm was from beginning to end.”
Speculation about what “killed” Realm Royale or what is the most likely story aside, Realm was a shining star in an otherwise cloudy sky. The loss of momentum could be the final nail in the coffin of what Dorne describes as “arguably one of the best battle royales to ever exist”.
Hope prevails, and maybe one day, it will return to its former glory, and we can all meet again in the Realm.
Images via Hi-Rez Studios | Steam Charts | Twitter