Interviews: Capes Focuses On Strategy & Team-Work In A World Of Villains

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Capes - via Spitfire Interactive

Capes is an upcoming Turn-Based Strategy game with a unique touch of storyline and mechanics. The game heavily relies on the skills and abilities of different heroes that will help players to turn the tide of the battle. Not just that but the choices of heroes and a strategy will heavily influence the outcome of the battle. 

With up to four heroes available to use in the team, players can efficiently devise a strategy and upgrade different skills to navigate through the threats the game has to offer easily. With the game nearing release and so much to talk about, we spoke to the developers, Cade Franklin, and Morgan Jaffit of Spitfire Interactive, to learn more about the design choices and challenges in development.

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Capes – via Spitfire Interactive

Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your work on Capes.

Cade: I’m Cade Franklin. We are a pretty small team at Spitfire, four developers working full time, and each of us has had to wear multiple hats to bring the game together.

What that looks like for my role is a balance between game design; hero actions and enemy behaviors, level design; creating the levels and scenarios, and creating the cinematics. This is all supported by the rest of the team to bring all the game elements together to tell our story’s arcs, which were scripted by Morgan.

Morgan: I’m Morgan Jaffit, and I’ve helped the Spitfire crew bring Capes to life with support on the writing and development side. We’ve got a long history together, and it’s been a real pleasure watching the crew take the lead on Capes and build something really special.

As a part of the creative team behind classics like Freedom Force and Teen Titans, how does it feel to return to the superhero genre with Capes after many years? What were some of the key inspirations behind the game's concept and design?

Morgan: It’s incredibly rewarding to come back to superheroes, given that’s where I started my career. There are so many questions that have arisen over the last 20 years, along with the changes and progressions in the superhero genre. Capes riffs on comic book superhero themes along with a lot of contemporary questions, and it’s been a real joy to dip back in.

Fundamentally, superhero stories are big, bold, archetypical ways to tell human and personal stories. It’s always fun to see how those tensions play out.

Capes - via Spitfire Interactive
Capes – via Spitfire Interactive

In Capes, recruiting heroes with unique powers is a central aspect. Could you elaborate on the process of designing these diverse characters?

Morgan: The key to making the characters for Capes was to combine interesting backgrounds that helped to set up a strong narrative engine in the background along with thematic and strategic mechanics.

Some archetypes like the sneaky teleporter fall out easily, while others went through more of a gradual process of iteration as they came up against the challenges of the game and their character revealed itself.

The game emphasizes learning and exploiting each hero's playstyle. How do you ensure that each hero feels distinct and offers a fresh gameplay experience?

Cade: With Capes, we’ve pushed each of the heroes into their own archetype that emphasizes one of the core combat mechanics of the game and creates their own set of strengths and weaknesses.

Rebound for example is all about movement; she’s able to take advantage of this mobility and teleport around enemies and cause critical damage when she attacks opponents from behind. To balance this she has relatively low hit points making her susceptible to being KO’ed if she’s caught out of position.

On the flip side, we have Facet, our tank, who can soak up a lot of damage and shield his allies in a fight but cannot cause much damage himself. Other heroes lean into being able to disarm armed enemies and nullify superpowered attacks, others like Weathervane can push and pull enemies in the playspace; knocking them into hazardous obstacles or even off ledges.

Each hero also has a unique Ultimate ability that can have a massive impact in a fight. Heroes build an ultimate charge in their own way, adding even more flavor and playstyle to each hero.

For example, Facet builds charge when he is hit in combat, further reinforcing his role as the tank, while Mercurial, the speedster, gains charge each time she lands a hit, emphasizing her ability to take her actions more frequently.

Capes - via Spitfire Interactive
Capes – via Spitfire Interactive

How do you approach the progression system in Capes, particularly in terms of leveling up heroes and unlocking new abilities?

Cade: In Capes, Heroes gain experience for participating in missions and when they level up, it gives them access to new abilities and upgrades. Completing a mission’s optional objectives or completing character-specific challenges awards Skill Points. Skill Points are a global resource that can be spent to unlock these new abilities and upgrades for any hero.

This format allows players to use each of the heroes learn their strengths and weaknesses, and really understand the value of each new ability and upgrade as they become available.

The game features hero-specific challenges and optional missions to delve deeper into each character's backstory. How do these elements enhance the overall player experience and immersion in the game world?

Cade: Capes’ core campaign explores the story of a team of young superheroes and their efforts to fight back against the Company; an organization that controls the city and is run by the game’s villains. Patrol missions (side missions) offer an opportunity to explore the world of Capes in more depth and touch on some of the cast’s personal stories and their relationships with other characters in the world.

Each hero’s story is explored a little further by completing certain character-specific challenges, which unlocks more personal and intimate one-on-one conversations with other members of the team or Doctrine, the team’s mentor.

Morgan: There’s a big story we wanted to tell with Capes and it’s been fun to explore the world where the villains have won. The repercussions of that, and the question of how you fight back when forces of evil hold the reins of power was the central theme we wanted to explore.

Superhero stories are interesting because of the heroes and their lives, though, so the game continually pushes and pulls between the big picture and the human struggles that the team is going through, both dramatically and mechanically.

Boss Fights
Capes – via Spitfire Interactive

Capes marks the debut of Spitfire Interactive, yet the team comprises industry veterans, many from Defiant Development. How did this collective experience influence the development process and shape the final product?

Cade: When Defiant closed, some of the key team members were really keen to keep working together. There’s a special camaraderie that comes when you’ve shipped multiple games together that makes everything easier, and when James Scott, a programmer, started working on Capes it didn’t take long for the rest of us to jump on board.

Voice acting plays a crucial role in bringing characters to life in Capes. Can you share more about the process of ensuring cultural authenticity by casting voice actors who share the same background as the characters they portray? Were there any particular challenges or rewarding experiences during this process?

Morgan: Capes is a game about a young, diverse set of heroes pushing back against an old guard of villains and heroes. So we needed a young, diverse cast to support it alongside the veteran voice actors we found to work with. We dealt with the world-class crew at OMUK who helped us find our performers, which was a really fulfilling process. There’s nothing quite like the joy of hearing your characters come to life for the first time! 

For me, it’s a real highlight hearing the veterans and actors who are fresh to video games bouncing off each other. Some amazing exchanges really capture what the game is all about.  

Cade: I’d second that. When you work on a project for a long time, you start to really get to know the characters in your game. To hear life breathed into them through an actor’s performance is something really special.

Capes - via Spitfire Interactive
Capes – via Spitfire Interactive

Drawing inspiration from classics like Watchmen and Days of Future Past, how does Capes aim to innovate within the turn-based strategy genre while honoring its roots?

Morgan: Capes is a game all about teamwork and all about strategy. We wanted a game where the heroes felt both powerful but also challenged.  They’re effectively fighting a guerilla war against the established supervillains, so they have to be smart as well as tough.

How long has Capes been in development?

Cade: About four years ago James produced the first Capes prototype. It’s been a long journey!

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about Capes, whether it's about the development process, unique features, or plans for the game?

Cade: Capes at its core is about a group of young superheroes coming together and discovering what it means to work as a team to overcome adversity. This is reflected not just in the story but in the game mechanics themselves.

Each hero is unique, plays in their own way, and has their own strengths and weaknesses, but it’s through the Team Up mechanic which allows heroes to combine their powers that each team composition feels special.

Facet can lend his crystal powers to his allies allowing them to deal extra damage, Rebound can teleport her teammates around the battlefield allowing them to outposition the enemy, Weathervane provides even more knockback to his friends’ abilities, Kinetic can provide additional ultimate charge, and so on. 

Capes does not rely on RNG or taking cover, instead, it puts the focus on close combat and tactical use of Team-Ups to outplay the enemy. Uncovering and exploiting these Team Ups is at the core of Capes’ tactical gameplay and is something we’re really proud of.

As for future plans, we have lots of ideas on how we could expand on Capes, but for now, our focus is to deliver an awesome experience when Capes launches on May 29th.

Capes is a Turn-Based tactics video game, under development by Spitfire Interactive. The game is scheduled for release on May 29th, 2024 for PC, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. 

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