When monster-catching RPG Temtem debuted in January 2020, Spanish studio CremaGames had a pretty simple plan: launch the game in Early Access, use that to support ongoing development, and release version 1.0 in a few years. But as is often the case with these kinds of plans, what may be simple in theory is rarely so in execution. We recently had a conversation with Temtem Game Director Guillermo Andrades on the difficulty of balancing Early Access, the repercussions on the game’s recently added Battle Pass, and why Crema believes the game deserves to be seen as so much more than a pokemon clone.
“There wasn’t really anything to do in the game when you completed the campaign [early on],” say Temtem director Guillermo Andrades. “We ended up including some recurring activity as we saw our users spend hundreds of hours playing the barebone content.”
Temtem is an MMO that takes the traditional pokemon formula and tries to master it. There are creatures to capture, tamers to defeat and bad guys to beat – but there are also plenty of new ideas that make it a worthy contender for Game Freak’s much-loved RPG series.
Andrades Is Sure Early Access Was “The Right Way” To Roll Out Temtem, but if he did it over, he would definitely make some changes. “Instead of putting the game in Early Access with less than 50% of the content,” the developer told Kotaku, “we would have waited until there was a lot more.” He would also like at least some of the endgame material to be intact from the get-go so that the most dedicated Tamers don’t have to spend most of their time waiting for future story patches. As a longtime player, I can personally attest to the pain of your in-game detective friend Carlos saying, “Let’s go get Clan Belsoto!” before seeing something along the lines of “… in a few months, because the people in the studio haven’t really developed that yet.”
That said, Crema has learned many valuable lessons from the setting of Temtem through Early Access. The developers never expected people to stick around after reaching the end of each patch, so seeing tamers go on shiny hunting (called Luma hunting in Temtem) or grinding competitive Tems before there was even a competitive circuit came as a shock. As Crema continued to work on the game, players started saying what they wanted to see in future updates. When you compete with massive RPG series like pokemonlistening to what lapsed fans want from new experiments is a surefire way to excite them, especially when your competitor is as famous for change as Game Freak.
Perhaps this is why Andrades cites the start of a dedicated customer service as one of the most vital actions Crema took during the development of Temtem. “Before Early Access,” says Andrades, “we didn’t even think about needing a dedicated person for that, and after release it was something that immediately demanded our full attention.” While this may not sound like the most exciting aspect of game development, if not bureaucratic, it proved crucial to the game’s ability to define its own identity. without it, Temtem could have easily landed a plot in the ever-expanding graveyard of nose-to-nose monster tamers.
When Temtem originally came out, people quickly labeled it as another one pokemon clone. This made sense – if it walks, talks and in the case of some creatures screeches as the highest-grossing entertainment franchise of all time, then it probably owes at least part of its existence to it. interesting, Temtem’s success can be largely attributed to the way it deviates from the pokemon formula. While Andrades claims it is not superior or inferior to pokemon (in his view it’s more accurate to call it ‘different’), some of its most impressive features are direct answers to similar problems in other catch-’em-ups. More specifically, he talks about seeing a competitive player miss two 90% accurate attacks in a row during an official pokemon VGC tournament.
“It felt really awful,” Andrades says. “After that I started rethinking all combat systems to remove every bit of arbitrariness and simplify everything to make the possible [battle] formats. So we could only focus on 2v2, which has the most depth for us.” This is also the official format for pokemon VGC tournaments, although those games have a wider reach and the circuit changes with each new generation
“The decision worked perfectly,” Andrades continues. “I think fights are one of the things that we really nailed in Temtemand the system has enabled the community to create a small competitive scene that we are very proud of and that we would like to expand with the introduction of ‘Temtem Showdown’ in a future patch.”
At the time of writing, Crema is in the process of developing several patches, the most prominent of which is tied to that Showdown feature. This is intended to revamp the current matchmaking system and make competitive play in general more accessible. According to Andrades, all players can participate in the official rankings without having to spend hours personally honing the perfect squad. When you consider the success of the fan-run battle simulator Pokémon Showdown, which lets people build powerful teams in minutes, it’s no secret where Temtem’s new feature gets its name.
Aside from that, Crema says that Temtem will continue to expand beyond 1.0 in future seasons. This will be the introduction of the third Mythical Tem – rare, powerful monsters that are remarkably similar to Legendary Pokémon, and another new area. However, they will be cautious about any changes as the reception of another recently implemented feature is polarizing to say the least.
After the launch of version 1.0, Crema has added a Battle Pass to Temtem, which promptly caused longtime players to advocate for review bombing of the game. The main issue they cited was that Temtem isn’t free to play, and the pre-purchase price doesn’t suggest that the game also includes a premium currency locked behind this newly implemented payment structure.
“As a player, I’ve always loved Battle Passes – the fact that a game has a Battle Pass is a temptation for me to play it,” says Andrades. “Speaking as a developer, Temtem has some ongoing costs as MMO, but it only has a prepayment. There are no subscription fees, so we needed an additional revenue stream to support that.”
Despite the fact that many players are not happy, Crema sticks to this. “Including a cosmetic Battle Pass that is completely optional but could help some players get more out of the game has always been in our plans,” Andrades explained to me. “We know there are major concerns about these types of systems, so we’ve tried to make it friendly by pricing it cheaply, returning enough premium currency, and just providing customization options.”
Of course, this doesn’t immediately allay players’ main concerns, and many will still be frustrated that the developers don’t shy away from paying extra in a full-price game.
Anything that affects a game’s internal economy is also a huge effort for developers. Andrades quotes designing and balancing Temtem’s player economy as the most precarious challenge the developers faced while building the game, saying it’s still just as hard to maintain today. This is directly related to the Battle Pass because, according to Andrades, Temtem’s economic structure is designed in such a way that casual players can dive in and out of the game, while more hardcore Tamers can actively participate in the financial framework. He says balance changes have been made to adjust the functionality of the economy in each individual patch – after all, the game was conceived as an MMO from day one, so this is a fundamental building block at the base.
The rest of the building blocks are a little more surprising, especially given the perhaps unfair consensus that Temtem unashamedly lifts most of its structure directly from pokemon. In fact, the inspirations are much more varied. Andrades says the aesthetic is directly inspired by the third-person strategic warrior giganticwhile the game’s competitive circuit was affected by Rocket League. Hell, pokemon isn’t even the only Nintendo game Crema was looking for ideas: Zelda also played a part in informing the Airborne Archipelago setting of the game. Andrades even quoted Lot 2 like a game they went looking for ideas. There’s a lot more going on under the hood than meets the eye.
Still, pokemon is the game’s most obvious and observable point of comparison. However, what sets the two apart more than anything else is that: Temtem is a distinctly less forgiving experience than pokemon. In fact, it looks like it shares DNA with popular, notoriously difficult ROM hacks for the Game Freak games, though Andrades has never played one himself. He thinks that any common ground that exists here is due to the fact that both attempts are an attempt to create something other than pokemona series that has remained more or less constant for the past two and a half decades.
“ROM hacks are a way to add or edit those things, just like developing a brand new game in the genre,” he says. “While Temtem differs a lot from pokemonthis is most apparent when you spend a lot of time with the game.”
Andrades especially wants people to play his game before dismissing it as a clone. “If you only judge it by looks or what you can see without playing, you’re going to think it’s a pokemon to take off. But we’ve always been open about that Temtem is designed to attract pokemon fans and offer something else that they might like.”