Warner Bros.’ take on the platform fighter — a Super Smash Bros.-like game starring Batman, Bugs Bunny, Arya Stark, et al. — has a long list of potential fighters to choose from. But Shaggy, specifically the heavily memed “Ultra Instinct” version of the Scooby-Doo slacker, was an obvious and early choice for MultiVersus, its creators say.
Chris White, chief technical officer and co-founder at developer Player First Games, told Polygon that Shaggy’s inclusion in MultiVersus, specifically his Dragon Ball-inspired form, was always part of the plan.
“That was one of the very first decisions that we made, even when the game was in very early concept phase,” White said. “In very early discussions of what characters we’d want to bring to the table, we were looking at a Change.org petition that had just a crazy number of signatures on it. It was very community driven — to see Shaggy in a fighting game.”
White noted the origins of Ultra Instinct Shaggy, which derived from the 2011 animated movie Scooby-Doo! Legend of the Phantosaur, in which Shaggy single-handedly beats up a biker gang, and when Dragon Ball’s Goku first reached Ultra Instinct form in the Dragon Ball Super anime. More than 380,000 Change.org petitioners later lobbied Warner Bros. and Mortal Kombat developer NetherRealm Studios to put Ultra Instinct Shaggy in Mortal Kombat 11. While that didn’t come to pass, Shaggy did make a memorable cameo in an animated MK movie, Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms.
“From our minds, there was almost no convincing at all needed to happen,” White said. “We just kind of said, like, ‘We think we should do this. The community would love it.’ And there was no pushback [from Warner Bros.] at all on that. Everybody was very quickly excited and on board. […] This is something that the community wants, and we’re not here to say that we’re above that. We want to embrace that.”
Of course, Shaggy is just one of 16 characters confirmed for MultiVersus’ roster so far. Others include Garnet and Steven from Steven Universe, Finn and Jake from Adventure Time, DC superheroes Superman and Wonder Woman, and even an original character, Reindog. White said there are many factors to consider when evaluating new fighters.
“We start looking at a couple of different angles,” he said. “What does the game need in its next character? Is there a particular thematic [element] that’s missing that we need to balance things out? Is there a particular character mechanic [that’s missing]? Do we need more assassins? Do we need more bruisers? […] So we’re looking at how does this fit into our overall ecosystem, and make sure we’re choosing characters that complement the game the best.”
Naturally, audience demand for a particular character is also a major consideration, White said.
“We look at the appeal of the IP and the history behind it, and what are fans looking forward to come to MultiVersus, to make sure that we have a wide representation of critically acclaimed and beloved IPs that we can bring in,” White explained. “There are just so many to choose from, and unfortunately, we sometimes have to say no to something to get something else in. We intend to grow this game over time, so more and more characters can come in. But we definitely look at what’s the community looking for. We want the community to be bought into this as well, so we’re constantly looking at what’s kind of trending on social media, and what [IP] is having new investment […] that we can potentially leverage crossovers with. All of these factors kind of come in to [determine] who’s coming to MultiVersus next.”
Exactly how new characters will roll out in MultiVersus isn’t clear yet, as White did not discuss Warner Bros. Games’ plans for monetizing the free-to-play game.
MultiVersus will get an open beta test in July. That will be preceded by a closed alpha test for MultiVersus, which runs May 19-27. Interested players can register for a spot in the closed alpha at MultiVersus’ official website.
MultiVersus was announced in November 2021. The fighting game features a team-based 2v2 format, as well as 1v1 and four-player free-for-all modes. MultiVersus is coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X with full cross-play support, as well as “dedicated server-based rollback netcode and content-filled seasons.”