DEV DIARY: A CONTEST EVOLVED

BUILDING THE BEST CONTEST

KABAM THAT JIM – LEAD GAME DESIGNER

Greetings Summoners!

Lead Game Designer and tea drinking Brit, Kabam ThatJim, here with the final entry in our 4 part series on the State of The Contest. 

So far you’ve had the chance to learn more about the exciting future of quests, the bold changes coming to Alliances, and our new ethos for Champion balancing. Now it’s time for a look into the far future. A tease of what could be. An insight into what we have planned for The Contest in the months and years to come.

You’ve already seen it in our vision for the future of Alliances with big new features, a fundamental shift in how we want the modes to be played, and our ambition to do more. We want to begin a new phase of MCOC, amplifying what you already love about The Contest and bringing a whole host of new reasons to love it more. Unless specifically called out, future means future so most of this gold is a long way off, but that means we get your feedback and direction along this journey together.

Let’s start that journey with some smaller, short term things before the mic drops. The stuff that just makes life in The Contest better, easier and more enjoyable. Now, here’s a little more coal to the Hype Train’s engine…

QUALITY OF LIFE

QoL or Quality of Life features are usually small things that make your experience in a game more enjoyable or fix pain points that aren’t fundamental to gameplay or a specific mode. Here are a few we’re developing to make your lives that little bit easier.

  • Sell From Stash – Oh yes. Tired of moving expiring items from the stash to your inventory just to sell them? Well we’ve got you covered! Selling directly from your stash is coming to The Contest in September.
  • Champion Tag Filtering – Don’t know all The Avengers? Well git gud, but if you can’t we’re bringing Champion Tag Filtering to The Contest, giving you the ability to filter your roster by specific Tags getting to the Champion you need with ease. Also launching in September.
  • Duel Targets – Those Summoners with particularly strong Spidey-sense have already spotted new accounts appearing in the game who mysteriously have the proper name of Champions from The Contest. These are official Duel Targets! Search for any Champion and quickly fight them to train, complete a contract, or just wail on a different Winter Soldier. Use the account search function to find the Champion you need and start a fight. Try it now!
  • Duel Target ‘Fight Again’ – We’re adding a ‘Fight Again’ option to Duels meaning you can quickly fight the same Champion over and over. This is coming in the near future.

NEW GAMEPLAY

We’re constantly exploring new gameplay ideas for The Contest. It is with new mechanics, ways to play, and modes of interaction that new Champions are born or even brand new game modes. Here’s a few that we’re currently exploring or actively in development.

MECHANICAL PROTOTYPES

We have two fresh mechanics in prototype form that we’re evaluating for full development and release to you. Both will first come in the form of Event Quest or special event before becoming the kit of a new Champion in the future.

  • “Root” – Imagine locking a Champion to a spot, but still allowing them to attack, block, parry, and dex – well this is the concept behind “Root”. “Rooting” a Champion makes melee Champions’ Special Attacks incredibly dangerous, makes Dexterity a powerful tool in standard gameplay, and offers up some unique attacking options. We’re excited by the potential of this quirky mechanic.
  • “Volume Trigger” – Or as we prefer to call them, Area of Effect Triggers, are what they sound like, large triggers, attacks, or defensive tools that affect a large area of the battlefield. Imagine traps being laid, healing pads, spiked walls, or any number of unique ways to interact with the battlefield. The potential here is massive and we’re exploring everything the mechanic can do.

On top of these two we’re exploring a couple of bolder gameplay options, one of which you can check out in all its madness below. We hope to bring Root and Volume Triggers to The Contest as soon as 2020!

FIGHT REPLAYS

We’ve been working on the ability to reconstruct entire fights. This opens up a pandora’s box of potential from in-game replays, plays of the week, or just sharing your proudest moments with friends.

On top of the social elements “Fight Replays” can bring to the contest we’re also looking at what we can do with this massive influx of near-real time data, boosting the potential of our Raid Boss design exploration and adding more capabilities to our new mode concepts.

Fight Replays are still in internal development and while at a later stage we’re still exploring the best way to deliver them to The Contest, so don’t expect anything more on them this year. Although, I’m not gonna lie, we want to do something with them ASAP! Now for something REALLY crazy…

STRIKERS

KABAM NUMBERS – SENIOR ECONOMY DESIGNER

As the Beatles said, “I get by with a little help from my friends”, and for the first time in The Contest, you can too!

Strikers is a prototype of a Tag Team feature that allows players to bring a second Champion into the fight!. It is in early development, which means prototyping and the exploration of its potential. The possibilities for Strikers are vast, and we’re still exploring where we’ll take them!

Here are some of the ideas that we’re exploring, and could be coming your way:

You could possibly equip a Striker Artifact on your Champion to gain the ability to tag in your teammate, or maybe borrow one of their Special Attacks. Maybe they could jump in to land a few basic hits to help you extend your Combo or intercept a tricky Heavy Attack. It could also be a combination of these things, or maybe none of them at all! 

This is still very much “under construction”, and so there are still Technical as well as Design problems to be solved (we see you everyone who doesn’t have an iPhone 11 Pro!)

Strikers could be formidable allies, but what if they could also be used to create more challenging adversaries?. Imagine being tasked with taking on the Fantastic 4, all at the same time! This is another idea that we have thrown around.

What we do know for sure is that we intend for there to be a system to control how and when you can use Strikers. For example, they may only be available for certain Champions (like Synergies or based on rarity), or could be unlocked by equipping a certain artifact, or a new progression system. The possibilities are endless!

Don’t expect Strikers anytime soon. We’ve completed 2 full prototypes, and are now exploring the surrounding systems; i.e. the how and the what of Strikers. We’re going to take our time to ensure it reaches its full potential and lands with all the impact of Havok’s Special 3.

INCURSIONS

KABAM TIPPED – SYSTEMS DESIGNER

Hello, fellow Ultron haters,

Kabam Tipped here, to take you through some of the changes we’re looking to make to Incursions in the next while. This should give you all a rough idea of what types of stuff we can release quickly, and what will take more time to flesh out before putting in front of you wonderful robot mass murderers.

The Timelines we have noted are subject to change, though we will strive to hit them.

IN THE NEXT 90 DAYS

In the short term, we’re only exploring a couple of small changes, before diving into bolder iteration in the next 6 months and beyond.

  • Remove the link from the first fight – In order to make swapping an easier choice to handle upcoming enemies or utilize new hacks, we’ll be removing the link node and link removal option from the first Choice node, removing the ‘downside’ of swapping.
  • Incursions Store Update – We’re increasing the purchase limit for 5-Star Incursions Crystals, and adding 6-Star shards as a purchase option in the Incursions store!

IN THE NEXT 6 MONTHS

New Hacks, Hack Tiers & Rebalancing

  • New Hacks – Everyone loves Hacks, they allow you to do some pretty wacky stuff. The problem is our current set of hacks is very focused on adding power to stats we already associate with Powerful offensive Champions (Bleed, Fury, Crit, Prowess).  For our next set of Hacks, we want to give players the option to flip the script a bit. Here are some ideas:
    • Resisted damage is reflected onto the opponent as direct damage
    • Armor rating translates to an Attack Boost
    • While a Champion has an active Armor Up effect, the Opponent is Armor broken, taunted and vulnerable
    • While the Champion has more than 5 active Armor Up effects, their Attacks are Unblockable
    • If the Champion has no active Buffs, gain a Power Gain buff granting 1 Bar of Power over [x] seconds
    • If one of your Buffs would be nullified, inflict a stun lasting [x] seconds on the opponent instead.
  • Hack Tiers – In an effort to give players more choice in how they approach their Incursions run, we want to amp up the Risk/Reward options in the mode, with Tiered Hacks being our first step in that direction.
    • Tier 3: Baseline, Hacks as you know them now.
    • Tier 2: More powerful, but with less options when choosing 
    • Tier 1: Most powerful, but with the least options when choosing
  • Hacks Rebalance – Our existing Hacks are pretty cool, but we’ve definitely got some outliers that are much stronger or just more generically useful than others –  No, we won’t be rolling out the nerf bat. We want to bring some of the more niche hacks into the stratosphere, so that players can more easily make the decision to swap to Champions that can benefit from them.

WITHIN 12 MONTHS

Features & Quality of Life

  • Firewalls – Firewalls are a checkpointing system for friends who play together regularly. In increments of 5 Zones, players will be able to disable a Firewall. In doing so, partners will be able to start their next runs in that event at the Zone number of the associated Firewall.
    • Players starting their new runs in Firewall zones will be allowed to choose a light-loadout of hacks.
    • We’re looking into tying in Friendship Levels into the availability of this feature.
      • E.g. A Friendship Level of 5 or above is required to start at Firewall 1.
    • Firewall progress will reset after every 30 day event.
    • This feature will not be available in Matchmaking
  • Themed boss fights every 5 Zones – Players aren’t smashing Ultron enough, we’re going to add more Ultron (to smash).
  • Matchmaking Zone targets – In an effort to help players find suitable partners we want to add a ‘Zone Target’ feature to matchmaking, where users can matchmake based on which zone they are trying to reach in each difficulty. Users will need to have achieved the zone number below their target in order to matchmake into it.
  • Champion refresh timer expiry – Any active Champion cooldowns in Incursions will automatically refresh at the end of each 5 day event.
  • No zone, No Cooldown – In an effort to mitigate issues around players quitting at the very start of a run, Champions are not put on cooldown if a run is concluded without completing a Zone. 

(MAYBE) WITHIN 12 MONTHS

More Features!

The feature designs below are still very early-days, so we won’t be able to commit to any specific examples that are listed.

  • Friendship Benefits – Friendship Levels have been a bit of an orphaned child, so we’re looking into some options for how we can create new questboard mechanics that leverage Friendship Levels and add more incentives to playing Incursions with your friends. Here are some ideas:
    • Squad synergies (Synergies apply across all 6 Champions on the incursions team)
    • Squad Heal/Revive (effects scale with Friendship Level)
    • Enemy Buff/Champion reroll (number of uses per run scales with friendship level)
  • Event Abilities – The basic idea around Event Abilities is to give players Incursions-specific progression within each 30 day event. As you play over the course of 30 days you will unlock powerful abilities that persist for the entire event duration, and at the end of the event, they are gone.
    • We want players to feel like their ceiling in terms of which top room they can achieve rises over the course of the event.
    • This allows us to create a meta that is internal to each individual event, where depending on the abilities that are available during the event, some Champions will be MUCH better picks.
    • Available abilities will probably be a random selection each month, so the effects could range from insane to super-insane.

IT’S COMPLICATED

Leaderboards

Some players really want leaderboards for Incursions, which is awesome – because so do we.  

The nature of Incursions is highly unbalanced however, and that complicates things.  Rather than tacking on a leaderboard to what Incursions is currently, we want to make sure that we have the proper infrastructure to truly support a competitive Incursions experience.

As of right now this is not something we can commit to doing, but we thought it was worth mentioning because it’s been on our minds (and yours).

ARENA IMPROVEMENTS

Arenas: some people love it, some people don’t have the time, some people have the time but think it’s too vanilla when they really crave neapolitan.  

Arenas is a ‘grind mode’, and as a result time will always be a significant part of the mode’s identity, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t improvements to be made!

Our shorter term goals are to make improvements to some of the unnecessary stresses and menu interactions. In the longer term, we’re looking into new ways for players to interact with the Arenas reward stream.

The timelines we have noted are subject to change, though we will strive to hit them.

IN THE NEXT 90 DAYS

  • Consistent AI – AI Difficulty in Arenas is all over the place. We’ll be looking to make sure that the AI in Arenas is enjoyable to fight, and more closely resemble the AI that players are used to facing around that Star rating. Most importantly, they are going to throw those specials.
  • Improved Featured Arena Rank Rewards -A couple of changes are coming to Featured Arenas Rank rewards:
    • We’re expanding the top rank bracket in featured 5-Star Arenas from 150 to 300, doubling the per-event featured Champion rewards. 
    • We’re going to be increasing the rewards for ‘near misses’
  • 3-Star Featured Champions – New Champions come out and people want to try them out, so we’ll be offering 3-Star versions of our Featured Champions in the Arena Milestones of 3-Star Arenas and above. 

WITHIN 12 MONTHS

  • Auto Request Help – Help, help, help… help! Help. Enough with the helping – we’re adding a toggle to automatically request help anytime Champions are used in Arenas.
  • Improved Boosts UI – Applying Arena Boosts to your Champions is a hassle. We’re going make some Quality of Life changes to streamline this experience.  Exact details are in the works, but whatever solution we go with, we want players to retain control.
  • Cached Filtering – We want to make it possible to cache your filters between Arena matches, cached filters will only reset when you close the game.
  • Auto-Select Champions Button – To go along with cached filtering, we’re going to add an easy access button to just select the next 3 Champions in your filtered list for your next matchup.
  • Mitigate Massive PI Differentials – Massive PI differences (A.K.A. Deathmatches) are not fun, everybody struggles with these, but our low & mid tier players struggle disproportionately with keeping their streaks going because of these encounters. It’s a problem, we’re going to fix it.

(MAYBE) WITHIN 12 MONTHS

New Arena Alternative

We’re not planning to replace Arenas, let’s get that out of the way.  We’re looking into creating an alternative method to score toward Arena Milestones and Rankings.

We don’t have a ton to talk about right now, but our current thinking is to create a new solo mode that will leverage some of our Incursions tech.  The goal will be to have the mode follow many of the same restrictions that exist in Arenas and to be a slightly faster method to score points to compensate for the added level of complexity players will need to contend with.

SOCIAL PROGRESSION

KABAM KARMA – SENIOR SYSTEMS DESIGNER

Hey all, Karma here. Have you ever wanted to compare yourself against your in-game friends? Do you wish you could show off the amazing things you’ve done without having to send out screenshots? How about showing off your amazing roster and all of the amazing feats you’ve done in the game?

We’re working on new Social systems that will enable you to connect with other players and acknowledge each other’s achievements! These systems will enable players to celebrate with their friends and flex on their rivals within the game!

For the first iteration of this system, we will be introducing a Reputation Level system which focuses on Social and Vanity rewards. This new leveling system will celebrate players’ skills, time investment, collection and prowess in all of the different game modes in the contest!

We will have more information for you down the road, but we’re looking to implement Social Progression in The Contest within the next 12 months!

NEW MODES

KABAM THAT JIM – LEAD GAME DESIGNER

Jim back again to round up things for the final time in this series of posts and the penultimate topic is game modes. 

We’re always looking for new ways to experience The Contest and while we already have a lot of ways to play from Alliances to Arena, we still feel there are gaps to be filled. This section was earmarked for two big mode explorations, one of which you’ve already heard about.

Raid Boss started as its own mode concept, but we have quickly evolved it into the next step in the future of Alliance Quest and we hope the tease from the Alliance post got you excited for more in the future. Bringing large scale collaboration and epic boss fights to an all new standard is something that we’re incredibly excited for.

So it remains to explore the other concept… something less cooperative… something of a more solo nature.

Solo Competitive Mode

Yup. We’ve heard the feedback, we’ve heard the ideas, and we can see the gap. The Contest is devoid of a Solo Competitive path, a way to prove your ultimate skill or a test of cunning strategy against your fellow Summoner. We want to create that path.

In the very early stages of conception, Solo Competitive Mode aims to strike at the heart of a few different goals:

  • Prove Your Skill – True measurement of your skill and application of strategy against other summoners across The Contest
  • A New Meta – A fresh, evolving meta experience outside of Alliance gameplay that leverages more of the roster
  • Real Progression – Rankings, leaderboards, and direct competition showing off your skill
  • Less Kabam, More Summoner – 99% of content is created by Kabam, meaning, even in Alliance gameplay you still face-off against Kabam designed nodes and buffs, this will be different in Solo Competitive Mode

Note – This is not synchronous PvP, you won’t suddenly be fighting each other live, that just isn’t MCOC. We want to craft something unique for The Contest.

This is all SUPER early stages and we’d love to see the first version of Solo Competitive Mode in 2021, but we have a lot to do in the coming months. So to help us move things forward we’ll be opening up more of the design process for Solo Competitive Mode to you, so you can get insight on the dev process and help guide the creation of a brand new mode in MCOC. 

OUR COMMITMENT

Like watching Doom’s SP3 on loop during an Abyss run, these past 4 posts have been long but ultimately rewarding. Now, I’m going to wrap things up with a commitment, or to be more accurate, a set of commitments to you and The Contest.

As stewards of The Contest of Champions, it is our duty to wield the Isophere with care and use its power to craft incredible, memory-making experiences for years to come. To do that we hold three core things dear:

  1. Content – Continue to deliver epic events, Champions, stories, and rewards on a monthly basis with even more in between.
  2. Community – Increase your involvement in the creation of The Contest with greater communication, collaboration, and insight into the development process.
  3. Creativity – Committing to truly evolve the contest, bringing new gameplay experiences, refreshing aging modes, and surprising you with never before seen additions to MCOC. 

The Contest is here to stay. Not as an aging relic or content service, but as a game full of exciting new experiences, an ever-growing community, and platform for competition. We’ve loved the last 5 years of stories and it is our commitment to make the next 5 even greater.

Thank you to the entire MCOC community for all your feedback, discussion, and passion. Now it’s time for us to get to it, we’ve got a lot to do.

Excelsior!

KABAM THAT JIM

LEAD GAME DESIGNER