DEV DIARY: ADDED DIFFICULTY

We’re back with an inside look at what our Developers have been up to behind the scenes of The Contest!

Today, we don’t just want to share with you some insights on a new feature that’s coming up, but the addition of new, high difficulty level content! This theme can most recently be seen in the Variant Difficulty of Back Issues #1.

We want to let you know why we made it, and the “how’s” and “why’s” behind our efforts as we continue to make more content for our most experienced Summoners. That means the introduction and further development of new content that reaches beyond the current level of difficulty in The Contest.

This, of course, does not mean any reduction in beginner content, or Quests that help Summoners grow. The growth content is really important, and while in this post, we’re focusing specifically on high-level Summoners, know that we’re always striving to improve the experience of all Summoners as they grow and become stronger.

WHY ADD MORE DIFFICULT CONTENT?

When we create a majority of the content in The Contest, especially temporary content, we try to design for as many of our Summoners as possible.

We do this through our multiple difficulty options, or by creating content that ramps up in difficulty. However, we recently haven’t been meeting that goal for our high level, end game Summoners.

Our most engaged, skilled, and advanced Summoners have spent a lot of time and effort to build their rosters, and to amass the resources they need to move forward, but our current content caters only to a small subset of that.

The goal we are trying to achieve by creating new, high difficulty content is to add more value to their investment in game, and to challenge our Summoners in new, unique and interesting ways.

There are a lot of you out there that have a powerful roster at your disposal, but not enough to do with it. We want to build more things for you to do, and more ways for you to approach those things.

WHAT TO WE MEAN BY MORE DIFFICULT CONTENT?

When we release something like a new Event Quest, we typically offer 5 variations of difficulty.

Each of these difficulties is important to us. From giving new Summoners in Beginner an enjoyable experience that helps them grow, to giving those with the strongest Champions in The Contest a meaningful and exciting challenge in Uncollected.

Each of these difficulty levels serves a purpose. When we refer to “difficult content”, we’re referring to our hardest difficulty level, Uncollected/Epic, and content that goes beyond even that, like Act 5, and the Labyrinth of Legends.

Designing this content can be a challenge, which may be surprising to you.

“Why not just crank the numbers and release more difficulties?” you may ask, and in a way you’d be right. That’s an approach that would certainly make more difficult content, and has been done by games including us in the past. But there are two big reasons why we stay away from that approach whenever possible:

  1. It doesn’t line up with our Quest goals.
  2. It’s not very fun or engaging for to make or play.

Whenever we are planning a new Quest, we have specific Goals for that Quest in mind, but there are also baseline goals for all Quests and content that we create. In this post, we’re going to focus on the ones that relate to the difficulty level of content.

CONSIDERATIONS AND GOALS FOR BUILDING DIFFICULT CONTENT

Create a fun and challenging experience

One of our highest priorities when designing Quest Content is that we create something that you will enjoy.

Difficulty and fun can go hand in hand, but striking the right balance is important and not always an easy task. An opponent with +1000% Attack is a lot scarier and harder than one with +50% Attack, but isn’t more interesting. It’s not fun to walk into a fight and immediately lose your entire roster to a challenge with no counters.

There are other ways that we try to make difficulty enjoyable:

  • Placing Local Nodes that shake up your team or playstyle.
  • Encouraging you to try different Champions, or experience some combat variety.
  • Creating epic battles like when you go up against a final boss in a new Story Quest.

We’re always making conscious choices on how Summoners can enjoy the content that we create, even if that challenge is very tough, and not immediately surmountable.

Create the appropriate difficulty

It takes hard work, time, effort and commitment to become a super powerful Summoner, and when content is created targeting this group, not just anyone should be able to take on that challenge.

While the “Uncollected” requirement can be a good skill check for us, we always want the content to feel like something worth your time.

Add variety to Champion choices

Some Champions are exceptional at clearing Quest content.

We want those Champions to feel rewarding to Rank and Level Up, and we want to continue to provide Quest content where you can see those Champion’s strength. However, if every Quest could be completed by the same Champions in the same way every time, the game would get pretty boring.

With this in mind, when making our new Quest Content, especially for you advanced Summoners, we try to encourage using other Champions and not always the “A-Team”. This can mean using:

  • unique Local Nodes that require you to keep up your combo count
  • parrying skills
  • nodes that benefit a certain type of Champion

This is how we’ve been approaching providing more challenge. By using mechanics that encourage skilled play or encouraging a deeper understanding of the RPG elements of the game, and not just cranking up the numbers.

Opponents with obscene Attack values become boring, because every fight they’re involved in is binary. Either you play perfectly and win, or you make a single mistake and you lose. We want to give you more variety and a much more interesting fight than that!

NEW DIFFICULT CONTENT TO LOOK FORWARD TO

Let’s dive into the items that are still in the works!

Some of these are in progress and others could still change quite a bit between when you’re reading this, and when they are introduced. Please keep this in mind as we share what the team is hard at work developing for you!

Back Issues #1 – Variant Difficulty

We heard your feedback about bringing back Event Quests of the past! We realized these could also be a great way to deliver a serious challenge. Variant Difficulty is a new Difficulty that we’re introducing with Back Issues.

Part of this is the permanent nature of the Quest. There’s no strict timeline in which you have to complete these Quests. If you find it too difficult, take your time to grow your team, and come back to give it another shot.

The other part is how it allows us to play off where we’ve been and where we are now.  

The average 2018 Quest is very different than they were in 2015 when Ultron’s Assault originally went live (no buffs!).  We wanted to see what it would be like to have the game’s older missions reflect the growth of our Summoners.

This is also why we’re including the Classic Difficulty, so you can compare and contrast what a “hard” Quest was then, and what it is now. Those who weren’t around in those days can also get a taste of the Quests of the past.

Back to the topic of challenge and variety in Champion choice.

In Variant Difficulty we’ll be making use of Champion Requirements.  You’re going to need a varied roster to take on these Quests!

Each Chapter in Variant Difficulty will require that you only bring Champions from 2 specific classes. They are built around understanding the strengths and weaknesses of that Class, and more specifically the Abilities available to each Champion within that Class.

Your raw combat skills will undoubtedly be tested. We’re also leaning on your knowledge of Champion Abilities, Immunities, Resistances, and Counters. Those who rely on only a few Champions will find the need to diversify, even outside of the Champion Requirements in place.

Not all Back Issues will be constructed precisely this way. While we like the theme of requiring RPG knowledge and breaking up the usual suspects, Champion Requirements can be a kind of heavy-handed reinforcement.

We encourage you to check out Classic difficulty, as a time capsule of what The Contest was like back in the earlier days. It’s really exciting for us to resurrect something from so early in The Contest. We hope it’s a nice jaunt down memory lane for our veteran Summoners, and an opportunity for newer Summoners to experience the older content.

We’re already at work on future Back Issues, and brainstorming different ways to encourage fresh strategies outside of just saying “you must be this tall to ride.” You’ll be able to try your hand at Variant Difficulty in our first Back Issue when it premieres this week!

The Introduction of Map 7!

We know that many of you have speculated about it in the past.  We’ve spent a lot of time making Alliance Quests more accessible for all Alliances, and continue to educate new Summoners on this. One thing that we have left for some time is making a new Map for our advanced Summoners.

Map 7 is that map.

Top Alliances are not finding Map 6 difficult anymore. The Buffs are old, are now easily countered, and very little has changed regarding the challenge of Map 6. While that is set to change soon, it will not shift the general structure of the map.

Map 7 allows us to introduce a new structure that challenges the best of the best, as opposed to creating a dramatic shift in existing content. This allows us to reintroduce what we refer to internally as a “passing lane.”

This creates a way for Summoners who might not have the same Prestige as another Alliance to earn more points through commitment and skill by playing a more difficult Map. This is initially what Map 6 was when we introduced it, but it has since moved away from that role as Summoners continue to grow. If we just updated Map 6, we would have to create a huge jump in difficulty from Map 5 to 6, which we don’t feel would offer you the best experience.

With Map 7, our focus is all on your roster. We want to create a rotating challenge that truly feels unique every week, and is tailored more specifically to the large amount of utility our advanced Summoners have at their disposal with their rosters.

We are designing Map 7 to be a new “passing lane”, and to challenge your ability to:

  • Coordinate with your alliance
  • Apply your knowledge of the RPG elements of the game
  • Use your roster depth
  • Utilize your fighting skills

Map 7 should not be more time consuming, but it will have less reserve paths, and will require everyone in your Battlegroup to bring their A-game!

We’re not aiming to have individuals commit to logging in more often than Map 6, or introducing many more fights for each Summoner. The time you spend on Map 7 will be much more intense!

Act 6 to release in 2019!

Like the jump between Act 4 and 5, there will be a noticeable jump up in challenge from Act 5 to 6. When we first introduced Act 5, we chose to use Local and Global buffs that changed both the Champions that you chose for your team, as well as how you had to play those individual fights.

Nodes like Buffet pushed you to consider bringing Champions that didn’t rely on Buffs or to use Dexterity sparingly, and Masochism dissuaded the use of Parry and debuff-reliant Champions.

We’ll be continuing to encourage some different thinking and planning with Act 6 so get ready!

It’s still too early to talk about the specifics of Act 6. Since we added Chapter 4 of Act 5, we’ve added new tools to our arsenal that we’re excited to put to use for Act 6.

Though we don’t have much detail for you at the moment, we hope that we’ve given you some insight into our overall approach.

Other New Content

There’s still more exciting stuff that we’re working on for you. We’re also working on more temporary Quests that will similarly challenge our more advanced Summoners!

Expect to see more information on these soon. We’ll post an update as we get closer to releasing, or might just surprise you with some!

OUR FINAL THOUGHTS

Creating a game that has something for everyone is not easy. In fact, it can sometimes be one of the largest challenges we face when building the game.

We’re thankful to all of you that have stuck with us all this time, and have shown so much dedication to The Contest. This doesn’t just mean our top Summoners. While we’ve listed out a lot of content that is catered to them, we want you all to know that this is NOT a statement of disregard to any other Summoners.

We’re going to keep doing our best to make sure that we continuously give all of you the best Quest Content that we can, and to keep giving you the level of challenge that you need to progress and enjoy your time in the Battlerealm!

Thank you for playing, Summoners! If you’d like to join the conversation about this, check out our forums!