DEV DIARY: AMPING UP ALLIANCES

BUILDING THE BEST CONTEST

KABAM ZEN – PRODUCER

Hey Summoners! Kabam Zen here. Today I’ve got Kabam Karma and Kabam Jimbo, and together we’re going to give you all a look into the future of Alliances.

Alliances have been the social fabric of The Contest since their inception. They’ve given players the opportunity to tackle challenges through cooperative play and directly challenge one another through competitive head-to-head matchups. Throughout almost 5 years of Alliance Quests and a little over 4 years of Alliance Wars, many battles have been fought. While we’ve made a number of additions and changes to Alliances and the modes associated with them over the years, they’ve remained largely the same. 

We’ve heard your feedback and ideas regarding this, and have compiled them with some of our own. Now it’s time to push things forward and begin a new era of Alliances.

TOOLS FOR CHANGE

First, let’s dive into some of the tools we’re looking to provide Alliances with so they can better prepare for Alliance content and reduce the stress associated with it. Our first step was to build a strong set of foundational features that could be built upon for future tool improvements that will be available in both Alliance Wars and Quests.

Battlegroup Assignments

How many times have you or someone else you know joined the wrong Battlegroup? It happens, and it’s no fun for anyone. With this new feature, Leadership will be able to easily assign Alliance Members to a specific Battlegroup for both Alliance Quests and Alliance Wars. Other members can see the assignments for the entire Alliance.

Releasing June 29th.

Top Alliance Champions

Starting today, Summoners will be able to select Champions to display on a new screen in their profile, which will be visible to both Friends and Alliance mates. This will allow you to communicate which Champions you have Ranked Up and your preferred mode for each. and easily relay roster information to your fellow Alliance members and inform Alliance Leadership.

Releasing June 29th.

These might seem like relatively small additions, but they’re the first steps we have been working on for months towards something bigger and better.

Path Assignments

Many of us are all too familiar with the numerous spreadsheets posted in our Battlegroup’s chat room. We want to allow Alliance Leadership to assign paths within the game. This is a part of streamlining more Alliance mode Communications in-game, reducing the need for external communications.

In design. No confirmed launch window (Aiming for 2020).

Defender Placements

With the introduction of Top Alliance Champions, we’re going to take those selections and begin to remove pain points for Alliance management for leaders and officers. Top Alliance Champions will open the doors for more quality of life features, like one that allows Alliance Leadership to place assigned Alliance War Defenders directly into Defense.

In design. No confirmed launch window.

Codename “AQ Officer”

We want to make your lives easier and remove the monotonous tasks that Alliance Leadership is expected to do. We’re working on features that will allow you to set up the next round of Alliance Quests for all three Battlegroups ahead of time, and get a glimpse into the future and plan around upcoming Map Variations.

In design. No confirmed launch window (Aiming for 2021).

WAR REFRESH – SEASON 19

KABAM KARMA – SENIOR SYSTEMS DESIGNER

Last year, the team committed to updating Alliance War on a regular cadence, and the time has come for our annual War Refresh. In this update, players will see a map update across all difficulties, new and updated Defense Tactics, updated Alliance War Season rewards, and a big change to Alliance War matchmaking!

Before we get into the specifics, there are a few notes I’d like to add:

  • The Season 19 War refresh has been in the works for a few months now, so it doesn’t capture some of our goals and direction that we shared in our first blog post.
  • Before the start of Season 19, we will be adjusting Buffs and node combinations to address the most difficult and frustrating nodes on the new maps.
  • We understand that Alliance Wars can be very difficult and stressful, and some players are turning away from the game mode because of it. While the development of this update has been in the works for some time, we are fully committed to making changes much quicker and more regularly to address difficulty and stress. 
  • Previously, we’ve mentioned that Alliance War maps were not designed to be 100% completed. This philosophy came about in a time where many Wars resulted in ties and results came down to Diversity. In response, we increased the challenges and complexity in Alliance Wars. Today, we’re seeing that this has been pushed too far – this is a problem. While our goal was to increase granularity to avoid ties, the result was continuously pushing difficulty higher. We understand that this isn’t sustainable and are looking into different solutions in order to achieve our goal!

Everything below is coming in our Season 19 War refresh in July. Let’s explore the reasons behind these changes.

Map Update

The current map has been out for over a year now, so we’re updating the battlefield with new path identities, new buffs that challenge Champion/Buff knowledge and fight mechanics!

  • Introduce new challenges for players to compete with one another
  • Maintain Alliance War layout rules which allow players to switch paths throughout a War

Defense Tactics

When we implemented Defense Tactics, our goal was to create a system that would shift the meta of Alliance Wars more regularly and to not simply inflate the difficulty of Wars. Admittedly, we’ve fallen short on both of our goals. 

For our current update of Defense Tactics, we will be introducing Attacker Bonuses to help counter the challenges set by Defense Tactics and also provide players with more options when going into the Attack phase.

  • We added Attacker Bonuses to Defense Tactics; these will help players counter the challenge presented for each Tactic and also provides more roster options to deal with them
  • Moving forward, we will be focusing on adjusting the benefits of Attacker Bonuses to ensure that the overall Buff is a net positive for Attackers

Updated Alliance War Season Rewards

In Season 19, we added more rewards in the top tiers (relative to others) with the introduction of new and re-tuned Defense Tactics. 

Something that we’re looking into for the near future is how our Season rankings are bracketed. That being said, all ranks will see a bump in Alliance War Season rewards, and we are committed to updating rewards on a more regular cadence to ensure that they remain relevant and valuable.

  • We will continue to make regular updates to Season Rewards moving forward 

Updated Matchmaking

At the start of Season 19, we will be adjusting our matchmaker so that Alliances will no longer be able to climb Season Rankings without facing others with similar War Rating. We’re also looking at resolving other issues like repeat matching.

  • In general, Alliances should be playing against others based on their War Ratings, not the ratings of their rosters

ALLIANCE WAR PAIN POINTS

There are a lot of issues we still need to fix in Alliance Wars and we are committed to resolving these in the near future. Here is a list of the pain points we want to solve, and examples of how we may potentially address them in the future:

  • The difficulty of Alliance Wars continues to increase and Defense Tactics compound this issue
    • We’ve added Attacker Tactics to Defense Tactics, and we played it safe for our first pass – we’ll look into increasing the potency of Attacker Tactics, giving players more power when opting to use Attackers included in the proper Tags
  • Addressing and adjusting difficulty tuning for local buffs and Defense Tactics quicker
    • Proactively adjust and tune both map buffs and Defense Tactics each Season, address difficult node combos and buffs across all maps
  • Players are unable to practice against the specific challenges in Alliance Wars in an environment where there are no stakes
    • Release content well ahead of time on a test environment for players to preview
    • Potentially look into building an area for players to practice specific encounters in a stress-free environment
  • Defense Tactics cause tight Champion restrictions and steep learning curves
    • We could provide more options for Attack Tactics, tune Defense Tactics to be less Champion restrictive
  • Address Season Rewards tuning and bracketing, particularly in and around Gold 1 and below
    • Look into adding a new rank (Gold 4) and redistribute number of players in each bracket
    • Update rewards accordingly, especially for those that have to face Defense Tactics

While the Season 19 War refresh has not addressed most of these issues, we want to assure you that we are looking at specific, short-term solutions to address these pain points. 

Again, the solutions proposed above are just examples while we look into the feasibility of each.

THE FUTURE OF ALLIANCE WARS

We’ve received a lot of feedback from our community in regards to the Alliance Wars player experience. 

The Development team agrees that the current format of Alliance Wars does not live up to what an Alliance versus Alliance mode should be in our game. 

We are fully committed to taking Alliance Wars back to the drawing board and redesigning the feature from the ground up. This means that we will be working on a complete redesign of Alliance Wars that will be on the same scale (if not bigger than) the Dungeons to Incursions update.

We don’t have a specific design to share at this time, but we can talk about our vision for the future and some design principles we want to execute on:

  • Alliance vs. Alliance – Alliance Wars should be one Alliance versus another. 
    • Create systems where players feel like they are truly working together to overcome other Alliances as a team.
    • Create more tools for Alliances to craft unique challenges for their opponents to overcome, enabling players more ownership in authoring content for others
    • Implement systems that encourage players to work alongside each other to tackle problems collectively, rather than simply pushing forward in an assigned path
  • Advance in Warfare – With our current Season structure, losing a single War (even a single fight) can have dire consequences for the individual and the entire Alliance. Losing a single War shouldn’t feel like you’ve lost out on the Season.
    • Adding progression (for both individual players and Alliances) will provide positive feedback even if a War is lost
  • Progression increases power, but more importantly unlocks more options for players
  • Choices for All – In our current landscape of Wars, almost all of the decisions are made by Alliance Leadership. We want to enable more choices throughout the entirety of a War and distribute these more evenly for Leadership and Alliance Members. 
    • Distribute choices between Alliance Leadership and Members; we want individual players to feel like they have some agency and are not  just executing on orders
    • We want to open up more strategic choices to take throughout a War that should include more risk/reward options and give players the feeling of ‘outplaying’ their opponents
  • Becoming a War Hero – Alliance War is a team mode, but we want the actions of individuals to be able to turn the tides of battle.
    • Create more situations where individuals’ choices and actions can significantly affect the outcome of a War
    • Adding more risk/reward decisions for players and celebrate actions when players earn a positive outcome

ALLIANCE QUEST REFRESH

KABAM JIMBO – SYSTEMS DESIGNER

Hi Summoners, Kabam Jimbo here to walk you through our plans for the immediate challenges faced in Alliance Quests. 

Our short-term mission is to relieve stress for our higher-tier users. We feel as of late that the pressure has become too high for Alliances battling it out in the most challenging of maps and managing their War effort at the same time. We want Alliances to challenge themselves and push to new heights, but are continuing to evolve how we want that experience to feel. 

Here’s a dive into some solutions coming to The Contest, targeted for launch within the next few months:

Map 7 Rebalancing

Map 7 is changing. We’ve heard the feedback, reviewed the data, and will be making some adjustments to painful Nodes and fights that just don’t live up to our new vision.

We’re seeing behaviors that aren’t fun and force you to use mechanics that are not intended, this isn’t what we want. Here’s a peek at a few core changes:

  • Mesmerize – Mesmerize and Mephisto are on their way out. Green Goblin will be taking his place along with Mix Master + Prove Yourself as the new lane identity buff. 
  • Can’t Stop Won’t Stop – Captain Marvel is gone and we’re tweaking the node to open up many more options to play with and overcome this challenge
  • Vivified + Redoubled Determination – We’re halving the amount of Defensive Combat Power Rate for Vivified from 200% to 100% and replacing problem Champions Korg & Killmonger. Alongside this, we’re swapping Redoubled Determination out with Blood in the Water.
  • Champion Replacements – We’re also switching out a bunch of problem Champions from Mordo & War Machine, to Captain Marvel & Magneto in Variation 1 with either alternate Champions or a freshened up buff profile.

We’re still in testing and iterating, so there may be small alterations to come, but we’re confident in delivering this change and the positive impact it will have on the stress of Alliance Quest. 

Aiming for an August release.

Energy

Over time, Alliance Quests have become a delicate balancing act in the higher tiers of play. Summoners only have so much time to dedicate between the various game modes, other content, and everyday life. 

The number of sessions required to perfectly manage your time and Energy is excessive. That’s changing.

  • Energy Cap increase – We’re increasing the Alliance Quest Energy cap from 5 to 6.
  • Starting energy Increase – We’re increasing the starting amount of Alliance Quest Energy from 3 to 4.
  • Energy Timers Decrease – We are going to decrease the refresh timer for Alliance Quest Energy from 1 hour to 45 minutes.

These changes will apply to everyone regardless of what Map you decide to play.

Releasing in July.

Link Nodes

We are making the following balance changes to Link Nodes in Maps 6 and 7:

  • Removing the first set of Link Nodes in Maps 6 and 7.
  • Restructuring Map 6 Link Nodes to flow more like Map 7.

The first set of link nodes in Maps 6 and 7 will be removed for the Mid-Season update. However the Link Node restructure will take a bit longer. 

In design. No confirmed launch window.

Mid-Season Update

In addition to a lot of what we just laid out, a mid-season update to Alliance Quests in July will introduce a brand new set of Epic Modifiers, more Honor Reward Milestones, and Miniboss changes. Look out for a post on the Mid-Season update on our forums.

And finally, we’re also continuing to review ticket costs. Now the changes are in, we’ll be gathering data and feedback to find the next best step for Alliance tickets and their associated costs.

ALLIANCE QUEST FUTURE

Now for the broader future of Alliance Quest, we’re going to explore the core principles that are guiding new feature development, and the flavor of content evolution. 

We hope to bring aspects of these features online in the near future, but this is a long road and many of these bigger ideas will evolve over time and is something we want you to be a part of and to help shape the future of Alliance Quest.

  • Seasons – One of the main goals we have is for Alliances to challenge themselves, not pit them against other Alliances in rank rewards races. With this goal in the front of our minds, Seasons don’t really make sense in their current state, so we are looking to revamp them and what they mean to you.
    • Seasons that fit into your life and don’t clash with other seasonal content
    • Seasonal content that creates unique internal Alliance gameplay and not pitting Alliances against each other
    • Unique gameplay that provides a reason to come back and experience something new, not just more rewards to chase
  • Alliance Quest Challenges – The new direction we want to focus on is custom content creation. 
    • Provide Alliances with the means to build the challenge they want with the rewards, time investment, and difficulty to match. 
    • New challenges to overcome based on your choices
    • Capturing a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ experience for Alliance gameplay
    • A truly unique feel when compared to Alliance War and other quest content
  • Cooperation is King – More cooperation, less coordination. 
    • Focus more on cooperation and organic communication between players, and interesting actions and risk vs. reward when playing with fellow Alliance members. 
  • Champion Usage – We want Alliance Quests to be a place where users can experiment with the new Champions they have acquired without necessarily letting your team down in the process.
    • More freedom to bring in the Champions you want, not the ones you need
    • Rewarding roster exploration and Champion diversity
    • Using RPG counters for fun, not as a bottleneck or roster check

None of these principles have features attached yet, or any release dates.

New Features

Raid Bosses

This is something we have wanted to do for a long time now, the notion of huge battles at the scale deserving of Marvel’s most epic Champions. 

It’s going through some design changes as we speak and there isn’t much detail we can go into now, however, we as a team can’t wait to get this in front of you as soon as possible! Here are a few teasers to what we’re exploring:

  • Massive-scale battles in which the entire Alliance will take part
  • Recharacterizing some of Marvel’s greatest foes as a real threat to The Battlerealm
  • Unique roles and new ways to play as an Alliance, capturing some of the great moments from comic-book and cinematic history

We are still in the design stages of Raid Bosses and will be bringing it to you as soon as we have something to play.

In design. No confirmed launch window.

Link Nodes Rework

Currently, in a perfect world Summoners don’t interact with Link Nodes at all. If Alliance Members are moving in a timely manner, they offer little to no interaction.

We want to encourage players to interact with Link Nodes in a more meaningful way. What might this look like? In the future, they might not just be simply challenging encounters, but instead provide Buffs to Summoner’s Champions if they decide to fight through them.

These new Link Nodes would have skill-based challenges rewarding players to varying degrees depending on their execution. 

In design. No confirmed launch window.

Undo Button

There is no feeling worse than miss-tapping on the map and ruining the plans of your Battlegroup. We want to change that. 

We are exploring ways we can help players that might have accidentally headed down the wrong path to press undo and walk back their unfortunate choice. 

In design. No confirmed launch window.

HELP SYSTEM IMPROVEMENTS

KABAM THATJIM – LEAD GAME DESIGNER

Hey folks, ThatJim, here again to wrap things up for this epic Alliances update. 

Finally, we have the origin of the Alliance System, the first point of Alliance interaction we all had when teaming up with our fellow Summoners – The Help System

What if there was just one button to clear those 500+ notifications of Noobmaster23 grinding for Korg? What if you didn’t have to endlessly tap away at one button instead of helping your Alliance in War? What if… What if…

Scheduled for release in September is the answer. HELP ALL IS COMING! We’ve ironed out the technical challenges and will finally be bringing this much-desired quality of life feature to The Contest. 

We’ve read about some truly brilliant features coming to Alliance play in the short term with a big focus on reducing the stress and commitment that Alliances can mean for everyday life. 

In the long term, the team has bold ambitions to evolve both Alliance War and Alliance Quest into fresh social experiences that deliver fun gameplay, deep collaboration, and spicey competition all while rewarding you with the best rewards in The Contest. 

We’re hyped for the future of Alliances and we can’t wait to reveal even more over the coming months.

Join us next time as we take a deep dive into the future of Champions.

The MCoC Dev Team