Dev Diary: The Future of Quests

BUILDING THE BEST CONTEST

KABAM GOGGY – LEAD QUEST DESIGNER

Hey everyone, Kabam Goggy here. We’ve gathered up a few members of the team to talk about what we’re working on right now, and how we’re looking towards the future of Quests in The Contest. 

Quests have transformed a lot in the 5 years since release; originally “Story” was the only real attraction outside of our daily offerings, and having a couple Rank 1 4-Stars was more than enough to see you through all that there was. 

With the release of Ultron’s Assault we saw the excitement that smaller, scheduled Quests could create and the possibility of space for fun (both for designers and players) made available by that format. From there it was an easy decision to continue rolling out new challenges and stories for our many Summoners, and the rest is history.

It’s been a long road from that transformative time, and we’ve settled into regular releases that tell the stories of our new Champions, offer up new challenges to show off their powers, and distribute rewards to Summoners who overcome those challenges. Within these rapid iterations on our Quest structure, we aim to innovate within our structural bounds as much as we can, and also grow alongside our players both in the strategies used and the limits of power available.

As we continue through year 5 we have some new goals and refinements for quests, as well as some exciting new stuff to show you. This is just the next few months, and there’s plenty more after that!

A NEW VISION

First, we can talk about the overall direction of quests, what we’re working on broadly, and looking towards for the future.

Right now we’re focused on smoothing out the existing experiences. We’ve spent a lot of time discussing the current direction of Quests in the game and what exactly we’re aiming to accomplish in each category, while also considering each audience and what they want from the game. While not every Quest has major concerns to chase down, there are some big ticket items we want to hit, some of which we’ll go into more detail on below.

As always we strive to find effective ways to expand our offerings in quests, doing our best to involve and entertain a broad assortment of players. One of the better ways we’re looking to do this is by creating play spaces where a wider variety of Champions are effective, or where less-potent Champions get their due. This is collaborative, an effort that is shared by our incredible RPG Team, that continues to not only roll out exciting new Champions, but also give greatly-deserved updates to some older or underperforming ones. (I’ve seen some of the stuff they have planned, it’s exciting!)

We’re also taking a step back to put work into content that needs it. Book 2’s first beta was not received well, and in many ways we agreed with the feedback. We wanted to have a quicker pace of releases so the ongoing story could be revealed faster, and higher echelons of challenge could be more readily available. We knew this might come with some sacrifice, but feedback made it clear we had gone too far in some directions. Thankfully this response gave us both greater purpose and helpful direction when returning to the drawing board, and you’ll see the fruits of that process in Welker’s breakdown on the Book 2 plans below.

While I hope the above makes it clear, I want to stress that we always welcome feedback; even if it’s critical of our decisions. We regularly use data to get a birds-eye view of quests, and we can learn a lot from that, but data can be disconnected from the moment-to-moment experience of a player in the game. 

Ultimately, even when we’re building a crafty challenge, or trying to create an intended spike in difficulty, we want Quests to be fun to experience and satisfying to triumph over; if we’re not hitting that mark, we want to know.

BACK ISSUES #5

One thing we’ve heard loud and clear in recent days is that Back Issues and its Variant difficulty are high on the list of Summoner desires in The Contest. 

I’m happy to report that while we were originally scaling back releases on these, we’ve taken a swerve and are getting them back into the roadmap in a more focused way. I’m personally excited about this because Back Issues are some of my favorite Quests to work on, and a project I and many others are very passionate about.

Back Issues #5 – Blood and Venom will be no exception. We’ll be going back to Champion Requirements, but keeping them Act-wide and layering that in with some tag-targeted buffs that will make certain Champions very potent in the right place! 

As for who, I can tell you for sure that the man of the hour, his greatest rival, and the hero who hunted him should all be present on your frontline–or someone like them, anyway.

Back issues #5 will be released in August, as part of our 28.0 build. We’re already working on figuring out what Back Issues #6 will be, and I’m hoping we’ll see it before 2020 is over. No promises though, it’s a pretty busy year for us already!

For now, I’ll pass it over to Kabam Welker to talk about Act 6 and some tweaks we’re looking into.

ACT 6

KABAM WELKER – QUEST DESIGNER

Hello folks! Kabam Welker here with an update on design and direction for Act 6.

Act 6 is an immense piece of Story Content, but we acknowledge that there are some serious pain points inside of it that need to be addressed and corrected. While some changes will require deeper investigation, there are others that we are confident about going ahead with.

Updating The Champion Boss Fight

The Champion was intended to be a fierce and demanding skill check for players and their rosters, fitting for late and end game content. We know he can still deliver on that intent without being as hard of a gut-check, so we’ll be rolling out some updates to his encounter.

  • Damage taken from Nullify in the “Main Event Phase” will be reduced from 10% to 2%.
  • Block Penetration for The Champion will be reduced by 50%.
  • The Dexterity requirements in his Final Phase will be reduced from 5 to 3.
  • Removing the “No Retreat!” Buff Node.

Reducing Attack Values Across the Entire Act

Attack Values for opponents is something we’re committed to focusing more on with every new piece of content we’re developing. We’re going back into Act 6 and re-tuning encounters to bring their Attack Values more in line in comparison to Abyss of Legends and The Grandmaster Boss in Act 6 Chapter 4. 

  • Attack values for path Encounters in Act 6 Chapter 4 will be reduced by 40-60%, dropping them from 15K on average to closer to around 5K-9K on average, with some even lower. Path fights in 6.3, 6.2, and 6.1 will be scaled down from that top value accordingly.
  • Attack values for Final bosses in Act 6 Chapter 4 (excluding The Grandmaster) will be scaled down by 60-75%, dropping them from 22K on average to 6.5K-10K on average. Final Bosses in 6.3, 6.2, and 6.1 will be scaled down from that top value accordingly. 

Revisit “Pain Point” Boss Fights and Path Fights

It’s clear to see that there are Boss Fights and Path Fights implemented in Act 6 that are far too demanding and niche for the majority of players to engage with. We will be reviewing each Chapter in Act 6 and taking aim at the most egregious encounters and re-tuning their buff profiles to broaden options for viable counters, or simplifying their requirements by stripping out unfair buff nodes. 

We’d like to hear from you, our players, on what your Act 6 Pain Points with certain bosses were. We have some of our own plans and targets in the works, but they’re still early on and we don’t want to limit the possibilities by talking specifics just yet. 

We’re going to set up a player focus group with a selection of 20-30 Summoners from across The Battlerealm, and work with them to do some discovery surrounding what made some of the more troubling fights problematic. 

Take a look at our forums to find out how you can get involved! You can also give us your feedback about Act 6 and the Boss fights in our Forums

When and How

We hope this all sounds like a positive step forward, but the burning questions will be: “When are these changes coming and what if I’ve already completed Act 6?” 

For us, Book 2 is an important event for MCoC and we want as many of you as possible to experience it. That’s why our goal is to bring some if not all of these changes to the game before the launch of Book 2. Read on to find out when!

As for those that have recently completed Act 6, we are exploring the options for compensation. We are discussing how we want to manage Quest compensation into the future, especially for top tier content.

BOOK 2 CHAPTER 1

It’s been a while since the Book 2 Act 1 Chapter 1 Beta, and we’ve been hard at work turning intent into action. We’ve taken our previous comments about positive reinforcement, more mindful design intent, and respecting player investment and turned them into our goals for Story Content going forward.

Reward Player Accomplishments

Rewards mean more than just Crystals and Catalysts. While we have always planned to add more Path-Based Rewards to Book 2 as a way of increasing value between Completion and Exploration, our new avenue for increasing rewards is inside of fights. 

Forcing players to struggle just to do the bare minimum against opponents was difficult and unsatisfying. Giving players opportunities for massive damage spikes and health recovery are themselves rewards, and we should be providing them to players more often. Outwitting a challenging Champion or overcoming a tough Buff Node are accomplishments that deserve celebration.

  • Path-Based Rewards will be added to Book 2 to fill the gap between Completion and Exploration.
  • Fights will be designed to reward optimal play, rather than punish sub-optimal play.

Respect Player Investments

We mentioned before that players have invested in the Champions they want to play, and we are going to do a better job of giving them more avenues to be used. However, respecting Player investment goes beyond Champions. It means being more transparent about what is fair to expect, and what is expected to be fair.

  • The Energy Cost to complete a path in Book 2 will not exceed 70 Energy.
  • The time required to complete a path is reduced as a part of reducing the scope of Quest Paths.
  • RPG Requirements for fights will be loosened to open up more avenues for counterplay.

Empower Players with Choices

Most of the meaningful choices made by players happen at the start of a Quest. Party composition, which path to start down, activating boosts, etc. This severely impacts opportunities for experimentation, specialization, and strategy because it forces players to front-load problem solving. Our aim for Story Content is to provide more decision making opportunities inside of a Quest, as well as expand on the variety of choices available.

  • Story Quests will feature multiple Final Bosses, for more choice and less repetition.
  • We’re slowly rolling out new gameplay for use in Book 2 by introducing Champion Swapping in Chapter 1, inspired by Incursions.

Reduce Player Mental Load

Asking players to draft complex battle plans to accomplish a single path in Story Content is a big ask, which is why we’re reducing the size and complexity of all our maps. We’re focusing more on designing less complex Buffs, as well as layering fewer overlapping Buffs on encounters. Lastly, we’re going to begin signposting difficulty for paths. Being able to jump into a Quest and see a clear indication of which paths are “easy” and which are “difficult” will speed up the process of determining where players decide they want to go.

  • The number of paths, length of paths, and fights per path, have been decreased.
  • Expect fewer Buffs on the majority of encounters, with simpler Buffs being applied.
  • Path difficulty will be scaled from “easy” to “hardest” with clear signposting to help identify them (rewards, PI Tuning, etc.).

Challenge Players with Bosses

The climactic final fight in a Quest shouldn’t be a bottle-neck of inescapable difficulty, but an opportunity for players to show off the strength of their roster and the scope of their skills. The structure for Final Bosses is undergoing a huge rework, with plans to not only deliver on simpler stand-alone challenges, but also to provide multiple final bosses per Quest. 

Options and opportunity are key to more meaningful choices, and breaking free of the necessity of fighting the same Final Boss 6-9 times is a great way to bring more of both to Story Quests.

  • Final Bosses are being designed as “stand-alone” experiences, that will rely less on niche RPG Counters and hard Skill Requirements.
  • Having multiple Final Bosses per Quest will allow us to scale their difficulty, and vary their challenges to keep the Quest fresh for replays.

The ultimate goal is to raise the quality bar and deliver on something more enjoyable, more engaging, and more unique. This means that Story Content is going to take more time to craft. Instead of the updated release cadence of fewer Quests more often, we’re going back to more time between releases with more Quests being released. Our new projected release date for Book 2 Act 1 Chapter 1 is December of 2020, with plans for a new Chapter every 6 months. We promise you, it will be worth the wait.

CAVALIER DIFFICULTY

KABAM FRENCHIE – SENIOR ECONOMY DESIGNER

Overview

I know a lot of you have been waiting for it. Months after teasing its release, your favorite Frenchie is here to give you more context around the arrival of our new Cavalier difficulty.

The purpose of the new Cavalier difficulty is to both help you build your roster to face the Grandmaster in Act 6, and also to prepare you for Book 2 of The Contest.

The new Cavalier Event Quest difficulty will be available to those that have achieved the Cavalier title, but that does not mean that once you reach the Cavalier title, exploring, or even completing it will be a breeze. At launch, there will be a wide range of Cavalier players trying out this new difficulty, from someone that has recently achieved the milestone, to a Summoner that has countlessly beaten the Grandmaster, the power and skill level can vary wildly. Our challenge is building a Quest that can appeal to them all.

To do so, we are building an easy path in each Quest, so that any Cavalier player can attempt to obtain the completion rewards without a super-wide roster. The completion rewards will help you develop the breadth of your roster; helping you rank up your 5-Stars Champions up to Rank 5.

Once your roster is wider, and your skills sharper, you would be able to challenge yourself by attempting the exploration. Exploring the Cavalier difficulty would require either a good amount of skill, a wide range of ranked-up Champions, or a lot of power! But if you succeed, those Tier 5 Class Catalyst Fragments will be yours!

Why did it take so long?

The Cavalier title was released some time ago now and while it brings some perks with it, without a new difficulty of monthly content many of you have gone unchallenged by the Uncollected difficulty. On the release of the Cavalier title we didn’t feel releasing an additional difficulty was the right way to give you your monthly content, as it is near impossible to appeal to and challenge everyone playing it. Continuously adding more and more difficulties could be overwhelming to newer players, be tedious to grind, hard to balance, and takes time to build. For all these reasons we began looking into how we could make the Event Quest more organic, adapting itself to its player. 

As time went by without a solution, we heard your voices and decided that it was time to create this new difficulty. We apologize for the delay, and we hope to have a solution to our problem before the need for the next level of difficulty!

Release Date

The first Cavalier difficulty will be available on September 2nd. I can hear the anticipation behind your screen, so to keep you sharp we are going to run 2 Side Quest difficulties while we finalize the tuning of the Event Quests, starting this July with “Canadian Difficulty”!

We are starting with our Side Quests because they are much more fluid when it comes to difficulty and rewards. While you battle against Sasquatch, we will gather data and feedback to help us ensure that everything is ready and in a good spot for September. If all goes well, you will see the new Legendary Side Quest difficulty alongside the new Cavalier Event Quest difficulty! 

  • July – Canadian difficulty Side Quest
  • August – Herald difficulty Side Quest
  • September – Cavalier difficulty Event Quest launch

REWARDS BOOST

Story Update

On March 12th, new rewards for Act 1 went live. With that, we announced that more would be on the way. We are on the verge of releasing the new and improved Act 2 rewards, but we haven’t revealed our plan, the reason behind it, and everyone’s favorite topic: the compensation.

Over the years, we have improved Event Quest rewards in order to help newer players progress faster to the mid-game by reducing farming time. But the story Rewards did not improve at the same rate, building a disconnect between early Story and Event Quests. This disconnect is big enough that a lot of players do not even explore the earlier Acts anymore, something that we want to change.

Goals

Our goal with the Story update is to smooth out the progression curve, reducing the farming necessary to progress and reach each new title, and keeping the game interesting by exposing new players to more fun and better-structured content. Giving those top tier players more soldiers for their Alliances!

Simply put, for new players with no knowledge of the game, rewards and lessons in Act 1 should be enough to clear the content and start Act 2. If Act 2 seems too hard for you, fully exploring Act 1 should give you the extra boost to pursue the Story easily. The same principle applies to future Act reworks, except that for each Act, we ask you to do more extra content. 

If you are an experienced player creating an alternative account, with our current rework plan, you would not have to worry about anything outside of Story mode until you reach mid-game content. Perfect for doing progression challenges or a title based speedrun!

You might see some items disappear from the rewards, the Tier 1 Alpha Catalyst in Act 2 for instance, but it’s so we can give them more abundantly later in more appropriate content. Our goal is to help new players focus on each rarity at a time, going from 2-Star Champions in Act 1 to 3-Star in Act 2 and so on. To compensate for the investment in the lower rarity Champions, we distribute a lot more gold, ISO-8, Catalysts, Rank-Up Gems, Awakening Gems, Signature Stones, and Champions than before. As well, we will be granting Nexus Champion Crystals to give more choice in early pulls. Units are staying, but will have a slightly different distribution.

On top of the rewards, we are also reworking some Quests through the introduction of Path Rewards, homogenization of the number of paths, power level curve rebalance, and encounters update.

The work on the Quests is why we are revamping one Act at a time. It takes time to make the changes and we must first understand the impact it will have on you. 

Please note, with the Act 2 update, all your Quests will be wiped out, but you will not lose your progress. When you clear a Quest, a flag is created in your account to say that you cleared it, same thing when you explore a Quest. Even though you may have already completed the Quest you will get the chance to replay it and collect the new one-time pick-up Path Rewards. If you have not finished exploring the Quest you will have to redo all the paths in order to have it marked as explored.

To help you either explore the Quests or pick-up the Path Rewards, if you enter a Quest that has been wiped (a total of 11 Quests across Act 2) you will be granted 10 Small Energy Refills as well as one Champion Boost. This applies to everyone!

Compensation

When we update an old act, we only compensate players who have cleared the content up to 3 months prior to the update.

This content is, or should be, outpowered by anyone who cleared it more than 3 months before the update. A player working toward Uncollected does not need the resources from previous Acts to beat the Collector. And even though we understand that in later Acts, like Act 4, the line is thinner and thinner as it takes more time to progress to the next title, the amount of data that needs to be processed to identify all players that have finished the content is so large that it becomes unrealistic for us to compensate a bigger bucket of players.

BEYOND THE QUEST

KABAM THATJIM – LEAD GAME DESIGNER

Hey folks, Kabam ThatJim back again to wrap things up. Look, we’re close to the end now and I thank you for sticking around. 

I know it’s been a long read, but I hope you’ve enjoyed it and it’s got you excited and looking forward to what’s coming next! As an additional treat I have a bunch of fresh content for you. Starting with a little tease at what else is to come from the pages of Book 2.

It has been years since the sound of your fists breaking skulls has been backed by something fresh and befitting of the impact your 6-Stars strike with. That’s why on the launch of Book 2 we have not one but FOUR new audio tracks coming to The Contest!

  • Battle Music – All new battle music that ups the ante on the original and strikes fear into weary Summoners
  • Boss Music – Bigger, badder, and bolder. The new boss track is truly awe inspiring
  • Quest Exploration – Finally, when exploring a Quest, you will hear all new music instead of the old menu sounds
  • Champion Selection – Having a hard time choosing your team? Well, perusing at your roster has gotten even better with this brand new backing track

On top of the awesome new music will be a refreshed Battlerealm with all new visuals welcoming you to the maps of Book 2, including new iconography and chest designs. It’s more than just new fights awaiting you in Book 2 and we can’t wait for you to experience it all later this year.

BOSS RUSH & MORE

Boss Rush

This Summer we’ll be releasing something that’s a new spin on our Boss Rush content. Called “The Summer Smackdown”, you’ll freely unlock a new Boss Rush each week for 5 weeks. Completing each week grants you an unlock item required to participate in the final week. The OMEGA Quest. Which combines the previous 5 weeks’ bosses for the ultimate challenge. This content will be available in all our usual difficulties. Let us know what you think of the format when it comes your way in late July! 

More…

As they say on the nightly news… And Finally… it is our mission to provide more engaging, strategic, rewarding, and downright fun fights as The Contest evolves. With changes to Act 6, the awesomeness of Book 2, that sweet sweet Variant 5, and the long-awaited Cavalier difficulty there is something for almost everyone.

When I say almost, I’m talking about that special group at the top. Those that have bested everything and laughed into the Abyss. 

Well, we can’t have that now can we? It’s time for a little test.

It’s time for some real pain.

Summer of Pain (Working Title)

As if the summer didn’t have enough, we’re designing a brand new challenge for the best of the best of MCoC Players. Something for those that have blasted through all of Act 6, beat the Abyss while on vacation, and treat Variants like a stroll along the beach. In response to these feats and to deliver challenges which will test your sanity, we’re working on something that may make you question life itself. The strongest, most fearsome, and finger breakingly difficult fights from across The Contest will return but with unique roster requirements, smaller teams, and new ways to play them.

Later this summer we’ll be throwing down the gauntlet to you, the best of the best, to take on this challenge. In reward, you’ll be adorned with some unique and intriguing rewards.

You’ll need all your skill, all your roster, and all your bravery to best the Summer of Pain. Stay tuned as we gear up to reveal more on this new challenge.

That’s all for today folks. We’re hyped for the future of Quests and we can’t wait to reveal even more over the coming months.

Join us on Thursday as we take a deep dive into the future of Alliances.

The MCoC Dev Team