It's been a bit since we've heard from Marvel Contest of Champions, since our last check-in with the game, the update to patch 12.0 has come and gone and players are slowly returning to life post-patch. Most of the players I spoke with, Rich Davis who goes by The Living Tribunal of alliance GOTGN, and Paritosh Mishra of the ISO-A alliance were pleased with the changes. It has been noted that there's a bit of a slump in morale still, but things seem to be returning to something approaching normal. Update 12.0.1 seems to be something of a success so far.
Since then, I've gotten the chance to speak with Luke Takeuchi, a Producer at Kabam.
MR: Prior to launching update 12.0, what were your expectations?
LT: We celebrated the 2-year anniversary of Marvel Contest of Champions in December, and it's still growing every day. We're regularly pushing updates with new characters, quests, and features. We've made tuning changes in the past, for the long term betterment of the game, that ask players to change their strategies. 12.0 falls into that category. Our goal was to overhaul our Champion stats to ensure that more Champions — current and future — have a role in a player's roster. It's a big change. We expected the 12.0 roll-out to be a bumpy ride, particularly for our most experienced players. We were confident, though, that our players would come to understand that the changes were necessary in order to keep the game exciting for another 2 years. We set out to build something that would make the game better, but we went too far, and we underestimated how strongly our players would react.
MR: How did you first become aware of the backlash against the update?
LT: Everyone on the team has a keen interest in what our players think and feel about the game. We love working on this game, almost all of it play it every day, and it's important to us that our players love playing it every day too. We watch our community's comments, videos, and live streams every day. So it didn't take long for the community's message about 12.0 to reach us.
MR: Was there anything you'd expected to hear in those early criticisms?
LT: Our players have their favorite teams of Champions that they've used in thousands of fights. With 12.0, we essentially asked players to revisit their teams and the way they use their Champions in a fight. Just like every other game with different characters out there, we know that rebalances are sometimes unpopular. We expected that to be a source of friction for our community. But, after experiencing the changes firsthand, we expected our players to see new opportunities within their roster of Champions. Our goal was, and is, to ensure that all Champions have a place within the game. So we expected some concern with champion rebalances, we just didn't expect it to be as fierce as it was.
MR: I know in the latest update, you've lowered the difficulty of all Act 4 gameplay, do you intend to ramp the difficulty back up slowly or will this be more of a permanent change?
LT: With our 12.0.1 update we went back to some of our more challenging content and updated various buffed encounters to adjust difficulty where we felt it was necessary. We also reduced the complexity of some content that was built in a very different game environment, and designed to counter play outdated strategies:
None of these specific changes will be rolled back, but Alliance Quests and Alliance Wars do see regular updates in the form of new Seasons, so those modes can expect more natural transformations as we update them in our usual fashion.
MR: With update 12.01, you told players not to read the patch notes first, what was the reasoning behind that?
LT: While the patch notes tell you what has changed on a detailed level, what was most important to us was knowing how players felt about the latest patch while playing, and if they felt comfortable and at home with the new update, without being influenced by the details of the changes themselves.
LT: In the same way that we wouldn't encourage you to read the plot summary for a new episode of your favorite show, we really wanted each of our players to experience the new balance and content with fresh eyes, to see what they felt, and THEN to read the patch notes for more details.
MR: How has the response been since the changes?
LT: Our players have responded to the new update positively. They've been incredibly understanding of why the system changes were necessary for the future of the game, but also helped us shape the tuning and adjustments that we made to address their pain points and to make the game more enjoyable for them. They also helped us revisit some of the older content that we had created in a pre-12.0 world to better suit where the game is now, and have been enjoying some of that content more now.
MR: Has there been any backlash against lowering the difficulty?
LT: We adjusted some obstacles that no longer made sense given the Champion tuning changes. We don't want to punish players for not having a specific Champion. We're happy to see that more players are attempting difficult content, like Labyrinth of Legends. We're also happy to see that those players have to play just as skillfully as pre-12.0 players to complete that content.
MR: When do you expect to have Alliance Quests and Alliance War back online?
LT: We had planned to postpone Alliance Quests and Alliance Wars after the launch of 12.0 to give players more time to adjust to the changes to the system. When we decided that a 12.0.1 update was necessary, we chose to postpone them further and give players more time to get used to this new version. At this point, both Alliance Quests and Alliance Wars are back online with adjustments to some of the pain points our players had expressed to us.
MR: How has parry changed since the original update?
LT: We changed the way parry was implemented to provide flat damage reduction, instead of the newly implemented system. This broke the link between the block proficiency stat and parry's effectiveness, so all Champions could benefit from it. This also allows champions with a high block proficiency stat to parry for no damage.
MR: What's next for Contest of Champions moving away from 12.0.1?
LT: Before the release of 12.0.1, we formed a small group of community beta testers to play our changes and offer feedback. Moving forward, we're working to deepen our engagement with our community and expand our beta tester program. We're currently offering our beta group a sneak peek at our Act 5 story quests, and their comments so far are already improving the content. We're excited to get more of our community members looking at what we have in development!
LT: And after that… Well, there is so much exciting stuff coming for the Contest. We all wake up every morning stoked to make this the best game it can be for all of our players. We love the passion this community has for the game, because it mirrors our own. We promise to keep devoting our lives to making this game great for the players.
Takeuchi seems very positive about the game's outlook in the coming months. Having a group of players working alongside the dev team is never a bad idea, and hopefully will work on creating a more cooperative environment for all involved.