Hey everyone, [S2]Buro here, and I'd like to give some insight into the design iterations Rift Wars went through before being released to you!
The original idea for Rift Wars came from the beloved [S2]Kros, who programmed the base functionality of the mode all by himself in his spare time! The idea wasto create a 5v5 match of HoN where every hero has a set of random abilities, and gets a new set of random abilities every time they die. After running a few test games of this first edition, the HoN team fell in love with the mode and we began working on ways to improve the experience of playing it so that it would eventually be ready to be enjoyed by all of Newerth.
Our testing began in the Forests of Caldavar. Our goal was to create an experience as similar to Normal Mode Caldavar as possible, just with the stipulation of having random abilities. We introduced the mode into our SBT (Super Beta Tester client) for further testing and, while this mode was great fun, we noticed that we were not achieving the experience that we hoped to get from the mode. A typical test game would have a very short laning phase but, after that phase, players would almost always group up and fight constantly; without having any care to end the game. Despite the fact that all the testers were enjoying themselves, our intent was not to create an hour long skirmish of random abilities but, moreso, a twenty minute experience of pure fun and chaos. So we went back to the drawing board to find a way in which we could incorporate an end goal into the game.
With this new direction in mind, the idea to try different maps with this new mode was thrown around and we felt that it was worth a try to test out. After testing all the maps, we found that Grimm's Crossing was the best suited to handle the job. Not regular 3v3 Grimm's Crossing, but a chaotic 5v5 rendition of Grimm's Crossing. It provided us with quite a few things that Caldavar couldn't; a slight ramp up before the massive combat, the ability to have smaller skirmishes with plenty of room to move around, and the capability for interesting strategy.
Early into development we ran into a problem with the win-condition of the mode. Because we chose to go for a fast paced game with a quick re-spawn timer, players would constantly fight each other and never push to end the game. We solved this problem with a point system that took into account different objectives that happened throughout the game. The first team to 5000 points wins, where points are allotted through hero and building kills. Once a team reaches 5000 points, the other team will no longer re-spawn, and killing all of them will end the game (this on top of the regular win condition of killing the enemy's base structure). The point system also allowed us to have the quick games we were looking for. (~15 minutes)
When analyzing the mode, one of the most frustrating things we found was when games were very one-sided. Since the mode relies so much around abilities, one team having a level advantage was often crippling for the other team. In order to remedy this, we introduced a comeback mechanic where the losing team gained experience over time based on how far they were down. This made the losing team feel like they had a chance much more often and contributed to a lot more close, fun games.
One more frustrating feeling that we focused on in development was when you randomed a very poor set of abilities. To remedy this, we added the ability to earn/purchase Ability Re-roll Tokens (Amulets of Rebirth), allowing a players to re-random their abilities. This was very important because getting a poor set of abilities caused some players to get themselves killed in order to get a new set, bringing their team down in the process.
All in all, Rift Wars has turned out to be one of the most fun experiences we have had while playing HoN and we are very excited to be releasing it to the public! Rift Wars will be released to Newerth as a Beta product. This is being done for two reasons; one being that due to the enormous number of different possible combinations of abilities, heroes and alt avatars that can be achieved, there is no way we can fully test this mode for bugs. Two being that we are pursuing a different type of agile development process with Rift Wars. While we are very happy with the state of the mode we are releasing, this means that we are not fully finished with its development. We plan on gathering plenty of feedback from the community, and based on the reception of the mode, we will continue to add polish and tweak the mode to make it the best it can be!
Ophelia found Empath in the courtyard of Adkarna's central armory, stockpiling arrows, bolts, and various gunpowders shipped from the City of Iron. The battlecarts Empath had gathered carried enough equipment to level a large village.
Empath halted, more out of surprise than respect, her arms heavy with chainmail and her face slick with sweat. "My Queen."
Ophelia lifted the mail from Empath's arms. "I know, it is strange to see me within a city's walls." She carried the mail to one of the carts and draped it over the edge, where a squire hefted as much as he could and threaded it over thick wooden dowels.
Ophelia said, "I dislike the confinement almost as much as the stench of daemon blood. But when the messenger delivered your note, I had to come."
She offered a waterskin and towel.
Empath used both. "You haven't come to talk me out of it, I hope."
"No. To ask why you insist on leading this mission."
"I spoke to my brother. We didn't share much, but he did tell me the only reason he named you commander was because he was afraid not to. Apparently he believed if he hadn't, you would have become one with him, issued the order, then left."
"That would be disrespectful," Empath said. "A violation."
"But amusing, no? So tell me. Why is it so important for you to lead that odd band of warriors back into the Great Rift?"
Empath glanced at the Hunter's Guild, those heroes who had been pulled into the Rift and survived--thrived, even--and returned to warn Newerth off the growing Riftspawn threat. They seemed even more uncomfortable than Ophelia, and rightfully so. Ophelia preferred the natural setting of Caldavar to anything man-made, but the Guild was suited to an entirely different realm.
Empath said, "I was there when they emerged. I saw what else came out of that rift, and what it intended for our world. I cannot in good conscience let another carry the responsibility."
"But Jeraziah has granted you every resource you desire. I mean no offense, but there are other warriors better suited to spearhead an assault. The Black Legion comes to mind."
"The mission is mine," Empath said. She turned to collect another load of equipment, but Ophelia caught her arm.
"Tell me why." Her voice was stern, that of a Queen, but her eyes were soft. Appealing. Empath felt within her a true desire to know...to find out if the Great Rift might offer what she hoped it would.
"Relief," Empath said. "For years I have felt the suffering of Newerth. Of every living creature who has been tortured, maimed, killed. I will lead this mission into the Great Rift and close that gateway, because it will save Newerth. But while I am there, perhaps only for a moment... perhaps I won't feel that suffering."
Empath could not meet her eyes. "It is shameful. But the truth."
"No," Ophelia said. " No truth is shameful. It only is. And I, too, would embrace a moment of silence to avoid hearing my brothers and sisters of the natural world howling for the pain to stop. I wish you luck in your search for silence, even if it is only a moment."
"Please," Empath said. "Do not tell the King."
Ophelia scoffed. "He wouldn't understand. He might not even hear--he's consumed by his dwindling faith. I feared the news of the Great Rift might topple him from his god's altar completely. He cannot fathom an entire realm full of strange creatures, all of it beyond the touch of Sol. But he fears it."
"He should," Empath said.
"Have those Hunter rogues told you what to expect?"
"Chaos. Chaos and blood. They say our abilities will act erratically, as if we could swap them between us like items of clothing."
Ophelia cocked an eyebrow. " So Jeraziah and Maliken could feel as you do, share the suffering of our world?"
"It seems so."
"Maybe then these wars would end." Ophelia considered this for a few moments, then shook her head. "Likely better if you or I borrowed Hammerstorm's brute stremgth and just caved their fool heads in."
"There is something else the Hunters speak of," Empath said. "They call them Amulets of Rebirth. Activating one further scrambles the unknown Great Rift forces which grant them these new abilities. Use an Amulet, they say, and suddenly your abilities are different again."
"Chaos doesn't begin to describe this," Ophelia said. "It will be anarchy on a level previously unknown."
"The Hunter's Guild claim it's quite fun. Sporting, even."
Ophelia studied the group of hardened soldiers, each one covered in skins, claws, teeth, and other trophies taken from their Rift prey. "I suppose they would."
She put her hands on Empath's shoulders and looked into her eyes. "Lead the way into the Great Rift, warrior of Newerth. We will follow. We will close that cursed gateway. And--most important--we will all return."
Hey everyone, Buro here! Earlier this week you were able to read about how [S2] Malloc helped conceptualize Circe the Deceiver, I'd like to go into a bit more depth and detail about some of the design iterations that she went through prior to becoming the hero she is today.
Before Circe was put into SBT for testing, she went through quite a bit of iteration. With a concept as interesting as deceiving the enemy, we had to make many adjustments in achieving something that was fun to play without adding a large amount of frustration to play against. This proved to be quite the challenge. As an example, one iteration of her ultimate was to change the appearance of all the allied heroes to that of the deceiver for a certain duration so the enemy team would have no clue who was who. This, despite being a neat ability in concept, turned out to be terribly frustrating for the opposing team -- removing interesting decisions for the enemy team while not providing any tangible satisfaction for the user.
Once Circe made it to SBT for testing, it was apparent her first and third abilities did not mesh well with the rest of the hero and needed to be looked at again. The original first ability was a single target stun that reduced the primary stat of the target hero. The stat reduction, while effective, didn't feel impactful at all in use and limited the options of whom you could effectively target. Since we wanted something that needed to feel good to the player we decided against this initial design in search of something better.
After thoroughly reworking the first ability, we turned our attention to the other outlier, Circe's E. The third ability became something that we really enjoyed and will likely put on a future hero, but just didn't work with Circe's skill-set and overall feel. Here was the initial concept:
Target area to spawn a cloud of mist for a duration. Within the mist, allies are granted stealth with a fade time and all terrain walking.
After a few iterations of this concept, it turned out to not have enough synergy or effectiveness with Deceiver's other abilities and was changed out for the ability - Deceive. This ability was suggested many times throughout the design of Circe and really fits well into the theme of the hero.
Circe's second and ultimate abilities have been essential in solidifying her unique role in HoN. Her (W), Doppelganger, allows her to deceive the enemy with illusions of other heroes and her (R), Twisted Visage creates those exciting and memorable moments that make Circe a truly fun hero.
Immediately when Circe hit SBT, there was a lot of great feedback about her ultimate and concerns regarding its balance, but above all, it was fun. We've since added the channel time requirement to the ability, a break range, as well as the damage reduction. Much feedback focused on Circe copying items, but in the end, we wanted to keep the fun aspects of the hero and went the route of reducing overall damage instead of removing that functionality. Even after doing all of that we will be keeping a close eye on the balance of this ability when it goes live.
I hope you've enjoyed this little insight into the development process of Circe, the Deceiver. Look for her to deceive Newerth on September 25th!
I'm Paul "Malloc" Dziadzio, and I thought I'd take the time to give you guys a behind-the-scenes look at how Circe the Deceiver came to be. Here at S2 Games, we recognize that good ideas can come from anywhere. In the case of Deceiver, "anywhere" happened to be me. I'm a programmer; I created HoN's bots and manage the Community Bot Team in addition to regular gameplay programming. I was also fortunate to have the opportunity to create Berzerker long ago, contributing to his skill design and avatars. I absolutely love that we have such a collaborative culture here, and it's because of this that Circe came to be.
I originally started working on Circe the Deceiver (then just called "Deceiver") well over a year ago in my spare time. I loved watching all the amazing plays on the top fives and tens, and wanted to make a hero that let players pull off even more incredible plays. I also drew inspiration from Tim Buckley's original concept for Cthulhuphant's ult, althought that didn't end up being used by either. So with trick, skillful play in mind, I presented my ideas to the Design team. After five iterations, Buro gave her the okay to be scripted and tested in SBT. Since then, we've taken my original hero and transformed her into the hero she is today. She's certainly changed, I'm incredibly happy that the core game remains intact.
Circe is a hero about misleading your opponents, and using guile to defeat them. The goal of the hero has always been to provide interesting tools for a skillful player to trick and ambush their opponents. It's a tough challenge to provide tricky abilities without making the hero incredibly frustrating to play against! We liked the play style of the hero so much that, throughout the course of her development, we ended up creating several other deceptive skills that might show up on future heroes. As is, Circe is a blast to play, and we think her addition will really have an impact on Newerth.
Look for Circe the Deceiver as she makes her debut to Newerth on September 25!