The meta was also dived into more. Someone asked how the upgrading of minions or choosing loadouts before the game will be the equivalent of counter-picking and changing lanes in League of Legends. Scott explained that at level six is when you get your first upgrade to your minions or towers. You also get it at level nine and two at level 12. At that point in the game, you're choosing strategies to counter the other team. As far as laning, since the game is a fast experience, the laning phase in truncated. So, the first few levels is laning, but due to shrine hold points, it's typical to do more roaming; it's more of a roaming kind of meta game where two or three guardians will group together, then split up and roam, capture shrines, then group up, etc. As far as picking things in advance before the game, you can choose certain commands and potions before the game. So you might want to take a global cleanse for your team against their crowd control spells, or choosing things that benefit your playstyle. So if you blow all your potions early game, you won't have anything available to your later in the game.
As far as new guardians and skins coming through DLC, it has already been announced that characters from the upcoming Hobbit movie will be added to the game, as well as room for future playable guardians. As far as skins go, they haven't announced anything, but characters have such strong personalities in the universe that they don't really see skins being as popular as in other games. But they are planning to do more maps because Middle Earth is more about the environments and locations. I asked if Helms Deep or Minas Tirith could be in there, and they said not specifically those, but along those lines. As far as whether the post-launch support will be free, they haven't announced it yet, so no word on how much they'll cost, if they cost anything at all.
That wrapped up the call, and I hope everything discussed is getting you as excited as I am. I'm really impressed with the direction of the game and the dedication from the dev team. I'll be posting my thoughts from my hands-on time with the game very soon, so stay tunes for that. Now, “fly you fools…”
You can follow Lance Liebl on Twitter @Lance_GZ
Another goal that the team at Monolith had was to make the game action-packed and quicker than PC MOBAs. They wanted to get players in and out of the game — not have 45 to 60 minute matches; to have more of a stronger, faster experience where you dive into a game, beat em up, dive into another game and try new things. Here's where they explored the in-match levels. The normal 18-20 levels wasn't working for them, so they decided on 14 match levels for your guardian. This allowed them to have you start with three of your four abilities right out of the gate.
The in-game match experience also goes faster and feels better when you put all the meta game strategies before the match. Guardians utilize Rune belts which are set before the game (I'll discuss these more with my hands-on time with the game I had). Pre-game, you'll be thinking more about your load-out, what will you stack on him, how will your choice of relics and potions affect your guardian in match. You may be thinking, “How will I then react to the other team?” Well, when you're matchmaking, you'll have a window of time where you'll see the other guardians that you're facing. So if you see you're going to go up against a Gandalf, you'll figure that he'll bring more ability power or cooldown effects. You'll make assumptions as to how they're going to augment their guardian. It also makes for really quick matches because the death time is scaled back from your typical PC MOBA. Yes, it ramps up as the game goes on, but in-game you're not worried about the store and buying items because you already set up your guardian before the game. You die, you come back faster, and you're right back in the thick of things.
As with normal MOBAs, there are creature buffs — specifically, there are four shrines that augment the survivability of your guardian. It becomes an interesting match strategy trying to hold those shrines. There is also an RTS-style upgrading system for towers and lanes. For example, you can upgrade one lane's soldiers to be a mounted unit, or spawn a big entity (he said ent at first, so maybe Treebeard will be one of those spawned entities?) that will smash down structures late game. These are more of the late-game/meta game strategies — what will you upgrade to help your team? You can also create healing towers, make towers shoot faster or split their projectiles, and adapt them to what you need.
For new players, there's a series of tutorials that will cover a large range of strategies and team objectives that you'll encounter on the battlefield, as well as what you should and shouldn't do. It'll even be helpful to MOBA veterans to see the difference between Guardians of Middle Earth and PC MOBAs.
At this point, we were able to ask questions to Scott and Ruth. I was curious as to how matchmaking will work and if there will be rankings or not. Ruth said that matchmaking is working through the first-party matchmaking system — in this example, Xbox Live matchmaking — and while they aren't going to have ranked matches, each player will have a behind-the-scenes ELO rating that will affect matchmaking. In addition, players will be able to see detailed stats about players, including wins and losses.
Other things brought up were the abilities to play against bots. There's a quality assurance team that balances guardians and works on the quality of the bot guardians. In Skirmish mode, a team of friends can play against a team of bots, and the bots can have different levels of difficulty. The hardest level of bots have excellent timing and are very unforgiving. Custom games are also available, where you can set up two players versus five bots, or whatever you want.
Do you know what a MOBA is? If you don't, it's pretty much a symmetrical three lane map that pits five players against another five players in an attempt to get through the enemy's towers to destroy their base. MOBAs like League of Legends and DoTA are played on PC — until now. The team at Monolith is bringing the MOBA experience to XBLA and PSN this fall. We had a chance to get in on a call with Ruth Tomandl, producer on the dev team, and Scott Compton, lead designer.
Scott mentioned how a lot of the team played MOBAs and really wanted to explore the idea of bringing the genre over to the console, so they created a strike team to adapt MOBA from PC to console. Things like controls and camera had to be figured out. After some initial and successful testing, they searched for a recognizable wrapper for this game — and that's where Middle Earth comes in. It brings a rich world setting and recognizable characters (like Legolas) that people would have expectations for. It helped the designers actually design the characters because they would already know what the expectations for those characters would be — abilities and what they could do out on the battlefield.
So how does Guardians of Middle Earth work as a MOBA on a console? Well one thing that they discovered in early play testing was that putting the player in direct control of the guardian was a really satisfying experience. Normally in MOBAs, you control a character, but it is through clicking with the mouse and then they respond to your movements. In GoME, the player is in direct control of the character with the left analog stick and driving the character around the battlefield. It's controlling instead of directing. They also wanted to develop a control scheme that would be to the liking of core gamers and veterans of the genre, as well as new players to these types of games.
This led them to come up with a twin-stick shooter type of feel to the game — where the left stick controls movement and the right stick controls targeting. They realized early on that targeting was going to be a major point that they really had to nail. With ranged and melee attackers, they had to make sure that the attacks could be pulled off very fast and timely; also, they wanted to make these iconic characters feel powerful with just their basic attacks. For example, the dwarf character has a basic attack that is a wedge and hits multiple enemies at a time. It feels very satisfying for even a novice gamer.
Abilities are mapped directly to the four face buttons, and guardians have four abilities, with one being an ultimate ability. The intuitiveness of the controller was a natural translation of controls coming over from keyboard. In addition to cones, other targeting systems are aoe around your character, aoe circles, single targeting, and others. With this, they decided to come up with two control schemes — basic and advanced. Basic has attacked triggered by the right trigger, and if you just tap a face button your ability will go off. If you tap and hold the face button, you get a pre-visualization to time the attack and see the range.
More MOBA-saavy players that want fine-tuned controls will like the advanced controls. Here, when you tap a face button, it give the pre-visualization and won't activate the ability until you use the right trigger. It gives you the ability to lead your skillshots. Depending on the guardian you're playing and the types of abilities they have, you might find yourself switching between the two control schemes. They also made sure they had a very forgiving camera that is set to let you judge distances on your abilities well.