Guardians of Middle-Earth needs to be balanced perfectly in order for it to function as a fast-paced MOBA title. Developer Monolith has been clever in its update process by keeping its balancing database on the cloud, meaning that as soon as something breaks, an update can be rolled out immediately without having to go through timely certification via Microsoft or Sony. Get the details below.
Speaking with VG247 as part of an interview feature, producer at Monolith Bob Roberts discussed how the studio hired some local MOBA pros to help them nail a perfect balance between all of the game's guardian's and the in-game items.
At first the testers were critical of Monolith's work so far, but Roberts said that together they ironed out all of the creases and created a character set without issues, "The basic idea is that, if they can sink time in and really practice a particular combo – say five guardians that really compliment each other really well , and the perfect item build – that there is always a counter for that.
“So no matter what the testers figured out to be the best possible strategy that they could think of, and was over-powered for a couple of days, someone else on the team would figure out a counter to it. That strategy would then become dominant for a couple of days, and it cycled around like that whether or not we changed any balance.
“That's the point we got to where it feels like a good equilibrium for this type of competitive game, because with any competitive multiplayer, you want it to not be about individual champions or items. It's got to be something that where the community will find emergent counters to strategies, and keep things cycling around on their own.”
Although a strong balance was found, Monolith will be extra vigilant in its monitoring of the game's balance, and roll out cloud-based updates whenever something needs fixed. Roberts added that this method of delivery means that updates don't have to certified by Microsoft or Sony when rolled out across respective formats.
Roberts explained, “Every week those guys would rank all the guardians in buckets like, 'These guys are all the top-tier, these guys are middle-tier, and those guys are in the bottom-tier that no one ever wants to play.' By the time we're shipping, everybody has evened out. There's no one in the bottom tier any more
“But just in case, we did also build a system for having a lot of our balance database saved in cloud storage, that you're going to download every time you launch the game. It's a very small, quick update that doesn't have to go through certification, so we can update it every day, every week – however often we need to if we see critical balance issues.”
Senior producer Ruth Tomandl added, “There are other developers that have done it, and I know that other XBLA games have done it. But I know there are also other game where, players have run into issues or glitches that could not be fixed by patching in data, so we were careful so that anything involving numbers or any sort of guardian strength could be tweaked using that patch.”
Roberts continued, “It's really the same system as 'Message of the day' feeds. It's really just using that same technology that people have been using for a long time. I think a lot of developers realised they could but more interesting data in there.”
Guardians of Middle Earth rolls out on PS3 and Xbox 360 across all regions from December 4th and 5th respectively. What do you make of Monolith's cloud update system? Let us know below.