Can Epic Save Paragon? We look at the MOBA’s future and what’s going wrong

Can Epic Save Paragon? We look at the MOBA’s future and what’s going wrong

I’ve had the pleasure of playing Paragon from the very early days of Legacy and it’s the first MOBA that I’ve had any interest in. When Epic teased the first characters with close-up images we thought it would be the same kind of MOBA which for me was initially a huge disappointment. I have little interest in MOBAs, DOTA2, LoL, SMITE, no interest whatsoever. I’ve tried them, and frankly, I found them a little dull. I understand there’s a lot of skill involved but the top-down view (SMITE being the exception) just felt like I was playing another game of Warcraft 3 and running a hero around in an isometric view. This was the main thing I disliked about Warcraft 3.

As part of the job we often play games we wouldn’t necessarily be attracted to to give us a more rounded understanding of different genres and that’s what I did with Paragon. I was terrible when I first started playing with my limited understanding of MOBAs. I ran around for about 10 games like a headless chicken wondering why I kept getting killed. Ordinarily, I would have put the game down and moved on but there was something different with Paragon. The hero designs, the map, and speed at which the game played were all attractive qualities. I stuck with it.

Now with 1400 hours under my belt, a mastery active on all characters, all the cards, and everything the game currently has to offer, I discover that Epic is thinking about possibly canning the game. It’s a bit of a bombshell for someone like me who plays every day of the week.

Epic has unexpectedly achieved great success with Fortnite thanks to the free to play Fotnite Battle Royale mode and, according to them, their dev teams are now stretched between two projects. Members of the Paragon team are having to help Fortnite which is apparently why updates have been slow for Paragon for the past month or so. This prompted the statement released yesterday.

Epic states that new players joining Paragon generally don’t stick around for more than a month, and it’s not surprising. It’s not because the concept is bad or the game is terrible, it’s because there are fundamental issues with the game that have not been addressed for well over a year.

It wasn’t long ago (November 2017) Epic told Paragon players that a new matchmaking system was coming to the game. It was planned for the start of 2018. This new system has been developed, tested in Fortnite, and then fully deployed in Fortnite. What puzzles Paragon players is why that system was not tested in Paragon first? Players have been crying out for a fix to matchmaking for over a year and Paragon sorely needs it because without it the game is essentially broken for new players.

paragon Draft

Matchmaking has always been a problem

The poor matchmaking is literally killing the game. While I may be no Paragon pro, I understand the fundamentals, the heroes, the map, and basically how a team should work together. Why then is it I can still join games with players who have only played a handful of games? As someone who doesn’t have the time due to work to find a team, then schedule regular sessions, I feel I am constantly being penalised for playing at all. However, I still play because I enjoy it whether I win or lose.

New players, on the other hand, are unlikely to stick around. Being shoved into matches against organised teams with voice comms and wondering why they are being pummeled or being shouted at in chat by teammates for being rubbish makes for a very unpleasant gaming environment.

The next problem, which not everyone agrees is a problem, is the Monolith map. The first Paragon map, (known as Legacy), was much larger and included harvesters that needed protecting, a large winding jungle, central buffs, and the Orb Prime dunk mechanic. If you read the official forums you will see cries of “Bring Legacy Back” and that’s been ongoing since the map was changed. Epic has stated many times Legacy is not coming back because the map size and “fast travel” movement speed mechanic had to change to keep game times down.

When playing on Legacy, the games could reach an hour in length and Epic thought that was far too long for players. They wanted to get the match times down to around 30-35 minutes and tried their best with numerous tweaks to towers and minions in Legacy. The weird thing is, players who were playing regularly generally didn’t complain about the match length. Not everyone enjoyed the longer games but from what I saw, it wasn’t a huge problem and adding an additional smaller map at the time would have kept the other players happy as they developed the game further.

Paragon

A Reminder of the expanse of the Legacy map

The Legacy map Orb Prime dunk mechanic was brilliant too. It encouraged thrilling encounters as one team tried to dunk the orb to restore a downed inhibitor (final tower). The other team had to stop them which forced a team fight. The reason it was removed? Epic saw it was increasing match times. Over time more and more features were removed from Legacy. The removal of regenerating inhibitors in v.27 and then travel speed reduction back .v32. Both these updates had a big impact on the game.

Epic has this idea that the game needs to be more accessible, which if you’re trying to make an engrossing MOBA with longevity and interesting game mechanics, is probably a difficult task. You cannot please everyone so why not keep the core players happy and engaged with the game instead of trying to catch everyone? More players will come.

Here’s some footage of Legacy in case you missed it – Plenty more on our Youtube channel

So what was the solution to the Legacy problem? Release a new smaller map called Monolith and completely revamp the game’s card system. Now, I actually like Monolith and the new card system also works for me. It’s a matter of personal preference. However, I understand where the players are coming from when they say they hate the new map and card system. It was such a huge change to the game it now feels and plays completely differently. The key word is different. It’s not worse, just different.

I know Epic has stated Legacy will not be back but perhaps they should rethink this. Right now the game has one map so why not revamp the Legacy map with its larger size and let the community loose in both Legacy and Monolith? Use the stats gathered from players playing on both maps to see what the community prefers. Don’t try and rebalance the heroes to work on both maps for now, just see what happens and then work from the feedback to shape the game. Some of the heroes need rebalancing anyway.

Paragon Map New

The smaller Monolith Map

Epic is in a great position with Paragon. There is a passionate community wanting to experiment so why not open a public test server? Other developers have embraced test servers so why not open it up to Paragon testers. This is supposed to be a beta after all and players just want to see constructive feedback being taken on board.

With today’s bombshell news from Epic stating that “no iteration has yet achieved that magical combination of ingredients that make for a sustainable game”, players are now more concerned than ever that the end could be nigh. This would be a tragic loss for the passionate community and it must be extremely frustrating for the developers on the team that have tried to move the game forward, albeit with some strange decisions.

There is a glimmer of hope in the released statement when they say, “Over the next few weeks, we’ll be figuring out if and how we can evolve Paragon to achieve growth and success, and trying some things internally. ” This at least indicates they are willing to give Paragon a chance and while they need to test the “things” internally perhaps they should let the community see those changes, and even better, let them test them out after a short internal test.

Speaking to PC Invasion back in 2016, Paragon Creative Director, Steve Superville stated they were wanting to experiment. They should now stick to that philosophy but open it up even more.  Unfortunately, Steve Superville left Epic in 2017, but at the time he said:

“At the same time we can’t design by committee, and so it very much is a hard challenge to figure out the best path forward. And we’re doing that by experimenting. We’ve tried our best to be transparent, open, and honest with our community about this being an actual beta. We are doing grand experiments with our players. Telling them exactly what’s coming. Sometimes better than others, we’ve dropped the ball occasionally there. But our goal is to tell them what’s coming, why it’s coming, listen to their feedback, and figure out the next thing.”

Having seen what Epic is capable of creating with the Legacy map, and even elements of Monolith, I feel confident that the game can be moved forward. How much Superville’s departure has affected the project is unknown but it could be one reason why the game’s direction is currently floundering. For that to happen Epic needs to listen more, be more communicative, and let the players experiment. They must not be afraid to mess with the game to find the sweet spot because the community will try and help. I am certainly willing to chip in along with, I anticipate, the rest of the community.

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  • Paul Younger

    Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

    • felipescado

      have you tried Heroes of the storm? not as popular as any moba you mentione BUT i find it more enjoyable than any of those(except pre-mapchange paragon)

      • Paul Younger

        I can’t stand HOTS. It’s just your typical top-down MOBA. Believe me I have tried to like it.

    • Diddy

      I’ll be playing Arena of Valor; if Paragon doesn’t get it together. Paragon is Dawngate all over again, google it.

      Epic did this by letting go of creative director and going with someone who got his mark in mobile microtransactions, which is why you have chests, keys, and paying to level up.

      They ask for feedback, yet just ignore it for years, MMR, ranked, voice communications, legacy – just because we aren’t the “data”.

      They speak of transparency, yet made those 2vs2 lane changes and we didn’t know of it until the day of the patch.

      If they streamers never spoke out, they never would have addressed their status – and we would still be in the dark.

    • Elly Davis

      I had never played a MOBA before either and I didn’t want to and it took a while for someone to convince me to play this. Really they ground me down until I gave in a played it just to shut them up and I quickly started playing it multiple times a week for a good few hours each session How? It’s only one map for god sake but I did.

      I was finally driven away by the appaling matchmaking. Nothing to say on that that hasn’t already been said above and in comments.

    • Tree Snipe

      I’d love to see LEGACY and MONOLITH maps exist in PARAGON as well!
      A ton of people left this game when they ditched LEGACY and people havent stopped asking for it back every since.
      This article is accurate and very much gets right to the heart of the matter.

      • Paul Younger

        Thanks. I believe that having two maps will allow for the longer and shorter games. However, the matchmaking is key to fix right now. It’s urgent.

    • cston

      just revert it back to V41 and almost all of your player base will come back…sorry but fortnite BR is so cheesey and its definitely not fun..not even on the same plane as pubg and the only reason it has a player count is because its free and their pcs can’t run pubg

    • Nathan A

      Wait, so they couldn’t retain players without a ranking and matchmaking system? Huh… go figure.

      It’s as if people would play for a month and then wonder what exactly they were trying to achieved. Gosh… I really just don’t know what EPIC could have done to make this game a success.

    • VRH

      Sorry bruh but people were leaving Legacy, only minority on forums were spamming “Bring Back Legacy”
      Legacy was losing players faster than any Monolith version and thats a fact.

    • Jimmy Wagner

      Was a good article, I agree the matchmaking is busted, but that could also be a problem with small player base. Epic needs to do two things, take off the BETA tag, people are tired of playing in BETA after 2+ years. Finally, EPIC just needs to include the ranked system already. Include the ranking system, and it gives people a goal. Right now the only goal is to level up and leveling up different hero up is an insane grind. People get bored of grinding. If i wanted to grind I would play a MMORPG. I want to be ranked and get the chance to improve my ranking.

      • Paul Younger

        I don’t think the beta tag makes much of a difference when it comes to growing the player base, I also think the playerbase is reasonable although we don’t have any numbers on that. There does needs to be some official ranking in place, although third-party sites are where most players are checking at the moment. An official ranking system would help.

        • Jimmy Wagner

          The problems with the third party ranking sites are numerous, but the primary problem is it counts every match. Much like yourself, I have thousands of hours played. I understand the game, but when trying new hero’s there is always a learning curve. It takes me, 10+ matches to real figure out the builds I like and intricacies of any given hero. Certain heroes I just know I will never be good at, but other heroes I excel. However, third party ranking programs by including every match don’t factor into those matches, the times when you are playing new heroes or playing new builds, which can have a huge effect on your lane and your match ups. When you factor in the poor matchmaking, your third party rankings mean nothing. However, as a writer for the industry any chance you can inquire as to when they plan on implementing a ranking system? That would be a nice bright spot on the horizon if we could get information on that. As for the map difference, I do enjoy the shorter matches, and could not imagine now going back to hour+ long matches.

          With a ranking system that requires players be a certain level, requires players leveled a certain amount of heroes to a certain level at a minimum you are guaranteed some basic competency by every player. Like yourself, I work full time, come home to play 3-4 matches before I am off to bed. I really think Epic has a great game on its hands, looks so good, and it a lot of fun, excpet when getting stomped by a 3-5 man premade.

          Lastly, I think they need to go back to the old ward/potion system. Having wards and potions, did cost money, but did not cost you ability space. Now in end game, it is too much to ask support players to choose between cards they need to save their lives and ward cards to save the team lives. Or make more powerful ward end game ward cards.

          • Paul Younger

            I am in the process of working on something which will hopefully come to fruition. Stay tuned.

            Agree on wards taking a slot. I always carry wards as a support but there are so many games where wards are just not present and they really can boost the chances of success. Also really infuriating when you have a Wraith that is not even dropping his wards. Drive me nuts.

            Third-part matchmaking is, as you say, kind of worthless but it’s all we have and at least it sort of gives an incentive to play even if you know it’s mostly rubbish.

            • Jimmy Wagner

              I look forward to your next article on Paragon Paul!