Do-Over: Gauntlet Update Is The Game Devs Envisioned

Arrowhead Studios’ latest dev blog update for Gauntlet official site] pretty much doubles as a post-mortem. Written by game director Emil Englund (and presumably also Marvel hero, with that alliteration), it’s revealed the team haven’t been too happy with their reboot of ye olde dungeon runner.

Which, perhaps, isn’t hugely surprising. The game released last year to moderate reviews; and likewise, Adam’s take on it is basically a textual shrug and grunt. The studio appear have a similar opinion. Englund writes: “In truth, we were never fully satisfied with how Gauntlet turned out. So, rather than just fixing little things here and there, we have been working on the core of the game to turn it into what we originally envisioned.”

Arrowhead will be releasing a big, free content update in the next couple of months, which will include a new game mode and improvements to both the campaign and Colosseum mode. There’s no exact release date so far, although the devs will be releasing teasers and info on their site over the coming months.

35 Comments

  1. BisonHero says:

    From a business development perspective, is this ever worth it?

    I remember Dustforce, for example, launched with difficulty that was pretty unreasonable, and you had to pretty much S-rank a stage to earn a key to unlock later worlds and levels in the game, so the point that most people messed around with a couple of the early stages then just gave up on the game altogether, and it got thrashed for that weird design choice both in reviews and through word of mouth. I think a year or more later, after porting it to a bunch of platforms, they went back and rebalanced some stuff and opened up the level unlock progression way, way more, but it seems like one of those situations where the damage was done, and some minor Steam notification of “sorta new version available!” isn’t likely to generate more than a few thousand sales.

    • ChairmanYang says:

      I’d imagine these sorts of updates can definitely be worth it for the developers.
      1. It’s generally cheaper to update an existing game rather than work on an entirely new project. The financial risk of working on this is probably not going to be ruinous.
      2. Games have much longer tails than they used to; some can sell for literally a decade. Sales aren’t always as frontloaded as they used to be. To my knowledge, Gauntlet still has room for bigger discounts and some bundle inclusions, too.
      3. Aside from new sales, if you want to starting selling DLC to your existing userbase, you have to keep them playing and interested. Updates and revamps are a good way to do this.
      4. Even if the update doesn’t add many sales for the current game, people notice when developers support a game long-term (or when they don’t). An update isn’t just an investment in the current game; it’s an investment in the developer’s reputation, and therefore all upcoming games as well.

      • Hedgeclipper says:

        CDProjectRED pretty much built an empire on 4

      • Sin Vega says:

        I think you’re particularly right about the latter point, which is the hardest to quantify but potentially the most effective long-term investment for any company. It’s not exactly a safe prospect, but people underestimate the power of goodwill.

        • Aetylus says:

          Years of good support certainly made me highly forgiving of Paradox’s older buggy releases… and eventually turned me into a hardened fanboi.

        • Press X to Gary Busey says:

          It always seems strange to me when even professionals neglect #4. Customer retention and brand loyalty first is always cheaper and less risk than just clean-slate mass marketing for every new product, especially in markets with heavy competition. It’s part of Business administration and marketing 101 but the larger players in the software entertainment industry act more like they are selling soft drinks or fast food, as if the market is half the planet.

    • Nasarius says:

      Look at Marvel Heroes relaunching as Marvel Heroes 2015, for example. They were even able to get a whole new Metacritic entry.

      The slightly more subtle version is coupling major enhancements with a full expansion, like Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls. You *do* have to make some kind of big deal about it so that people will notice and write new reviews, though.

      • BisonHero says:

        Yeah, I think it’s understandable to make that sort of move with a Marvel game or Diablo game, because regardless of some fuckups, you probably still have a lot of gamer and game press eyeballs on that caliber of game.

        I think it’s a riskier move for games more on the scale of Gauntlet or Dustforce where they kinda came and went, and at no point were they widely known games. It seems like those games are much more likely to continue to be overlooked, even if the update does dramatically improve how they play. Still, these replies have made some good points, so thanks for the interesting responses.

    • 2helix4u says:

      I bought the Witcher 3 soley because of the good will CDProjekt earned from free updates to Witcher 1&2.
      Its a big value add compared to say… Destiny, which is absolutely crying out for this kind of overhaul and will never get it without it being a sequel.

    • Cederic says:

      Yeah, I wonder that too. I welcome developers supporting their games post-release but I’m also keen that good developers generate the income to stay afloat. Games written by professionals need to be commercially viable.

      I’m sure these guys have done the maths, but hope it works out for them anyway.

  2. int says:

    I’ve had it with the warrior’s sexist armor. Even females usually get nipple armor, but there is nothing saving the warrior’s nipples! More protection for the warrior, I say!

    • BooleanBob says:

      Take a closer look. That warrior is clearly wearing a barrel.

    • australopithecus says:

      Hilarious! Nothing like a strawman argument to make me role on the flaw.

      If Babarian classes were the only ones to have scantily clad females (and males), there wouldn’t be a problem.

      • Kitsunin says:

        I don’t disagree per se, but this is a really bad way to pick your battles, and considering that was just a joke, you’re likely to do little more than turn people off with this kind of statement.

        • Philomelle says:

          Yeah, pretty much this.

          Worse yet, it’s pretty silly to complain about fantasy armor design on the only game from the last decade that subverts it. Valkyrie, the only female character of the cast, is an armored powerhouse with a splintered face. I’d much rather talk about how cool it is that the developers pulled something like that.

      • Ejia says:

        True, but Babarians are the real elephant in the room.

        • Kollega says:

          Actually, if you ask me, Barbarians are the only fantasy character class who are NOT the elephant in the room, because A) male and female Barbarians are usually pretty equal in terms of being scantily-clad, and B) it fits the Barbarian character archetype, as opposed to chainmail bikinis on someone who SHOULD by all logic be wearing normal armour. Barbarians are more of an exception to the usual fantasy armour sexism.

        • Bassem says:

          I logged in just to express my appreciation of this marvellous pun.

  3. subedii says:

    I actually really enjoyed this game, so I’m looking forward to this.

    I feel like Guantlet was critically overlooked. Too many people made light of it for the fact that it didn’t really have “unlockables” to keep you playing. But in my mind that’s kind of backwards, you’re supposed to play because the core gameplay is fun. And I felt that the gameplay _is_ fun, particularly with a group you know.

    I don’t even mind if I spend a relatively small amount of time with the game as long as it’s all enjoyable, and it’s not purely for the sake of working up to something enjoyable.

    To me it’s the difference between calling a game “compelling” and “compulsive”. One of them is something I want to do because I’m excited by it, the other is something I do purely because it taps into the skinner box part of my brain.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Indeed. It was a point in Gauntlet’s favour that the unlocks were all (save one early one for each class, like the Elf getting arrow bombs) basically pointless as that meant you were not disadvantaged in your CO-OP PVE GAME for not grinding as much as your friends (c.f. e.g. Payday 2, and no my axe is not yet sharp enough).

      It would have been more in its favour if it simply didn’t have them as anything but achivements, mind, since then it wouldn’t have opened itself to criticism about how pointless 1% upgrades are.

      • subedii says:

        Haha, man Payday’s a pet bugbear of mine as well. All the coolest toys and abililties are of course, at the top of the unlock tree, and it takes ages to do this for even one class. Meanwhile playing online with other people you constantly feel you’re dragging your team back and you’re far less useful to them than they are to you.

        That’s assuming that joining the lobby doesn’t automatically prompt a whole lot of departures from the high level players who can’t stand the idea in the first place. And it’s not as if I can even blame them for that really. :/

  4. JamesTheNumberless says:

    I really enjoyed the new Gauntlet but missed some of the aspects of the originals. I wonder if it’s too much to ask that the new game mode brings back open maze-like levels and the traditional Gauntlet relationship between health and time.

  5. trjp says:

    The game had many issues but I’m not convinced a ‘free upgrade’ will fix much of that.

    I played it mostly single player or with randoms and only one class is really viable for that, the Archer. The melee classes are impossible solo and frustrating without teamwork – and the Wizard is – erm – well, he has a Magicka-stylee casting system which is SO OUT OF PLACE here that it’s hard to know where to start (by replacing it with something which works better and fits better might be a good start)

    If their idea is to add ‘more of Magicka’ – well that’ll ruin it even more I guess, that’s not the way to go here.

    The other issue I had it is you have to play through 3 sub-levels at a time to advance anywhere and even when you do that (and don’t die or have to quit) gearing-up is slow and and there aren’t many areas to see…

    I don’t think repurposing what it contains righ tnow will achieve a lot – but hey, at least they’ll try something I guess??

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      Oh come on, the wizard is the best and also the best class to solo with.

    • Philomelle says:

      I have beaten the game on maximum difficulty with Warrior and actually found Valkyrie to be one of the better characters to solo with due to her projectile blocking and the completely ridiculous damage on her shield throw, so…

      Get competent, I guess?

  6. LionsPhil says:

    As someone who vaguely liked the original with friends, I’m slightly concened that in this modern age of digitally distributed forced updates that that version is going to be ERASED FROM SPACE AND TIME.

    • frogulox says:

      I always wonder about this. Lile i played gameX back in the patchYY.Z2 days, but that was 5 years ago and now i dont know whats happening. actualy bugs aside i feel like it would be cool (in some cases) to have balance tweaks and content updates and stuff able to be rolled back to a previous version.

      Obv this is a huge effort for devs – implementation of the choice, varied userbase experience, multiplayer incompatibility and not least the hiding of any new work a dev has done.

      Perhaps alongside any release of a patch or update a dev could release a free mod with functionality equivalent to the previous edition.

      • frogulox says:

        *like *actually

        Now i seem like a california high school barbie.
        Verbally. Not physically.

        .. not physically at all.

  7. Tukuturi says:

    I find this sort of thing really interesting, not just in how games are changed but in how our memories and experiences of games are changed. For example, when I think back on Everquest and its endless parade of expansions, my memories of the game are a sort of confusing, jumbled palimpsest. My memories of places I’ve lived for any length of time are similar. In the latter case, there is some limited material record of past states that can be interpreted archaeologically. I wonder if there is an analog to this for games, a kind of digital archaeology of imaginary places.

  8. subedii says:

    No kidding. Heck you can hit up youtube right now and find loads of solo runs.

    As for the Wizard, man I like the way the Wizard plays (not like the much lauded original game had much unique going for him).

    There’s a bad habit of swapping “things I personally do not approve of” for meaning “things that are bad game design”. Sometimes they’re both the same, but you need to be very careful in making that kind of extension with regards to a games “issues”.

    • subedii says:

      Reply fail, was meant to be replaying to @Philomelle.

    • Philomelle says:

      Luckily enough, I was just looking at this article!

      The thing with solo runs is that when Gauntlet first came out, it was covered to hell with cheaters and finding a good co-op partner outside your friend list was nearly impossible. So people who didn’t have friends to play with, ended up practicing it solo and learning their meta.

      None of the characters are really weaker or stronger. Yes, the Elf seems like the easiest pick, but he gets screwed really badly against large enemy numbers due to lack of reliable AoE. Warrior may lack range and single-target damage, but he’s the king of brawling through huge hordes of brittle angry things.

      On the other hand, trjp apparently thinks there is “gearing up” in the game, so I’m not sure he played long enough to learn how the game works. (Unless he means Relics? They’re useful at times, but nothing I felt very compelled to use after a run or two.)