You can read about Paragon, Epic's new MOBA, over here, but there were parts I had to cut out of the feature for flow and length. If you're wondering about the game's replay system, crossplay with consoles, approach to chat toxicity, and why Epic are making a MOBA in the first place, read on for some bonus materials from my conversation with creative director Steve Superville.
Why Epic Are Making A MOBA
League of Legends was Steve Superville's previous MOBA of choice. Each morning he and colleagues at Epic would come to work and "tell these stories of the fantastic fights and teamfights and combos, how we won the match, how we came back, how we pulled it off. Those stories were things that got told and retold and retold."
A couple of years ago the team at Epic had decided they wanted to make a competitive multiplayer game – not something new in and of itself at Epic so they were also looking for a challenge. "What are we naturally doing?" was the question Steve posed and the answer was coming in and swapping MOBA war stories.
Superville and his team felt there was something special about MOBAs and the stories they're able to create so they decided to try and figure out what. "We figured out it's the teamfights, it's the interplay between characters, it's that your life expectancy is long enough that we start making decisions off each other. I see you engage, I hold back with my ult [ultimate ability], I wait for the perfect moment to pull it off and the plan comes together. There's also the strategy with the map choices, the itemisation... Games are always fresh because of the way the MOBA genre is."
How The Replay System Works
Epic wanted to address the fact that cinematic renditions of MOBA plays and the actual gameplay can be very different, more about capturing the feel of playing rather than play itself. "We wanted to challenge ourselves. Can we bring our gameplay much closer to the cinematic that we would make that we announced at PSX and make it feel like an Epic game?" says Superville.
He gave an example. "We knew we wanted to keep the game physical so you can understand and parse what's going on. Rampage (a tanky fighter character) picks up a rock and throws it across the map rather than just spawning a particle effect somewhere over there. Not that we don't have plenty of that too."
This brings us to the game's replay system. I only saw it briefly but it's a toolset designed to allow you to pull up replays and manipulate them. You can get information on players and their builds, watch them play and examine matches from multiple perspectives, but there are also a bunch of editing tools in there too. The idea is that players will be able to create their own cinematics (I'm predicting a future awash with slow motion replays of teamfights) and, as with those MOBA storytelling moments Superville mentioned at the start, share them with others. They've also told me that gif creation should be possible.
Sharing moments is something I actually do a lot in Destiny when I something cool or weird happens, although only using the PS4 video capture so it's not fancy editing.
Superville adds that every game of Paragon gets stored on the replay server and you can search for your own matches, friends' matches, characters you want to learn better and so on.
I tell him I spent one of my matches playing Gideon – he's kind of like a mage with a short-range teleport, a meteor strike, a tether and a black hole which sucks people towards him at his disposal. If I wanted to improve my Gideon play, he explains, "you can filter all the replays ever by Gideon, maybe filter by things that happened within the last week and find a Gideon match where he went some ridiculous KDA and load it up and start learning from each other."
The replays also let you see skill builds and the deck of cards (the substitute for your item options) so I ask whether there's a way of just saying "Import that deck" – or at least as many of the cards as you have unlocked from that deck. "We aren't there yet," he admits. "We're probably a good way away but that is the goal, especially to expose an API to the community so they can build websites."
How Crossplay Works Between PC And PS4
The game is intended for PC and PS4 with players from each able to join the same match. I'm so wary of this because Smite went to console as well as PC but separated the two versions out because there are very real differences in what's possible when using a gamepad versus a mouse and keyboard. A particular concern for me is the ability to turn fast. On PC it's a really quick action, on console in Smite it takes longer, thus heroes are more vulnerable to things like being snuck up on. I spent all my time with the PC version during the preview event (for obvious reasons) so I can't answer that from experience but I did put the question to Steve.
"The end goal is to make one game and have it be a uniform experience across games, including cross progression and cross purchase," is how Superville puts it. Specifically referring to my concerns about the different platforms advantaging or disadvantaging particular actions or characters he adds:
"In terms of controller versus mouse and keyboard, the nice thing about MOBAs is the pacing of the game and the design of the game and combat of the game is not so twitch-based. It's much more about positioning and teamwork and understanding the strengths of your character and the weaknesses in another character and making decisions in unison with your ally rather than jump 180 noscope headshots where everything is determined by how fast you can move your crosshair on top of a pixel. That's just not the game we're making."
I think this is one of those things where I want to try it out and see how the platforms compare once the beta is live and people are playing regularly to see if the experiences feel like they're compatible.
How Epic Hope To Keep In-Game Chat Healthy
"We're approaching it gingerly and diligently," says Superville. "We know player interaction is both the reason people stay in a game like this and the reason people will leave. Particularly when it's free-to-play, I don't have any financial investment. I paid $60 for CoD so it doesn't matter who is yelling what at me, I'm going to play $60-worth whatever that means to me. So we have the team chat wheel, we'll introduce map pinging sometime relatively soon. Currently you can only text chat to teammates which boils down on some of the toxicity and that doesn't at least go cross-team.
"We debated a lot about whether to do global voice-over-IP and I've just never seen it work out well. We'll figure things out. We may do it but start everybody muted and you can selectively choose to unmute - that's up to you." My own suggestion is that perhaps you can earn the right to use voice by gaining positive reputation or feedback from others – easier communication as a reward for being helpful or pleasant to play with. But then again, if you don't offer a voice option there's always Ventrilo or Teamspeak or Mumble. Even Skype. Perhaps the bigger challenge will be facilitating voice across PS4 and PC.
Read more about Paragon in our feature published earlier today.