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Season 3 – The Past, Present, and Future of Paladins
With Season 3 just over the horizon, I wanted to take some time to talk about where Evil Mojo Games is heading into 2020. Since we have a massive amount of system changes coming to Paladins in our first update of the new year, I wanted to make sure all our players understand the reasoning and purpose behind each of them.
Before we get started, I want to assure you that our team’s entire focus is being placed on improving the Paladins experience from its core, which will allow us to actively compete into 2020 and beyond.
Every change we are making is with this goal in mind — we want to make a great experience for veterans and new players alike, ensuring that the best years of Paladins are ahead of us..
For you to understand why we’re implementing everything coming in A Tigron’s Tale and Season 3 however, it’s extremely important that we visit the past — which has heavily shaped Paladins into the experience we all play today.
Two years ago, Paladins was losing money.
And that’s just a fact — the game wasn’t bringing in enough money to support the development team working hard on the project. There were numerous reasons why Paladins was failing as a game at the time, but it was never because of the core gameplay experience. Paladins had, and still has, a large player base, but it was simply unable to support itself monetarily due to misaligned systems.
Because of quick-paced two-week update cycles, the team was experimenting with different gameplay systems to try and solve these issues — which introduced major changes to the Paladins ecosystem across short time frames we couldn’t properly assess. Naturally this was done to ensure the game we knew was fun at the core could survive in a competitive market, but it ultimately led to severe bloat, thousands of bugs, and multiple systems that were ported from other Hi-Rez titles.
Our development time was used trying to find the next thing to drive monetization, which spread our resources thin instead of unifying them to build things from the ground up that made sense for Paladins at its core.
This is no longer the case, and our team is dedicated to making sure that style of development never returns to Evil Mojo.
[Enter HiRez Chris]….
The first signs of success.
Starting in 2018, the Paladins team was restructured internally, and Chris Larson (HiRezChris) was brought on as our Executive Producer. Larson was previously the Executive Producer of SMITE, and was a huge blessing to both the team and game thanks to his years of experience. Not only did he make sure the team was focusing on getting our development pipeline for Paladins in order, he also pushed the team towards more open communication with our community and the revert of OB64.
After a few months with Chris at the helm, Paladins released its first successful update- Siege of Ascension Peak. This update introduced a new monetization strategy, a slew of higher quality skins, new cosmetic options, and the official start of Season 1. This was the beginning of Paladins as you know it now!
This success continued through the rest of 2018, as we refined our monetization and development strategies to find what worked best for Paladins – for both our team and for our players. This ended with our current pipeline of less frequent, but larger updates, and the introduction of the Battle Pass.
[Enter Xienen and Evil Mojo]….
First, I implore all of you to read through Xienen’s State of Paladins post, from when he first came on as Executive Producer. He made lofty promises that I am proud to say we have achieved over the course of 2019.
“Hello all, I wanted to take a moment to formally introduce myself. My name is Dayle Flowers and I took over as the Technical Director of Paladins a couple weeks ago before being promoted to Studio Head/Executive Producer yesterday. Some of you may have seen me appear out of the blue this past weekend and throw around promises that many are rightfully skeptical of. Up until a year ago, I was the Lead Programmer on Paladins, but OB64 broke my spirit and I moved onto other positions in the company. Well, now I’m back to make sure we actually live up to what we’ve been talking about for the past several months: fix the bugs and improve the overall quality of the game.
“Yeah, we’ve heard this all before, it’s now a meme, so how is this any different than every other time we’ve been promised things would improve?” Upper management is now fully on board with the idea and we’ve removed all features from the schedule after this next major release. This finally gives our technical staff time to fix the plethora of bugs, where they haven’t truly had sufficient time in the first three releases this year.”
This direction from the top down is what made “The Hunt” initiative a massive success, allowing the Evil Mojo development team to become 100% focused on improving the quality of Paladins around the core gameplay experience in 2019. While we focused on The Hunt, we began to question all of our existing processes and tried to root out as many bugs as we could. Now, as we approach the end of the year, we’re proud to say we have worked through over 1,000 backlogged bug fixes. Sure, this meant we made less system and gameplay updates throughout 2019, but we continued pouring most of our resources into bringing Paladins to a state the team was proud of.
For those that have been with us through the beta, we thank you for sticking with us. You have witnessed vast improvements to the Paladins experience over the last two years, and we’re excited to continue that with Season 3!
Now let’s talk Paladins 2020 – and before we do, please read our full Season 3 Patch Notes if you haven’t already.
The current new player experience in Paladins sucks – you know it, we know it. And we’re working to breathe new life into it for our future players. Our Season 3 changes were made to reestablish the foundation of what Paladins is from a systems standpoint. The core gameplay is great, sure, but we began asking ourselves: “If we had to build this for Paladins NOW, how would we do it?”
For Paladins to see continued success in 2020, our team needs to make it more accessible for new players to learn and interact with the customization, depth, and interactivity that Paladins has to offer as a game. Systems like Loadouts are what makes Paladins great, but we haven’t exactly made it easy for players to learn them at when first logging into the game.
We have made numerous changes in Season 3 – many of which have been met with praise,while others spurred controversy. What’s important to note though, is that all of these changes were made to ensure Paladins is a better experience in the long run.
Many early systems were pulled from our previous titles during development, or created while Paladins’ was still heavily experimenting with what it was from a gameplay standpoint. For Season 3 we took a step back and objectively analyzed our older (and newer) systems – what do they bring to the game, are they easy to interact with and learn, and are they serving the purpose they were originally designed for?
“Bridge the Gap” is the phrase I’m personally focused on for this next year. If you’re a new player, how do we help you bridge the gap to becoming an informed veteran? And to that end, how do we ensure the game is teaching you about all the tools you need to become one (Items, Loadouts, VGS, and Battle Passes) without you having to do external research?
So the same drive and initiative that we gave in our bug-squashing efforts with The Hunt are how we are approaching all of our systems in 2020. This does mean changing some of those current systems which many of you have all learned over the years, but we need to ensure that these elements are approachable for new players.
The Voice Guided System Paladins utilizes was developed for TRIBES: Ascend in 2010 before being ported over and expanded for SMITE in 2012. Once built out in SMITE, this system was then directly ported over for Paladins over 5 years ago. Since then, there have been little to no changes in our VGS system’s functionality.
The VGS system in live is incredibly daunting for new players who have not used it before in previous Hi-Rez titles, with multiple voice commands meant for other games (such as enemies backing to base), certain lines which convey the same tactical information with minor differences, and options buried so deep in the menu they were never used.
Our ultimate goal for the new VGS system is to have it become more widely used across all levels of play. We want new and veteran players alike to use it to communicate in game, whether it be tactical or fun. VGS breathes a lot of life into Paladins with how players interact with one another, and it’s valuable to have more players utilizing it throughout the game.
To get there, we knew there were a few things we had to accomplish:
The question I’ve seen most often so far has been. “Why can’t you just keep the old system as an option?” This was discussed thoroughly between our teams before we even started working on it. Ultimately, we felt that the maintenance of two separate systems will be a significant burden for the team going forward, and would create a large disparity between users – with players having access to different lines and keybinds. This is the style of system that we should have – and would have – implemented, were we given the chance at the game’s inception.
Our desire is to cultivate a robust and intuitive system to engage with your team which is also comfortable for new players to learn, regardless of their previous experience with Hi-Rez games.
Our Battle Pass has proven to be a system which works well for both our team here at Evil Mojo and you playing at home, but we don’t want to stagnate when there is and will always be room to improve. To that end, we have committed to refining the Battle Pass and its adjacent systems so that players are able to engage with Paladins beyond its core gameplay loop. With the first update of 2020, players will see a shift in the Battle Pass from 50 free levels, 50 paid levels, and 50 Battle Pass Plus levels to 80 levels on both the free and premium tracks, with each level requiring the same amount of XP to unlock.
This change was made while keeping the core required amount of XP required to complete the Battle Pass the same, and in conjunction with a revamped challenge system designed to be more player-friendly. Now, you set your own pace for completing the Battle Pass with all our challenges unlocked from the beginning, helping you select which ones to pursue the second you log in on update day. More importantly, each challenge you complete now rewards Battle Pass experience, allowing you to plan your progression through the challenges and Battle Pass tracks. All these changes were made with the player’s experience in mind and will help alleviate some of the frustrations of past Battle Passes and their challenges.
We’re also taking a look at other systems our players interact with to ensure they’re actually engaging instead of feeling like a frustrating chore. To that end, we’ve shifted the First Win of the Day reward to be Play Two Games instead. Now, win or lose, you’re making progress towards that daily goal.
Additionally, we have removed the Daily Login system in favor of further engagement with the Battle Pass system at the core of every Paladins update. Rewards that you would receive when logging in every single day have been placed into the free track of the Battle Pass, meaning that players can earn more than before just by playing, without having to spend money to purchase the Battle Pass. We want players to play at their own pace, meaning that they shouldn’t feel beholden to log in every single day to avoid losing out on crystals.
This shifting of free crystals from the Daily Login to Battle Pass means if players purchase a single Battle Pass and complete it entirely, they can earn enough crystals from both tracks to purchase the next Battle Pass outright. We want players to feel rewarded for playing our game and make sure the content we put in Paladins feels good to engage with.
The removal of Third-Person (3p) is a topic the team here at Evil Mojo extensively discussed before implementing in this update.
At its core, Paladins was built to be played from the First-Person perspective. If we could rewind time and revisit the implementation of Third-Person, it’s not something we would have added – namely due to our focus on delivering a solid first-person experience across every aspect of the game while supporting it with other systems for our players.
The plain and simple truth is that having Third-Person introduced a variety of bugs and issues with each passing update we had to comb through and fix, taking valuable time away from our development on other aspects of the game. By removing 3P entirely from Paladins, we’ll be able to re-focus that energy on delivering a healthier, more polished experience across the entirely of our game.
It’s also worth noting that we will still be including 3P in the Shooting Range, allowing you to view animations and more while practicing your favorite Champions!
And so we’re here!
We’ve talked about the Past, the Present, and now it’s time to talk about the Future. Just to reiterate, the entire Evil Mojo team is dedicated to improving the Paladins experience from its core throughout 2020 and beyond. This ranges from small quality of life updates, to high quality Champions, and visual polish throughout the game.
With the 2020 team goal of ensuring that Paladins is a great experience for veterans and new players alike, I would like to share with you some high level objectives Evil Mojo has for Paladins in Season 3.
Continuing The Hunt
Updated In-Game HUD
Improved Combat Feedback
Improved Player Profile
All of these highlights are just the short term for Paladins in 2020! We still plan on bringing you four high-quality Champions throughout the year – and have already started planning the Champions coming in 2021. I want to personally thank all of our players who have stuck with us throughout the years, and welcome all of the new ones into Season 3!
I have full faith in Evil Mojo, and I want to make sure that you all do too.