Playtest 175 - Neutral Purchase Overhaul and Polish (Day 2)

starfighterstarfighter Member, Administrator

Hi all -

Just a quick reminder that we're playtesting build 174 (from Wednesday) tonight as we work super hard to get things ready for next Sunday :)

GLHF tonight!



  • DecencyDecency Member, Moderator
    edited November 2015

    Some thoughts from tonight's games:

    • The "pace" of each match feels off, to me, in my last couple of playtests. We go from laning over gems with T1's almost directly into big battles with a full arsenal of units. The 'midgame' where players are on different techs seems really short. I'm not quite sure why this is and don't want to make any claims, but a couple of things stand out to me as possible causes: 1) People are filling out their unit tree (and largely ignoring tech and upgrades) really early into the game. Tier two units are coming within the first five minutes and Tier three within the first fifteen. Perhaps the cost of T2 and T3 is too low? 2) People are quickly getting to three expansions and then not expanding due to the threat from opponents/neutrals/etc, or just from not finding it worthwhile as the others are too easily killed. 3) Gems begin to spawn in the middle after 17 minutes, which is right about when you're getting whatever your "full build" is and when your first expansions become depleted. This consolidates all of the objectives in the same place.
    • I like the gem unit interactions. Ion Cannons create points of forced conflict, Glass Cannons can be used for harass and to draw attention, and Cubelets seem like they might have a counter-role to these two, but it hasn't seemed super effective just yet. I'm less sold on Wards and Healing Zones. I also like the change that added Plate to Glass Cannons, which seemed to make them much less durable when focused.
    • One major problem that I'd like to see addressed: currently, wards see both uphill and into brush. This really makes terrain feel completely uninteresting. Attacking into a fortified feature should be a pain in the ass, if not just suicidal. Instead, you can just trivially drop a ward near your back line and the entirety of the high ground advantage or brush advantage is instantly and entirely negated. I think this sucks a lot.
    • The map changes really open up the midgame a lot and I think they create some doors into the common coin expansions nicely. But the outskirts of the map (northwest and southeast corners) are basically no man's land, and the gem expansions don't feel worth the trouble: early game they're too hard to hold, and lategame they don't earn enough for the cost to clear them and will get wiped by a Glass Cannon trivially anyway.
    • The map changes don't seem to have helped lategame, to me. I really feel like there aren't any objectives to fight over except each team's Nexus, and that's the most frustrating thing about both lategame and Atlas as a whole for me, at the moment.


  • Phases

    Early: 3
    (1.1) - Early game seemed to be pretty consistent with where it had been, even trying what felt to me like very different openings across top and bottom lane. To be clear, it didn't seem like how I opened did not have an impact on the game, just that openings felt valid across all the things I tried.
    (1.2) - I mention it elsewhere, but I really like having access to wards directly early on without having to pick a specialization. This makes the early game feel more, well, under control, I guess.

    Mid: 4
    (2.1) - Mid-games felt varied tonight, more than I was used to, which is an improvement. It felt like the manuvering that is normally a part of the late game started in earlier. As one person brought up in the call, I wonder if this is because of increased ward usage? At any rate, I kind of like it.

    Late: 3
    (3.1) - Late game was fun tonight, but it felt like it stretched out a bit longer than I was used to. I liked having access to all the neutral purchases. However, I had one game in particular where it felt like I could kind of sit around and test them out, which tells me it was taking a bit to long to wrap up. I didn't necessarily feel like I could have ended it otherwise, though. Overall, it felt kind of meh.
    (3.2) - One thing that I'm trying to think through while typing is whether the neutral purchases playing off of the respawn timer (the non-existent void) kind of set the length of the game. I feel like I never really saw neutral units being used against other neutral units (perhaps just from gem income imbalance?), and so the games naturally paced to when it got long enough for a set of neutrals to stick around long enough (ie. enemy squads needed to be de-spawned long enough for the siege weapons to kick in).


    [Map Architecture]
    (4.1) - With, I think, two play tests on this map now (missed last Wednesday's), I still kind of like the previous map in top lane. Bottom on this map feels better though. In top, this feels a little cramped, and in bottom, seems like a nice distribution of vision and terrain (both blocking and site-blocking).
    (4.2) - On a different note, playing bottom, there was a point where I got to start moving in the top lane, and it felt like a significant difference, which was nice. In a way, it's kind of like the art styles being different, it's cool when it feels different, within a single game, to operate in a different area. In particular, moving up the lateral ramp to the top half felt like a major move.

    [Defensive Purchases]
    (5.1) - I really liked these tonight. I liked the choices (though I didn't necessarily see any impact outside of the shield ones, which felt strong fully upgraded). More over, incremental increases to the towers was a nice choice to have available, as in, throughout the early and middle game, gradually working to upgrade them was kind of fun, amongst moving back and forth with units.

    [Neutral Purchase System]
    (6.1) - I liked how these played out tonight. In a way, it was nice to have a lot more of them on the field. This is apart from any balance discussion. Really, just having the activity on the field made it feel like we had to move around a lot more. I rarely seemed to gem limited (for what I wanted to do), which may be kind of off? Don't know where you guys want that to be.
    (6.2) - In particular, I really liked having wards available early on. Such yay. At least a level 2, maybe a level 3 yay. Yes, I know it's different from the specialization system, but still...
    (6.3) - Neutral collision, so much like, much yay, wow.

    (7.1) -

  • (also, yay on the forums. Having this "integrated" in the client, and thematically consistent is super cool!)

  • TreiskTreisk Member, Administrator
    edited November 2015

    Fairly short answers today. Sorry in advance!



    Addressing this directly this week. We're tying the issue to gem availability right now. We'll investigate further after we see the impact these changes make.

    Weapon interactions

    I still think it'll take a while before it feels just right, but we're REALLY liking what we see so far. Right on!

    Wards, vision, terrain

    Right now, wards and terrain are pretty simplified. You'll be hearing the "after the December" playtest answer quite a bit here, but it's on our list of things to tackle. We could definitely do some simple band-aid solutions right now (such as preventing wards from having flying vision), but it would cause a fair amount of instability in the current game. We'd rather wait to give it a full, serious treatment alongside our strategy systems.

    Corner gem expansions

    It's on our to-do list for after the December playtest. We agree, they're just not doing much of anything.

    No objectives outside of the Nexus

    Also on the post-December list. Once we get into building each team's base out as the Fortress we intend it to be, I think this will just generally feel great. But I agree that there's a bit of a lack of targets late-game.

    Thanks! :D



    As you alluded to, wards and vision feel like a huge part of the first ~14 minutes of the game. There's a lot that we like about that, and some that we don't like as much. Digging into this is going to be part of the bigger strategic exploration post-December.


    Games are definitely running a bit long in the current build. We think the lack of gem availability in the lategame is causing some of this stir. We're going to adjust and investigate.

    Bottom and rotations (4.2)

    Did you feel like towers and tower upgrades lead you to be able to do this? Either way, awesome.

    Thanks a bunch! :D

    • Rate the early, mid, and late game on a scale of 1 to 5 and explain

    Early game: 4. I like that I started with enough resources that I get to make the choice between many T1 units or tech up straightaway. I tried to make T1 units and upgrade them, but that didn't work out so well.

    Mid game: 3. I had a few fun exchanges but got really frustrated when my hero was consistently concurrently two-shotted (so, one-shotted) by two T2 sniper units. That was super annoying. Then the match started snowballing and I felt like I couldn't do much of anything and I was way behind in income.

    Late game: 2. Couldn't get anything going after losing a couple exchanges in the midgame. My gold expansions were destroyed and I couldn't make units, couldn't get upgrades, etc. Had lots of gems but zero map presence.

    • What are your thoughts on the new map architecture? Likes? Dislikes?

    The new map architecture is fun. I like the fairly wide open middle spaces -- can make for some good exchanges. I never got around to trying to kill the titans on any of the expansions except for the easiest spot close to spawn. Never had enough army strength to try taking on those titans. I wasn't able to

    • Did the defensive purchases feel better or worse than previously?

    I should have spent some more time working on the purchases, maybe it would have helped me out of the hole I found myself in. I couldn't keep my hero alive long enough to actually purchase anything.

    • How did the new neutral purchases system affect your games and strategies?


    • Anything else you'd like to share?

    Regarding the UI and gameplay experience:

    It took me about 75 minutes from the time I sat down to play to the time I was actually able to enter a game, which was a bit frustrating and resulted in only getting to play one match. First my client kept hanging on 'downloading' (even left it for ten minute and came back). After closing and reopening the client I got the 'play' button eventually. But then my install was somehow corrupted. I suppose an uninstall/reinstall should have been my first attempted corrective action. That ended up fixing it.

    I kept getting dropped out of queue -- but I wouldn't know until I tried to click 'cancel', and then I'd get the message 'ERROR_NOT_IN_QUEUE' or something like that.

    I would like a 'maximize' option for the native client in Windows. I'd like a larger chat window.

    The chat windows in the native client -- I don't like that the small bubble indicating the number of missed messages is the same location of the 'x' to close window upon mouseover. A couple times I closed messages from people by trying to click the 'missed messages bubble' but it turning to 'x' before I knew what I was doing. A minor thing but inconvenient.

  • (4.2) - On a different note, playing bottom, there was a point where I got to start moving in the top lane, and it felt like a significant difference, which was nice. In a way, it's kind of like the art styles being different, it's cool when it feels different, within a single game, to operate in a different area. In particular, moving up the lateral ramp to the top half felt like a major move.

    @Treisk: Did you feel like towers and tower upgrades lead you to be able to do this? Either way, awesome.

    Yeah, this was primarily due to towers and upgrades. I felt like once I started getting orange upgrades going/complete (and had wards that had been up for a while), then I had the response time to adjust back across if needed.

  • TreiskTreisk Member, Administrator

    @CohLysion Awesome awesome awesome awesome!

  • TreiskTreisk Member, Administrator
    edited December 2015


    Out-game client

    Passed on the client issues. Some of these are resolved in a newer build; some are being worked on. Sorry about these frustrations, and thanks for bringing them to our attention!


    A big fulcrum on which the game is balanced (especially right now, and likely longer-term as well) is on how each player spends his gems. The new gem purchase system should be allowing players to make both aggressive and defensive moves on the map, while truly your squad is what ends up giving you the map control to make the most of these purchases.

    As such, situations such as the one you encountered in your game can happen, and when it does, it feels smothering. A player (especially true in the 1v1 region) may get a bit behind and have their opponent snowball, take control of the gem area, take out an expansion, and end up crushing the other player out. Longer-term, we definitely want to give players better ways to "get back into the fight," so to speak.

    Right now, though, it may be a bit too effective to just get a little bit ahead and then play strictly safely. And some squads are greater culprits than others (Vela certainly being a candidate for biggest violator, while I suspect Eris is the other). A lot of this stems from their strong ability to take down Heroes, then be mobile enough to defend attacks that may come in.

    Anyway, before I run on too much about this, the short version is that a design goal for us is to give players better ways to fight back when behind. Some of this may come from Gem purchases; some of this may be an invisible system. It's something on our docket to tackle, for sure.

    Thanks for testing, and please continue to give us stuff like this. They're incredibly helpful. :D!

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