Progression system is terrible (and questions for devs)
Locking gameplay elements that are material advantages (instead of just side-grades) that matter right from the picking screen, is terrible. It's even worse if you market your game as an RTS or competitive esports-worthy material.
It creates a forced grind and an uneven playfield were newcomers are put at an intentionally unfair and anti-competitive material disadvantage, diminishes the whole point of the picking screen: choosing an army composition that synergises with your team and counters the enemy team, and also makes it needlessly difficult for new players to find out what faction/hero/units suits them best.
If you are going to say that "it's reasonably fast to unlock everything", then you are agreeing with my point that it's bad to lock gameplay elements behind a grindwall or paywall. You are just arguing about the degree of terribleness; that it's terrible but tolerable or slightly terrible instead of absolutely terrible.
If you tolerate forced grinds but dislike paywalls (when gameplay elements can only be unlocked with money), then realize that the forced grind has the same properties that make you hate paywalls. "How come the opponent has an advantage just by virtue of spending more money than me?" becomes "How come the opponent has an advantage just by virtue of spending more time than me?". After all, money is time previously spent, the feel bad part is that the opponents have an unfair advantage.
If, on the other hand, you think gameplay unlocks do not provide a meaningful advantage, then why are they there in the first place? If their purpose is to provide progression, there are better ways to do that, such as any kind of gameplay unrelated rewards: cosmetics, account/hero/unit levels/points, account portraits, ribbons, etc. If it's a kind of forced tutorial, so new players don't get overwhelmed by the amount of units, then suggest default army comps and provide better learning resources: in-game tutorials, a test map, tips about when a unit is good or bad, per hero/unit video tutorials, etc. That would help more than putting a, roughly 30-50 games long, forced "tutorial".
If you think that a forced grind is fun, should be longer, have more impact, make the playfield more uneven, make it easier for you to "rek noobs", and you like forced grinds in a strategy or competitive games, then you are hopeless and you might want to try League of Legends, Hearthstone's Constructed Mode or any popular PvP mobile game. Wouldn't it be great if Titans Guardians of Atlas was better, at least in principle and design, than the mentioned games?
Gameplay unlocks makes the game a laughing stock and a reject out of hand for many competitive-minded players. That may not apply to MOBA players, who are used to bullshit practices, but it's definitely true for players coming from more niche and competitive genres like RTS games, which the game is marketed to.
I realize that my opinion is in the minority; the majority of the player base loves grinding, or at least tolerates it to some degree, due to Skinner Box operant conditioning reasons. Both players and Artillery's revenue benefit from having a progression system. The matter is that you can provide progression without hurting gameplay. The human mind doesn't care were the rewards are coming from, it doesn't value gameplay progression higher than cosmetic progression. Some exhibits of how effective cosmetics progression is: CS:GO, Team Fortress 2, Overwatch and DOTA 2 loot boxes.
Think about the implications that gameplay unlocks will have on ranked mode when it comes out. Would you like being forbidden from playing ranked until you have everything unlocked, making ranked mode itself the ultimate unlockable, or would you rather play with teammates that don't have enough gameplay elements unlocked and hurt their team by being inflexible, unable to counter certain deck compositions, or flat out made "bad" purchasing decisions? Both sound unacceptably bad to me, but you may have lower standards.
I will write a more elaborate post on why gameplay unlocks are bad for new players, competitive players, Artillery and the esports potential of the game if the devs answer some questions or there's interest in the subject.
So, my questions for the devs are:
- Is the gameplay unlocks system something you are still testing, or is it definitive? I want to know if you can be swayed or if proving feedback on that matter is pointless.
- Are the gameplay unlocks meant as a progression feel-good system, or was it put in place to support a particular business model? If it's the former, there are ways to provide progression without hurting gameplay. If it's the later, tell it straight so it becomes a business model discussion.