Map Objectives feedback and design commentary
I think that map objectives are currently the weakest part of the Atlas experience. Army battles feel very fun, units feel fun, creating interesting compositions with teammates feels fun. I enjoy playing the game a great deal - but I also admit that the objectives on the map feel somewhat restrictive and occasionally stagnant. I want to highlight what I feel the goal of Atlas objectives should be, why I think there are some issues currently, and what I'd suggest to fix it.
Goals of Map Objectives
- Give players a reason to engage the enemy
- Encourage movement around the map and interaction with the map
- Create opportunities to outwit the opponent
- Give tools for mounting comebacks or extending a lead
- Create multiple types of conflicts
- 1v1s, 2v2s, 3v3s, flanking scenarios, late arrivals, poke wars
- Different types of objectives invite different types of battles
- Different rewards invite different levels of commitment
- Encourage armies/teams to split up
- Encourage armies/teams to come together
- Give fun things to do between fights with the opponent
- Create tension
What's wrong with Atlas objectives?
Atlas has figured out how to bring teams together for big, fun 3v3 battles. What it hasn't figured out how to do is encourage armies to split up for lots of interesting 1v1/2v2 battles and flanking opportunities. Most missed opportunities seem to stem from this.
- Movement around the map feels too strictly determined by the current objective set and spawn timers
- Very limited free movement between good teams - take safe objectives solo, dangerous objectives together
- Do things IMMEDIATELY when they spawn - not having to choose between things very often
- Illusion of choice but without too much illusion - take the medium camp, or do nothing? Not a hard decision
- Much harder to outwit the opponent when they know exactly what you want to do since objectives pop at the same time for everyone
- Also since teams are rarely split up for important objectives, how do you outwit a prepared 3-man army?
- Limited opportunities for smart strategic play when knowing what the opponent wants to do doesn't give a clear advantage
- Current objective set almost always encourages 3v3 play, especially by the first titan
- No good reason to be caught alone since a few units can farm low-impact side lanes
- Most objectives can be farmed with a retreat path
- Not enough things to do on the map to encourage team to split up
- Even when splitting up is possible, the rewards aren't high enough to justify possibly eating a 3v1 or 3v2
- Relatively little 2v2 or 1v1 situations past the first Titan - less variety in battles and encourages homogeneity in army comps
- Skirmish/flanking squads less useful
- 1v1 specialty squads less useful
- High-mobility objective-takers deprecated
- Since there are few reasons to be alone in a side lane, less chances to poke at enemy base
- This is an entire and fun avenue of play that isn't explored in the current build because being alone in a side lane seems fairly pointless
- If you aren't travelling with the team you're falling behind on objectives and probably losing important fights
- The side lanes often barely feel like they exist outside of Hard spawns - this feels bad!
- Some of the most fun points of conflict are base fights that don't involve titans - but these happen too rarely because army balls are so big and constant
- There seem to be far too many safe objectives
- Too close to base
- Protected by towers
- Even if towers are knocked down, they are too far from enemy base to safely take
- Even if they were, they are too low-impact to justify
- All this hearkens back to the poor outcome derived from splitting up into smaller squads - splitting army results in LESS high-impact objectives rather than more
- A one-man squad can't really damage the enemy's plans outside of killing a side tower early
- Nothing else that's high-impact to kill or claim
- Sending one dude to clear a camp after a really good titan push doesn't really count - this isn't really an interactive process and doesn't carry any tension/create conflict, it's just cleanup, and you know where the enemy is
How can we fix this?
I think Energy Generators had the right idea to start with. For anyone who wasn't around during closed Alpha, killing creep camps left behind Generators which gave energy over time to the person who claimed them. These could be harassed and killed by enemy troops, giving a legitimate reason to travel into the enemy's backfield and interact with their side of the map.
The implementation of Generators left a lot to be desired - capping enemy generators from camps they killed was kind of dumb, and the lack of tooltips or clear graphical cues made it impossible to tell exactly what the generators were even doing. But the seeds of interaction were planted, and a single person could cause problems running around a backfield.
Most of my suggestions below are rooted in this early experience. I'm not suggesting they all be implemented, just that each is a thing to consider!
- Add some sort of generator mechanic at a few camps scattered across the map
- Generators are guarded by a medium-strength creep camp - early on should require a little coordination to kill, later can be soloed
- Capping them requires clearing the camp and maybe a capture zone/timer
- Once capped, a new group of FRIENDLY creeps spawns to guard the camp from the other team
- Taking control/killing a generator is not instantaneous and thus invites risk, but successfully taking one demands a tangible response or concession
- Can't be taken with just 2-3 random units - requires a small army or specialty units to capture and thus a real commitment
- Taking the enemy's generator doesn't destroy it - it CAPTURES it. Now they have to respond to your aggression by taking it back! It's easier for them, since it's closer to their base than yours, but it's still a distraction and can lead to traps/flanks/fights
- Generators need to be VERY CLEAR what they are giving - big popup text on gain, tooltips, etc. Was way too hard before to understand the mechanic
- Creep wave spawns from timed objectives
- This is a simple mechanic that I think HotS got right
- Creep wave spawns encourage people to interact with the side lanes
- Give you the ability to time waves to distract from other objectives
- Allow split pushing and encourage smaller skirmishes
- Rewards a team for clearing side-lane critters, which might otherwise slow down creep waves
- Rewards a team for having squads that can split off and help support a creep wave push <== less homogeneity in armies
- Can punish a team for going all-in center <==== Very little in place to do this currently
- Suggestion: Creep wave spawns for side lanes akin to Juggernauts or (maybe more interesting) high-dps but weak waves that you can tank for and are great at tower-busting - this especially encourages teams to split up and gives you something risky but powerful to do if you can't win Titan
- This also gives cool ways to push a base outside of Titan spawns. One player sets up siege while another grabs a creep wave? Awesome, risky, interactive!
- "Red/Blue Buff"-styled spawns that make you better at killing Titans/towers
- These wouldn't give an advantage in direct combat but could make you better at either split pushing or claiming a Titan
- Not sure how this could be implemented but seems promising to explore
These are some early ideas I have been juggling. I'd love to see more from everyone else!