Dev Diary: Added Difficulty

We’re back with an inside look at what our Developers have been up to behind the scenes of The Contest!

Today, we don’t just want to share with you some insights on a new feature that’s coming up, but the addition of new, high difficulty level content! This theme can most recently be seen in the Variant Difficulty of Back Issues #1.

We want to let you know why we made it, and the “how’s” and “why’s” behind our efforts as we continue to make more content for our most experienced Summoners. That means the introduction and further development of new content that reaches beyond the current level of difficulty in The Contest.

This, of course, does not mean any reduction in beginner content, or Quests that help Summoners grow. The growth content is really important, and while in this post, we’re focusing specifically on high-level Summoners, know that we’re always striving to improve the experience of all Summoners as they grow and become stronger.


When we create a majority of the content in The Contest, especially temporary content, we try to design for as many of our Summoners as possible.

We do this through our multiple difficulty options, or by creating content that ramps up in difficulty. However, we recently haven’t been meeting that goal for our high level, end game Summoners.

Our most engaged, skilled, and advanced Summoners have spent a lot of time and effort to build their rosters, and to amass the resources they need to move forward, but our current content caters only to a small subset of that.

The goal we are trying to achieve by creating new, high difficulty content is to add more value to their investment in game, and to challenge our Summoners in new, unique and interesting ways.

There are a lot of you out there that have a powerful roster at your disposal, but not enough to do with it. We want to build more things for you to do, and more ways for you to approach those things.


When we release something like a new Event Quest, we typically offer 5 variations of difficulty.

Each of these difficulties is important to us. From giving new Summoners in Beginner an enjoyable experience that helps them grow, to giving those with the strongest Champions in The Contest a meaningful and exciting challenge in Uncollected.

Each of these difficulty levels serves a purpose. When we refer to “difficult content”, we’re referring to our hardest difficulty level, Uncollected/Epic, and content that goes beyond even that, like Act 5, and the Labyrinth of Legends.

Designing this content can be a challenge, which may be surprising to you.

“Why not just crank the numbers and release more difficulties?” you may ask, and in a way you’d be right. That's an approach that would certainly make more difficult content, and has been done by games including us in the past. But there are two big reasons why we stay away from that approach whenever possible:

It doesn't line up with our Quest goals.
It’s not very fun or engaging for to make or play.

Whenever we are planning a new Quest, we have specific Goals for that Quest in mind, but there are also baseline goals for all Quests and content that we create. In this post, we’re going to focus on the ones that relate to the difficulty level of content.


Create a fun and challenging experience
One of our highest priorities when designing Quest Content is that we create something that you will enjoy.

Difficulty and fun can go hand in hand, but striking the right balance is important and not always an easy task. An opponent with +1000% Attack is a lot scarier and harder than one with +50% Attack, but isn’t more interesting. It’s not fun to walk into a fight and immediately lose your entire roster to a challenge with no counters.

There are other ways that we try to make difficulty enjoyable:
- Placing Local Nodes that shake up your team or playstyle.
- Encouraging you to try different Champions, or experience some combat variety.
- Creating epic battles like when you go up against a final boss in a new Story Quest.

We’re always making conscious choices on how Summoners can enjoy the content that we create, even if that challenge is very tough, and not immediately surmountable.

Create the appropriate difficulty
It takes hard work, time, effort and commitment to become a super powerful Summoner, and when content is created targeting this group, not just anyone should be able to take on that challenge.

While the “Uncollected” requirement can be a good skill check for us, we always want the content to feel like something worth your time.

Add Variety to Champion choices
Some Champions are exceptional at clearing Quest content.

We want those Champions to feel rewarding to Rank and Level Up, and we want to continue to provide Quest content where you can see those Champion’s strength. However, if every Quest could be completed by the same Champions in the same way every time, the game would get pretty boring.

With this in mind, when making our new Quest Content, especially for you advanced Summoners, we try to encourage using other Champions and not always the “A-Team”. This can mean using:
- Unique Local Nodes that require you to keep up your combo count
- Testing parrying skills
- Nodes that benefit a certain type of Champion

This is how we’ve been approaching providing more challenge. By using mechanics that encourage skilled play or encouraging a deeper understanding of the RPG elements of the game, and not just cranking up the numbers.

Opponents with obscene Attack values become boring, because every fight they’re involved in is binary. Either you play perfectly and win, or you make a single mistake and you lose. We want to give you more variety and a much more interesting fight than that!


Let’s dive into the items that are still in the works!

Some of these are in progress and others could still change quite a bit between when you’re reading this, and when they are introduced. Please keep this in mind as we share what the team is hard at work developing for you!

Back Issues #1 - Variant Difficulty

We heard your feedback about bringing back Event Quests of the past! We realized these could also be a great way to deliver a serious challenge. Variant Difficulty is a new Difficulty that we’re introducing with Back Issues.

Part of this is the permanent nature of the Quest. There’s no strict timeline in which you have to complete these Quests. If you find it too difficult, take your time to grow your team, and come back to give it another shot.

The other part is how it allows us to play off where we’ve been and where we are now.

The average 2018 Quest is very different than they were in 2015 when Ultron’s Assault originally went live (no buffs!). We wanted to see what it would be like to have the game’s older missions reflect the growth of our Summoners.

This is also why we’re including the Classic Difficulty, so you can compare and contrast what a “hard” Quest was then, and what it is now. Those who weren’t around in those days can also get a taste of the Quests of the past.

Back to the topic of challenge and variety in Champion choice.

In Variant Difficulty we’ll be making use of Champion Requirements. You’re going to need a varied roster to take on these Quests!

Each Chapter in Variant Difficulty will require that you only bring Champions from 2 specific classes. They are built around understanding the strengths and weaknesses of that Class, and more specifically the Abilities available to each Champion within that Class.

Your raw combat skills will undoubtedly be tested. We’re also leaning on your knowledge of Champion Abilities, Immunities, Resistances, and Counters. Those who rely on only a few Champions will find the need to diversify, even outside of the Champion Requirements in place.

Not all Back Issues will be constructed precisely this way. While we like the theme of requiring RPG knowledge and breaking up the usual suspects, Champion Requirements can be a kind of heavy-handed reinforcement.
We encourage you to check out Classic difficulty, as a time capsule of what The Contest was like back in the earlier days. It’s really exciting for us to resurrect something from so early in The Contest. We hope it’s a nice jaunt down memory lane for our veteran Summoners, and an opportunity for newer Summoners to experience the older content.

We’re already at work on future Back Issues, and brainstorming different ways to encourage fresh strategies outside of just saying “you must be this tall to ride.” You’ll be able to try your hand at Variant Difficulty in our first Back Issue when it premieres this week!


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