Q&A with Game Designers - Spring 2021 Edition (Answers)

Welcome to our Q&A with Game Designers - Spring 2021 Edition! Below you can find the answers by our game designers Tim & Joel to the questions submitted by the community here on our forum (see all submitted questions here).

SGG Staff Answering Questions:

  • Tim – Head of Game Design
  • Joel - Game Designer

Index

We have organized the questions in the following topics (click the links to directly access each topic):

Join the Discussion

Share your feedback and discuss this Q&A on this topic:

20 Likes

Heroes & Troops

  • Why is there a color imbalance in a player’s roster? I have lots of 5-star heroes in three of the five colors. Checking with other alliance members they see the same issue.

    • TIM: Something that has just happened organically, we always try to balance this but trying to push this too hard can cause bigger problems.
  • Can you explain how mana accumulation works for defending heroes?

    • JOEL: The defense heroes gain mana for each Troop that hits them. With combos, the amount of mana diminishes with each match in the combo. The defense team also gets a bit of mana at the end of the turn.
  • Will there be more attention to release more 3/4 heroes?*

    • TIM: We always aim to have some of them especially for Story Seasons. However, there are currently no plans to add more than what we have at this point.
  • What is the design reasoning/choice behind releasing a slow minion creator (Noor) when Bera/Freya create strong minions at fast speed + buffs/ailments + mana cut?

    • TIM: High level - always aim for variety instead of pure ‘race for ultimate power’. So slower heroes must also be in the game, though not everyone will be ‘optimal’. Of course, we try to buff these heroes later - but very important to not do the buff via speed up, even if players see it as the only option > this way we’d end up with only fast heroes in the game, which is boring!
  • When making new heroes, have you considered making unique skill heroes instead of pumping their power to insanity?

    • TIM: We actually aim for that a lot - but unique skills are actually often perceived by players as being less useful as they ultimately may be since, well, they are unique and often less direct in use! So it’s pretty common to get really negative feedback from unique skills! But it’s a balancing act, and we always aim to have one or more in new events and hero sets.
  • Have you considered retraining hero costumes, since only one is needed for an unlimited number of heroes?

    • TIM: Interesting idea, and not something we have considered yet. But we’d be hesitant to add further complexity to costumes (it took a long while to get players accustomed to them as they are)…
  • Are there any plans to update the Daily Summons Portal / when will S2 and S3 heroes be added to the portal?

    • TIM: Daily Summons is something we’re probably not touching. But summons for S2 and Older Challenge Events are something that may be changed next year though (there’s just so much more new things in play and we don’t soon have a place for them with how things are usually run!), so something may change there next year.
  • What’s a hero that you thought would hit it off well with the player base but ended up ignored?

    • JOEL: Norns is one that I knew was a niche hero suitable for specific situations but it never really hit off. At the time I made the design there were a lot of defense teams that had a purple or yellow tank accompanied by 2 flanks of the opposite element so I wanted to make a hero that was really good in those battles. Sadly when Norns came out the meta had shifted and there weren’t many of those teams to fight in raids.
  • Considering the high amount of support for adding 4 Atlantis / event etc. Heroes to hero academy, could this be on the table?*

    • JOEL: We’re adding more 5* heroes to Hero Academy in version 39, including Rana, Yunan, and Roc. There are currently no plans to add Rare or Epic heroes to Hero Academy.
  • What’s a hero that you thought wouldn’t be popular but ended up being in the meta?

    • JOEL: Wilbur is definitely one whose popularity surprised me. When I made the design I just wanted to try out a new twist on an existing mechanic. Season 2 heroes were probably the first heroes I ever worked on so it might partially be because I wasn’t yet so familiar with the game. Something more recent was Bera. I knew that’s a good hero, but couldn’t see how prominent they would become in raid defenses.
  • Are there plans to change/improve troop leveling?

    • TIM: A good one! This one is almost a Quality of Life thing that kind of makes sense to address at some point - but it’s also mentioned really seldom so it’s just really low on priority even for discussions. We did want troops to be really slow to level up just to avoid the need to add more power/complexity to them…which is working ok from that point of view, but yeah if we’d have time to look into this we’d probably ‘tune up’ this somehow nowadays.
  • Will there ever be an actual fix to the duplicate 5 issue?*

    • TIM: We have been discussing this here, it’s definitely not an easy one to solve but we have some ideas.
  • Are there any plans to extend the range of heroes that can go out from TC20?

    • JOEL: There are currently no plans to extend the range of heroes that can go out from TC20, but there are plans for additions to Hero Academy.
13 Likes

New Features & Content

  • Are there any plans to “refresh” the game and update its different aspects?

    • TIM: We’d love to do a ton of this (as mentioned already several times before) but new events and new content are the things that matter most for a lot of players and that pretty much always dictates our priorities. Yeah, really hoping we’d get to do a bit of this and Quality of Life every now and then, but since it’s so clear that new stuff is the thing that works for so many of the players, we simply cannot ever do less of new stuff (which can very easily be the case if we’d start focusing on updating older aspects)!
  • What is the source of inspiration and ideas for new seasons?

    • TIM: It’s super varied! The keyword is just to make things that we haven’t done yet if possible and after that everything is just very organic. We also often look at fresh spins on familiar stories and themes (instead of completely original themes) since that kind of ensures we have a clear goal for the artists - completely original themes have a higher chance of requiring more iterations/time to develop and in worst case end up less exciting than intended. But we try to mix this up as well.
  • How do you measure the success of a new feature?

    • TIM: we look at both player feedback and engagement metrics. So it’s good to understand that while we can get a lot of negative feedback from something we may also see that players engage really strongly with the feature, and potentially vice versa. This kind of means that we’re pretty cautious about acting on any single metric.
  • How long does it take to develop a new season for E&P from concept to production? How large is the project team that works on such an initiative?

    • TIM: can’t really say exact team size but we’re still a very small company (60+) working with two games and having a sizable portion of people doing other, equally important, things other than feature development. But yeah, it’s a handful of people working for about half a year while also working on all the other features we need during that time.
  • When are we able to see our defence replay in war and tournaments?/ Will it be possible, one day, to see (live or replay) how our defense team perform in wars, or in raids to see how our teams manage to resist?

    • TIM : We’re working on this - not the highest priority but it’s very requested. This one may get partial support first (more accurate info on defense etc) first, and then we evaluate how feasible the actual replay is.
  • When do you plan, if ever, to implement features/events which would enrich the game from the standpoint of activating more heroes at once? Currently, 80% of heroes we own, sit on the bench and are almost never used.

    • TIM: More Heroes at once in a single battle is an interesting request, actually, but since it’d be definitely not straightforward to do and possibly with some very real unforeseen negative effects this one hasn’t been discussed exactly in this form. We do aim all the time to provide more use for a wider selection of Heroes with Event Rules and possibly also with some upcoming features - but we also acknowledge that this is not simple either.
  • Will new standard content be added to the game (everyday events, titans etc)?

    • TIM: We’d love to see answers to refreshing the game earlier. We’d really like to add a new tier of everyday Quests, and a wider selection of higher-tier Titans at some point, for example.
  • We have a bunch of Trials for emblems. Has adding more Trials been considered?

    • TIM: Not at the moment, the weekly cadence for the current Trials seems to work pretty well and as noted elsewhere we prefer to focus on all-new content whenever possible.
  • Climbing the raid leaderboard gives no additional prizes of any kind. Are there any future plans to actually incentivize players for doing well?

    • TIM: A good question! We’re not planning anything for this at the moment, but we did try a fairly simple ‘ monthly leaderboard challenge ’ in Puzzle Combat and, again theoretically and more from the point of Quality of Life, we could have something similar for Empires & Puzzles if there’d be demand for it and time to develop it.
9 Likes

Events

  • Are there any plans to change all the pre-Villains challenge events back to 10 stages each difficulty?

    • TIM: A good question as well. We did plan to do this but simply did not have time to go through the balancing of the old events…let’s see what happens next year.
  • Why is the alliance part of Mythic Titans not percentage-based like the top single hit/total damage?

    • JOEL: We wanted to emphasize the Alliance part of the leaderboard and give a reason for top Alliances to go for the number one spot. With personal leaderboards, we wanted to reward a big part of the top players instead of just a few best performing players hence they are percentage-based.
  • Why were the Valhalla Forever bonuses nerfed so much compared to Atlantis Rises?

    • TIM: As we have more Seasons in the game the initial bonuses for Atlantis Rises were actually noticed to not be sustainable for the game economy if active too many days per month. So, as with all nerfs, these are difficult decisions to make but ultimately if we start to see that any aspect of the game starts to negatively affect the entire game economy we obviously have to do what’s best for the entire game.
10 Likes

Balance

  • How and why do you choose heroes to balance (buff/nerf)?

    • TIM: It’s all in-game metrics - usage, win rates, so on. We do obviously play the game and listen to player feedback, but to be impartial and effective I’d say it’s best to just make sure to look at facts. We never intend any single Hero or combination of heroes to dominate the meta, but if the proof of this happening starts to be undeniable (which needs a lot of data) we must then consider the next moves.
    • JOEL: For the latest balance round, which went live in v37, the heroes were chosen based on their win rates for both raid attack and defense, our simulation results, usage in raids, and player feedback.
  • How does SG plan to address power creep?

    • TIM: Quite simple, really - we aim to have very controlled power creep, which means that new heroes have to be desirable and thus, on average, somewhat more powerful than older heroes. BUT, and this is a big one, we want as wide and varied a pool of older heroes as possible to be viable for as long as possible.
  • Is there any possibility for Telluria and Vela to be de-nerfed since they wouldn’t be as OP in the current meta?

    • TIM: See the answer on the metrics earlier - we only nerfed these heroes after the data proved without a doubt that they really were way too effective as they were. And we nerfed them as little as possible (but enough to make a difference - we did try smaller changes but the issues remained then!) so I’d say we’re not ‘safe’ with a de-nerf yet. We’re actually super-cautious with these things, you know, like handling highly explosive materials!
  • How do you envision filling the gap between new players and old players?

    • TIM: Thanks to the, from our point of view, very mellow power creep in the game we’ve not had to really think about this before this year. But this is now something we have on the agenda. We do not know the scope of things needed for this - but it would be interesting to at least see what could be done to make the path for new players a bit easier and/or faster.
  • What are the plans for keeping the game F2P and C2P friendly, with each year there is much more to do and less catch-up mechanics?

    • TIM: See the answer to the previous question - we haven’t had a pressing need to address this earlier, but we are now discussing it.
  • Any plans to have a big number of buffs coming?

    • Joel: We have not yet decided when the next balance changes will go live, but we will keep on making changes to the hero balance, so stay tuned!
  • Can you balance all heroes regularly? Say every 3 to 6 months? And not just touch the hero’s that make a profit. Let’s balance the entire game.

    • TIM: Here I’d return to points made earlier - the need for hero variety and the need for new Heroes to be, somehow, desirable. So we cannot ‘even out’ the Heroes in general too much (variety means some heroes must be very situational etc) and also we cannot allow older heroes, in principle, to outrank the new arrivals.
  • Based on what does the development team decide which heroes should be buffed/nerfed? There are some heroes who desperately need some love (Inari, Thoth-Amun, Perseus for example) yet they are never included in any of the balance changes, why?

    • JOEL: As Tim mentioned before we use metrics and player feedback to decide what Heroes to buff. Many of the Heroes mentioned here have been in talks to get a buff, but there have always been heroes that have had a bigger need for buffs than them.
  • Are there any plans to increase 4 ascension mat drops, or increase the rate of rare quests?*

    • TIM: Not really, no - as long as the ‘max ascension’ of heroes stays it is we probably should not touch this, again to be very safe with the game economy. That being said if we’d move the ‘endpoint’ of Hero power growth onward then we may also look into this!
    • JOEL: During the years we have added more and more places to obtain ascension items so the total amount of ascension item drops has increased even if we haven’t touched the rate of rare quests or individual odds in events.
  • Please relook ham cost for emblems and levels in HA and AL, Hunter’s lodge. Ham is used in so many areas whereas iron utility is limited compared to ham. Or Is it possible to add a level in AL to convert excess Iron to Ham, using Iron (of course) as the cost of transmuting?

    • TIM: We’d prefer to find new uses for Iron instead of adjusting the old ones (careful!). The conversion idea sounds cool though!
12 Likes

Quality of Life

  • How do you decide which QoL improvement to implement?

    • TIM: The ease of implementation and amount of requests are the two things that matter here - it’d be great to do QoL that actually is needed by many players and that is not prohibitively complex to develop. We’ve now tested a few of the QoL requests for EP actually first in Puzzle Combat since we had a bit more development bandwidth available there, let’s see when we have time to bring them over to EP.
  • What are exactly the QoL improvements promised in the 2021 Sneak Peek?

    • TIM: I think we did shift to focus a bit more this year to new events than we anticipated initially -but we’re working on the more detailed raid results (and possibly replay), we got the stage counter in after first adding it to PC. On PC we added the possibility to swap between similar construction/training buildings, but we don’t know when that’d get to EP. We have a detailed plan for the Legendary hero duplicate use feature, but that one won’t go to development until very late this year. There’s probably some more though…oh and the friendly Raids, that’s definitely a big thing we added to this! Formations, that’s also here!

    Ah, and something we could mention here is for what we consider QoL - it’s pretty much anything that players have requested or we have thought of that does not directly add something new to the game, is connected to Hero development or collection, is not related to gem/item economy and that is not a bugfix.

    So we actually do not consider the Legendary hero duplicate feature QoL at all since it’s a New Thing that directly affects hero collection and game economy. And therefore it gets a separate development track, budget, and business goals - things which QoL are excluded from.

    Friendly/Alliance raiding, on the other hand, was clearly marked as a thing that has no business goals and won’t really affect the game economy, it’s really just a cool thing that’s been requested several times. Raid Formations is the same, it’s been asked by players and it felt like a really neat thing to test if we’d get it working. And luckily we did, it was actually a pretty big undertaking to make sure the balance is still good enough with it being active and everything works “under the hood” and so on!

  • Since the Sneak Peek post from E&P staff on 26th January this year, there has been a high volume of “player wishes / wants” for inclusion under the umbrella of QOL.From all the ideas and suggestions posted by players in the forum this year - What is your feedback?

    • TIM: Here the same applies - we’ve definitely read these and even scoped the work for the ones that could fit the game, but the work on new content and features has been of higher priority. A practical example is Season 5 - we already need to start the work on that soon.
  • What are often asked for improvements that you simply can’t (not won’t) implement and what is the reason behind it?

    • TIM: Well one example is the possibility to collect all food and iron and so on with a single tap - that’s a thing that I’d never want to have in the game, with simply the reasoning that this extra bit of ‘daily work’ is really part of the game flow and ‘fiction’. The short time you spend collecting the resources is not that much, and makes you engage with your base that little bit more! Another, much trickier one, is hero trading between players. This one we could spend a long time discussing, but I think it’s enough to say that even very early in development we realized that this one will be off the table and basically not up for debate.
  • With new heroes being introduced every month, what are the plans to give us additional heroes space?

    • TIM: At the moment we do not aim to change the core functionality here - additional Hero space can be purchased and should be affordable. That being said, we do have to check that the cost itself stays sensible - when we set the initial prices we didn’t really know that the game would get so big, we had around a hundred Heroes then and now I think it’s nearly or past 350!
  • What is the current status of doing something to address the problem of duplicate 5-star heroes? The Hero Academy is useful, but once you get most of the season 1 heroes it becomes a weekly recycle. A trade-in system or some way to enhance the chances of a hero you don’t have would be really useful.

    • TIM: As mentioned we have been discussing and planning something for this here. Do note, as mentioned earlier, the trade-in system between players is not something that we’ll have in the game but otherwise, this should provide a reliable way to get new benefits from duplicates. Stay tuned!
  • In a game, where a lot of our time is spent on auto farming, are there any plans on making this less time-consuming?

    • TIM: Not specifically, no. Purely theoretically a ‘speed up option’ for farming gameplay could be something considered for the QoL, but I think the effort required to make it work foolproof (optimization for lower-end phones, etc.) kind of pushes it really low in the likelihood of getting selected for further development.
12 Likes

Alliances (Wars, Titans)

  • I have no complaints however I do wish to ask if fifteen-star titans will ever become a reality? I understand we have mythic titans which is great, but when your alliance has reached its plateau regarding titans, the same old fourteen stars one after the other becomes monotonous.

    • TIM: Yeah, these are quite high in the QoL list, and really something I’d hope we could tackle next year. Absolutely nothing against this, we’ve discussed it, but more important matters have always delayed this one taken further.
  • Do you plan to introduce 3 and 4* alliance wars?*

    • TIM: Probably not as such. The idea is cool though, and it would definitely shake up the routine…we have to look into this in more detail!
  • Are there plans to build out the friendly/intra-alliance raid system more?

    • TIM: We have a few QoL items we’d like to do for friendly raiding, but as mentioned many times earlier these can take a long time before getting into the game.
  • Why allow alliances with 1-5 members? Too many alliances leave many empty or short members. An alliance should be a minimum of 8 or even 5.

    • TIM: I actually can’t remember exactly why we did this. I think this would fall under QoL in a way, it could be that the ‘best’ minimum indeed would be something else than what we have - it’d just need some research and analytics work to confirm the assumption. It’s a good question though, we may look into this in the future!
  • We have element-specific rare titans, are there any plans to add rare titans that have a bonus drop chance of tomes/blades?

    • TIM: A good question/suggestion, this one as well! We haven’t had the chance to look at major Titan changes for a long while, but if we’d get to expand the Rare Titan selection at some point this could be a very logical thing to add!
  • Raiding teammates is a great addition, small flaw. Is there a way to add the war game feature to these raids? It would really allow players to then truly test their defenses and see what’s happening.

    • TIM: Whoa, that’s a much bigger ask than one probably realizes:) It’d be automatically assigned as being a really expensive QoL feature when compared to many, many others.
  • Lastly, are there any new ways to play more with your alliance mates being worked on? I think this is mainly why we all stay because of the friendships we have made through the game. War is fun as we can cheer each other on. Mythic Titan was good and, however, imo, there need to be more levels of rewards in the team aspect.

    • TIM: We’re working very soon on a variation of Challenge Event called Alliance Event, so that’s one thing. In general, we absolutely agree on the notion (and that’s why the Alliance Event was something we already did for Puzzle Combat and now want to have in EP this year). Yeah, it’d be great to add still more Alliance activities and functionality. So when you think about QoL and especially more ‘expensive’ features there Alliance and socially shared content goes really high there.
16 Likes

Buildings

  • Can we expect more buildings?

    • TIM: We’ve been a bit quiet on new buildings for a while - we’ve done some work already on an ‘expedition building’ but wrapping that up probably goes to next year. Similarly, we have something cool already done for a ‘museum’ but I’m fairly sure that’s not going to the game this year. So yeah, we have plenty of plans here, some even quite huge, or super huge, but we’ve put pretty much all of these to the side for a moment. I’m really hoping we’d get to some of these next year!
  • Stronghold. This is the only building that should be built but that cannot be entered. Why? For example, a storyline or other useful information could be read in this building.

    • TIM: We’ve had some plans related specifically to this…it would be super logical to get access to some fun stuff, like the storyline, from somewhere, yeah. Stay tuned.
  • Why did you choose to let us upgrade 3 on 4 food storage to advanced, 3 on 5 iron storage, 1 on 4 house… and so on, and not upgrade all of them?

    • TIM: Who says we’ve reached the maximum Stronghold level yet? If and when we’ll increase that, we’ll increase the max of Advanced Storages.
  • Are there any plans to improve the hero academy to provide better value to players, such as; adjusting the odds on the legendary training, changing some of the less popular training options to make them more useful ( such as HA levels 5 or 8), or allowing the building to run 3 functions at the same time similar to the Alchemy Lab?

    • TIM: Not specifically no. I know that this is and has been a major ask from a lot of players, but we just have to be very careful with the economy of the game, and giving better value, in the sense that it’d be way more effective for free collection of heroes, is something that is very risky for us to try to do.
8 Likes

Resources & Items

  • Have you thought about a reset coin to get mats back on a hero? It would be an awesome add and could easily be done as say a once a year gift. Something you can’t win or buy. I think players would really appreciate that small gesture.

    • TIM: We had a big discussion about “super reset tokens” actually at some point. We ultimately did not take it further, but who knows about the future, we’ve been looking at some ideas for very useful things and this is a pretty cool idea as well.
  • Emblem Conversion. I have a bunch of emblems and would like to convert them from one class to another. Has this been brought up before?

    • TIM: This hasn’t really been mentioned before…theoretically this would be on a similar track to some of the things we have in Alchemy Lab, I’d say. So probably not as straightforward as many would like, but yeah it would make sense to have some way to convert utterly excess emblems to some other type. Not a thing that we’d look at as the first thing, QoL basically, but a good topic nonetheless.
  • Any possibility that the gnomes found during Valhalla Forever can drop coins only (like the dragons during Atlantis Rises)? I’m confident that most players would prefer coin drops only.

    • TIM: Most likely not - we want to keep changing the formula a bit between seasons and as noted earlier the Atlantis Rises set a precedent that does not quite work when used elsewhere.
10 Likes

Beta & Player Feedback

  • What feedback from beta players has been most helpful in making changes prior to full release?

    • TIM: There’s a lot, actually - for the Heroes we get a solid “second line of defense” when we combine the beta feedback with our simulator results. If we do bigger, all-new Events or features the beta feedback is super valuable in making sure the feature is understandable, balanced, and bug-free (it’s just really hard to see some of the issues ourselves, especially when we get so familiar with the features when developing them).
  • Do the Beta testers’ or feedback or the community’s opinion here on the forum have any impact on the development?

    • TIM: Yeah the beta does a lot, as mentioned earlier - we use it basically to confirm if something is good enough to release and often we go back to the drawing board with things if the opinion strongly points that way. Do note that there are some economy and game direction related things where we do need to move onward with the chosen strategy even if community opinion would not be in favor of it - but it’s super-valuable to get a clear indication of this beforehand as well, and as said we’ve often adjusted even our strategy based on findings here.
  • I loved the Global Beta for Raid Formations. Will we see more Global Beta down the road? Would like to see more come up in the future.

    • TIM: The Global Beta was indeed really great - it allowed us to focus on just the right things for finishing the feature and the relative safety of having it in this kind of “test” phase made a lot of our work with it so much easier. We definitely hope to have more of these in the future.
  • Why are the developers keen to introduce features like ‘Limit Breakers’ which 80% of the people polled here feel negatively about?

    • TIM: As mentioned earlier there are some features where the overall direction is in a way set in stone beforehand, or at least in the sense that we know where we need to end up in the long term, but there simply is a fairly high chance that players do not see the steps along the way as we do. Limit Breakers is a very clear example of this - we have evaluated that we must raise the maximum evolution cap, so to speak, of Heroes at this stage of the game lifecycle and thus we set this as a non-debatable goal. There’s a lot in the feature itself we need to test and most likely adjust once it’s live, and the beta feedback did inform us of the pain points, definitely…but in this case, we realized that we’ll learn what exactly needs to be adjusted only when it’s played by a large enough population.
  • Why do the devs/ game designers keep forcing content out which nobody wants or requests but ignore the innumerable features that players do want & repeatedly ask for?

    • TIM: As mentioned earlier a lot of the content we decide to focus on is informed by the patterns we see in the entire player population and when looking at how to keep the majority of players engaged over the long term. This does not necessarily always align with the feedback we get from the players - and there we often must rely on the science and business parameters, if you will, instead of focusing on the individual opinions.
      We may, for example, see that if we do not have enough new, sufficiently powerful Heroes and Events introduced at a regular enough pace the players, as a group, start to lose interest in things…and this may be a much stronger reaction than what we see whenever we do something more QoL-centric! So these things affect our priorities heavily - we’d love to focus on certain things (most of us play the game still actively every day, and we have no special developer accounts or anything) but there’s this ‘burden of knowledge’ where we, nearly daily, have to remind us what’s the order of importance to ensure we have a really solid roadmap for years to ahead.
13 Likes

Personal

  • Do you play the game? What are your favorite heroes, combinations, gameplay features?

    • TIM: Yeah I play EP and PC both daily - not superduper actively so ‘just’ all of the Titans, wars, important quests, and so on but still it takes a chunk of every day. I run with a fairly low-key set of Legendaries, still got Vivica (costumed though) in my lineup. I personally like ‘luck’ as a gameplay element so I’ve been really happy with my Rumpelstilskin - and Hel, I summoned her all the way back when she was the first Hero of the Month, yeah. I’ve got none of the top-tier meta heroes, I’ve got a pretty limited monthly summon budget - but that’s ok. And while I can’t really compete in meta, my super-wide roster of all kinds of stuff works great for Tournaments which I really, really like.
    • JOEL: I’m currently taking a small break from playing EP as I have been lately super busy with development work. From my own roster, my favorite heroes include Onatel, Marjana’s costume, Sartana’s costume, Tyr and Kunchen. Onatel has one of my favorite Special Skills in the game so I was very happy to summon her. Lately, I have been enjoying Raid Tournaments a lot as I do have a large bench of rare and epic Heroes.
  • I’m also generally curious about Tim and Joel as people. Who are you? Background?

    • TIM: I’ve got a game artist background, and I’ve seen a lot of projects, good and bad in my 20+ years of game development. So these things kind of affected EP as well - we got the hero art set up super quickly at the start of the game development, and because I really, really dislike a failing game project (it just means everybody is super sad) I’m probably more eager than many to make hard or unpopular design calls as long as it ensures the game stays alive. Otherwise just a regular family guy who likes pizza, video games, and action movies.
    • JOEL: My background is in programming. I went to a school that offered a program on game development and I was aiming to be a graphics programmer. During our game design courses, one of the teachers said to me I should do game design instead and I gave it a go and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last 5 or 6 years. So I’m still in the early years of my career in games. I started working on EP at the beginning of 2018 and it’s been a great experience. In my free time, I spend time with my wife and kids, play games, and run a lot.
  • What was the biggest constraint you had to deal with while developing Empires & Puzzles?

    • TIM: We haven’t really had constraints as you might think - anything I’ve mentioned earlier related to prioritization and so on is always necessary and all the schedules and deadlines we have are entirely of our own making - they just help us to keep focused and keeps us from taking up more work than we can handle. We’re a small team but is that really a constraint? Nah, not really, we can still be really nimble and as said choose what to concentrate on.
  • From a general staff point of view, are your feelings towards the game (and the community) different from the early days when the game was just starting to be a big success? If so, how and why?

    • TIM: Well for me it’s still pretty much the same, of course, the success was an awesome surprise and a dream come true early on…but the game was from the getgo intended to be something that could be built upon for years to come and as such I’m still, personally, designing and looking at the thing from the very same perspective as I had 4 or 5 years ago; how to ensure we have something new in the game that’s good enough, soon enough, developed easily enough and so that we always have contingency plans for both good and bad occasions.
    • JOEL: I don’t know if the way I feel about the game has changed during the years, I loved the game then and love it now. For me, the biggest change has been in how I think of the game. Early on it was a lot about specific elements of the gameplay and how specific heroes work. Nowadays it is more about the overall economy, overall balance, and how different systems interact with each other. Having a better understanding of what’s going on there has somewhat changed the way I look at the game.
  • What season was the hardest to create and why was that particular theme chosen?

    • TIM: Season themes probably are a bit easier now since we know each has to be different enough from the previous season…I mean season 2 was something where it was still a bit uncertain if we’d even really need a season 3, but now that we see that yeah, we should definitely have a season for each year it’s more of just choosing a theme and making sure we stay within the idea there, just so that it’d be nice and fun then to come up with the next one. Season 3 was really solid since the Norse mythology is so vast…but I wanted to avoid the obvious with Season 4 thus this bit more eccentric mix of Jules Verne-inspired characters. Season 5 is going to be a bit more familiar in some ways, as you’ll see later this year:)
    • JOEL: For me, Season 2 was a big learning experience as it was pretty much the first thing I worked on when I started on the EP team. So in that sense, it was the hardest as I was still learning how everything works. Seasons 3 and 4 were more straightforward in the sense that I knew what I was doing. Of course, they had their own challenges, but compared to Season 2 they were easier.
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Miscellaneous

  • What is the name of the little dragon? (That we see in the commercial?) What’s his/her story?

    • TIM: Oh, I don’t think I’ve ever called it anything else other than Vivicas’ dragon. Yeah, it probably would deserve a name!
  • There is a lot of talk about the game life term for mobile games, with the full rollout of Puzzle Combat do you see any change in focus where you may start focusing more on that and reducing new content for e&p, or are they independently handled by different teams.

    • TIM: They’re independently handled by different teams - we actually try to benefit from this fact that we’re developing two sufficiently similar games next to each other, so for example the Alliance Quest in EP is only possible this year since we already did a version of that in Puzzle Combat…and similarly that’s where we had a bit more time to test some small QoL tweaks…So yeah, I think this is something where the public perception is not at all in line with the reality, it’s not really even possible to ‘lose’ any development focus in EP due to PC!
  • Could you reconsider putting some variety into our daily tasks which have not changed since the beginning of EP?

    • TIM: As mentioned it would be great to freshen up the daily quests at some point (that’s an obvious one, hopefully, happens earlier than later) and the fact that we have to start thinking about the vast difference between new players and elder players next year there may be something small that’ll result from that. And yeah, we’d love to freshen raiding, tournaments, war rules every now and then, nothing against the idea, it’s just a matter of when we’ll get to do these!
  • What were the reasons for Raid Formations being locked behind Stronghold level 25 and Hero Academy instead of being widely available to the player base?

    • TIM: Just a matter of risk management, really. Even though the feature is liked and the global beta went great, we’d absolutely hate to find out later on that the formations somehow made the raiding of very, very early players somehow worse. So we erred on the side of caution here, level 25 may be a tad too high but, just to be safe, we put the limit there.
  • Background music. Would you like to make it more varied?

    • TIM: Yeah we would - we just have basically no people dedicated to music on our teams (focus!) and thus it’s just super-low in priority. Also, there was a long time when we technically needed to avoid adding too much different music in the game…this is not the case anymore (and we’ve had some fun with this on a few occasions) but as said, we have no one available to spend extra time with the music!
  • How much storytelling is developed for the characters and world?

    • TIM: Not too much on paper, really - similar to the music we do not have dedicated lore or writing people in the whole company, which kind of means that while we’d love to have a more tangible set of lore somewhere it’s not really been a focus for anyone. In my mind, everything is connected (and we’ve alluded to some of this with the character descriptions and so on) and yeah, it would be so cool to ‘paint alive’ all these connections and story possibilities…
  • What do you feel has been the biggest mistake in the last year, and how would you deal with it now instead?

    • TIM: Hm, well the mistakes for me tend to blend together into a life happens sort of string of events, so I always assume these will happen and that we’d learn from them. Balancing heroes was quite rocky for a while, definitely - but introducing occasional heroes that break the balance is, in the big picture, somewhat unavoidable so last year was a good way to learn to deal with these situations perhaps faster and more clearly.
  • The longevity of this game is dependent on being able to attract new players when older players retire. At the moment, with a glut of 5 heroes, emblem classes, costumes and the upcoming ‘Limit breaker’ what are the developer’s plan to help reduce the chasm and help new players catch up and be able to compete with those who have been playing for 3+ years?*

    • TIM: The new player’s path is something we will indeed focus on next year, but there’s really not much to share yet on that (we haven’t decided on the steps yet). A point perhaps to make here is that we’ve got, generally speaking, an exceptionally low degree of players retiring which actually is the reason for us to introduce all the mentioned new features - we really, really want to ensure the players who want to get more out of the game after 4 years can do so, it’d be a terrible shame to lose these players really!
  • How do you decide when ranking is done by top X number of players (monthly challenge events) versus percentage (weekly raid tournaments)?

    • JOEL: Raid tournaments were the first time we tested out a percentage-based rewarding system. The tournament is not the same for every player (unlike Challenge Events) as we want all players to have to defend during the tournament. Therefore going for the top 1 spot is something that is entirely based on what the matches that you get are. So it made more sense for us to have percentage-based rewards for that event.
  • Has the introduction of some sort of “pity counter” ever came up?

    • TIM: We’ve discussed this several times as well and had even some plans pretty clearly lined up if this would be needed - but I think the math and the economics, at least at the time, did not really support this since the end result would not really work as it does in some competing games. That being said, a well-implemented pity counter is absolutely not a bad idea, and who knows if we’d eventually get to it!
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Thank you for all your questions, we hope we covered all the topics raised by the community. Thank you for reading as well, remember to share your thoughts on this discussion topic:

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