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I recently had a chance to pay Monolith Studios a visit. Senior Producer Ruth Tomandl and Producer Bob Roberts Guardians of Middle-earth kindly offered to answer your community questions. From the tutorial system to the intricacies of their matchmaking system, Ruth and Bob go in-depth on your questions and hint at some of the things to come for Guardians of Middle-earth.
Check out their responses below!
1. Are there any plans for spectator mode for Guardians of Middle-earth?
Ruth Tomandl: There are no plans for spectator mode at this time but anything is possible.
Wikia: The game seems really watchable; can you talk about that? Bob Roberts: I think it would be very similar to spectator modes in other MOBA games. It was built on the same bones. It's a competitive sport at its core. It has a lot of that same structure as any actual sport, so it's fun to watch regardless.
R: We have done some streams and have gotten really positive feedback on them.
2. Can you talk about the matchmaking system and what mechanics are in place to ensure a balanced team composition?
B: There are a lot of different factors involved, just from the raw ping, which is probably the single most important thing. If you are in a group with a crazy lag delay to someone, that is going to be unbalanced. But we also take into account some formulas we have under the hood to estimate how good you are or how much you have unlocked in terms of the progression system, what your profile level is, and that kind of stuff, to make sure that if there is enough people to make a good game, we are matching you up with people that are about your level or progression.
R: We do have an elo ranking that is used behind the scenes in matchmaking. It's not visible to players, but it does help match up players with similar skill levels.
3. What sort of dedicated jungling mechanics do you have in the game? How does this affect the traditional meta?
B: We did a lot of experimenting with how that sort of jungling META would evolve. One of the early decisions was we made the map a bit smaller, square-footage-wise, and you move between lanes a bit faster than other mobas. And so one of the major balancing points for jungling in other mobas is that it takes awhile to get from the creep in the jungle to the lane.
We actually have a balance point where you can actually sustain a jungler, but it's not necessarily the ideal jungling behavior. Really you want to lane push, whenever you have a breather, dip into the jungle and back quickly. And we also have Shrines right down the middle between all the lanes that serve that purpose as well. You can dip in, grab the Shrine, and pop back out into the lane whenever you have a lull where you are not in threat of losing XP for being out of the lane. So if you push little bit and let your soldiers go, you can dip into the jungle and come back before the next wave hits, as opposed to other mobas where going in to get one of the jungle creeps is going to actually make sure you lose a wave's worth of XP.
R: Mostly what we see is two top, two bottom, one mid. The people who go top and bottom tend to grab those outside shrines. People will leave their lanes when they want to.
B: There is a lot more ganking early because we start you off, if you think of the early-mid-late-game division, towards the end of "early-game". We give you three skills up front, you don't start off with only one. Moving between lanes is faster so it's a lot easier to gank and get back into position quickly.
4. Are there plans for creating a draft or ban system?
R: There are no plans for that at this time.
Wikia: In that case, can you talk about how players can react to the enemy team composition?
B: So when you pick your characters, you can see what your team is picking but you can't see what the enemy team is picking. Once you are set and everyone readies-up, we go to the screen where everyone can see the full enemy team now. Your characters are locked, but you still have thirty seconds to change your Loadouts. So as soon as you see what they're doing, you have a little time to modify the Loadout that you are about to go into the match with. And that is where your primary reaction is to the enemy team comp.
Other than that, it becomes about the opportunities on the battlefield. We have more and a wider variety of buffs in the jungle to manipulate and experiment with and we also have tower upgrading and soldier upgrading that can play in that a little bit more. So we have a few more knobs to turn once we are on the field.
R: One thing that we have found for console gamers from a UI description standpoint: having that stuff on the battlefield made it a little bit more visible and easy to play. It's easy to see, oh, they upgrade their tower to a double-shot tower. And it's a little easier to see, oh, their Loadout has this one thing in it, so making those kinds of things more of the way you interact with others.
Another thing worth mentioning is that you can review other guardians' Loadouts in the death screen. So if someone took you out in an unexpected way, it could be due to their Loadout, so you can take a look at their Loadout and think about how you want to set yours up for your next game.
5. How long will it take to unlock all the guardians?
B: That totally depends on your play style. I think a lot of people are going to do it very differently. So how long it takes to unlock all the guardians is an extremely variable question because it depends how much you put into other things. If you were buying no Loadout items with your earned currency and just unlocking guardians... It's going to be so variable because of how much people want to focus on a guardian and build up a perfect Loadout for the guy they like versus first trying to unlock everybody.
If you just like playing Support, you will probably go through and unlock all the support characters, but then maybe you start unlocking loadout items because you are not as interested in unlocking strikers or something. The other thing is, depending no how much you focus on doing the challenges, because you get little bursts for doing various challenges that are associated with each character. If you're a really good player and you happen to be getting most kills or doing a lot of support, and the accolades are built around all the different playstyle types too, so it's not just for people who are doing hardcore.
6. Do you plan on setting up any competitive tournaments or brackets for the game community?
B: Our community team has definitely done a lot of thinking about it.
R: It's still in discussion. We are talking to partners about who we could potentially work with to do that. We've been looking at doing it ourselves. So we have certainly been discussing it, but we don't have any concrete plans.
7. Similarly, are there any plans towards pushing the game to the eSports community?
R: Again, it's something we have talked about, but we don't have concrete plans.
8. Do you have any plans on creating new maps or game modes in the future?
R: We can't give specifics on them, but yes, there is a new mode that we will be debuting shortly. And also some new map skins. More Middle-earth locations for people who love it.
9. Are there any skins or aesthetic customization options down the road?
R: That's been a little bit of a struggle because we want everything to be in universe. So skins are a little bit of a challenge.
B: Obviously you can't be Gandalf in a santa suite.
R: Right, you just can't do that in the lore. So you have Gandalf the white. It's something we have thought about, but we don't have any plans to do it yet.
10. In some of the videos we see a rhombus and a square next to the character icon. Can you explain what these represent?
B: So on the overhead health bar, one of those is if you have your ult ready. That's are quick communication that you have your ult up, not on cooldown. And the other is your spell. It's just the quick view of "are we ready to just roll with a full force right now." You see everybody's.
R: You can yell at people for not using it. Or there are things like both Gandalf and Galadriel have universal ults, so it's good to be able to see. "Hey, you should really use that right now. You guys are almost dead."
11. Can you talk about tutorials and how you plan on bringing new players into a traditionally competitive moba scene?
B: So we have the tutorials in the game broken into several parts of basic move/attack, set-off abilities stuff. We have a stretch about the core concept of pushing towers and staying behind your soldier lines and not being too aggressive. That's probably the number one thing we see uninitiated moba players do and fail at the most, just walking into a tower and face-planting and getting destroyed. So we have a tutorial that is just about how to push a lane and the core concept there.
And then we have a chunk that is about the map and going around and introducing you to jungle creeps, buffs from that, shrines, upgrading towers, upgrading the base, that kind of stuff. And then a sort of practice match. Here's a normal match against bots, but everywhere you go, everything you bump into, we are going to give you hints and reminders of what that is. "Hide grass: You can stay there and not be seen unless an enemy comes in there. This is tower. Get away. This is your tower, you can upgrade it." All those little prompts that get in the way if you were in a real match, but we will let you play as close to a real match as possible with all those prompts going.
And then of course we have Co-op vs AI to graduate into before you get all competitive. You can learn how to work together and still be playing against bots, but with other real people. And then you can go up to the Battlegrounds mode with a time limit and is a little less competitive. And then you've got the Elite Battlegrounds once you're ready for elite.
R: The other thing we did is, the most complex part of the game is the loadouts. So when you first play, when you're profile level one, you don't get any loadouts stuff - you can only use the default loadouts. And then as you level up your profile, you unlock more of that stuff.
B: You unlock custom loadout slots, then you unlock each piece of the custom loadouts slot. So loadouts can be pretty intimidating as well, so we introduce you to each of those. And each one of those has its own little tutorial in the menu explaining what they are, how to buy them and slot them, and what to think about when using them.
R: And then the basic and advanced controls. It starts out with basic controls by default.
B: That's the other thing. We probably have the most robust hint system that I have worked on. It actually reads what character you're playing, what level you're at, what kinds of things you have, and gives you, on the loadscreens, tips that are very targeted. So if you're just starting, you're level one, it is going to be very high-level "stay behind your soldiers" kind of tips. If you're really high-level, it will be very character specific. Like, "Gollum, with this loadout, is good at this type of thing. You should try this advanced strategy and coordinate with this other character on your team."
Wikia: That's shockingly thorough.
R: Yea, it's nice. It also knows what map you are on, so it gives you map hints.
B: Yea, three lane map hints and one lane map hints.
R: Also, when you go into the inventory system and you look at guardians, for each guardian there is a bio on where that character sits in the lore, there is a description of all their abilities, including their passives, there is all the statistics. We also have a glossary where you can go and look up terms.
B: That is one thing that I have never seen in another game like this, but was one of the first things I went hunted for when I started playing mobas. I went on to find a glossary and started reading through what this short-hand meant. So we just put one in the game. So in the help section of the game, you can go open up the glossary and find out what people mean if you're new, if you're like "What's gank? What's that mean?"
11. Do you have favorite characters in terms of design?
R: My favorite character is not even announced.
B: I think Gollum is my favorite character from, well first off, I do really enjoy playing him, but he looks and feels like Gollum. His animations are awesome. He is really Gollum-like, and he plays like Gollum. He sneaks around and skulks in the bushes, and jumps out and hits people and panics and runs away, and has this very manic sort-of "Gollumy" vibe to him. I feel like it's just a really awesome fit with his character and how he looks. And it's also just really satisfying abilities wise.