E3 2016: The Constant Evolution of Epic’s Paragon
Epic Games is no stranger to multiplayer games, starting with the acclaimed Unreal Tournament franchise before moving on to the Xbox juggernaut Gears of War. The studio’s next undertaking is Paragon, a MOBA looking to challenge League of Legends and other top games in the genre. Epic’s creed for Paragon is one of constant evolution, of continuous updating of both the game and its ecosystem, and so far the project seems to be off and running.
I met with Epic at E3 2016 to talk about what’s new in the game, and that idea of evolution permeated throughout our discussion. First and foremost is the addition of one new character every three weeks for the indefinite future, meaning that the playable roster will grow as long as development is active. The new character debuting at the show was Khaimera, a up close and personal fighter designed to be perfect for one-on-one duels in the middle of the main war. His primary weapons are dual hand axes, and his abilities include a quick boost in attack power, health regeneration, an overpowered attack that renders the enemy immobile, and a pounce attack that covers a lot of ground in a very short time. He is a formidable foe in close-quarters combat, and I can see players with a more direct play style taking a quick shine to him.
Adding a new character every three weeks is fine, but doing so means creating a wide array of characters with different play strategies and that could quickly become an issue. WIth Khaimera being a close-quarters melee fighter, for example, the next character to debut shouldn’t be the same type of character or players might be turned off by the lack of variety. I asked Paragon’s executive producer John Wasilczyk about Epic’s approach to keeping characters fresh, and his response shed a little light on how Epic designs its heroes.
“It’s definitely a challenge, and there’s some elements of gameplay we’re mindful of along the lines of what’s coming next,” Wasilczyk said. "But there’s other factors that exist outside of that too. For example an art team member might say, ‘I really don’t like how this guy’s face turned out, he needs another week in art,’ and we’ll shuffle the schedule around.” Winston also says there’s “some flex” in the character release pipeline, so things can be shifted if Epic sees fit to do so.
Characters are just one of the always changing elements of Paragon, as Epic issues an update patch for the game once a week. The E3 2016 patch was billed as the biggest in the game’s history, containing one of the most impactful changes the game has seen: the replacement of “travel mode” with teleportation. Before a character could enter “travel mode,” enhancing his or her mobility and allowing for quick travel from one end of the map to the other. This made moving around too easy in Epic’s opinion, so they’re replacing it with a teleportation system that lets players teleport from one friendly structure to another a la other MOBA games.
“If there’s one real answer then there’s no real strategy, so we took a look at the game and noted what parts of the game didn’t involve player choice.” Wasilczyk explained. “The issue we had with travel mode is that it was an unlimited resource that allowed people to engage and escape more easily without much of a choice. One of the key elements to the design team is positioning on the map, the idea of choosing one lane over another lane potentially making a sacrifice in doing so, and removing travel mode brought the the impact of that choice back to the game.”
With the Paragon Open Beta starting up in mid-August, Paragon is slowly coming into its own as a premier MOBA game. Weekly updates that tweak the experience and a new character debuting every three weeks simply scratch the surface of what Epic has in store for its pet project, which should make both established fans and those thinking about signing on to the game very confident in its longevity.
Paragon is currently in paid Early Access on PlayStation 4 and PC, with an open beta coming Aug. 16 on both platforms.