The Hi-Rez Expo’s fall debut is over. The SMITE champions have been crowned. Switch and cross-platform play was announced. Upcoming gods were revealed. The news that esports is expanding into high school has been shared, and the new arena started its time in the spotlight. And everyone got free goodies! So what could be left to discuss? When you can get some face time with SMITE devs for a chat or two, the answer is plenty! I spent time with Hi-Rez General Manager Chris Larson and SMITE Lead Designer AJ Walker discussing a number of topics during the con.
With a focus already on the arena, part of my discussion was on the well-loved Corrupted Arena and the possibility of its return. (I think I have him talked into it, folks!) Of course, being me, you know I had to ask about information regarding other adventures going forward. Christmas is coming, but not with Fafnir’s Wonderland! And with the advent of cross-platform play, the really big questions of how multiple platform accounts would be merged was definitely on my mind. Here are the answers I gleaned from Larson and Walker.
Corrupted Arena could return!
While everyone else was grilling Larson about cross-platform play, I went in another direction: adventures. And more specifically, the Corrupted Arena. I knew I couldn’t be the only one who really loved that adventure, and it turns out I definitely wasn’t. Larson agreed that this was one of the most popular adventures. So, if it was so popular, why not bring it back?
Larson noted that one of the big things that SMITE takes care to avoid is splitting the players into too many queues, diluting them to the point they can’t work well. (At least with cross-platform play we’ll be increasing those queues!) He said that perhaps a match of the day would work, although I expressed concern that such a popular mode would be too easy to miss out on in that format. I know I would, and I’d doubtfully be able to squeeze a stream in! Larson responded, “I think if it was as special as Corrupted Arena, I think we’d do better marketing and advertising for it because we know players really enjoyed that game mode.”
But I, and I am sure many others, would want more than one day of Corrupted Arena occasionally. Larson stated that the team wouldn’t want to remove regular arena at any time in favor of a Corrupted Arena run because those who want to just play arena will be forced out of their gameplay for that time. And remember, more players play arena, so that could possibly displace a huge chunk. So why not just bring it back alongside? To that, Larson said suggested it would be more feasible “if the community were more open to eliminating some of the game modes that are not very popular – like Clash, for example.” He explained that Clash was supposed to be stepping stone between arena and conquest; devs thought it was a a good way to introduce people to conquest, but players haven’t been attracted to that mode.
Being the helpful person I am, I offered a solution: How about swapping out a week of the unpopular Clash once a month and put in a week of the popular Corrupted Arena instead? (No, I am totally not lobbying for a favorite game mode!). “I would say that is probably more probable,” Larson answered. When he worried that it would split the arena playerbase, I countered this was already done for a full six weeks and the regular arena did not die because of it. “That’s a good point,” he admitted. “That’s a great idea.” Larson promised to return with the feedback.
Larson said that something that may really work well for the Corrupted Arena is an idea that the team already has in mind for the arena for next year: tournaments. Larson admitted that in Joust and Conquest modes, players have rankings and rewards to add in a different level to the competition, but the arena has nothing. That could be changing. After all, why should only Conquest players be rewarded for being good at their preferred mode?
A tournament system in the arena would be achievement and individual based; players can certainly group up with premades, but advancements in the achievement system would be based on what the player does, not the team (and tied to the individual players). And this actually would work well with Corrupted Arena. “We want to be able to bring back for a certain time period a game mode that would be fun to do, and to have friendly competition with other players, but not be as hardcore as Conquest,” he told me. Larson thinks this could be really good for SMITE. “Those are things that we are very much excited about, things that we think will help the game grow, and give players something to look forward to that they’re good at.” Since most SMITE players are actually arena players, it makes sense to give them a competitive outlet and rewards for being good at their preferred mode as well.
Having more adventures
As much as I want to play in Corrupted Arena more, I don’t want it to displace the other planned adventures for the year. These different game modes have been very fun to experience. Walker suggested that “old adventures can be mini-adventures between adventures, or special matches of the day, or something.” I even asked about bringing back a Charity Challenge, like we saw with Xing Tian’s Mountain. Larson responded to this query with, “I think having more competition things in the game, but in a more casual, friendly system, I think would be very popular. And I think it would help people rally around it,” jumping in and practice with friends to prep for it.
Speaking of new adventures, while I can’t get any specifics on anything past the live one now, I did learn that this year’s Christmas will be something new indeed. “We do have something planned this Christmas that is not Fafnir’s Wonderland,” Walker disclosed. “It’s a smaller style, like surprise adventure, but I don’t want to speak to much on it because it’s still in progress.” This about broke my heart and piqued my curiosity all at once.
While discussing favorite adventures, we also got on the subject of the PvE dungeons series. I loved them! But I was pretty bummed I never got to see the finale, especially since our team member DCed on our best run. Larson admitted that only 1% of the playerbase actually got to see Loki during that adventure! He noted that they obviously tuned it too hard. Then he explained that the team wants to have a Loki challenge next year that brings back just that final piece of the mode so more players can jump in and experience it. “It really was a cool challenge,” he said, “but only a few people got to see it.”
Along those same lines, I asked about being able to rejoin and adventure when a party member DCs. Larson reminded me that adventures had only a little strike team of 10-12 people working on them while everyone else was on the main game. He explained,
“The reconnect logic that we have for our main game modes didn’t really translate well back to the PvE way, so it was difficult for us to get that in. I think that if we are going to do that again that we would make sure that we added some development time to add the ability to reconnect in a more graceful way.”
We then talked about the idea of adding better checkpoints through those PvE types of adventures if they return, allowing players to earn the right to restart at a place they’ve have already gotten to, instead of starting over and over and over and over and over. Although there is no plan to use this dungeon-run format in the near future, it wasn’t ruled out as a possibility later. And speaking of a PvE dungeon run…
I didn’t even have to broach the subject of the SMITE IP being used in a more MMOy way! During our discussion, Larson told me, “I think that if we were ever to make a spinoff off of SMITE, I think a PvE sort of centric game that had the SMITE characters and things like that would be something that would be successful.” I really enjoyed the PvE dungeon adventures, and am all for this idea! This sentiment was also share by Gabe Mughelli, who works in the art studio branch of Hi-Rez, Alacrity Arthouse; he expressed how much fun he’d find a PvE MMOy type game in the SMITE universe and admits to keep pushing this concept.
Making the cross-platform merging work
With cross-platform play coming to SMITE and paladins, I asked Larson about how the process would be looking for those who have been previously playing on multiple platforms. How would merging these accounts work. “Those are questions that we are actually still working through,” he said. The team doesn’t have anything set, and there is a chance things can change. One of the major things that has to happen first, however, is merging all the databases together, as each platform is on a separate one. That will happen in December, at which point all the games would go down for up to a day so they can all be transferred to the one database. Then the big account merge is planned to happen in end of January.
While there is no definitive plan in place yet (kinks need to be addressed and ironed out), the team has an idea how it will shake out. First, players likely have to select which is their primary account, and the other would merge into it. Completed achievements between the two will merge, but only finished ones; partially done achievements will still only be partially done as they were on main account.The value of gems will be added together, as apparently so will XP. That means a level five on one platform and a level 10 on the other could result in a level 13 or 14. Content carries over, so all the skins you have on each platform will merge into the main account. This cross-progression is, according to Larson, going to be one of the big wins — players don’t have to buy things twice. Now the real sticky question is, what about all those folks who have bought the same thing on both platforms, such as skins or ultimate god packs — would there be any kind of compensation for double purchases? Larson noted that of course the team couldn’t refund money that was already paid out to platforms, but the team hasn’t gotten to the point of addressing possible in-game compensation ideas. How that topic will be addressed is in progress. As he said, those are questions they are still working through.