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Ascension - Discussion Thread


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Responsible members of the Skylords Reborn team recently met to discuss possible changes to campaign maps. What is outlined here are the proposed changes to the map Ascension. These changes are not final and are only proposed. As a warning, other map projects such as more RPvE presets and Defensive RPvE have a much higher priority for our team. As such, these, or any campaign map changes, may not happen for a very long time. 

Some changes here are firmer than others, all italicized proposals have accompanying explanations for why we are considering them, but they are the most tentative of all the proposals.

Proposed Changes:

1.   Change Goal Setup on Map 3 to allow 1 player to be considered to have won the map when all objectives are completed. Right now, Map 3 requires 2 players to be completable.

2.   Fix the power device on Map 2 to work on Expert like it does on Standard and Advanced. Improve clarity of when the device can be successfully activated.

3.   Map 1 devices should not be able to be activated by flying units but require a ground unit nearby. This is specifically related to the portal devices.

4.   Fix "the giant king shall fall" issue (where the voice line is repeated over and over) on map 2 after killing sufficient numbers of Avengers.

5.   Change initial wave of Energy Parasites to Mana Wings on Map 1.

While using Blaster Cannons is a possible strategy on Ascension Map 1 for defending, nearly everyone uses Mark of the Keeper combined with Mana Wings to defend both their base as well as Jorne. By reducing the initial onslaught, the hope is to open Map 1 up to more strategies and be less brutal on newer players who might not own these cards.

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Initial reply:
Flying units should definitely not be able to activate ground-based devices. If a device had such a feature, it should indicate it clearly be being airborne itself. Like a weather balloon or something. Could be a reskinned Magma Spore that can then be activated by a flying unit and pops in the process. It can simultaneously be tied to a ground-based device that can be activated by ground-entities. But that is only if it is deemed appropriate for the device to being activated by flying units. By default, ground presence should be necessary.

While the endlessly repeated line of Viridya is annoying, her reaching a portal is also the most prominent cause for failure. So maybe it's not that bad that she endlessly screeches to draw attention. If anything mix up the lines a bit.

Map 3 being crossable for flying units is a major change that would greatly influence the dynamic on the map. But being able to help the other side out with air-support is definitely interesting, obviously also opening up the potential to solo. Definitely something to keep an eye on once implemented, so that "get on with it already"-solo-carrying doesn't become totally oppressive, but sounds good in general.

The changes to Map 1 are intriguing. While usually not the cause for a loss it is quite the uphill battle. Because you are facing such tough opposition the sustain and utility from nature reign supreme. While creating a bit more space for alternatives to breath is good it would do little to close the gap to the mentioned meta strat.

Spoiler

I think there are various signs that maps have issues with either being unintuitive or uniquely vulnerable.

One such sign is when commonly advised tactics consist of outlier cards as crutches to easily overcome hurdles. These influence the progression in a round so heavily that runs with or without them become incomparable.

Another sign can be that people avoid interacting with certain aspects of a map entirely and instead circumvent them.

When the argument is that expert should be hard, then it completely undermines that point when those maps are rather broken in two. An expert map with half the enemies missing/not spawning or lots of its content not being engaged with no longer has a claim on being expert difficulty.

However, as initially mentioned, when expert maps are unclear, sometimes on top of being hard, then the entire thing is running into major approachability issues. Which in turn make players feel like they have to employ some exploit or meta strat, which curbs the creative process.

A big factor is also how easy a tactic that trivializes a map is to execute as well as how widespread it is. High-execution strats that are generally unsuitable or unknown for the broader playerbase don’t warp a map on a major scale. Meanwhile, low-execution tactics degenerate to “cheese strats” and make the content feel lame and unappealing.

It also creates the issue that people come to rely on meta strats and exploits to the point where even thinking about alternatives becomes unappealing. The perceived power gap between the established default strat and whatever they might come up with seems so big that it feels futile to even attempt something else.

The oppressiveness of meta strats and exploits erodes maps in multiple ways, effectively leading to a much shallower experience.

So I want to first look at what issues a map has. Then why they might occur and what parts of the map are getting undermined. Afterwards spitball some ideas on how these issues could be addressed. And finally various elements that could be changed to make these maps more approachable from different angles. Can also be possible compensation nerfs to maps in response to fixes that make them harder.


Ascension - Map1

Main Issue:
The map is completely dominated by one singular, low-interaction, low-execution strategy.

Context:
Mark of the Keeper and Mana Wings trivialize the map to a laughable degree.

Mark of the Keeper negates a big part of the incoming attacks and makes them a non-factor the player no longer really has to interact with in a meaningful way.

Generally, players are extremely afraid of their starting wells losing undue power, even if the lost power is relatively inconsequential.

Meanwhile the elaborate defensive set-up that got designed for this map should be the star of the show. However, Mana Wings circumvent it entirely, being able to clear key locations in relative safety and defend Jorne without issue.

A huge hurdle are the Living Towers behind walls. Even if it wasn’t for Mark of the Keeper and Mana Wings, Nature would probably still be the most dominant start on the map because you have to grind up against such strong defenses with heavy damage. By no means insurmountable, this poses a big enough challenge that players rather not engage with it.

The whole map crumbles around two cards. Because of that it might as well be completely empty plains with Jorne in the middle. This can’t be an acceptable state.


Fix:
Remove half of the Energy Parasites that attack the starting positions. Replace them with melee units that require more attention than a single T1 building.

Put down a few Primal Defenders in anti-air mode so that Mana Wings can’t reach Jorne relatively unbothered.

Implement magic gates that block entry to Jorne and need to be opened with ground presence. This way Mana Wings could still circumvent the fortifications but need to help at least one ground unit to reach the triggers. Could also make it multiple switches that all need to be activated before the gates open.

Make ranged units spawn around Journe that pose a threat to Mana Wings so they can’t go AFK in there.


Accessibility:

Soften up the fortifications a bit so that foot troops have an easier time.

The Energy Parasites seem to aggro straight onto the wells, mostly ignoring units. Changing their behavior to aggro to the first player unit that damages them would ease the pressure on the starting wells and make Mark of the Keeper feel less required.


Ascension - Map2

Main Issue:
This map is the most common cause for failure because it is rather unclear how to correctly handle Viridya. It’s also subjected to a taunt-bug.

Context:
It is counterintuitive that certain kinds of CC work on Viridya while others don’t. Also, despite being clearly M sized, L-knockback is required to stop her.

Less experienced players also sometimes miss that she is on the map.

Fix:
Lightblade being able to permanently brick Viridya is clearly a bug and should be addressed.

Change Viridyas model size to L so it’s clear M knockback does not work on her.

Accessibility:
Make all CC work on Viridya. Maybe with reduced effect but nonetheless functioning.

Leave Viridya M-sized but also make her susceptible to M-knockback.

Make Viridya slower.

Make the effect when Viridya is running towards a portal more visible than a slight hue of green.

Unselect entities and auto-lock a players camera onto Viridya for a moment when she spawns.

Announce her with a screen wide message like if a player draws a Promo. But with bold, green letters.

Make the passive lightning storm surrounding her weaker and have her actually stop/slow down and engage whenever she kills or destroys something. Like actively casting a powerful bolt. That way players could at the very least slow her down by throwing bodies at her if all else fails.

Eirias likes this
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  • 5 months later...
On 9/13/2021 at 2:10 AM, WindHunter said:

3.   Map 1 devices should not be able to be activated by flying units but require a ground unit nearby. This is specifically related to the portal devices.

Make the portal devices manuallly with a bigger area (somehow indicated) to teleport consistency. 

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  • 5 months later...
On 9/13/2021 at 2:10 AM, WindHunter said:

3.   Map 1 devices should not be able to be activated by flying units but require a ground unit nearby. 

Noticed it on some other maps as well (Raven's End for example). 

Also to that long list i would add some seconds of time at map ending. Viridya always cut her talking in the middle of sentence. If i remember good it's something like: "I just wanted to me more than just" [SLAP]

This is just rude.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Ascension - Map1

Main Issue:
The map is completely dominated by one singular, low-interaction, low-execution strategy.

Context:
Mark of the Keeper and Mana Wings trivialize the map to a laughable degree.

Meanwhile the elaborate defensive set-up that got designed for this map should be the star of the show. However, Mana Wings circumvent it entirely, being able to clear key locations in relative safety and defend Jorne without issue.

-------------------------------------

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Chicken or the egg issue. Teamwork on map 1 either is very good, or Epic fail. Realistically, you need to plan for it being Epic fail. A lot of times, I can't even get people to use the Tunnels to go mid. They try running through the walls and towers.

 

Just had an Expert game on Map 1 this Month, where all my allies suicided giant t1 armies repeatedly on those so called Defenses, and repeatedly so. While fighting through Parasite spam, Ogres, FathommLords and the t1 archer, spear shaman spam. Game was pretty much over before they got t2.

This is after I explained the tunnels btw, no one goes mid anyways. They keep attacking wall and tower side, so parasites and towers usually win. So I'm forced to sit mid and spawn all 12 manawings and solo cheese the whole map's worth of enemies at Jorne. While taking a T2 base.

 

It feels even worse seeing an ally turtle 10+ archers or towers in base and do nothing when you accidentally forgot to or didn't build a Mark

of the keeper for them.

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On 8/2/2022 at 8:30 PM, chickennoodler said:

Just had an Expert game on Map 1 this Month, where all my allies suicided giant t1 armies repeatedly on those so called Defenses, and repeatedly so. While fighting through Parasite spam, Ogres, FathommLords and the t1 archer, spear shaman spam. Game was pretty much over before they got t2.

This is after I explained the tunnels btw, no one goes mid anyways. They keep attacking wall and tower side, so parasites and towers usually win. So I'm forced to sit mid and spawn all 12 manawings and solo cheese the whole map's worth of enemies at Jorne. While taking a T2 base.

It feels even worse seeing an ally turtle 10+ archers or towers in base and do nothing when you accidentally forgot to or didn't build a Mark of the keeper for them.

It was some months ago since I last played Ascension map 1, but I was for sure one of those players, who got thrown in there with hardly any idea what to do. 

I didn't had Mana wings or Mark of the keeper, which meant I was struggling for the longest time with just the parasites, trying to cover my base and wells. And then it was time to push through the fortifications, which was a slog. But in the end, managed to do it. Still, from that point on I made sure to always go Map 2 or Map 3, where I know what to do. 

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On 8/8/2022 at 9:45 AM, Nemoo SK said:

It was some months ago since I last played Ascension map 1, but I was for sure one of those players, who got thrown in there with hardly any idea what to do. 

I didn't had Mana wings or Mark of the keeper, which meant I was struggling for the longest time with just the parasites, trying to cover my base and wells. And then it was time to push through the fortifications, which was a slog. But in the end, managed to do it. Still, from that point on I made sure to always go Map 2 or Map 3, where I know what to do. 

If I play map1 and someone doesn't have mark I always go to him and build it xD

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