MMORPG.com: For those unfamiliar with the game, what makes Strife different in the MOBA genre?
Ryan Shackleford: While we have lots of new game mechanics in Strife, the biggest difference is the pace of the game. When playing Strife, you’ll notice that despite shorter game lengths, it actually feels like more action happens in each match. This faster pacing is the result of an assortment of changes: shorter death times, a more compact map, out-of-combat regeneration, personal couriers, more competitive team objectives, and a variety of other changes.
We’ve also redefined roles a bit in Strife. We decided to move away from having certain heroes scale better into the later stages of the game. Whether you’re playing a physical damage dealer, and caster, a tank, or a support hero - you can be effective the entire game if you play your cards right.
We also have a gold-splitting system that removes some of the resource competition between allies. If you’re in lane with a friend, you’ll each get 30 gold for a brawler kill (assuming one of you deals the killing blow) rather than all 60 going to one person. This concept goes along with the idea that everyone scales well into the late game, even support heroes.
Our progression systems are also very unique. Crafting allows you to customize items, letting players really express their creativity. Our pet system adds a lot of variety to each game. In Strife, you choose a hero and a pet to go into each match. The pets augment your hero and give you some additional abilities. The number of possible hero/pet combinations is really fun to experiment with!
MMORPG.com: Now that you have been in closed beta for a while, what has the community response been like?
Ryan Shackleford: So far the response has been great. Our players seem to genuinely understand the changes we’ve made to the genre, and have given us great feedback. People seem particularly happy with addition of our gold-splitting system. It really puts an emphasis on teamwork, and makes playing any hero role rewarding.
MMORPG.com: In what ways has the community significantly shaped development?
Ryan Shackleford: The community just playing the game constantly shapes development. From hero balance, to visual design, to interface layout - community feedback helps improve all of it. In particular, our crafting system is currently under some exciting changes that are a direct result of community feedback. Forum posts and survey results helped us figure out what our players liked and what they didn’t like, and we’re making some changes that we think will be very well received.
MMORPG.com: Strife benefits from the experience S2 has had running Heroes of Newerth, but have there been any surprises from the player feedback you've received?
Certainly. I’ve personally been surprised by the amount of people wanting to play the game at a more competitive level. Just browsing our forums or the Strife subreddit, the number of people looking for teams to join has been really exciting. A goal for the game was always for it to be easy to get into, but still hard to master. It’s great to see people trying to master it!
MMORPG.com: The game’s latest hero, Blazer, has just been released. What was her development process like, and what sorts of play styles or builds is she most suited to?
Ryan Shackleford: With Blazer, we wanted to create a hero who excelled at “hit and run” tactics. A sort of guerilla warfare hero that would be rewarded for ducking in and out of combat. This isn’t something we have much of in the game right now, and it’s a style of play that I’ve always found really rewarding.
She’s the first hero we’ve added with stealth, so we definitely had to go through some iteration on her. At one point her ultimate revealed the location of every enemy on the map while she was stealthed… we had to change that. It was really fun to play with, but it broke a lot of fundamental aspects of the game.
MMORPG.com: How are you avoiding the potential pitfalls of a stealth hero in the game?
Ryan Shackleford: One of our goals in designing Strife was to avoid requiring players to purchase special items to counter stealth heroes. Because of this, it was necessary to create a stealth mechanic that could be countered by just adapting your gameplay. During development, we tried a bunch of different ideas.
For a long time stealth heroes had a “shrouded” effect that would play on them (visible to enemies), and could be revealed by damaging them with area-based abilities. Ultimately, we didn’t like how certain heroes excelled at countering stealth, while others had almost no ability to reveal them. Also, it didn’t feel like stealth...the enemy could still technically see you.
We ended up implementing stealth as true invisibility, with the condition that if enemies get close enough to you - you’re revealed. We’ve found this mechanic to be easier for players to grasp, while maintaining that feeling of true stealth.
MMORPG.com: When might more players be invited to test the game?
Ryan Shackleford: We’re always sending out new waves of keys, but right now we’re not trying to expand the beta too much. We’re still working on some key features for the game. As we make progress on these features, we’ll invite more people into the game.
MMORPG.com: Finally, what can we expect over the next couple of months for Strife?
Ryan Shackleford: Over the next few months we plan to make some important additions to our crafting system, and add plenty of new gameplay content (heroes, items, pets). We also have some really great features we’re working on… but we’re not quite ready to give details.