Why Paragon added fast travel back into the game

When we last touched base with Epic Games concerning its upcoming action-MOBA Paragon — currently in open beta — the studio had just removed an in-game fast ‘travel mode’ system. The feature had allowed players to cross the game’s sprawling maps almost instantaneously, which might’ve been convenient for players, but took a meaningful toll on the balance of the game.

The decision didn’t stick, however. Developers found that the lack of travel mode “created chaos in player decision making,” undermining the very goals they were trying to advance. The replacement feature, which let players instantly teleport to allied structures on a 90 second cooldown, was meant to encourage teams to stick to lanes and objective defense, but instead turned into an opaque system by which teams couldn’t judge when it was safe to go on the offensive.

“It was difficult to keep track of the [teleport] cooldowns for your teammates, let alone your opponents,” creative director Steve Superville tells Zam. “Since a huge part of MOBA strategies comes out of players understanding zones of safety and zones of danger/uncertainty, we felt like this was a failed experiment. We’re glad we tried it! But we also had to recognize that what worked in paper-design did not hold up to player behavior and our goals for the game.”

Paragon releases a new playable character every three weeks. The latest, Belica (above), released this Monday.

Paragon releases a new playable character every three weeks. The latest, Belica (above), released this Monday.

At the moment, Paragon‘s travel mode has been reimplemented as “Sprint,” which automatically kicks in after the player is traveling in a given direction for a certain length of time. This, too, is expected to see some tweaks in the future, but Superville says Epic is moving away from the kind of “sweeping” changes which create more problems than they solve.

“We have historically reacted by making huge changes, which have had undesired impact on the core gameplay.”

“We have historically reacted by making huge changes, which have had undesired impact on the core gameplay even as they successfully reduced game times,” Superville explained in an August announcement, while discussing Paragon‘s undesirably long match times (over 40 minutes, at present). “Instead of doing that we will be introducing smaller changes each week and observing their impact on game times.”

Epic is able to do this because it has invited in players from a very early stage of development, initially in a closed alpha and beta, and presently the much wider open beta. Paragon has changed dramatically through these prerelease tests, all while continuing to introduce new playable characters every three weeks.

“It was important for us to put the game out in an unfinished state, because we truly believe that games like Paragon — competitive games — are best made with feedback from the community,” Superville tells Zam. “There will always be some players who might feel frustration [about the ongoing changes]; we sympathize with that and do our best to be transparent and open to feedback.”

Kallari's passive 'Marked for Death' ability was removed from the game with the 0.27 update.

Kallari’s passive ‘Marked for Death’ ability was removed from Paragon with the 0.27 update.

In pursuit of this transparency, Epic maintains an active devlog, noting fixes and tweaks with every update. Since opening the beta last month, the team’s introduced a “significant rework” of one of its heroes, Kallari, going so far as removing one of her abilities and completely redesigning another.

“For us, it was important to the character and to the health of the game to make these changes, even though they were big and scary,” says Superville. “We think it paid off in a lot of ways, and we keep that in mind when considering changes big and small across the game.”

Paragon is currently in open beta for Windows PC and PlayStation 4. If you’re interested in checking it out for yourself, hop on over to Epic’s website to get started. Paragon is scheduled for a full release later this year.

Disclosure: Zam and Paragon developer Epic Games share a corporate parent. Epic Games has no control over editorial and the interview quoted above was arranged and conducted over normal channels.