The free open beta for Epic Games' new third-person perspective PC and PlayStation 4 multiplayer 5v5 online battle arena (MOBA) game Paragon now fully underway. Despite the game having no official release date, Epic Games are counting on the open beta helping to build a large player base and community for the game right off the bat. If successful, Epic Games are planning to turn the game into a potential eSports cross-platform action strategy game.
Steve Superville, creative director on Paragon at Epic Games called it a “very competitive game” and chastised other companies' business models of coming out and saying:
Hey guys, here’s the next great eSport.' And the community is like, ‘Hang on a second. We’ll tell you when it’s a good enough game.’ So our focus from the beginning has been making a highly competitive game, engaging with our community because they’re going to tell us what works and what doesn’t, and eventually—if they ever bring us to eSports status—we’ll be thrilled to support them.
The community is already running Paragon tournaments without the help of Epic. Superville stated how several EU and North American tournaments are already underway with Germany running their first tournament a few weeks ago with Russia running a couple as well. Superville also stated that "The community is really enjoying it, but [they’re] also being very communicative and vocal about where we’re falling short, and we are working really hard to fix those things.”
The Paragon community is also very helpful when it comes to hero balance. The internal team at Epic does a lot of quality assurance gameplay testing, and gets a lot of help from gamers getting their hands on all of the game’s heroes and telling Epic what's wrong:
The community will find a broken thing and let us know about it and we try to fix it within the next week or two as we go through our patch cycles,” Superville said. “We patch every week, and the community is often playing about three or four days past what the developers are playing. So they’re right on our heels, and that gives us the most actionable and real-time feedback.
Epic Games has also attempted to design Paragon for a broader gaming audience. They have recognized that MOBAs are known for being a bit harder for a television audience to follow when compared to first person shooters like Call of Duty or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
Superville claimed that they will attempt to make the game feel "physical." He stated that in Paragon people will be able to "just look at the game and enjoy it." He used the following example to illustrate how Paragon's gameplay will be a lot easier to follow that other, traditional MOBAs:
My wife is not a gamer and she can see one of our characters, Rampage—who rips a giant rock out of the ground and throws it across the level to hit somebody—and she doesn’t have to know about cooldowns and mana costs and positioning. She just knows that getting hit in the face with a rock hurts and that makes it much more approachable. All of our characters are built with this idea of being physical rather than just purely energy- and magic-based.
Paragon will have far fewer heroes to choose from than other MOBAs to keep in touch with the theme of making the game easier to understand. The game currently has 18 heroes and a new one will be added every three weeks. “It’s a lot more inviting because people aren’t immediately overwhelmed by heroes,” Superville said. “And again, the card system allows players to come in, be given a deck of cards that are applicable and relevant to the character that they pick, and then they learn the game. And as they play, they get card packs and their burden of knowledge grows with their experience of the game.”
Epic Games is following the free-to-play route with Paragon by allowing all of the game’s heroes to be free all the time. Superville said the studio made that commitment early on because they wanted the game to be competitive and not provide anything that would provide an advantage in gameplay and be purchasable with real money.
Cards and other items will be purchasable with the in-game time currency which Epic calls "reputation." Players will be able to get card packs and you more powerful options just by playing the game.
The game will, however, offer purchasable cosmetic items such as "skins and boosts and traditional things." New cosmetic items will be coming out in the future.
Epic Games is also expanding its horizons with its MOBA by tapping into the 40 million PlayStation 4 consoles in homes, as well as billions of PCs, and allowing for cross-platform play.