Since the announcement of For Honor at E3 2015, thousands of players have tried the game at different events such as Gamescom and PAX. Those events were a tremendous opportunity for us to introduce the game and receive interesting comments about the experience.
In the interest of gathering even more feedback on our core gameplay mechanics, we recently invited a limited number of players to a closed alpha on PC.
It was a great opportunity to find out what they already like, and what they’d want us to improve in the months to come. Their experience included a very small work-in-progress slice of the final experience (two Heroes, one multiplayer mode, three maps), but their input has already identified three interesting points.
For Honor is a sword-fighting fantasy for everyone, so making our game accessible is one of our top priorities. We also want For Honor to have long-term appeal, so we want to create enough depth and content to keep players engaged for as long as possible. It’s paramount that we manage to build a true easy-to-learn/hard-to-master experience that will please new and seasoned players alike.
Obviously, the development team has been playing For Honor for quite some time already, so we thought we’d have to hold back when fighting “regular” players, but we were happily mistaken. That’s confirmed by all the data we gathered: Most players grasped the basics quickly (according to a forum poll created specifically for alpha users, 56.61% of players found that learning how to fight was either very easy, somewhat easy or just right), but at the same time a majority of them also felt that they were improving and getting better the more they played. More than three out of four players polled felt that their fighting skills were improving over time.
Many players also found that dealing with several opponents at the same time was pretty challenging. This was reinforced by Dominion being a team-based mode that rewards players who work together and are able to outnumber their enemies. The team is already working on new features and mechanics that will make lopsided fights easier to handle without undermining efficient teamwork.
While we continue to develop the campaign, this alpha was focused solely on multiplayer gameplay and when it comes to multiplayer, balancing is key. Our challenge with balancing is that the multiplayer’s mix of skill-based melee combat and team tactics makes it very much its own beast, so we can’t rely on pre-existing rules and design practices. The playable mode in our closed alpha was Dominion, a 4v4 objective-based mode featuring NPCs, and it was a good testing ground for how our multiplayer components work together on a larger scale.
What we found is that we’re on the right track here: the three playable maps were already well balanced, with 51% victories for the Attackers and 49% for the Defenders on the Citadel Gate map; 52% Attackers/48% Defenders for the Overwatch map; and 45%/55% on the Sanctuary Bridge map. It’s reassuring, especially for our level design team, as it proves that their approach to creating our multiplayer maps fosters the balanced experience we’re aiming for.
During the closed alpha, players could try out two Heroes: The Warden, part of the Legion faction, and the Oni, part of the Chosen faction. We will have many more playable Heroes at launch, but the closed alpha was a good opportunity to check if those two are perceived as different enough from each other. Here again, the data and feedback from the players tells us we’re in the right spot. In the post-alpha survey, 89.04% of respondents agreed that playing as the swift, offense-driven Oni felt like a different experience than the more all-around, defense-capable Warden.
Another great thing we learned from this closed alpha is that we have a growing community of fans that are passionate about the game we’re creating. We have been amazed by the positivity and the motivation of our closed alpha testers, and we can’t wait to put For Honor in the hands of more players.
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