It may have been a while since you last heard from Trion Worlds and their upcoming free-to-play, team based battler Atlas Reactor. The game has been in an Alpha state for some time while testers provided feedback on core game mechanics, balancing, and even totally new ideas for the title. Last week, I had the chance to catch up with James Karras, Senior Producer, William Cook, Lead Designer, and Adam Lehr, QA, and poke my nose in on what’s been changing in the game and about the upcoming open Alpha Sneak Peek event that kicks off Thursday, February 18th (you can sign up here) and runs through February 24th.
For the uninitiated, a brief recap: Atlas Reactor tasks two teams of 5 players each to do battle in an arena using tactical turn based gameplay. The catch? You and your opponents are deciding your moves at the same time and all moves are executed at the same time. This means if you aren’t thinking ahead and making a guess as to what your opponents are doing or where they will even be, your ability could be firing at a blank space where your opponent USED to be. It seems complex and a bit random until you get your hands on it. Through a clever use of timed phases (Decision Mode and Resolution Mode) and a new tutorial that will be introduced in the Alpha Sneak peek, new players will pick up the “chess match” like dynamics pretty quickly but look for even more advanced tutorials further along in development. If you need a quick refresher though, you can always refer to the “How To…” on the game’s official website.
As Adam queues up a few matches in our preview, Alpha players will immediately recognize the revamped UI. Players will now make any skin or customization changes they wish prior to jumping to a game. New characters, abilities, and taunts (make sure to check out Rampart’s Taunt) will be available in the Alpha Sneak Peek and expect them to continue to roll out throughout development. If that wasn’t enough, a whole new, closer quarters map will also be available. With a smaller arena, expect the action to ramp up. The new map combines with some new features (like new Deathmatch rules) to create a bit of a faster game experience to allow players to play more matches with more characters.
Mods have also received a huge rebalance. In previous iterations, modifications to your character’s abilities came at a cost. You could equip one per ability and depending on what mods you wanted you may even have to remove a mod all together to mod out the way you wanted. In the Alpha Sneak Peek, mods have been revamped to a new ten-point system and mods come in 1, 2, or 3 point varieties. You also get a brief period of time before the battle starts to see what map you’re playing on and who you are playing against to “re-mod” before battle starts. Are you on a tight map when heals through walls will be important? You’ll have the chance to mod up heal abilities prior to starting to make sure no one is left without heals, even if there is an obstruction in the way. The new system also allows you to trade off mod points rather than having to just dump mods all together on certain abilities. If you really want some of those three point mods though, expect to make a sacrifice somewhere else in your skill set.
On a side note…FINALLY grouping will be available in the Alpha Sneak Peek. Want to team up with friends? You can finally do so. This allows for even more strategy as those hardcore teams can now group up and push the strategy to new levels during testing. One thing that games like Atlas Reactor lend themselves to, unfortunately, is players always choosing the same hero/character all the time. Daily Contracts is a new feature designed to provide incentives to players to play multiple characters. Each day you’ll get a number of contracts to choose from prior to playing. You’ll be given a choice of characters to play and earn rewards for doing so. Here again though, Trion Worlds wants you to check out other characters besides your “core” choices so Daily Contracts will cycle and roll around again. If you didn’t pick that “support” role Daily Contract the first time around, it will be worth even MORE rewards if you take it the second time it comes around. If you don’t know a bit about some characters, at least the new ability videos that show on the character selection screen will give you the basic idea.
Atlas Reactor lends itself to eSports so I had to ask about the thoughts from Trion on the game hitting the eSports scene. While the dev team certainly sees eSports potential, they refer to the game as “eSports compatible.” They have a game that lends itself to shout casting in the same way American Football does. You can speculate on the upcoming “play” during Decision Mode then scream your head off as the play unfolds in Resolution Mode. All of this combines into a bigger philosophy though of just giving players and streamers all the tools to make a compelling eSport but Trion Worlds is content to let the final decision rest with the players and streamers. They are the ones that will decide if Atlas Reactor ends up as a big player on the eSports front. Replay modes and other functionality is still a bit far off, but expect them in the game at some point.
Then we got down to the nitty-gritty. I asked point blank, “Trion Worlds has been under some PR fire, justifiably so, for some recent monetization changes and implementations. What does the overall monetization plan for Atlas Reactor look like? It seems like a game that’s a bit easier to monetize fairly…just do what League of Legends does, right?” The reply? “The overall monetization will be fair. There is no part of this game’s competition aspect that will be monetized. Competition is sacrosanct,” said Cook. “We look at the existing monetization in other games and even boosts are boring. We feel there are ways to make them more exciting. For instance, GG Boosts allow a rewards multiplier at the end of a match…not just for you though. If someone uses a boost to congratulate their team or to tell the opposing team ‘Good job’ then all players get the boost. You can pop these boosts at any time. Beginning, middle, or end of the match. When popped all players see it on their screen and if other people see the bonus they may pop their bonus…get 4 people to pop bonuses and you start earning milestone bonuses. It really stacks up and creates an incentive for everyone to use bonuses in a fun way. It takes boosts and makes them a social thing rather than a greedy thing.” That said, monetization is still being explored and will change. The dev team wants to break the wall down between paying players and free players even on the cosmetic front and are watching things like League of Legends’ lockbox feature as potential items they can put their own “riff” on.
Quirky characters, funny one liners, and more add in flavor and Alpha Sneak Peek will even provide free goodies. If you win 1 match you’ll get Lockwood unlocked forever. Win 3 in a row and you’ll get a unique style for Lockwood unlocked. Free character rotations will change daily and you’ll get a ton of in-game currency to unlock other characters. Trion Worlds wants you to push the balance and test the limits of the game so be sure to sign up and give the game a test spin.
My thanks to James Karras, Senior Producer, William Cook, Lead Designer, and Adam Lehr, QA, for taking time to show us what’s coming in the future for Atlas Reactor. Be sure to check out the Alpha Sneak Peek this Thursday.