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December 20, 2017

Mutations

Mutations

Mutations

This post will focus on the current state and future of weekly and custom mutations. Let us start with a quote from the interview on Teamliquid.net, where Lead Co-op Designer David Sum said:

"We shifted focus away from making new Mutation types, so they are on a cycle now. It’s something that we can look at again in the future, but right now we felt like that with the number of Mutations — maybe a cool thing would be to work with the community to create new combinations for people to share and try out. I think there’s so much opportunity there for the community to create more challenges for each other. I think there’s a lot of potential out there still with custom Mutations."


Weekly Mutations

Weekly mutations have been on the rotation for over three months now. It's disappointing that they are not considered important enough to continue their support. Players used to look forward to playing them, they were excited to see what the next week will bring, to try them out and to discuss optimal strategies with other players. That is no more. If you are curious, what the next week's mutations is, you only have to check Ctg's mutation database. And when you are at it, you can see old discussions and videos on how to beat those mutations.

The reason behind mutators (e.g., Void Rifts) being separate from mutations (e.g., Burning Legion), was so that creating new mutations is as simple as possible. And while adding new mutators is good, it's not necessary. There is a vast number of possible combinations for new mutations even without adding any new mutators. Furthermore, some mutators like Heroes from the Storm took considerable amount of work to make and were used only once. The same thing applies to maps - Scythe of Amon was used once, while Malwarfare and Part and Parcel weren’t used at all. And we won't see them as long as weekly mutations are being recycled.



Special holiday mutations were extremely fun, and Blizzard set a high standard with them. Remember killing turkeys or fighting for gifts? Unfortunately, there are no new holiday mutations, and the order of mutations wasn't even adjusted to compensate for not aligned rotation.

In the interview it's indicated that there is a possibility of engaging community to create new mutations. I would love to participate, and we already had a topic for suggesting mutators. There is big potential, but it has to be used and so far there was no move on that.

So what could be a good course of action? Before anything else, align holiday mutations. Then add new mutations or work with the community to create new ones. Reusing mutations is acceptable in some cases, but it should be explained why is the repeated mutation special. On a side note, I would keep the current format of weekly mutations. There were suggestions that players could vote on future mutations or choose mutations from a list. But doing that, weekly mutations would lose their flavor.


Custom Mutations


Custom mutations have vast and untapped potential. They can be very fun, but in their current state the majority of players won't touch them. Furthermore, they are meant to cover for the lack of genuinely hard difficulty option, but that's not working out well either. It's because of how difficult and inconvenient is to get a partner, decide on mutators and create a game; and all that for less reward than normal missions. All I can offer are few ideas on what could be done with this mode. These ideas are mostly independent of each other, some might be good and some not so much.



A) Further improve custom mutations

  • Add missing mutators to the custom mutator selection.

  • Lobbies for custom mutators - map, difficulty, mutators, commanders and masteries would be chosen from the lobby. Players can join open lobbies. This could work the same way as other custom games or arcade.

  • List of old weekly mutations in lobbies.
  • Small experience bonus for completing custom mutators - not enough to make this mode good for leveling, but at least equivalent to random mission bonus.
  • Matchmaking for random mutations or the Wheel of Misfortune.




B) Other modes using custom mutations

A lot could be done with custom mutations. One option is a strategic layer that ties missions together. This is rather common feature and was used in various campaigns (Starcraft 2, Dawn of War II, C&C3's Global Conquest, etc). It adds more sense of progression and some meaning to each game. Adapting this into Co-op will take work, but it would be well worth it. There are more ways how to approach this:


    1. Small-scale campaign for limited amount of players (similar to my Beehive).

    2. Big domination map on which all players join forces together against Amon.

    3. Team-based domination map, where two or more teams compete against each other. This could incorporate more advanced mechanics, such as players being able to gain and move mutators, effectively reinforcing their territory.

With this, players would work towards a common goal and games would have more meaning. Rewards could include experience, achievements, trophies, portraits, decals, heroic unit skins and emotes.

Another interesting idea would be a matchmaking queue for a changing mutation. The first team to beat the mutation could change it with some limitations. For example each player could switch one mutator for one of the five semi-randomly chosen mutators made available to him. The name of the new mutation would be randomly generated and contained players' names, for example "ZTX's and Shiya's Nuclear Surprise" or "Shortsighted Nick and Lenz's Burning Undead". Info about personal mutations could be found in player's profile.

The bonus experience for everyone that has beaten the mutation could depend on the number of players that were unsuccessful at least once, or on the time the mutation stayed unbeaten. That would make harder mutations to provide more reward. Separate queues for each difficulty would probably work the best. It would keep the difficulty of challenges consistent, and players would see more often the names of players with similar skill level to theirs.

Wrap up

Weekly mutations used to draw players back each week, and their fate significantly affects player retention. While releasing commanders and maps is good, being able to offer other content, that players can enjoy with their commanders, is crucial for the longevity of Co-op. There are other options such as infinite survival map that can serve the same purpose, but mutations offer themselves as a prime instrument for this.

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