I really wanted to enjoy Paragon. And for the most part I did.
Having been burnt out excessively on League of Legends, I wanted a new MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) to get into. I had hoped for something in the realm of Battleborn or Overwatch but they didn’t really feel like a MOBA. Seeing as these two birthed the “Hero Shooter” genre I think most of the world would agree with me on this. I didn’t care for SMITE as I couldn’t get into the “limited” scope of Gods and Pantheons that they were going to pull their champions from. When I heard of Paragon, that seemed like it’d be up my alley.
But thankfully, or not depending on how you look at it, I got back into League and left Paragon. Seeing as the fledgling MOBA by Epic Games is closing it’s doors on April 26th, I’d hate to be invested in the game and have this happening. Though some would say that it’s because of players like me that it’s dying.
So what happened? Was it going through 3 different total overhauls? The switch from a high frantic pace to a slow methodical one? Over-saturation? Any of these probably contributed a little bit. But the real killer….was their own game Fortnite
Development of Paragon
Their development would go through three big changes to get to their current state
The Early Days
When Paragon first went into development, the team was given a chance to “make anything” they wanted in the scope of bringing action to the MOBA genre, whilst staying true to the roots of it. Early builds were very fast paced, with all the champions having high mobility and vertical being important factors to the map building. It felt more like a third person shooter. At this early stage, they had already began disenfranchising the users that they had promised a true MOBA experience to while they also attracted the Gears and CoD fans. This put them in a situation where they were going to have to upset someone and resulted in one of their first overhauls. They slowed down the pacing, reduced the map size, and made everything more intentional. As this apeased the MOBA crowd, their new action oriented players weren’t too happy with it. Epic had worked themselves into a corner. They went back to their original design goals and worked through the community to find their balance.
The Second Overhaul – Monolith
the patch notes read less like an update and more like a manual for a new game. PC Gamer
Their next big overhaul was unheard of for development teams. They practically changed the game from the ground up. They shrunk the map, re-did the lanes, completely changed how jungling worked, and every single hero was redone from the gorund up. PC Gamer had probably one of the best quotes regarding this saying, “the patch notes read less like an update and more like a manual for a new game.” and it was true. The patch
It was a welcome change and many of the players rejoiced to the changes. But it didn’t take long for new problems to start showing up in the meta. The new card system removed almost all strategy from the equation. You just bought whatever gave the most attack speed, damage, or health and went with it. There was little to no need to think about anything else. Throughout the first half of 2017 this would be the status quo. They brought some of the champs in line to help things, but there was lackluster interest as builds didn’t matter.
A New Dawn
The last major overhaul they would change the interaction we had with cards. Instead of earning card power and purchasing the cards, they changed it to earning gold and purchase attribute points. The three categories provided permanent stat bonuses and once you earned enough points, you buy cards that you can swap in and out as you could only keep at most three cards equipped. As you hit certain milestones of points, you also unlock gems that support and accent your cards and stats.
This overall brought deck building back into play that felt relevant. Having to consider how much you’re going to invest in any of the three categories to maximize the use of your cards and gems. You didn’t have to return to base to buy your attributes, but to buy/swap cards you had to. Add in 115 new cards and the fact that cards are no longer locked to specific champions, you had something that felt meaningful to invest thought and time in.
Meanwhile….in another part of the gaming world
Paragon was looking up. They had a slow growth after the “Second Monolith” update and it seemed poised to move on. So why did it fail? Much like the MOBA craze took off that sparked Paragon, another genre was starting to creep up…
Welcome to Battle Royale!
In another part of the gaming world, a new genre was starting to form from an ARMA mod. What would become known as battle royale starts to see full releases in games such as The Culling, H1Z1: King of the Hill, and a few more non-factors. The general premise, you drop a bunch of players naked and afraid with nothing on an island or area with no gear. They must scavenge the buildings and wilderness around them to build better gear and work their way towards the center from an ever encroaching ring that would reduce the play space. Stay too long you die. Don’t get geared up, you get funneled to the center of the map without a chance of surviving the bloodbath 30 minutes in the making.
Early attempts at this genre would be limited to about 18 or 20 players and they were all very cookie cutter when you compared them to eachother. But Brendan Greene, who is thought of as the main contributor to the genre having worked on many of the mods in the early days and consultant to full games, had an idea of how this should play out and he was confident enough to paste his name on it.
Or…his handle anyway.
Welcome to PLAYERUNKNOWN BATTLEGROUNDS
Unless you been living under a rock, you have heard of Battlegrounds (PUBG as it’s usually referred to) at least in conversation. Greene had the idea to just strip it to its basics. Remove crafting and make it about the scavenging and foraging for gear. Then turn it up in scale by making it a 100-man competition for last man standing.
The game spent a good while in a closed alpha and beta periods before launching on Steam Early Access. But it took off with a fervor that was unheard of. Breaking Steam Cocurrent and all time user counts, Early Access Sale records, and spawning many games to form their own BR mode and shoehorn into their product and many copycats to crop up on their own. Dying Light, Paladins, upcoming games such as Red Ded Redemption 2, and Fortnight all adding in battle royale to try and catch a ride on the train of the new hit game to have.
And it’s that last one, that started to spell it out for Paragon.
Into the Good Night.
Fortnight, also developed by Epic Games, is (was?) a co-op sandbox survival game. Players would build a base to fight off hords of zombie like creatures on randomly generated levels. Gathering resources to build better bases and level up their characters. It had a well enough following on it’s own but Epic, seeing the popularity of BR, wanted to see how to get in on the craze. They built their own battle-royale mode, made it free-to-play without having to own the base Fortnite, and launched it in September of 2017.
The big changes they brought would be the base building from the original game. They made games faster and overall a bit more cartoony in presentation. For many that couldn’t or didn’t want to fork over $30 for PUBG, this would be their introduction to the BR genre.
Gaining popularity and surpassing PUBG for player count, largely due to it’s free-to-play price tag, development went into Fortnite as they brought more members on from other teams and hiring on. By January of 2018, they brought over the majority of the Paragon team to work on Fortnite, as they “reevaluate” how to make Paragon sustainable in the future.
It was about a week later, on January 25, 2018, that Epic announced the closure of Paragon.
We didn’t execute well enough to deliver on the promise of Paragon. We have failed you — despite the team’s incredibly hard work — and we’re sorry. The Paragon Team
The full statement reads like a very heart felt letter to the fans and players. Going as far as to offer full refunds to players for their purchases in the game, which was amazing to consider. In other statements, they alluded to the popularity of Fortnite, and it’s battle royale addon, as major factors to the closure. But ultimately a lackluster and waning player base is what doomed it.
Overall, the whole thing is an example of how the industry can change. At the start of everything, MOBA’s were all the rage thanks to League of Legends and DOTA 2. And many were trying to emulate aspects of it to bring that crowd of players to their games. Paragon is an example that just didn’t catch interest due to a saturated market and caught it at the end of the fad. The same will likely happen to battle royale one day too. Just a question of when.
What are your thoughts on the closing of Paragon? How do you feel about the surge of Battle Royale games and modes making their way into your other games? Feel free to comment below or hop on our discord and discuss this!