We’ve been talking a lot about Guardians of Middle-earth over the past few months, with a steady stream of character reveals and tutorial videos for the Tolkien-inspired MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) title. Though beyond the multimedia fanfare preceding its imminent release, Guardians of Middle-earth carries weighty ambition as the first true title of the genre developed specifically for consoles.
The MOBA is a notoriously delicate genre, requiring nearly constant post-launch supervision in order to maintain the balance of character power as player strategies evolve over time. That balance necessitates regular updates and patches, the kind of support that’s seemingly at odds with the “closed system” of a console, which normally requires any changes be vetted by the manufacturer’s certification process.
When we spoke with producers Bob Roberts and Ruth Pomandl last month, they briefly touched on their plan to issue real-time updates without needing to repeatedly pass through the lengthy and expensive, recertification process. In an interview with VG247, Roberts further explained the importance of fine-tuning character balance and how they intend to continue those tweaks after the title has gone live.
“We did also build a system for having a lot of our balance database saved in cloud storage, that you’re going to download every time you launch the game. It’s a very small, quick update that doesn’t have to go through certification, so we can update it every day, every week – however often we need to if we see critical balance issues.”
This isn’t the first time an Xbox Live Arcade title has repurposed existing technology to make incremental changes on the fly. Similar efforts were made by the developers behind Super Meat Boy — after initial updates were plagued by certification delays — and Monday Night Combat, to satisfy their own balancing needs. For Monolith, though, this approach was premeditated; the developer recognized the potential of meeting its unique needs with tools that have existed for some time.
“It’s really the same system as ‘Message of the day’ feeds. It’s really just using that same technology that people have been using for a long time. I think a lot of developers realised they could [put] more interesting data in there.”
Guardians of Middle-earth releases tomorrow, December 5, on Xbox Live Arcade. In the meantime, you can get a taste of the battle for Middle-earth by checking out the official launch trailer below.[springboard type=”video” id=”615791″ player=”xbla001″ width=”640″ height=”400″ ]