On May 31, Bethesda made an announcement that came as a shock to the Legends player base: development of the game is being handed off from the current studio, Dire Wolf Digital, to a new and relatively unheard-of team called Sparkypants Studios. Knowing that this would raise a lot of questions, Pete Hines and Community Manager Christian Van Hoose (CVH) spent Friday’s weekly Legends Twitch stream answering questions about the change. Here are the highlights:
About the studios
They’re a team with a lot of experience in strategy games, as well as a lot of experience in Unity (the game engine that Legends is built on). They are also an incredibly adaptive and fast-moving team, who have reportedly been delivering new builds on a daily basis, and having daily play sessions to check their progress and get feedback. It also helps that they are located in Maryland. CVH also emphasized that Legends will be Sparkypants’ main focus.
Why a team with no apparent experience in building card games?
“[…]There’s a major difference between a studio and whether or not they’ve shipped [a] card game, and the people at that studio and whether they’ve made a card game and have experience in that.” – Pete Hines
Pete also pointed out that, for example, things like making a lightweight and fast UI don’t require CCG experience. That said, the Sparkypants team are huge fans of the game, and they are definitely going to have team members with that experience- but it’s just as important that they have a team that can build and improve upon the game quickly.
How long has this change been happening?
It started sometime last year, and was in fully swing by the time CVH had his interview in January. The Sparkypants team has been rewriting the game from the ground up (incorporating all current game mechanics as well). They’re rewriting the game from scratch so they aren’t shackled to the old design choices made – it’s easier to write a new tournament mode rather than trying to fix the old gauntlet mode to allow tournaments.
When will players see the switch?
They’d like the new, rewritten version to go live this summer.
Can they reassure us that the game balance and lore quality won’t change?
It’s hard to reassure the players of this at this point, because people want to see it for themselves. However, Pete did explain that there are loremasters at Bethesda and ZOS that check things over, just like they have done with Dire Wolf.
Why did they not ask Dire Wolf to make these improvements?
“I can’t imagine what universe in which you think we wouldn’t have asked for improvements or changes or iterations. But this is about what we think we need to do going forward to see changes or improvements in the way that we feel like is more responsive or reactive.” – Pete
Changes to come
The UI is being completely redone. Previews of this can already be seen on Reddit. Addressing comments specifically about the space theme, and it not being very Elder-Scrolls-esque, Pete said,
“…if you don’t think that’s Elder Scrolls, I don’t think you ever looked at your skills while you were playing Skyrim, for example, because the entire presentation of that was actually looking to heavens and seeing what your character could do. Or in Elder Scrolls Online, if you’re speccing a character, you get a very similar view. So the notion that that comes out of left field and isn’t Elder-Scrolls-related is a bit misleading, because it’s pulled directly from previous Elder Scrolls games and how they’ve presented information.”
So while the images seen on Reddit are not the final version, it seems that the space theme is staying.
CVH also answered a question about having “clicky things” on the edges of the playmat. In the peel-back image shared on Reddit, one of the items on the edge is a moth that flaps its wings when clicked.
This is something that came up repeatedly during the stream: Pete really likes customization. Custom card backs, custom playmats, custom avatars, custom deck images. They want to provide a lot more options for people to choose from. They also want to make card backs more visible while you’re playing, and mentioned possibly allowing players to assign card backs and avatars to specific decks (a longer-term design idea, not something we’ll likely see soon).
Quality of Life
The game client will be much faster (CVH reports that menus are now lightning fast). It will also be a smaller file size, particularly great for people on mobile, so they can download over cellular data instead of needing Wifi. Other improvements include a better chat, dual-spectator mode, in-game leaderboards, the ability to open all your card packs at once, and easier ways to import and export deck lists. An API for deck tracking and enriching the Twitch streaming experience was mentioned a few times.
Working with Sparkypants, they hope to decrease maintenance time and make the update schedule more consistent.
One of the biggest new features is going to be the ability to set up tournaments in-game, and especially being able to set up different kinds of tournaments, instead of just single-elimination or gauntlet modes. Custom private tournaments are also an option being considered.
Twitch drops will continue, but they are looking at a way to prevent people from abusing the system, in particular by leaving rebroadcasts up 24/7. They want people to be rewarded for actually watching somebody actively playing the game, and not reward people who are gaming the system.
What’s not changing
The current card art is not changing for the most part. There will be some updates to premium card animations, but regular cards will only see the frame change. CVH described it as a “weathered card look” as opposed to the current frames. The current voiceovers and sound effects are likely not changing either.
The game economy is not changing. The prices for items in the store will stay the same, and they want people to still be able to buy things with gold they earned just as easily as they can now. Players will not lose anything they have purchased.
The rules and game mechanics will also remain the same. This includes the current level cap (Pete explained that he wanted levels and ranks to mean something, not just arbitrarily going up). Monthly reward cards will still happen, although there was a mention of an additional, better reward for players who hit Legend.
More details will come as the summer goes on. In this writer’s opinion, it’s a big, unprecedented change, but this stream helped clarify a lot of details. A lot of planning clearly went into this transition, even if, as regular players, the announcement seemed very abrupt. I’m looking forward to giving Sparkypants a chance and seeing how the game evolves. And rest assured, if there’s lore errors, UESP will be there to point them out. 😛
I’ll end with one some encouraging words from Pete:
“We always appreciate all the support you give us. This game is nothing without you guys. CVH and I could play this 24/7, that’s not enough for this game to be strong and viable. So everything that we’re doing here is for you guys to have the best possible game, not just now but going forward forever. And while it might feel a little scary, I think when it’s all said and done, you guys are gonna be really pleased. And you have our promise, our commitment that we will continue to listen, to answer questions the best that we can, to share information every opportunity that we get.”