Interview With Gameloft’s Spider-Man Unlimited Team, Part 2

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Part 2: Game Balance, Abilities, and Titan Spideys 

WASC: We see sets of skills in Spider-Man Unlimited that repeat often on multiple spideys, but we also see combos such as Scarlet Spider’s skills that are rarer. How does the team decide which skill combination a spidey should have? And is there any combination you consider particularly powerful?

TN: The general idea is to maintain a similar ability value of each character. We don’t want one character to be too overwhelming compared to the others, so we try to balance it based on that; however, the community talks a lot about which characters they find to be the best one.

KW: Definitely if you’re on the forums there are a lot of players who are at the top of the leaderboards, and they’re competitively competing at those higher levels and always talking about how spideys like Classic Spider-Woman and Spider-Man India have those really powerful ability combos so you kind of need to use them if you want to compete at those top levels. Then at the same time you have Bulletproof and Battle-Damaged Spider-Man who were in launch, and they have those powerful abilities too, but right now they’re at that epic rarity. Since the game had evolved -rather than always sticking new Spider-Men with the most overpowered ability combos (making them all the same), it was more like maybe we’ll give a spidey one ability that focuses on a high score attribute like combos or near misses, and the second ability will be balanced out with bonus to vials or maybe a bonus to web hammers. It’s a case where a secondary ability balances the first ability. While the first ability is definitely about high score, that second ability may earn you vials which then helps you further in the game outside of your current run because then you’ll be collecting more vials that you can use as you please.

WASC: And of course it also helps with event progression rewards such as when the goal is to collect vials.

KW: Exactly! For example, Future Foundation Spider-Man is a really good Spider-Man to use for precision combos when you have to go through the rings, so it all tries to balance out without trying to be overpowered. I know people are always asking for +1 to attack and +1 to near miss on spideys, but if we just give that to everyone it takes away from the experience and the balancing aspect of it.

TN: But we are planning that +1 attack +1 near miss for an upcoming character.

KW: Yes, they will have to stay tuned. You asked about which abilities I consider powerful. I know when I started the game the Spider-Man I always used was Cosmic Spider-Man. He just seemed to fit my skill-set at the time way back when the game launched. It worked really well with me, especially that bonus to defeating bosses seem to help me a lot. As the game progressed I progressed into using Scarlet Spider Ben Reilly as my main leader, I don’t know about you Tatiana.

TN: Bulletproof has always been the one I used because the +1 to combo from near misses and attacks I really find valuable; I also find Spider-Woman, the classic version, to be very powerful for scores.

WASC: I’d like to say out loud that my guess for the new +1 to attack +1 to near miss Spidey is either going to be Symbiote Spider-Man or the All-New, All-Different Spider-Man, with the new costume.

KW: Only time will tell. *laughs*

WASC: You heard it here first folks, I guessed it right, or wrong… probably wrong (looking back I realize it probably isn’t symbiote Spider-man, I’d like to change my first guess to Spider-Island MJ or Peter Parker, mulligan!).

Spider-Man Unlimited New Cards
Spider-Man Unlimited New Cards /

WASC: Titan Spideys have been revealed and released, and the first two released certainly live up to the name. Did you have this tier waiting in the woodworks to be revealed at the right time? Or was the idea of a tier above legendary conceived after the game had been operating for some time?

TN: We always knew that we were going to need to release a higher level character, because we knew that players would specifically need more content at a higher level. And what we found is that a very strong chunk of our top players had already maxed out 4 legendaries to level 100 and had reached the highest level that you possibly could for the game -and as a result we realized that those player needed more content. They needed a new threshold to reach because ultimately we were worried that they would feel that they had done everything they could for the game, whether or not they beat the story mode. Our aim with titans was to increase the length of the game to allow for players who want more content and have reached that top level to continue playing and enjoy the experience and strive for additional goals.

WASC: There is definitely a big chunk of players with four level 100 Legendaries who are simply farming daily rewards and saving up some Iso-8 from events with no real goal left in the game, that is until now.

TN: Yeah, the concern was that eventually you would get bored of that experience, and we knew that we would need a higher rarity to keep players excited about the game.

WASC: What were the thought processes applied when designing the boosted Titan Spidey skills, and is there a game balance the team always attempts to maintain when creating new levels of power? Did you decide to let only the top 2 players win them to reflect their strength and preserve their rarity?

TN: The idea was that top players who got that character would enjoy the fact that they reached a new threshold of combos, skills, and gameplay. They would feel like they have a way to progress through the game and reach new thresholds of power, go through progression rewards faster, and gain higher levels. So people were expecting to have stronger spideys and the goal was ultimately to deliver that and allow them to experience the game without them needing to play constantly; these abilities allowed them to play for less time and still get the great rewards. The idea is to make them feel very powerful.

KW: I think in terms of balancing, the community had asked that “maybe titan spiders would have 3 abilities.” That idea passed through the designers, for they had been thinking about that too, but it ultimately was decided that three abilities might not be that great of an idea. Having three abilities might be super hard to balance in the long term so they then settled on this idea of keeping it at two abilities, but then buffing up the attributes, percentages, and pluses of these abilities to help balance out the titans. And yeah, as was mentioned, they have super good abilities, but right now they’re rare to get. In that sense they’re kind of self-balancing with only some people getting them, and then the availability rolls out in the future and by then there might be other titan spideys with other improved abilities, so there will be a greater variety which will lead into more of a game balance and definitely elevate the titans above the rest.

Spider-Man Unlimited Titan
WASC: Is there going to be a Titan Tier reward level? /

KW: There is Web Warriors.

TN: Yeah there’s Web Warrior right now, which is the tier level above Legendary.

KW: Right, you need 2 titans to be able to unlock the Web Warrior tier, so it’s really that endgame tier right now that’s something to look forward to and keep playing towards in order to try and reach it eventually.

WASC: What are your thoughts on the so-called “power creep,” where new, more powerful cards such as the Titan Tier Spideys, overshadow the previous tier and reduce their usefulness? I know the tier reward system has affected this phenomenon by separating player levels, but aside from event score multipliers, will legendaries become the new epics in terms of top player use?

TN: That’s why we made the titans so rare to begin with. We always had the intention of making them rare, and then making them more accessible down the line. The reason we made them so valuable was so the legendaries don’t have their value reduced. The legendaries are still as valuable as they ever were, there’s just an additional goal to reach beyond that, but those are for the top players in the game so to get them you have to be a fully committed player to reach that level. That was to begin with; of course as the game progresses they will be more accessible for more players, so the idea of a power creep will no longer exist. Ultimately the idea was that legendaries are still just as valuable, and the titans are just a way to continue having new goals and new objectives in the game. I mean, Spider-Gwen is a legendary, Superior Spider-Man and Ultimate Spider-Man are legendaries. There’s no way that the value of those characters are reduced because you have a Spider-Goblin in the mix -those are the best characters available in the game, they’re the best character’s available in Spider-Man noir, therefore there is always going to be a desire to get those characters. 

I’m not sure that titans will be buffed again in the near future… As of right now I think we removed any titan buffs that were planned in upcoming events.

KW: Yeah, there’s always going to be some power creep when you introduce it, and it’ll get flattened and leveled out as we move forward. Definitely one thing I don’t think we’re going to do anymore is buff the titans, such as with the event where Scarlet Spider Felicity Hardy had a x10 buff. After that event the decision was made after looking at the design and the reason it was implemented, that buffing titans definitely established a dominating power creep, because if you had a titan you were basically guaranteed to win another titan and no one could touch you. I think we’re moving away from that in the future for now, especially since only a handful of players have titans, and that will minimize the power creep, And even if you have a titan, you still need your 3 other legendaries in your tag team slots to remain competitive, you can’t just play with one titan. Some people string together their characters and take advantage of their full tag team during their run, such as if they die, and when they do, they need to rely on the other 3 legendaries to carry them through the run and maintain their high score. There’s definitely a power creep but it will mitigate itself as the game moves forward.

WASC: I definitely think not buffing titans in the events would help, I’ve seen this in the forums as well as in my own experience, that during the Goblin Peter event, at least on my leaderboard, there were a few titan spidey users whose scores were double everyone else’s, essentially untouchable.

KW: We’re definitely taking that feedback into consideration, and I’m not sure that titans will be buffed again in the near future. They might return again down the line, but as of right now I think we removed any titan buffs that were planned in upcoming events.

WASC: I’ve noticed that since the game’s release, certain assets (such as flying enemies) have been moved say, one lane over from where they used to appear. Similarly, a ring was added during the Doc Ock boss intro scene where players would usually lose their combos before the change. What’s the rationale behind “little” changes (improvements?) such as these and how does the team find elements that need to be adjusted?

KW: Yeah, as you mentioned, one update you might have memorized a certain segment, then the update comes along and it’s slightly tweaked and varied, and I think that comes down to how the game is tested. You have Quality Assurance testing the game constantly. You have the designers and the rest of the studios playing through the levels constantly so they’re generating their own internal feedback about how they can improve the player experience, how they might tweak a certain level to make it more fun or more challenging, or how to provide an improvement to the way you’re running through it and how you can keep up your high score.

At the same time we have the player feedback from the Facebook and forums where people are saying and pointing out “hey there’s no ring here and I can’t keep up my combo,” or “I can’t seem to get near misses off these certain objects and the way you’ve lined them up it kind of ruins the experience of trying to keep up my high score,” and so we take into consideration all of that feedback and that’s where those minor tweaks are made. The changes do seem minor, and they’re just minor details, but then when you’re playing they actually become more important because if you play the game a lot and you play it daily you’re going to have to re-memorize the segments and it’s going to provide a new experience every time you update the game and keep you on your toes, not necessarily in a menacing way but in a way that hopefully provides a fresh experience that either helps you and is beneficial, or is at least fun and something new


Spider-Man Unlimited FB
Spider-Man Unlimited FB /

WASC: The game has come a long way in taking measures against hackers, but there are still cases where players with impossible scores top the event boards. How does the team view this problem and have there been recent improvements in catching these hackers?

KW: This is definitely a very serious issue and a big topic, and as you said there has definitely been improvements since launch. I don’t think we had someone internally assisting with hacking at launch and then we got someone directly in the studio so we could work face to face with them and basically they sweep the daily leaderboard, and the events –basically the whole game. They do sweeps daily to knock out anyone who is cheating or exploiting things; if players have installed a build that’s been hacked or use hacks and cheats we sweep to detect them, ban them, and get them off the game. That’s the first layer of prevention.

Then we also go beyond that. Customer care provides daily cheater reports where players are reporting these cheaters to them and providing screenshots of names on the leaderboard. So beyond those daily sweeps, the anti-hack team goes directly in to investigate these users and look through their profiles to determine if they’re legitimate, or if they are hackers, and then they manually remove them, remove their scores from the leaderboard, and then ban them. That’s the 2nd layer.

And then moving beyond that, recently with the release of the titans we kicked it up another notch, and even if the hackers slip through the cracks, and obviously some of them do which is unfortunate, we’re going back through the events after they end. If any hackers did slip through, we’re manually removing those and recalculating the leaderboards to ensure top players are getting their true rewards that they should have won. For example if you placed tenth on the leaderboard and there was a hacker in the top nine and we removed him, you would fall into that top nine, and we’ll manually gift you the prize that you should’ve won and is rightfully yours. That’s something we’ve been doing recently to stay on top of things even more. We monitor the forums and social media channels and see if there’s any exploits, then monitor players using those exploits and tweak things behind the scenes until the exploit is fixed. There’s definitely a strong push to keep the game fair and balanced and prevent hackers from ruining it for players putting blood, sweat, and tears into top ranks to earn those rewards

TN: specifically we recently received an email from a player complaining about hacking, and how it affected his experience, so since then it’s been an even higher priority. We really listen to the players and care about what you guys say, and we address our priorities as such.

WASC: The fact that you retroactively make changes should ease player’s minds a bit.

TN: Yes, when you see the leaderboard after an event has ended you may think that’s the final result, but there are sometimes retroactive actions done after that.

Next: Interview With Gameloft's Spider-Man Unlimited Team: Part 3