Ubisoft's mighty quest for free-to-play user-generated content

The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot is Ubisoft Montreal's first foray into free-to-play games, and lead writer Matt Zagurak hopes the game will achieve two things: be a fair experience where players can't pay to win, and encourage users to get creative with the content they make.

In The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot, players take on the role of a hero who builds and fortifies a castle, which stores the treasures and loot they collect. Players then venture out to attack castles that belong to others in the hope of looting their treasure vaults. The game operates on an attack and defend loop: players use their coins and gems to buy creatures and traps to stop enemies from penetrating their castle and accessing their treasure and, in turn, players have to navigate through other people's castles that are also filled with creatures and traps.

Speaking to Polygon, Ubisoft Montreal's Matt Zagurak said the studio wanted to make a game that was competitive and based on user-generated content because it thought it would be a fun idea to have "hundreds of thousands of players building castles, sharing them, and attacking and defending them." With the game currently in closed-alpha, Zagurak told Polygon he's already seen many players get creative with their castles.

"It's like a hit combo that can only happen in such a specific time, but you know it was intentional and set up that way."

"I've seen a lot of hilarious set-ups that people do that I would have never thought to do," he said. "There are some set-ups that make me think, 'Man, that is so specific.' Like, you'll come around a corner into a springboard that will spring you into a trap. The trap will have knock-back damage, so it'll knock you back into a group of enemies. It's like a hit combo that can only happen in such a specific time, but you know it was intentional and set up that way."

The game is designed to make castle customization very straight forward. When players click on the "defend" tab, they are taken to an isometric view of their castle, where they can drag and drop rooms and change their castle's formation. It's up to players if they want to construct something simple, like a battleground that leads enemies straight to their treasure vault, or if they want to build a complicated maze-like environment that forces enemies to snake through the castle. Players can populate their castles with defensive creatures and traps by dragging and dropping them from a menu. Each creature has a score, which indicates its strength. Each area in a castle can support a certain number of creatures, which discourages players from unfairly concentrating their entire arsenal of creatures and traps in one area to block enemies.

According to Zagurak, players can get really strategic with how they place their creatures and traps. During a demo that Polygon played, we entered a castle that had a high concentration of creatures down a particular corridor. Thinking that this was the corridor that would lead to the treasure vault, we ventured down this path to battle a horde of monsters, which ranged from giant spiders to zombie-like humans and blobs that spat goo. After taking down all the enemies and finishing the battle with only a little bit of health left, we realized that we were falsely led down this path by the castle's owner. The corridor led to nowhere. The treasure vault was, in fact, down a completely unguarded corridor. Zagurak told Polygon that players will employ all kinds of tricks to defend their castle, and this is only one of them.

Players will level up their heroes through battle experience, and the castles will also level up depending on how many enemies they stop from accessing the treasure vault. Experience points are awarded to heroes and castles only if they defeat someone of a higher level than they are. If a level 20 castle defeats a level 10 enemy, the castle will receive little — if any — experience. Zagurak says this is to discourage high-level players from picking on newer, less experienced players.

On the monetization front, Zagurak says Ubisoft's monetization strategy is based on the paradigm of time saving.

"There's nothing in the game that you can buy that you wouldn't be able to achieve just by playing the game," he said. "The last thing we would ever want is to sell power, especially if a game is competitive. We don't want it to be a case of, 'What a coincidence, all the players at the top of the leader board are people who spent money."

In Epic Loot, weapons and items can be purchased using either gems (bought using premium currency) or coins (in-game currency earned through looting). In effect, a player can experience the full game without spending premium currency.

The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot will enter closed beta in the coming weeks.

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