Are you read to play Solstice Arena?
Solstice Arena, the new speed MOBA from Zynga, has only been out for a month but has already seen great success. WarCry even gave the title our Best MOBA of E3 award. The free-to-play iOS game offers quick 6-10 minute 3v3 matches against either the computer or other players, and every two weeks Zynga plans to release new Heroes for the game. But along with characters, they want to release new features as well. To that end, they recently introduced a new update that reduces the amount of AFK (away from keyboard, or in this case, phone) players, which has made the game even more enjoyable overall.
According to Solstice Arena Creative Director/Lead Designer Jordan Maynard, the team began getting negative player feedback almost immediately about AFK players. In Solstice Arena, since the games are so fast and you're only playing with two people against three other people, if one person goes AFK on either team it really causes a huge imbalance in the game.
"We've noticed one of the biggest detractors of "fun" was having an AFK or disconnected player on your team," said Maynard. "Since Solstice is a mobile first game, our thinking was that these disconnects may not have even been on purpose. It's a lot easier to be interrupted when you are on an iPad or an iPhone, so we wanted to be careful in how we dealt with the issue."
Experience epic battles in the world's first Speed MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena). Form alliances and fight together in 3 vs. 3 combat. Hone your skills as you battle alongside friends, taking on players from around the world (PvP mode) or facing challenging bots (co-op or single-player mode).
In order to solve the problem and bring the AFK rate down, Maynard and team implemented a few new features in their latest update. These include a new Ready Check feature before the match, idle detection, and a Report feature after the match.
The Ready Check is simply a prompt that comes up after you've queued to let you know your match is ready. If players wander away or turn off their device while in queue and miss the Ready Check, they won't get in to a game anymore and will have to queue again. Before the update, once a player queued for a match they were automatically put in a game once enough players were found. But if they were AFK for whatever reason, their character would sit in base the entire game while their teammates got frustrated because they were essentially a man down.
Thanks to the update, now all six players must select that they're ready, or the group goes back in to a queue until everyone accepts the Ready Check.
"This feature alone probably catches about 80 percent of the AFKs before they ever become an AFK," said Maynard. He went on to say that the response from players has been fantastic, and that most people are seeing very few, if any AFKs anymore.
Additionally, Zynga also added a Report feature and automatic idle and disconnect detection to further quell AFK players. At the end of a match, players now have the option to report people for going AFK. If a player gets reported enough times, they'll receive a warning asking them to stop AFKing. Simply telling people that what they're doing is wrong can sometimes be enough to stop the unwanted behavior. However, Maynard explained, if they continue AFKing and disconnecting from games, they'll be required to play a few Solo games before they're allowed to play with real people again. Basically, playing with real people is a privilege, and if you take advantage of it you're now going to be penalized.
"We carefully monitor this data to make sure we're not taking unfair action," said Maynard. "So, it's tuned in such a way that if your battery dies or your network goes down once in a while you won't be relegated to Solo play."
The AFK update is definitely working as intended, and now that it has been implemented, the Solstice Arena team is looking to the future. They want to add Leaderboard support in the next big update, which will allow players to see who's the best at each Hero. There's no timeline for Leaderboards at the moment, but since Zynga is poised to release new Heroes every two weeks with skins in between, players can look forward to tons of content over the next few months.
WarCry recently got the chance to play Solstice Arena with the developers, including Jordan Maynard. You can check out the full live stream here, where the developers answered questions from the fans and showed off the game for nearly two hours. We'll be doing more live stream events in the future, so be sure to let us know what you thought of this one.