A Look Back at ‘Paragon’s Long but Necessary Development Cycle

Jamie Shepherd
Games PlayStation
Games PlayStation PC Gaming

Paragon, the upcoming 3rd-person MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) title from Epic Games, is a great example of the pros and cons of early access development. Over the years, the game has been through many iterations. Now, it appears the game is in its final stretch. With an anticipated full release in 2018, there’s no better time to take a look at Paragon‘s infamously long development cycle.

Standing Out in a Sea Full of MOBAs

Screenshot of a female 'Paragon' character

On December 5, 2015, amidst rumors of a new project, Epic Games, of Gears of War and Unreal Tournament fame, dropped the first announcement trailer for a new MOBA game. At the time, thanks to the popularity of titles like League of Legends and  Dota 2, nearly every studio was trying to capitalize on the genre. Many tried (and failed) to create a compelling MOBA gameplay experience.

MOBAs, which blend team-based, real-time strategy with fast-paced action combat, required more innovation to appeal to gamers. Hi-Rez Studios, for example, added a 3rd-person view to their title Smite the year before Paragon was announced. Paragon‘s trailer appeared to promise more of the same with one crucial difference: However, Epic defied expectations by giving us full control of our hero — something Smite was lacking.

Early Alpha and the Death of Legacy

Paragon's Legacy Map
'Paragon's Legacy map was loved by the community.

Epic released the first early alpha test for the game to a small group of players the same month. It was instantly a fun title — though definitely still a long way from release. Unlike many modern publishers’ early access programs, Epic decided to show their game from a true alpha perspective. They countered multiple bugs, missing features, and unpolished gameplay with weekly patches and rapid development cycles. What players had was a beautiful game that fell short in gameplay.

After releasing the game to PlayStation players for free, Epic continued the open development of Paragon. That is, until September 2016 when they announced they would be revisiting major parts of the game. This led them to shelve the much-loved map (now referred to as Legacy), in favor of a much smaller, faster-paced version called Monolith.

A Polarized Community

The Monolith map

Monolith’s inception polarized Paragon‘s very vocal community. Some appreciated the game’s new, faster-paced, combat-focused direction. Others preferred the slower, more strategic legacy map.

Epic doubled down, however, stating that the old map would not return. Instead, they focused on trying to match the new map’s aesthetic design to that of its predecessor. In September 2017, the huge patch “Monolith rising” brought a visual update, huge hero and balance changes, and lots of quality-of-life fixes to the title.

Refining Paragon‘s Vision

Paragon user interface 2017
The latest iteration of Paragon's UI

Epic has continued to add more heroes, cards and features to the game. At the end of 2017, they completely redesigned the user interface, making it more in line with their new vision for the game. Around the same time, they also shifted their focus to revisiting older characters who stagnated due to the game’s massive changes. Epic also added a new card system to the game. This polarizing change moved the game even further away from the vision originally pitched to the public. However, this change makes sense, as it supports the title’s new focus on exciting combat.

Another Epic Games title, Fortnite, found massive success at the end of 2017 after adding a free, battle royale game mode similar to Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG). Fortnite, much like Paragon, had a long development cycle. Epic redesigned the game until it was a success. The same might soon be said of Paragon, as pushing back its release gives the team ample time to refine their goals for a 2018 global release.

Looking Ahead

Paragon's new card system
'Paragon's revamped card system took some getting used to for fans.

After nearly three years of public development, Paragon will (finally!) release early this year. And with it, we’ll see some much-needed features. These features include a revamped matchmaking system — something players have requested since Paragon‘s beginnings — and ranked gameplay. No longer will players have to resort to running their own competitions to fill the gap. With these new changes, 2018 is certain to be a great year for Paragon and its fans.

Are you ready to jump into the game at launch? Check out our community-created guides on our Paragon-specific FANDOM site, Paragon.gg, and the Paragon wiki.

FANDOM is also giving veteran players the chance to win some limited-edition Paragon merchandise and prizes. Head on over to our competition page to learn more!

Jamie Shepherd
Software engineer at Fandom. Lover of technology!
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