Hey, everyone! VS Dave here.

We’re beyond exciting to spill that beans that The Hand of Merlin is coming to Steam Early Access on May 11, 2021. That’s only a couple of weeks from this very moment right now!

As we near the finish line, the team at Room-C Games has been working extensively on balance. No, not standing on one foot with a stack of books on their heads, but rather balancing the game to maximize your enjoyment playing!

Of course, balancing a game without a lot of existing player behavior data can prove challenging, so here’s how the team is handling it.

The Hand of Merlin: Dev Blog

A Balancing Act

Balancing a game is never easy. You want it to be a decent challenge to players of all skill levels. You want it to be easy to pick up, but have enough complexity to allow everyone to keep improving. And finally, you want it to be enjoyable.

There’s a lot of theory about it. Most game designers can describe the concept of “Flow” or how to graph a difficulty curve… But trying to actually make it work? That’s a whole other challenge.

Right now, The Hand of Merlin is a demanding game. It expects you to understand a lot of minutia on how each Abomination works, learn their AI patterns, and how to create viable builds while not having full control and knowledge (Rogue-lite, y’all.). It’s unforgiving and punishes misplays heavily.

This result was seen on our latest playtests with fresh players – only after over a dozen runs could someone progress to the later zones consistently. This means two things:

  1. The game is getting stable – Skill is becoming more and more the greatest marker of success, and luck is less swingy.
  2. The game is… Hard. New players in particular will face a lot of frustration before they start acquiring some success.

And hey, that’s reasonable, right? We have an easy mode if you want to dip your toes first before diving in, and the game is about learning – you follow Merlin’s quest to regain his powers, and understand how best to save each world…

But I think we are in a spot where most players will face such a wall that they won’t want to put the time in to master the game. Imagine if most players could never defeat the first boss in Slay the Spire in their first dozen runs, or if your first week in Noita was only in the first area.

Pretty sad, man.

So, we want to make it a bit more approachable. A bit more forgiving, especially in Albion. Now, this will be an ongoing process, and that’s my favorite part of Early Access: We will be receiving a lot of data from you, our players!

Apart from getting the game in a more approachable state, we also want to tackle how it scales in the late game when you’ll have all your skills and gear.

  • Do we have enough variety in the viable builds?
  • Is the “best build” too obviously strong to be the only thing worth pursuing?
  • Are a few of the landmarks the absolute best to visit every time?

All those questions are going to be answered with your help and a lot of telemetry. But I can promise you that we are doing what we can to ensure a fair, engaging experience, but in such a complex game with so many options, we have to get as many players in.

During our Early Access, I’ll be perusing the telemetry data and getting to know which abilities you are picking, which ones are never used, your favorite heroes, and even which enemies are giving you guys too much trouble.

So be patient, and thank you in advance for all the feedback! I’m excited to make this game as good as it can be!

— Mat Farias, Game Designer at Room-C Games

As always, if you have any content to share or questions for the team, please feel free to reach out via our socials. You can stay in touch with me and the rest of the Versus Evil team by joining our Discord and following us on Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook.

~ VS Dave