Master X Master – Alpha 3 Feedback

Usability and User Experience Feedback Section:

Lack of Persistent Parties

There is no way to form a group that persists between matches.  After every match, you must re-invite everyone back to the group.

Friends, Recent Players, and Mercenaries

Friends and recent players show different primary masters for friends, which is confusing when you’re trying to pick a friend to be your mercenary.

Hidden CDs on Passives

Any ability that is a triggered passive (such as Death Knight’s passive resurrection) is not shown in the tooltip or on the button itself.  It is displayed as a buff on the player’s bar, but it seems rather unintuitive when all of the other abilities show the CD on the bar AND tooltip.

Latency on Smart Cast

There seems to be a bit of latency on smart casting still.

Double Tap to Cast

I would like to see the option to be able to hit a key (such as Q), bring up the targeting reticle, and then his Q again to cast the spell.  This was a targeting style I loved from GW2.

General Gameplay Feedback:


  • Smart cast seems to still have a delay on it
  • The unlocked camera is difficult to control
  • Can we get tooltips for mousing over stats?

Titan Ruins

  • Vita’s ultimate doesn’t cancel capturing an altar.  I assume it should.
  • Add a visual indicator of some kind for when the player gets a buff from killing a neutral (such as the Ritualists) that way players better understand what it gave them.
  • The side lane Titan Sights are rather low value with the top lane Titan Sight carrying virtually no value beyond denying vision to the enemy and the bottom Titan Sight only being valuable whenever you lose that altar.  See the utility skill change proposals to see how I propose fixing that.
  • Value of master kills should go up based on how big a streak the victim had or perhaps the amount of
  • Of the four utility abilities, the teleport skill and the sprint seem to be of no real value given their CD.  If I had to make changes…
    • Heal remains the same.  This ability is extremely popular already, and it is a massive heal for everyone that it is applied to.
    • Fortification CD slightly reduced.  This is the second most commonly used ability, but it doesn’t seem to be as high impact as the heal in a game.  The heal is effective at any stage of the game.  Fortification is only effective whenever you’re inside your own base and by a building.
    • Sprint CD greatly reduced.  Sprint is virtually never taken because, while it is a decent ability while active, its cooldown makes it terrible by comparison.
    • Teleport CD reduced greatly.  This is the one way I can the side lane Titan Sights being given a lot of value.


  • The game doesn’t communicate what exactly “Attack Score” is.  The forums suggest it is the number of NPCs that were killed.
  • Don’t hide Technique Score even when it is bad.  Let players know what area(s) they can improve in.
  • Can the Battle Log be enabled in PVE, at least for yourself?  I’d like to see a hero damage breakdown.

Master X Master – A Mechanical Analysis

Master X Master is the newest NCsoft title to enter an external alpha.

Describing The Game

MXM is a difficult game to describe succinctly.  It has been describes as an ARPG, a MOBA, and an MMO.  What is it exactly?

First, I need to cover one of the core features.  One of the core premises of the game is the “tag” system.  With the “tag” system, you are swapping out one master for another that you had preselected.  “Master” is this game’s term for hero/champion.  The tag system has a 15 second CD and the masters have separate health bars and resource bars, but they have shared ultimate bars between them.

Now that that is covered…

The ARPG portion of MXM is primarily focused on speed running and attempting to win one of the big prizes in the end of the dungeon.  This is how you will get the components to unlock some of the time distortion heroes.  It is also how you will get the nodes and other resources to upgrade your PVE powers.  Note that your ARPG progress does *not* carry over to the PVP portion of the game, so if you’re only interested in PVP, you will only need to run the time distortion dungeons enough times to unlock the heroes you seek, and then you can go back to running PVP only.

Its MMO elements are the most easily summarized aspect.  Instead of being in a chatroom, everybody is in a virtual lobby where they can see each other.  Everyone picks a “representative master”, and that is their physical representation in the lobby.  This “representative master” feature is more important than just a representation of yourself in the lobby, but I’ll cover that later.

The MOBA portion has two sub-modes.  The first is the 3v3 arena mode.  It is a rather straight forward deathmatch mode.  The winner is the first team to 25 kills or the team with the most kills after 10 minutes.

Then there is the 5v5 mode, Titan Ruins.  The base concept is the same as other MOBA/ARTS games — Destroy the enemy team’s throne/core w/ a 25 minute timer.  In the case of the game going 25 minutes, the team with more points wins.

Attunements, Attributes, and Playstyles

And now we get into a more advanced concept that is present within MxM.  It is a simple concept on paper (and in practice), but on the surface, it promises to greatly expand the professional metagame.  Whether it will deliver that or not has yet to be seen.


There are three attunements; Ardent (Red), Helix (Green), and Kinetic (Blue).  Ardent beats Helix, Helix beats Kinetic, Kinetic beats Ardent.

To be more specific, each attunement deals 15% more damage to the attunement it “beats” and 15% less damage to the attunement it loses to.  In this case, Ardent would deal 15% more damage to Helix and deal 15% less damage to Kinetic.  Kinetic would deal 15% more damage to Ardent while dealing 15% less damage to Helix.  Helix would deal 15% more damage to Kinetic while dealing 15% less damage to Ardent.


Weapon Damage – This shows how high the master’s basic attacks deal.

Skill Power – This shows how much damage the master’s skills do approximately.  A skill with 300 skill power will do a lot less damage than a skill with 750 skill power.

Survivability – This shows the amount of health or tankiness in general the master has.

Difficulty – This shows the approximate difficulty of playing the master.  A character with a difficulty of 1 will be much easier than a hero with a difficulty of 7.


Juggernaut – These are the tank types.  They will be very good at getting to the front line and staying in the front line.

Assault – These are the sustained DPS types.  They tend to have the highest weapon damage but medium skill power.  If they do have high skill power, that ability’s damage is likely distributed over a longer window.

Assassin – These are the squishy high burst DPS types.  They tend to have lower weapon damage but higher skill power.

Skirmisher – These are primarily the initiator or counter-initiator types.  They tend to have either a charge or a way to bring the enemy to them.

Marksman – These are the long range siege types.  They aren’t necessarily bad at fighting players, but they tend to have a range greater than that of towers, allowing them to siege towers even without the assistance of creeps (Titanites).

Support – These are the healer/support types.  Not all supports are healers (Nanurunerk and Maia come to mind), but no real healing is provided by non-supports (except for your utility skill that anybody can have).

Summoner – These are the “pet” types.  They summon pets, but the “pets” act on their own.  This does make playing a Summoner frustrating at points, but it also reduces the total micro needed.

Theoretical Applications

So, what does all of this mean for the game?

In theory, let’s say that you have a master that is exceptionally powerful.  Because almost all of my MOBA experience comes from DOTA 2, I will use DOTA 2 examples.  Let’s say that you have a case of 6.84 Sniper or 6.85 Leshrac.  In this theoretical system, Sniper would deal 15% reduced damage to and take 15% increased damage from 1/3rd of the heroes in the game.  The same would be true for Leshrac.  Would this have theoretically “fixed” Sniper or Leshrac or at least made it so he wasn’t always the answer?  It may not have fully fixed either of them, but I imagine it would have helped a non-trivial amount.

Counter Picking

Being that MXM is a game of two masters per player, there will be 10 masters per team instead of 5.  The pick menu does not show both heroes that an individual currently has selected.  It only shows their “primary” hero and a “?” for their secondary hero.  This allows some room for counter-picking, but, as is the case in most von Neumann games, it can also result in overthinking the draft stage.

Pick and Ban Modes

I mention the pick and ban mode, but I have not been able to get enough players together to test it out, so I do not know how the system works, but there is a pick-ban mode in alpha test 3 of MXM already available for both the arenas and Titan Ruins.

The Camera and Backstabbing

The camera seems to be focused in a more forward position (relative to the team’s starting location) than most MOBA cameras, giving a “bottom-screen advantage”.  Attacking from the enemy’s side of the map gives you a tactical advantage as they will have less time to react to your movements and positioning.

Unlike other MOBAs, MXM always gives you the bottom of the screen.  This means that both teams are the “bottom” on their screen, and both will be equally susceptible to bottom-screen backstabbing.

Titan Ruins

Just as a forewarning, the rest of this article will focus on Titan Ruins, but I will indicate it on every section’s header.

For a breakdown of scoring and how Titan Ruins works, here is a link to the Wiki that discusses it in great detail.  There are some minor errors on there, but it is accurate for the most part.  One key aspect not mentioned in the Wiki is that you are always the team on the bottom.  This can make the map disorienting for newcomers, as sometimes Aduman is on top lane, or sometimes Aduman is on the bottom lane.

The quickest way to orient yourself with the map is by looking at mid.  In mid, there are symbols similar [^], [^^], and [*].  [^] and [^^] will be right next to each other, and those markers indicate the position of the ritualists.  [*] indicates the position of the Summoned Guardian.  By orienting yourself with the location of those two markers, you can determine where Ruak and Aduman also are.  The ritualist altar will be slightly closer to one team than the other, and the summoned Guardian altar will be slightly closer to the other team.

The Hero Altars mentioned in the Wiki (which summon the aforementioned Ruak and Aduman) can be found at the midway point of the side lanes.  They initially spawn 4 minutes after the game starts and 4 minutes after the altar’s hero dies.  Whenever the Altar Protectors spawn, a voice calls out “Altar Protectors have spawned”.  There are two Altar Protectors, which are rather basic PVE mobs.  Killing them makes the Altar vulnerable which then requires a player to capture it (which is a 10 second channel that requires you to do nothing else and take no damage for the duration).

There are four Titan Sights on the map.  As mentioned, the Titan Sights give a large swathe of vision, and they are positioned in a consistent manner around the map, and they remain captured for 5 minutes after being captured.  After 5 minutes, they will become neutral and can be captured again.  There are two Titan Sights on each side of the river.

One Titan Sight is in the jungle between your middle and top lane.  Given that the best way to kill a lane is by coming in behind it (due to the limited vision on bottom screen), this Titan Sight provides protection from backstabbing to your top lane unless they cut directly through the river and risk being ambushed by the River King.  It also makes enemy rotations from top lane to mid much harder, although bottom to mid is exposed.

The second Titan Sight is favorably positioned on your bottom lane.  This means that you are able to get vision that sees behind where creep equilibrium falls in bottom lane, allowing you to see incoming backstabs.  The bottom Titan Sight becomes especially valuable whenever the Altar is captured by the enemy team.  The bottom Titan Sight will show you who is with the Aduman/Ruak push, which can be especially helpful

The enemy jungle Titan Sight is perhaps the most valuable individual Titan Sight in the game.  If the enemy has it, it is very hard for you to rotate from bottom to either mid or their jungle for a gank.  If your team has it, though, it makes it very hard for the enemy to rotate from (or through their jungle) to your bottom lane, and it limits their total access points to the Ritualist/Summoned Guardian on your side of the map substantially.

The least valuable individual Titan Sight in the game is likely the top lane Titan Sight.  This Titan Sight primarily has one valuable aspect to it, and that is that capturing it denies them their bottom lane Titan Sight vision.  You can also see if they are pushing towards the top altar, but this information is already provided by your lane creeps (Titanites), and the area of vision it provides is not great enough to see them unless they are walking directly down lane.  If they are sticking to the side of the lane towards mid, they will not be in range of the Titan Sight.  Ritualists have a 6 minute respawn after they die.  Summoned Guardians have a 10 minute respawn.

As for the tower layout…

Top lane has one outer tower.  Bottom lane has one outer tower.  Mid lane has two outer towers.  Inside of there, top lane and bottom lane each have their own inner tower.  These towers are able to attack anything pushing down mid while also being out of range and untargetable to the mid push.  Then there are two towers at the core.


Timing Windows (Titan Ruins)

Timing windows are a very important thing within Master X Master.  In DOTA, the term “timing windows” generally referred to when a hero’s peak strength would be achieved.  For example, a Naga Siren’s timing window is much later than a Juggernaut’s timing window.  In MXM, your timing windows are less master dependent and more environmentally dependent.

The Titan Sights will originally be captured around 20-30 seconds into the game.  Once they are captured, you have 5 minutes until they become vulnerable again.  The hero altars for Ruak and Aduman become vulnerable 4 minutes into the game (and 4 minutes after death).  This means, in most cases, the altar protectors will spawn 1 1/2 minutes (or so) before the Titan Sights become vulnerable again.

As a reminder from the end of the previous segment, the Ritualists spawn 6 minutes into the game and give powerful buffs.  The Summoned Guardian is up from the start, and he has a 10 minute respawn.  This is important because of the timing of it all.

At 4 minutes, the altar protectors spawn.  It will take 10-15 seconds to kill the protectors (assuming only one team is actually trying for the altar).   It’s more common for it to take 30 seconds or more (due to the enemy team contesting).  After that, it will take 10 seconds to capture the shrine.  This puts the game at 4:20-4:25 minimum, more likely around 4:40.  Ruak and Aduman will occupy part of the enemy team’s resources for 20-40 seconds.  This puts the game at anywhere from 4:40 to 5:20 (more often towards the later end of that range).

If you remember from earlier, 5:20 is the time when Titan Sights come up.  This means that Ruak and Aduman will generally be occupying the enemy team during the team when you are setting up to capture the important Titan Sights.  As I mentioned earlier, I consider the enemy jungle Titan Sight the most important, your own Titan Sight the second most important, bottom lane Titan Sight the third most important, and top lane Titan Sight the least important.  Their jungle Titan Sight will also be the easiest for them to contest, so it should be the highest priority for taking.

Now that you’ve captured the Titan Sights, another 20-30 seconds of game time likely passed.  That puts the game around 5:40 to 5:50, so very close to the window where the Ritualists will spawn.  With good vision, you can send most of your team back to their lanes to farm with one or two people going to the Ritualists to claim the buffs for themselves.

Keep in mind that while you are doing all of this around the map, you want to do these activities with the smallest group possible.  The individual points scored by killing Titanites in lane may seem trivial, but they add up.  If you are taking your team away from point farming in lane too often, you may end up being point starved in the later phases of the game.

The most difficult timing window to properly execute is the Summoned Guardian.  He is up at the start of the game, so there is no trickery necessary for his first spawn.  With that said, it is time consuming to kill him without your full team, and it is often rather obvious if one team is killing him (especially if the whole team is killing him).  He gives 75-100 points, though, which means that, worst case scenario, you get 75% of the way to the next Titan and, best case scenario, you get a full Titan worth of points.  It’s usually in the middle, though.

Due to the Summoned Guardian’s very tanky, boss-like nature, he takes a lot of resources to bring down.  This makes him a poor choice of targets when the altars are up (except in the case of a game winning push opportunity).  Your team will take a lot of damage and spend a lot of time or mana in there, making an immediate follow-up fight risky.


Inconsistent Design Philosophy in MMORPGs

Note: I will be making some generalizations in this article.  This is not going to talk about every MMO ever made, and I will try my best to indicate such.  I may fail at points, but I hope you do not hold that against me.

When I talk about “popularity”, I’m talking about the popularity from a developer’s perspective not the popularity from a player’s perspective.

The biggest issue that will need to be tackled by MMOs in the upcoming years isn’t  the focus on endgame.  It isn’t the themepark vs sandbox debate.  It isn’t PVE vs PVP.  It isn’t soloable vs group-only.  It isn’t even instancing or open world.

The biggest issue that MMOs will need to solve is how to get past an inconsistent design philosophy.

MMOs since the dawn of the genre have been plagued with this problem.  This problem has grown to the point where it is difficult to fend off, though.

When I say inconsistent design philosophy, I mean that the hypothetical game contains multiple subgames that do not seem to be based in the same philosophical groundings as other subgames.

For a consistent design philosophy, I would like to look at vanilla Aion.  In the case of vanilla Aion, the game was considered a very time consuming, grind heavy MMORPG.  With that said, it also taught you from the very beginning that this was to be expected.

While this did drive some people away (and one can easily argue the merits of a system that chases people away), the game was very clear in its messaging.  Accomplishments would be very heavily weighted based on time put in.  This meant that players who reached level 50 would not suddenly be greeted by a very jarring, alternate experience to what the game had presented to them up to that point.

On the other hand, there is the inconsistent design that is present in many other MMOs.  While I will not name specific names in regards to which MMOs violate this policy, I am sure you will be able to think of some that match this description.  These are games that start by giving you an experience that is very narrative-driven and soloable.  Once you achieve max level, you are only given the option to participate in raids or another activity that either demands high levels of skill or vast quantities of time.  This isn’t a bash on soloable or narrative-driven MMO experiences, but the opposite (raid/party centric leveling experiences that result in soloable/narrative-driven endgame) is much, much rarer.  In fact, I’ve never seen it in action.

The problem within this inconsistent design is created by violating the core principles of the heuristic ladder(s).

In the MMO genre, though, there are two ways that PVE difficulty is generally measured:

  • Time spent
  • Amount of attempts to kill

Time spent is an unusual metric in the context of a traditional heuristic ladder because the amount of time that a player spends playing the game doesn’t necessarily correlate to any other aspect of the game.  With that said, the principles one should adhere to regarding heuristic ladders are generally applicable to time-sink mechanics as well.

A few other factors can be argued, but these two measurements compose what I consider the two heuristic ladders of MMO progression.  One of the core aspects of a heuristic ladder is that it is much easier for a player to move down the ladder than up it.

In simpler terms, an individual who is able to find 16 hours per day to play the game can easily accomplish something that is aimed at an individual that plays 1 hours per day.  A guild that is competing for world firsts is going to easily accomplish something that is aimed at a guild that is competing for world 2000th.  The opposite is not true, though.

A Consistent Experience

When players are leveling, they are learning, whether consciously or subconsciously.  They are learning not only the mechanics of their character, but they are also getting a feel for reward mechanisms, reward timings, game-specific gating mechanics, and how the game presents content to them in general.

An inconsistent experience is one that teaches the player all of these things, reinforces these things many, many times, and then suddenly changes them once the player reaches an arbitrary point in their character’s life cycle, which is quite frequently the max level of the game.  This sudden change will disrupt any form of flow the player was experience.  It will be a very jarring, noticeable shift relative to previous experiences within the game.  This tends to create one of two negative responses from players within the game:

The Top Going Down

A skilled player or a player that spends (or wishes to spend) a lot of time in the game suddenly being asked to climb downwards on a heuristic ladder can experience varying degrees of boredom, but it is feasible for them to do so.

Popular mechanics that ask players to move downwards on the heuristic ladder include mechanics that are time-gated (such as dailies, weeklies, or NPC missions that require X hours to complete) and mechanics where there is minimal chance for failure for the majority of players.

A common use for these two mechanics is found in the form of the daily quest (which is a form of currency faucet).

The Bottom Going Up

A player that is not as skilled or does not have a lot of time suddenly being asked to perform a task that requires world class skills or 16 hours per day of dedication will likely experience varying degrees of frustration.  Unlike the top going down, these players aren’t likely going to handle the transition well, if at all.

One of the most popular mechanics that ask players to move upwards on the heuristic ladder is raiding.  Raiding is generally a time consuming activity that will kill the player many, many times before the player is able to advance.

The Need For A Unified Experience 

All of these points boil down to the need for a unified experience.  The leveling experience should exist to teach the player what to expect.  It should be teaching the player the reward mechanisms.  It should be teaching the player the ins-and-outs of the game.  Properly utilized, the player should know what to expect in the endgame by the time they get there.  The player should not be suddenly asked to throw away all of their acquired knowledge to that point because the core experience within the game changes at an arbitrary level.  The game’s focus should be on teaching players and remaining true to those teachings.

This unified experience shouldn’t simply be a mission statement that the team pays lip service to during conventions or during press conferences.

This unified experience should be the driving factor behind every decision.  Every decision, every system, and every act should be done to establish and empower this unified experience.