Nerf Stick Too Strong – The Marvel Contest Of Champions Community Reacts To The Latest Update

Posted by March 3, 2017 Comment

Credit: Kabam!
Credit: Kabam!

Kabam’s Marvel Contest of Champions has had a pretty devoted base of players on iOS and Android who enjoy duking it out as Marvel heroes and villains, because who wouldn’t? However, due to changes made this week many have been leaving the game in droves, creating youtube videos discussing the nerfs, and railing on Facebook.

Some of those changes took the form of the usual patching work devs do periodically to tweak game balance. These nerfs however were extreme. The official statement from Kabam on the Contest forums details each of the changes which range from changes in the way characters work in combination with one another and how effective each character is to individual stats changes for several characters. The first major change is that characters stats are no longer based on percentage values but flat values that grow and shrink as players level up. Characters will also be able to be synched down to rank in certain challenges- much like the way some MMOs function. And then there are the specific stat nerfs and buffs. Its a very, very long list. The reason Kabam gave for the changes was that the old percentage system was stopping the devs from creating new content and the individual buffs and nerfs are designed “to better close the gap on the power curve, elevating some of the less usable Champions and bringing some of the most overpowered Champions in the Contest closer to their level.”

Pretty standard Dev statement right? But players don’t always appreciate that, and often times they are right as we saw with the changes the Overwatch team made to Bastion. Players were upset right from the start. One of the main criticisms was the lack of conversation. Most gamers feel personally connected to their games, they have a very personal stake in the matter. For devs, its a labor of love most of the time but its also a job and a numbers game. Treating a game like something a dev can change when they like without discussion has a tendency to backfire. It’s also worth noting that Kabam only mentioned the changes about two weeks before they would take effect in the game. Youtuber RichTheMan talks about this rather extensively in his video on the nerfs, in short because of that lack of visibility and the update’s changes forcing players to completely re-strategize how they play the game. He even snarked while reading the notes, “asking? Kabam don’t ask people!”

But this isn’t just one character being nerfed. This is a number of them, many of whom are most beloved by Contest players: Black Widow, Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch, Star Lord, Wolverine, Thor, Ultron, Unstoppable Colossus, . Granted, many of the changes Kabam made were buffs to major characters like Groot and Hulk, but still. Seatin Man of Legends, another Youtuber in the Contest community, starts off his video on the changes with the following statement I find particularly poignant, “Since the start of Marvel Contest of Champions there have been three characters in particular that have been very core in the community’s rosters as they progress in the game. And those characters are Scarlet Witch, the Black Widow, and then Thor… there is a lot of content [in Contest of Champions] that is BS in that you need one of those specific Champions to defeat that encounter without spending a ridiculous amount of units on revives. And that’s the real core issue of this update. The wanted Champions are being completely nerfed into the ground and we as a community are not sure at the moment if the BS is going to be removed as well.” No way was that ever going to sit well with players, and especially not Marvel fans. Marvel fans love Thor, Scarlet Witch, and Widow. Across every Marvel game I’ve ever played, those three are always damn popular. Sure there’s love for Cap and Iron Man, but Thor, the Witch, and Widow are always favorites. Perhaps because of their character designs (they are female characters from comics, of course they’re beautiful women in skin-tight costumes with great hair and fantastic cleavage that won’t ever quit). As for Thor, well who the hell could hate Thor, right? No one. Not even I can bring myself to hate Thor, and I try to hate things a lot.

Since the update went live, reactions have been incredibly negative with many players leaving the game. Rich put up a long statement of his thoughts and then tweeted a reaction gif which is particularly relevant.

Many others, including Twitter users Deposito and Omega Mutant are calling for a boycott.

So not only was this update a ridiculous way to make a game needlessly harder on players while pretending to care about game balance, it was also an insult because of the lack of community involvement and the fans are rightly pissed. The Bastion buff outrage in Overwatch was solved within days of the change going live. The game director was on the forums talking about the issue, taking questions, asking for feedback. We aren’t seeing that with Kabam at all. There is no communication and there is no one listening to the community when they make valid complaints. The smart thing for Kabam to do now is either tweak those three characters to be useful but not OP or remove some of their absurd content that requires paragon exploiter-like abilities. Don’t build a game that needs an exploiter and then nerf your exploiter. That’s like, game balance ethics 101.

And I’m not unsympathetic to Kabam. A lot of the changes they made were to buff some of the less super-powered heroes like Spider-Gwen, Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, and Yellow Jacket. But one of the problems in the major superhero universes comes in trying to balance them. They can’t really be balanced at all. How could you expect Nightwing to take out Superman in Injustice? How would Ant-Man ever hold his own against the Phoenix? And yet you can do these things in Injustice and Contest of Champions, because games need to be balanced or they aren’t fun. However, the source material is not.

Some characters will just be more all-around useful. And that can be fine as long as there are ways to take them down. You don’t power through beating Superman with capoeira and escrima sticks, you’ll get punched to death in seconds. You block, used specifically timed strikes, save up your energy for a super move, and then crush him. But Injustice (along with every other arcade style fighting game like Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter) doesn’t require any one character to pass certain instances, because in a fighting game that’s sort of silly. Contest hasn’t learned that yet. Hopefully, the fans’ reactions to this will finally make that point to the dev team.

In the mean time, players are making new strategy guides and trying to keep up despite all the changes. Seatin’s tips are below.

(Last Updated April 4, 2017 12:54 am )

About Madeline Ricchiuto

Madeline Ricchiuto is a gamer, comics enthusiast, bad horror movie connoisseur, writer and generally sarcastic human. She also really likes cats and is now Head Games Writer at Bleeding Cool.

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