Game Design Analysis – Demigod

GDA – Demigod

Always thought that any close replica of a DoTA game is not worth my time, however one day my boyfriend told me that I was dead wrong and that there is something that I might find interesting in Demigod. After two months since the mention of the game in one of our conversation I decided to join in and play.

After about 15 games I was hooked, it was indeed as my he said a fun game to play, as long as you don’t have players who lie about how good they are. So why was I hooked on a design that I hate? Frankly, it wasn’t what I expected it to be.

You have 8 demigods split up in two factions: Generals and Assassins. Uniquely designed, they can be used either for support or battle. This type of flexibility is exactly what I was talking about a few articles ago, for instance a healer will be used about 75% of the time as a healer, however if you want you can heal your teammates, but also do some damage in battle. Because of how the game is built this freedom of choice can sometimes turn a General into an Assassin, bad design or an exploitable feature? Leaving all other aspects of the context aside I would say the first, the idea of morphing between character classes is over powering, if you want to try it yourself just learn to play Erebus. If it were up to me I would really balance them so that my General remained a commander and not a stomping-crushing unit, this can be solved through damage reduction, items property changes (Note: never change what has already been seen in a game, modify it or like GPG did pull it out, if you are playing Demigod now you will miss on items that were in the original version).

The game unfolds by choosing to be part of the Forces of Light or Dark and accomplishing the goal of the match. You have several types from which you can select, but I think the most relevant is Conquest, where you have to make your way into the enemy base to destroy the Citadel (main building). And here is one of the few flawed concepts: there is a huge discrepancy between the levels of fun that you can find in each goal. I haven’t seen one player that picked a different type of goal other than Conquest for his or her match. The replayability doesn’t suffer because of this, no two battles are alike, however can’t help to notice that this slipped their mind in their meetings: “Which of these goals will the player enjoy?”, “Do we really need the other ones?”, “How can we improve, the ones that have a lower percentage of been chosen, so it would be just as fun as the top ranked one?”.

At first glance the flag system is just a “plus one” design; however looking more closely a great advantage is revealed. Besides gaining XP, they give bonuses (HP/Mana regeneration, cooldown reduction, gold, etc) and increase your teams WarRank, a coefficient that lets you buy upgrades for your base so that it can be more resistant, spawn more powerful units, decrease your Demigod re-spawn time, so on and so forth.

In matches you earn experience by killing enemy units, capturing flags and of course smiting down Demigods. The one skill point you receive at level-up is used to upgrade or take on a new power. Each power is defined by what it does (splash damage, support, interrupt) and by cooldown (the interval of time that takes your power to be active again). An item system is designed to improve your Demigod even further; you get to chose one favor item that you can’t change and an additional 6 items which you can buy using the gold gained from slaying enemy Demigods.

One might think this is easy to play through; the truth is that it isn’t. Designers have created three gameplay systems (skills, items, flags), which combined, form an intricate tactical conglomerate. Moreover for this tactical gameplay to work teamplay must be a common mentality, if you have one player that goes about his business head-on, then I’m sorry but the match is lost.

Let’s talk a bit about the interactivity between players in the game lobby. There is a chat where you can say what’s on your mind, if you like the game settings, if you want the host to change them, but our dear host has so little tools to assure that the game is well balanced and suitable for all, most of the time players leave before he can do anything. Newcomers will always join a lobby without taking in consideration that those who are already there want a quality game, not a 5 second one due to rage quitters or childish tantrums; GPG said that in the next patch they will have a system that allows the players to see stats directly in the lobby; furthermore they said that a list of previous games would be available to discover premade teams. Now this seems promising and all, but why hasn’t this been put into practice earlier, say when they launched the game? The number one thing that must be on every mind of the development team is “How I can implement/design/make this so that the players effort is minimized and his fun level is maximized?”.

Other design aspects that are present, but I prefer not to discuss them in detail are as follows:

  • Hands-On Play – when you enter the Multiplayer menu you can choose to join a battle automatically.
  • Pantheon Play – to feel that you are in a battle of light versus dark you can pick this mode, only disadvantage is that the pool of Demigods from which you can select has been reduced to four per each side.
  • Camera System – flexible, great for viewing battles when you overlap with another player.
  • Graphics – suitable for the theme, exceptionally well designed Demigod models, the source of inspiration can’t be pinpointed exactly which enhances their originality, unique minimalistic maps; however I don’t recommend playing it on a laptop or really low end systems.
  • Control System – characters are moved using the mouse, while the keyboard is used for shortcuts. You can only control the Demigod and his minions if he has any, reinforcements have a mind of their own, though you can help them in combat by killing the enemy units.
  • Alerting the Player – when you are in the middle of battle, thinking what power to use, where should you go next, there are other things that go down on the map, for example if you are not careful enough your opponent can make his way to your base and capture portals from which reinforcements are spawned, this is where the alert system comes in. Whenever something happens on the map you are announced through the voice of the commentator, however when the above example occurs it’s too late to do something, because the announcement is made after the event took place. For that you have the ping, a team-mate can ping a certain area of the map if he or she detects any sort of danger.

My journey still continues (even after 200 hours), despite the crashes, connectivity issues, poor path-finding, overpowered items, power glitches etc. Yes it is buggy, but I like the design and how you can get absorbed into playing it even though it’s clear as daylight that GPG never made any programming department meetings. If you find decent players that prefer their game to be fair I guarantee that you will have a great time.



3 responses to “Game Design Analysis – Demigod

  1. Very good analysis 🙂 you marked the key points

  2. The design was good, the only flaw I see is pacing. When I first started to play, the amount of data I had to digest from items and skills slowed my level progression and put me at a disadvantage because I wasn’t leveling as quickly. The enemy got stronger defenses and more powerful fodder to throw at me and eventually I wasstuck losing to , not the heroes, but the minions. It is very unforgiving to any slip ups but it could of also been part of the design; kind of like chess where if you mess up bad it will be checkmate. Perhaps it provokes quicker learning and more focused gameplay. Eventually, after a few lost games, I learned what the skills did and how to use them properly.

    Another thing is I wish it had more maps!

  3. The pacing was ok for me, played some single player games to get used to the skills each of the characters has.

    You are right, the game resembles chess as far as tactics go.

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