Opening a dialogue... I hope...
by: George Argyropoulos
As many people have noted, there currently seems to be a high level of consternation and frustration amongst the player community. The TFC admins have noted this and we ran a 'poll' to gather some information from players in the hopes of making a small presentation to Kixeye. These issues, overall, have reached enough of a critical mass that both the TFC show and the BV show have recently spent a large portion of a show addressing concerns surrounding several issues that have been percolating in the community.
I'll start with this since everyone always appreciates a nice quickie. As I have stated before, I believe it is not just one issue that is the nexus of the consternation that the players are feeling currently. Rather, I find it is the accumulation of many concurrent smaller issues that combine overall to cause this feeling in players. Many players may understand the thought process/cost/balance of an individual issue, but when taken as a whole, they change the feel of the overall game. Punitive targets, lengthy chores, excessive need for raid points, build times, excessive flagships and many more issues collectively cumulate to cause a negative feeling from the players, because their perception is that all of this detracts from the game that they want to play. They want to play, not work.
Now the lengthy version...
Besides the poll we ran, I also wanted to take the time to write an article to share what concerns players have shared with me as well as my own and my take on some of the issues. I hope this precipitates a dialogue within the community and within Kixeye so that our gaming experience can be enhanced and improved. Keep in mind, each issue individually could be overcome, or it is merely annoying, however, when taken as a whole, they compound into a growing monster lurking under the bed that looks to be itching to jump out.
This is a perennial complaint- and a bit generic. To get down to the essence of this complaint requires a little context and digging.
Kixeye has never been the most forthcoming company, and that was always part of the game. You had to figure some things out on your own, experiment, ask, and that is fine, but... there are times where there really does need to be more communication from Kixeye, regardless of the backlash from players. The instant negativity from some of the more vociferous players skews the perception of how the community will actually react, and it's sad that these few have ruined it for the many, but at some point, you have to just bite the bullet and let us know what we should know and fuck the bitter haters.
On the flip side, players must understand that there are times things NEED to be tweaked or changed in order to keep balance in check or not break the game. As a community, we are bright and creative and can come up with more ways to break the game tan can be conceived of during a finite design and test time. That's just common damn sense. Communication is a two way street. They talk, we talk. Who wants to talk when the response from the other person is always cruel, bitter criticism and personal attacks with no actual dialogue???
The loss of the WIP (works in progress) hurt players in the long run. Significantly. Unfortunately, that likely was the direct result of the toxic nature of the forums (this should be addressed as well, but I digress) and a small, yet vociferous, group of assholes. This is one reason pages like the TFC and BV try to keep to a certain decorum and expectation. It's also likely why Kixeye reaches out to those shows when they do want to open dialogue with the community.
A rather large issue that I think does need to be addressed in some fashion is when the community sees inconsistencies like the lower generic tokens in the last raid or the Phoenix stacking aura, etc.. It would be nice to see even an acknowledgement rather than silence. Silence is bad, mm-kay? An explanation is, of course, better still. We don't have to like either (I'm looking at you whiners that have to cry every damn time something is changed), but the silence is horrible.
Given the time many players have invested in this game, and their obvious passion for it, it is safe to say that the game is something they consider important. The silent treatment, psychologically speaking, is a way to inflict pain without visible bruising – literally. Research has shown (particularly in men) that the act of shunning, ignoring or excluding activates the same area of the brain as does physical pain. Why do you want to hurt us Kixeye? (If you are curious, you can read more about this interesting little tidbit here and here.)
Three Month Raid Cycle :
I am not going to discuss player's opinions about the logistics within the company with regard to the three month raid cycle. To be brutally honest, without knowing company privileged information, all that is, is baseless speculation.
What I would like to discuss, however, is the growing concern from players about being left behind. What has started to happen, and I have noticed particularly in this last raid set, is that players are still trying to complete fleets, or even just get the technology TO complete fleets, in the last raid of the set.
In both long-term and short-term this is problematic for the game.
Short term it contracts the time that one has to build a viable hull and use it for maximum opportunity (store raids). This also severely limits any foray into the PvP aspect of the game- both base hitting and base defense. Many players did not get their fleets sorted for the raid until this last raid. Add to this that, presumably by design, players are not afforded the opportunity to complete even a four count of the new hulls, either for VXP weekend, or for the first raid in the set. This last one is very troubling as it causes a lot of frustration and the race to get these out essentially commits at least a month (typically much more) of shipyard time to one singular aspect of the game - raid. Which leads us into...
Long term this puts many players behind the eight ball so to speak. By the end of the raid series they have to decide whether to invest in finishing their current series fleet so that they can use it for the converted chore targets, or invest in the upcoming raid series technology and start the frustrating process all over again. This produces players who feel perpetually under the gun and left behind, frustrating them as well as those who are trying to help them.
Given the time investment we are seeing for these fleets, which are necessitated for chores after the raid, we are now spending 4 to 8 months a year building these fleets. Even more if you build two of the three options so that you can more easily do the inevitable TLCs that come out later.
'Early'/Premium hull :
What I mean by this is the release of the next raid series hull. I could buy this position with the Hellwraith, however, as the raids have gotten ever more niche, these hulls can no longer be considered to be coming out 'early'. They are needed for the next raid set and that raid set is now also only 3 months in length necessitating these hulls even more.
Additionally, the more these raids are specifically tuned for these hulls, the more they are needed to participate in a 'fun' way.
Then to further frustrate players, the build times of these hulls are climbing up to a point wherein players will struggle to get them out (blank) in time for VXP weekend and rarely have a mere fleet of four ready for the first raid.
Add to this that in order to even get the fleets (partially) ready for these events you now typically have to save tokens from the FM previous (how many players are not caught up in tier 5?) to the raid and claim all the tokens available in the raid... and often even this is not enough to complete them.
This also adds a tick to the annoyance column in that the build tokens were to be 'bonuses' for the players. If we progress that logically, that means that you are not required to use these tokens to get a reasonable fleet out on time for the raid. Currently that means maybe 2 hulls. Anyone want to test that?
Another aspect to look at, it seems that if you do save your tokens, and are caught up in the FM, you can get 3, maybe 4 hulls out for the first raid. I think what would be better, if Kixeye insists on having these build times, is to design it so that you can get 3 hulls out for the next raid without the need for any tokens and 4 to 5 if you save tokens and are caught up in the FM. This would encourage those players that are not caught up to invest more heavily in the store raid knowing they can have a viable fleet out for the next raid.
So why are we paying such a premium for these hulls now? Given the way these cycles are now designed, I feel going back to the Hellwraith type of release will be a benefit to both the community and the company. 60 million points straight-up and not gated with affordable weapon and special and manageable build time-to-next raid would handily bring significant participation up.
Three Fleet Option :
This one is a serious bone many players want to pick at. For each raid cycle we seem to now have three options available to choose from. The 'skill' hull, the 'auto' hull and the 'generalist' hull. They are supposed to perform in the order listed, however, what we have seen several times is that the 'generalist' fleet is performing exceptionally well, if not better than, the other fleets.
This is a massive issue with those players that invested in the options that were expected to be the best option. It also makes players confused with regard to their choices and that uncertainty, particularly amongst players that coin heavily, is toxic. Those same players then feel exceptionally frustrated and become discontent and angry when they see that their investment, essentially, was devalued by high level performance from 'lesser' fleets (see 2 Zelos walking the A set from last raid). Since this group is likely those players that invest the most in time and coin, it could become an even more serious issue if this trend continues - it seems that it may even be the straw that breaks the camels back for some of those players.
One of the issues here, I believe, is that it is increasingly more difficult to balance singular targets as the amount of fleet options are increased for those targets. It is just an inherent issue given the static nature of PvE targets. I'm not sure of a solid solution other that reducing the options.
- The 'skill' hull is the premium option.
- The historical lack of acceptable 'autoing' ability of the auto hull.
- The generalist hull was intended for lower targets for those players that are still climbing the mountain.
- The shortened raid cycles (and presumably increased difficulty in designing a target for three disparate fleets).
The logical conclusion is to remove one of these fleets and, looking at the options, the 'auto' hull seems like the best option to remove. This should help balance the targets (and ancillary TLCs) easier and lessen the uncertainty within the player community to some extent.
This one has been bubbling in a few aftershows and on the page. What exactly is the deal with the current flagships? Why are there so damn many? If they are going to be standard practice, why are we paying huge premiums on cost and, particularly, build times??
Traditionally the build time was larger because of the scope of the use of the hull. These current flags can not be used with fleets other than those in its family. They also seem to be designed in such a way that if you do not have them you are at a serious disadvantage. It is not a matter of taking just a little more damage; with some of these fleets, not having the flag will result in utter failure in the same targets or knocks you down whole set targets or worse.
Massive FM prize lists :
Look, a lot of players are 'caught up', and this is awesome, but... those that are caught up, have you looked at that list lately? Players who are not caught up become distraught and dejected on a weekly basis looking at the mountain that they must climb in order to get 'caught up' and get access to those precious tokens. While tech has to be constantly released so that the game stays fresh, that tech must be made available to those players that are NOT top tier- and sooner rather than later, so that those players feel relevancy as well as see progression so that they feel engaged and motivated to play and participate. Tiers 1 and 2 in the FM should be the tiers more massively loaded than any other. I am fairly confident that any of the bigger/caught up players are not going to mind in the least if everything gets dropped a tier in the following FM cycle. That gives us a full month lead access for being caught up and dropping that high tier tech quickly will encourage players who are not caught up by bringing those goal posts closer.
Build Times :
Let's face it, Kixeye is a business and part of their income comes from players speeding up or straight up coining out builds. That said, the shorter cycles times of the raids, along with the increase in Flagships and the dual pathing of the PvP options has precipitated a situation wherein build times have become a major issue.
As I mentioned previously, players are investing an inordinate amount of time on just their raid fleets. This makes their time to build defending fleets and/or any of their PvP fleets they want even more limited as their available build time is contracted more and more. We should be seeing shorter and shorter build times as content drops increase, instead, we are seeing the exact opposite. This is a serious detriment to the game. More and more players are opting to forgo any serious PvP playing as this trend continues. Yes, I am aware that tokens are offered in many cases for the PvP hulls, but to kit out a good full fleet requires far more. Additionally, PvP builds are far from static given the nature of PvP itself, compounding this problem even further.
Repair Times :
On the heels of build times, inevitably, repair times will follow. I'm not sure I am wholly on board with everyone on this one. Many players are feeling frustrated with the overall repair times of hulls, particularly each succession of PvE hulls. Looking at it overall, I think the issue really is not the repair times but the punitive nature of the targets that have been introduced in the game.
It isn't that the fleets are easily damaged and we suffer huge repair times for that, it is that the targets have been designed in such a way that any minute error, any little bit of lag, any deviation from perfection, will result in catastrophic damage to the fleet. In those instances, your repair times then become hugely excessive (which has been slowly compounded with each subsequent hull and additionally with the need for more armor and resistances).
A solution that really needs to be looked at is adjusting either the inherent punitive nature of the targets, or, adjusting the damage from those turrets or hulls that deal the punitive damage. A good example is the current FM.
In this first picture, I have circled a turret that, if you happen to get into range, you will take an inordinate amount of damage. I don't mean 20-30 minutes of damage, but up to half your health or more. Particularly if you have your entire fleet within it's area of damage when it goes off. This is really kind of shitty if you lag and you jump too far forward. Additionally, it does not really allow you to mitigate this damage by adjusting in any way. There isn't really any running away, you just take it in the teeth. Similarly is the gauntlets that we are seeing in targets for the FM. While you can avoid them in some instances, this basic issue is at play there as well.
One small minute error or issue- your own, your ISP's, Facebooks, the power company's, the weather, or Kixeye's, and you are properly fucked. This is not fun and is exceptionally frustrating to players. Given the amount of engagements that will be made with raid targets as they transition into map targets, this sort of damage should really be tuned down overall. Yes, force us some damage for screwing up for whatever reason, I understand that, but please just don't make it so perversely punitive.
This is another growing issue in the targets as they transition into the game. Xtreme precision driving. In this instance, because of the angle of attack, the isometric conversion in the game and the location of the turrets, this corner in the 113 has to be approached with a far greater amount of precision than that of any other cluster in the target. It is annoying, frustrating, and results in the some of the same issues mentioned above. These sorts of things, when found in the game, should be addressed in some way, particularly given the planned longevity of the targets in the game. Possibly reduce the damage when you mess this up or scale back the range of these turrets. (Base parts targets fall well into this area of discussion.)
I do, however, have an issue with the overall repair times with the PvE fleets when VXP weekend comes around. This is something that hopefully will be addressed soon as overall repair times of these hulls continues to hover from 2-4 hours for a blank hull. Perhaps we need to split the VXP targets or adjust the payout to the type of hull. Currently, while we get the same amount of VXP for suiciding a blank PvE hull as a PvP one, the cost is greater for the PvE hull even given the increased VXP requirement of the PvP hull. The PvP hull may need as much as double the VXP, but the PvE hull takes 4x - 8x as long to repair. Again, I'm not sure what a viable option is to correct this, but there is a growing issue here and it is being compounded by the build times and the scheduling of the VXP event.
This one is, by far, the most despised aspect of the game. There is no other subject in the game that, when brought up, universally elicits Instant venom and vitriol. Maybe raid points... sometimes.
This is a particularly interesting topic because in this subject alone you see the exact mechanic of individual justification versus overall perception/requirements.
The current set of chores, when taken individually, are not that bad. The issue is when you take them as a whole.
Top end players expect to be able to cash in on their hard work and commitment. They certainly do not want to take those expensive and heavily invested-in fleets and drive targets that are hugely punitive, require precise driving and are time consuming. Particularly when there are so many of them to do.
Something to consider going forward. Raid targets are being converted into map targets. Most everybody, regardless of their level and ability to participate, now have to grind in every raid due to the high points costs for the prizes. When these targets are converted into map targets, we are not seeing a drastic reduction in damage with regard to the tuning of the map targets. This leads to the feeling that, in order to do your chore, you must yet again grind. It also seems to preclude players autoing the targets in any meaningful way, compounding the issue of time investment in the game.
Raid Points :
This is a perfect example of the dichotomy of individual/whole view I keep harping on. Individually, I can likely come up with valid reasoning behind the points requirement for an individual prize (most of the time), however, when I look at what I want to achieve in a raid, that reasoning goes right out the window.
Let's get something clear - I don't need any of the prizes... much like I don't need to play the game. I want. The issue therefore is not one of necessity (though in some instances I can make that case with the basic premise of playing the game), but one of expectation. Expectation plays a role in many of the issues I have discussed herein, but is best illustrated in this topic. Any top level PvE player has an expectation going into raids of achieving much, if not all, of what they want to do.
They have invested time and likely money in order to be at that level. It is reasonable for players in that position to have this expectation. What has happened with the advent of Charged Armors and multiple hull prizes is that these players are now feeling forced to grind and work much, much harder than in the past to achieve the same level of success that they expect in the raids.
Whatever division of Kixeye is entrusted to come up with the overall balance of the game needs to take a hard look at what they are asking their players to do. If this overall balance is not being currently looked at and it is being parceled out piece-meal, I hope someone takes some time to look at the overall affect these issues are having to the game.
I have mentioned previously that, taken individually, I can understand the thought process and justification of much of what we are seeing, however, when taken as a whole, the time investment for basic PvE commodities in the game becomes excessive and detrimental. If players want to delve into PvP, (which, given the name Battle Pirates...) this compounds even further. Given the upcoming Bounty Hunt events, the pressure to attempt both then mounts. In many aspects, it is starting to feel like PvK(ixeye) again. This has happened in the past and we know that it is not a viable format for this game.
I hope this engenders some dialogue within the community as well as within the company, and perhaps even, help increase the dialogue between the community and the company... or something. Look, I just hope it helps in some way, ok? Thanks for reading this novella folks!