Raid Preview Pokes and Prodding
By: George Argyropoulos
Editing Help: Renato Putini
Editing Help: Renato Putini
I took some time before writing this so I could cool off and try and write this article dispassionately. I will admit, I was initially pretty pissed off. There are a lot of issues that the preview brought up and I'm going to try and cover several things here. While prepping the article I compiled some answers we were given by Kixeye and extrapolated some others as well. At the end I'll share my thoughts and attempt to see things judiciously. I will be honest. This is a rant. A very long winded rant.
EDIT: NEW RUMORS HAVE COME TO LIGHT – I COVER IT AT THE END.
Let's start with some initial thoughts. The targets were interesting and looked fantastic. I don't think anyone can deny that. I also think they hold immense potential. What I expected in my mind from the sneak peek we got in the forum had me very interested. This expectation may have played a part in much of the frustration that developed.
That said, we have all observed several issues and I am going to touch upon a few and offer my ideas where applicable for discussion.
The first thing that struck me was the mechanic of the surfacing objects. Personally, I think it's pretty cool and I love the idea, however, one of the teams provided Doom with an explanation of the mechanic, and he passed this on to us. The mechanic was supposed to displace your fleet in the direction the fleet was traveling when the object surfaced. I loved the idea because it was, in my mind, reminiscent to the oil slicks we had in the last raid which I thought were fun as hell to play in. I was very keen on trying to exploit this mechanic as it was described to get me moving and in and out of target ranges. Sue me, I like using what they give us to my advantage.
Unfortunately what happened instead was that when the object surfaced the fleet was displaced to the closest open area that your fleet could go to rather than displace it forward in the direction in which the fleet was traveling. There were even reports of fleets being split by this mechanic when the objects surfaced.
I am going to guess that as it was originally intended, the mechanic was supposed to work as described in the forum post, however, in execution the intended result did not work properly and was tuned to the least impacting to the fleet's movement when over an object surfacing. I hope that the team is still looking into this to see if there is another option or if they can make the effect more reliably repeatable so players will have a solid expectation when engaging the targets.
If this is the case, I can live with this. Much like anything in life- in programming sometimes things don't quite work out as expected and you have to make the most of what you have or can do by deadline. So long as the mechanic becomes something standard that we can expect to behave reliably, we can form a strategy around it.
Dark Water Hints
The next issue that was 'off' was the dark water signifying where underwater objects were. This would have made life rather easy as you could kite those areas until you activated an object. We also did not have those towers in the forum post which confused many players.
What it looks like upon further review is that, should they have placed dark water over every submerged object, the whole of the target would have been dark and would have made the mechanic pointless. I think instead they put some dark water in the areas of actual objects that could damage you. Additionally, I believe the towers were placed to either help the Ironclad to execute an auto drive and/or to activate some of the submerged objects. At this point, we just don’t know but I hope we get some clarification soon.
Target Difficulty - SMILE!
We then have to address the Pink Polka-dot Elephant in the room. The target difficulty. I think we can all agree that as we saw them the targets were a bit... excessive. I think we were all expecting the targets to be doable with Centurians.
Honestly, in looking at the blueprints in hindsight, I would expect the Centurion to pull off the B set and maybe be able to do some in the A set, but struggle. This looks like it is doable like that *if* you have the correct build- and that is only one aspect of the issue.
I think another problem is the ranges that we are seeing in the targets. It seems that the targets were already tuned to the ranges that we will see on the Cannoneer. The issue with that is that this is not tuned to existing technology for the vast majority of the players base as we were expecting. The devastating damages we saw concurrent with the health and speed of targets was not expected.
That said, Kixeye has stressed several times that the tuning in the targets was NOT final. We have been told that the tuning of the targets is not at all going to be based on the assumption of players having Millennium equipped Cannoneers.
Doling Out the Tech
As many people have seen in the forums, Kixeye has come forward and said that this release format that they tried for this raid set, this 'experiment', was one that they were most likely not going to repeat. I'll be honest, I was somewhat shocked. Historically speaking, the company generally does not come out and blatantly say 'Our bad' like this. I have to give credit here for that.
They have stated that they own that. 100%. This was in fact a bit of an experiment. One they will likely not repeat in the future for raids. They want to make sure players are prepared for the event, but “giving a hull without the weapon or special unbalances the tech-to-target ratio we were trying to tune for in an unhealthy way to the detriment of both the player and game.”
I'm also going to take the opportunity to repeat a question I saw asked and answered on the forum. “Any reason the weapon and build tokens weren't free to begin with since it was your error?”
*A quote from the forum: “We wanted to make sure the Cannoneer was available for construction prior to the January event, as this was to be the best hull for the event cycle. We figured that you could build a Cannoneer or Centurion fleet with the ballistic tech that you already had and still do well enough in the targets to earn the improved tech and even slow refit between events so there was a linear power curve.
But, as testing went on, it became apparent that the event targets and the Cannoneer with T4 were incongruent with our expectations. Rather than nerf the event or nerf the Cannoneer, we decided to make this special offer of the Millennium Gun to Cannoneer owners to give them the best tech for the hardest targets. Those who were willing to fast refit could do so at a reduced cost while those who did not could still participate in the raid (albeit slower) OR, alternatively Centurion owners could grind the event to get the tech in the raid for next month. This does NOT mean you can not have a viable Cannoneer build for this raid, but we wanted to afford those players who invested in the Cannoneer an opportunity to begin building with the new weapon and take better advantage of their initial investment.”
Finally! My thoughts...
So, given the responses from Kixeye (and keep in mind that we do not know what the targets are going to end up as) this is what I feel at this point. Some of this may not be viable, some might be late, but I think it may help in the discussion and add to the perspective going forward.
I would have liked to see a TLC for the Millennium. I don't know how difficult it would have been to lock the target to maybe Siege hulls or even just to the Cannoneer, but I think it would have sat much better with the community if this had been done. The Limited Time Offer would have been fabulous about a month ago. A week before the raid sets off everyone's Pissed-Off metric. As we have seen, the community saw this more as a slap in the face rather than a reaching out to the community as it was actually intended. In fact, following the acknowledgement of an error, it was really poor timing to offer this to an already upset community. Honestly, looking at the $20 USD deal, you could get $10 of gold, ~$38 of tokens and the Millennium. So at a minimum you were getting $48 for $20. As I said, a month ago this would have made everyone ecstatic. The timing is the only thing that changed our perspective of the offer and I hope Kixeye understands that. Alternatively, the targets could have been stepped and the Millennium could have been offered in the raid as intended.
This brings me to this- I would love to see the tuning 'stepped' in that the first raid the damage/difficulty gets tuned down so as to allow Centurions to possibly struggle through the A set. As I said before I have ZERO problem with the raid getting harder for the second raid so long as it is clear (preferably in-game) that this will be happening. If Kixeye is transparent about it I have no problem with this solution. I would much rather have this over the huge jumps in difficulty that we have seen in the last few S sets in the last raids of sets.
I also have stated, and would love to see, the C set targets blocked to Cannoneers and maybe Ironclads, thus allowing Kixeye to tune the targets more effectively. This would allow specific tuning to Centurion, Punisher and Zelos Hulls hopefully ensuring a much larger participation overall from the community instead of what we have been seeing. There were 6,000 or less players that acquired the Cannoneer in the last raid. If we guess a safe number of 24,000 legitimate participants, that is only 1/4 of raid players that have this 'advantage', yet the 'need' for the Millennium to be released was decided. This has me worried.
In the same vein, I would like to see the targets become a little less punitive against the Cannoneer (well, every Siege hull actually), or alternatively, adjust the repair time for the Cannoneer or nerf the Ironclad so the targets can be tuned differently to achieve the same effect. Most players (particularly the casual player) will be put off because of the learning curve that exists in these targets. I am rather partial to changing the repair time of the Cannoneer as the overall repair time has been seriously climbing over the last few raid sets. My Apollo fleet for raid was 6 coins (@ 1/2 repair) for repair from dead (that was for the last raid that I added an extra Apollo to the fleet). My HW fleet was 8 until I refit it down to 7 then 6 purposefully because of the stacking issues of the last few raids. The Cannoneer, with ZERO armor is going to be 14. Fourteen. Let me repeat that one more time... FOURTEEN @ 1/2 repair. With no armor. for only 4 hulls. And we have a Harlock Cannoneer coming in the raid as well. I am begging for this to be reviewed. The overall cost to coiners per raid is increasing from this repair creep.
There has to be better communication from the design team to the CM to the player base when things change. A LOT of frustration stemmed from player expectations of the targets and those expectations being wrong. What was communicated to us and what actually was in the target were exceptionally different. In and of itself it likely would have been minimal, but given the 'perfect storm' of events for this cycle, it certainly added fuel to the fire. I would love to see updates as things change, actually, I think everyone would.
Another aspect that I would like to be reviewed is the size of the targets. They seem to get bigger and bigger and more and more time consuming while the raid time does not increase. I think we will soon reach a tipping point with this, though I am unsure where that tipping point is.
Side note rant: Since the new practice has been put in place for the need of niche fleets for progression – raid to chore and making the fleets ‘necessary’ for a year, I would LOVE to see a nice easy way for newer players to get access to these hulls very easily, if not free about 3-4 months after a raid set. Actually maybe less because of build times. This would help retention and engagement and also help bring in new players if current players see an easier path for new players coming in to progress. If players feel relevant in the game quickly, they will become as addicted as we are.
Ok, that's my bitch-fest. I'm sure I could be far more negative or far more apologetic but I tried for a middle ground and an honest view of the issues and possible corrections. Thanks for reading this mental vomit of mine.
As was reported on Specs’ Blog in this post the Dev team is attempting to add something for the new raid to help players that do not have the tech participate in the raid. I have been advocating the absolute necessity of a larger player base engagement for the health of the game for a long time now. I am glad to see that Kixeye has taken a step towards this.
What was reported was that there will be an option to engage previous raid targets through a Campaign type system. The targets will offer raid points at a diminished return. I want to thank the TFC team for this, in particular TSM as I believe he was the one that put this idea forward for implementation.
I hope this is going to be a repeated option in raids. I do worry however, that this may create a secondary tier in players and bar new players from any significant progression. This bolsters, even more, my position that we should have a nice easy way for newer players to get access to these hulls very easily 3-4 months after a raid set.