Winter State of Game
By: George Argyropoulos
The Winter State of Game is out and it's a doozy! I'll go over it and throw in my thoughts here and there and everywhere. I'm going to combine the in-game SotG with the Forum posting and make some educated guesses in a few places. Ready? Let's go! (Kixeye release info is in Green so you can skim or skip it if you've read them all.)
Return of the 4 Month Raid Cycle :
- Return of the 4 Month Cycle: We're slowing down the pace in 2018 -- instead of four event cycles in the year, we're moving to 3. Garrison targets move exclusively to the FM cycle, with periodic updates through the year to keep things interesting and new Garrison prizes in each cycle’s raid. The 3 cycles are Siege from January - April, Assault from May - August, and Skirmish from September on.
- In 2017 we took our 4 target types (Siege, Garrison, Assault, and Skirmish) and gave them their own 3 month raid cycle. As we progressed through each cycle, we learned that some target types are easier to transition into than others. Further, instead of creating another three month cycle where you did nothing but Garrison combat, we are moving Garrison into its own Forsaken Mission cycle. This means Garrison is now officially outside of the raid structure (more on this below). Finally, we’re expanding the length of each of the three remaining raid cycles to 4 months, similar to the pace we had in 2016.
Siege now runs from January to April, Assault now runs from May to August, and Skirmish is September on. The new Garrison cycle begins in March, and runs offset from the regular raid cycle to ease pressure on shipyards, every four months as well.
The basic structure remains the same: The hull, weapon, and special are earnable, then the flagship. After the flagship we then offer some optional escalations. Along the way we are re-introducing the concept of refittable TacMods, in the form of a specialized “battle bridge” structure on your hull called a “CIC” (Combat Information Center).
Each CIC promotes the styles of gameplay the hull is best at and allows you to create specialized fleets. Examples include the Forsaken (Auto) hull getting a series of defensive bonuses from its matched CIC (Impact CIC), whereas the Draconian (Skill) hull will get a series of utility bonuses from their matched CICs (Mercy and Capacitor CICs). CICs have limited ability to be used on other hulls, and there will be multiple CICs for each cycle hull. CICs are tuned for refitting, allowing you to shift your fleet specializations around as needed.
This is all made possible with our expanded cycle time of 4 months. We will be posting a hull lifecycle plan shortly as well as a longer explanation of CIC TacMods.
So there is a whole bunch going on here. Let's break it down.
Raids will now go back to a 4 month cycle. On its face, this seems fantastic as it will give us a little more time to build for the raids and possibly get some better value on the pain in the ass escalation items that seem to be the new norm. I'm still not a fan.
What we have to see though is how this plays out with regard to build times, target escalation, number of targets, seat time for the raid and above all else- how this is going to interact with the FM coming out of the raid cycle and going into its own cycle overlapping the raid cycle. I am a little concerned that there will be some increased pressure with regard to builds/refits given the escalation releases and the timing of the FM cycle changes, particularly with Kixeye admitting that there are cycles that are harder to transition into. The layout looks like this:
Siege : Jan-April
Assault : May-Aug
Skirmish : Sept-Dec
FM cycle changes: March, July, Nov (the release notes state Oct, but that isn't quarterly)
There is also an addition in there about a CIC (Combat Information Center). While it is named an 'information' center, the description is that of a Tactical Module. Given my concern about build and refit times, I am REALLY concerned about this one because the notes specifically reference that. To wit: CICs are tuned for refitting, allowing you to shift your fleet specializations around as needed. That makes me very leery, that said...
The CIC idea does sound like an interesting concept and may bring back a bit of the freedom we lost in build design adding some depth to our build options. Given the little hint of some of the names (Mercy and Capacitor CIC) it may be a very interesting add-on, however, I again lean back to build times. Players are already frustrated with build and refit times, particularly when fine-tuning. Adding yet another dimension to that is going to cause an issue. So long as this doesn't turn into a multi-faceted, overly complex system like the Voltron fleet did, and build times overall on the PvE side are addressed, this sound like it could be very interesting. I believe this is one of those things wherein it can be done very well and add some fun into the game, or it can be screwed and completely wreck the game. Honestly, I think I'd rather see this introduced on the PvP side first since players familiar with PvP are already familiar with 'odd' mechanics. We have the Prideful affect there already, the range stack of the Sloths, the stacking auras of the Voltron fleet, etc. As I said, sounds cool, but I'd like to see this elsewhere before we start messing with FM and Raid fleets.
Of note here: "...and new Garrison prizes in each cycle’s raid.". Given the position of the FM in the game, I really, really hope that the prize costs associated with the FM prizes that will be offered in the raids are going to be low and very reasonable- and also available in the FM immediately thereafter. Considering that we will likely have the continuing limited item costs and 'regular' new items in the raid, the addition of FM items in the raids will add even more pressure onto players in an already time abridged format.
Garrison Becomes the FM Cycle :
There was a lot of feedback that a dedicated Garrison event cycle at the same time as weekly FM play was not fun (“Three months of nothing but mortars” as one player put it). We will remove the Garrison from the raid cycle and place Garrison on it’s own “FM cycle.” Garrison hulls and gear will remain available in the Event as prizes.
Garrison can be some of the most fun targets in Battle Pirates. The “mostly buildings, sometimes ships” gameplay works at most range and weapon types. But Garrison also suffers the most when the targets don’t change for months on end. So our solution is to spice up Garrison every four months and offer specialist hulls for new top targets.
The Garrison/FM cycle begins in March and updates every three months (March, July, October), offset from the regular Event cycle to reduce pressure on the shipyards. Just like with the regular raid cycle, we will be phasing out top targets and bringing in new ones throughout each cycle. During this new cycle we will offer one new T7 hull, weapon, special, and CIC battle bridge that is optimized toward these new top targets.
The goal is to promote more variety of Garrison gameplay and provide a set of T7 tools to attack them. Because of this, we’re committed to maintaining all three hulls (codenamed “Xavier, Ygritte, and Zaphod”) as viable throughout the year.
If you choose to invest in each new hull that comes through, you will find your ships optimized for the newest targets. The FM is about efficiency when you do it week after week, so our goal with Garrison in 2018 is to provide higher efficiency as the goal in the newest targets. In most targets the newest hulls will play the fastest. Your older T7 Garrison hulls will work as well, just not as efficiently.
Thanks to CICs, we expect smart players to find a way to mix and match their battle bridges to create surprising Garrison hybrid fleets. Since we are committed to all Garrison T7 hulls being viable throughout the year, this is an expected outcome of this new cycle!
Well... this is... interesting. I don't really recall "...a lot of feedback that a dedicated Garrison event cycle at the same time as weekly FM play was not fun", what I personally recall was that there was a large amount of Garrison TLCs following immediately on the heels of the Garrison raid concurrent with an early change to the FM. Perspectives vary I guess.
I'm not sure how I feel about this one exactly because I think much of how this will play out is going to rely heavily on the build times and the CIC thing. Given the timetable, unless build times actually come down for the top end hulls and items, I foresee problems. The FM/Garrison change is, on its face, going to necessitate an additional 2 fleet changes in the year versus the previous set-up, unless the CIC thing is going to achieve that through very quick refits. Side note:Use the full name for the hull. Zaphod Beeblebrox just sounds cool. Better than Ygritte. ;)
IF, big if, this allows for more subtle tuning of the FM from change-to-change, this has the potential to be very good for the game. IF, however, we see the huge swing in change like we just saw in the FM every 4 months... this is going to suck. That's as plain as I can make that.
I'm hoping this change doesn't add another feeling of 'raid time' to the game. I do like the fact that they are setting the cycle offset of the raid cycles, but again, I need to see how this plays out. It could mean that we can manage our shipyard time better, or, it could mean a LOT of stress on the available build time for our fleets. Given the overall reduced payouts of build tokens, I really hope it is the former rather than the latter which would exacerbate the token situation that currently has many a player pissed off. I am cautiously optimistic for now.
Edit: I guess I wasn't clear about why, even with my concerns, I was cautiously optimistic. It is because of this: There are three hulls that, at least by the notes, will be doled out over the three iterations. One is a Forsaken hull (auto), one a Draconian (skill) and I'm guessing the third is a Generalist. If the formatting idea remains the same, we should be able to just concentrate on one and focus on the CICs... at least that's the way the notes read. Since all we got was a tease, we have no idea how many of what we'll need as the quarter turns. I want more info.
Expeditions Embarking Soon!
- Expeditions Embarking Soon: Expeditions provide automated resource gathering. Choose an Expedition, assign a fleet, and fight a single battle to set the resource gathering in motion. How you do in the target determines how quickly you get the resources -- shoot for the best run you can get, just like in Blitz. Periodically your fleet will return to drop off resources and then leave to gather more without any further action from you. When your fleet is recalled or finishes its Expedition, it returns fully repaired.
- When we sat down to look at reducing the amount of time you spend gaining advanced resources (Uranium, Titanium, and Base Parts), we realized that the best way to reward expert players was not to ask them to do the same combat many times, but to give many results from the same single combat. We also wanted to remove repair from being a limiting factor on resource gain. Basically, we wanted to find a way to create “Resource Blitz” without requiring coin.
Enter Expeditions. Select one of the three resources. Then select a fleet to go get that resource. Then fight a single battle for that resource. Based on how well you do, a cycle time will be set for you to get that resource. Without any further action, your fleet will automatically go back and forth, collecting that resource (off map) and returning it on schedule.
Your Expedition fleet will continue to do this automatically: leaving for a set amount of time based on your combat performance in the target and then returning with the resource. The fleet will continue gathering that resource until you recall the fleet or an overall resource timer ends.
When the fleet is recalled or the overall timer ends it is available immediately and fully repaired for your use.
Players may choose to unlock more than one slot for each Expedition resource, embarking multiple fleets to gather resources. However, there is a catch -- each time a fleet drops off resources, the total amount of resource per trip decreases.
The goal is to give all players a basic, easy-to-understand system for automatically gaining resources, and also to give those of you who want a little more strategy and complexity the option of managing multiple fleets at once.
Look for a video and write-up on the forums explaining Expeditions and the strategies behind automated resource gathering.
Well... this is interesting. This is where I am going to have to extrapolate and guess. There are several things alluded to in this release and we'll have to take it one at a time.
You apparently fight one battle to 'set' your gathering ability. It looks like they are flipping the script a little here and taking the blitz idea and molding it into something new that doesn't require coins. I like this. Much better than their previous idea of coin blitzing resources. The main 2 questions I have here is this: Given the issues with lag and memory leakage in the game, do you have the opportunity to retreat and re-do the reference battle, or are you stuck with a one-and-done? Are there going to be targets tuned for each meta hull-set? For example, the Fang and the Hunter? Do you have to repair the fleet before it embarks on the expedition?
On a very positive side- this goes on automatically and you aren't tied to your computer for hours doing chores. Hopefully this means you can get on and actually play the aspect of the game you want and be able to engage in the social aspect of the game more since you won't be concentrating on driving inanely complicated chore targets.
The next thing we see is that the fleet you choose to do this looks like it is going to be tied up on, essentially, a mining run. Do we have to stop the run to have access to the fleet if we need it for a TLC? (I'm assuming yes because of the mention of recalling the fleet.) Can we resume gathering if we need to stop at some point? How long is the 'Expedition'?
The unlocking of another slot is interesting. Do we really want both fleets tied up? Maybe. Are the 'reference' targets evenly balanced for both meta fleets? What is it going to cost to unlock the slot? Res or coin? This will be interesting and if coin will be even moreso to see what value we get for said coin.
"...each time a fleet drops off resources, the total amount of resource per trip decreases." This little tidbit is very interesting indeed. It sounds like they have incorporated diminishing returns on the resource gathering. I'm not sure exactly how that will play out, but I hope that it doesn't diminish to the point where you have the fleet out gathering a pittance making it a fruitless endeavor. If it gets low enough wherein doing the map targets is more productive, the whole concept goes out the window. It would seem much easier to have just designed targets that players could just auto for a reasonable amount of damage and either slow repair overnight or -gasp- coin reasonable repairs. The raid targets were supposed to be tuned down for the map... but never were.
The flip side of this is that it seems as though this reinforces the idea that we have to build both fleets in order to excel and enjoy all aspects of the game without suffering punitively. Something that Kixeye has vehemently denied in the past (ok, context: vehemently has been mostly on the forums through the old CM, a mod or two and very much by some very vociferous players). This addition seems to wholly contradict that position.
I look forward to the post and possibly the video, but I do have to elucidate a particular point - this is coming about to correct an issue that was Kixeye's own doing. I hope they keep that point in their minds as they balance and finish this new addition to the game and ensure that the players are not penalized in any way for an issue that they had no control over.
Lower Weapon Build Times :
- Lower Weapon Build Times: Starting with this release we will be setting all pre-T6 weapons to a lower build time to allow you to finish your fleets much quicker. Further, T1-4 Research weapons have had their build times cut by a large amount to promote early-gameplay.
To promote newer players, we also cut build times to the bone for Research weapons, giving players in that area of the game a considerable leg-up to get to the mid-game quicker. Early game blueprints will use the new formula but not be so dramatically reduced.
I love this for the lower players, however, it is not nearly enough. I don't mean that in an accusatory or confrontational way, it's just that the game has progressed in such a way that new and very low players (and absolutely returning players) need to be brought to a point in the game where they can feel relevant in the game, have access to many aspects of the game, not feel useless or trapped and see the light at the end of the tunnel rather than have a feeling of hopelessness. Given the rest of the release, I was hoping to see a reduction game-wide with a heavy hand on the lower tech tree items, including hull build and repair time. Time will tell I guess. Perhaps Kixeye can start running old TLCs (NOT ramped up versions) for old chore fleets and/or offer them in TLOs for a reasonable price. Not $100 for an Ironclad or Cannoneer fleet but $5 or $10 for the fleet (since the builds are always sub-par and will require refitting et al).
I hope this was a quick overview and I hope it opens some discussion up prior to releases so that Kixeye can see what concerns the community has before these hit the game.