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ImaginaryNumb3r

Analysis: The problems and implications of player progression

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I know that the devs focus on server stability right now and that the current implementation of player rewards is just a first try of the devs. The current rewards have created different opinions on whether the rewards should be lowered or increased. I bet everybody agrees that player progression is crucial to whether Skylords will succeed or fail in the long run.

First, I don't think the progression system should be changed right now. I want to address the key problems of Battleforge in terms of player progression for a more elaborate discussion. After all, we can only find optimal solutions if we know the exact problems. Also, keep in mind Battleforge was a first try at making an MMORTS in a time when "Free to Play" was a recent invention. EA created a system which forced players to pay for BFP and encouraged players to buy premium items to minimize the grinding.

In contrast, Skylords will be a game that is truly free to play and for the game to succeed we need a big pool of players that lasts for years to come. However, the game is built around the monetization mechanics which have attributed towards its downfall. Former developer "The Black One" once stated that "Battleforge had a good flow of new players, but only few kept playing".

We see that Battleforge had a huge entrance barrier for new people before they could enjoy the game. I think Skylords needs to make further changes to player progression so it can succeed as a free game. My goal is to analyze the current state of Skylords and highlight the still existing problems that exist because of EA's drive towards monetization.

Based on this analysis, I want to name the implications that come with a fast or lower progression rate in future releases of Skylords. I also want to propose what needs to be changed altogether to accomodate for a game that is not only "free to play" but "free to enjoy".

The divide of cooperative and competitive

When creating a reward and progression system we need to keep in mind that we have two very different styles of play: cooperative and competitive. In the last days of BF, the PVE community mostly resolved around speedruns, grinding tokens/gold for upgrades and casual rpve games. On the other hand, competitive play was mostly about 1v1 pvp and some 2v2 pvp.

In BF, PVP is mostly an optional gamemode, while pve is not. However, for a pvp deck you need (expensive) key cards for the meta and upgrades on all cards. Therefore, a pvp deck requires you to grind enough pvp to: afford expensive cards (+ charges), have enough gold to upgrade your cards and a high enough rank to upgrade your ultra-rare cards. This creates a huge entrance barrier for people who are soley interested in the pvp aspect. And for the game, we need our playerbase to be as big as possible so the game survives in the long run.

As for the cooperative scene, we have the problem that pve content is rather scarce. Even a casual player will have finished all pve campaigns within a month. Also, most people don't find rpve very engaging. While pvp players mostly want to play the game, pve players usually play for the game. You perform battleground/campaign missions or quests to improve your card stack, but to what goal? For many people BF is just another game and these people will leave the game soon after finishing the campaign.

The pve players who stay after finishing the campaign are fans who either became collectors, speedrunners or enjoy rpve. Also, competitive play and cooperative play serve two very different stimuli. Therefore, cannot expect that a bulk of pve players suddenly become pvp. Similarly, we cannot expect players with pvp to grind through pve first.

Analyzing the different needs of players

We see there are the following types of players:

  • Casual Players (standard campaign)
  • Competitive Players
  • Collectors

Casual players only play the game for a limited amount of time before leaving for other games. Some will stick around and play with friends, but I don't think we can do much to convert them into permanent player. Potentially, new campaign maps could be added but seem far fetched. I think all we can do is make the other aspects of the game more alluring.

Competitive players need to have a viable deck from the moment they start the game. However, we cannot simply give everybody every card as this would compromise the extended pve aspect of the game. Somehow a solution must be found to decouple pvp from pve progression. Without decoupling, we can only make bad tradeoffs between pvp and pve players. However, I am against a hard divide between pve and pvp players and I think there are overall benefits if pvp players have to do some minimal pve grinding as well. Presumably, pvp players also start off with pve to learn the basics of the game before heading into competitive play.

Collectors are people who actively participate in the extended cooperative play such as Battlegrounds or advanced/export missions even after finishing the campaign. They stick around because they like the mechanics of cooperative play. To make these people play the game regularly, the original BF already added a "daily quest" system. Without the need of monetization we can distribute cards and BFP more freely and we can try to keep casual players with alluring rewards and make them develop a love for the trading card aspect. However, being too generous will diminish the (personal) value of each card and compromise the need for the AH, rpve and advanced/expert missions. I also think that offering a generous list of achievements with unique rewards is beneficiary.

There are also some fringe groups, which I did not add because they don't add significant numbers to the player pool. This includes speedrunners, people who like to fool around with weird decks or team-players (private play with people you know).

 

This post serves as an entry point, I will state my personal suggestions later on. Of course, I invite everybody to state their opinion and own experiences.

Eirias, PorousBoat and Fimion like this

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As the one who sparked the discussion over in the discord, I think there's another important point to be made:

There's a huge difference between "unfair" in PvP vs. "unfair" in PvE. When people play against other people, not feeling like you have the same means of winning as your opponent feels really bad. If you started a chess game with 3 fewer than your opponent because you completed fewer daily quests than them you're not going to feel very good about it. You'll feel like your loss was due to factors you couldn't control rather than skill (even if it was skill).

When I try to bring my friends who like competitive games into this game, they're really hesitant to play it because why would they invest time in this supposedly "cool and unique game" when they could just download dota or buy SC2 for 25€ (both of which are also "cool and unique") and be on equal footing with everyone else right from the get-go?

Sure, it's easy to just say "it's a TCG, man. Grind or go play something else!". Just because you enjoy the grind doesn't mean that other people necessarily have to be subjected to it. Keep in mind that only really dedicated people show their face around the forums - Go around and ask your friends. I think most of the would be more inclined to try the game if the PvP was more accessible. I say all this as someone who plays Magic: The Gathering - A game that's notoriously expensive. So many times have I wished that my entire collection (thousands of euros) would tank to 0.50€ overnight if it meant that I could bring my friends into the game without having to explain to them why spending 400€ on pieces of cardboard "...will be worth it in the end. I promise".

Of course, this isn't as extreme of a case at all. The P2W days of EA are long gone, but as it stands now we're looking at a situation where you might end up being restricted by time instead. I've been having a hard time getting my friends to play by telling them that taking a week or two (possibly more later down the line if the rumors about rewards being boosted right now are true) to even be able to compete with me and other players with good decks "...will be worth it in the end. I promise".

The difference between these two scenarios is that in the case of MtG or old EA Battleforge, they had to bring in the cash. With this project there is no commercial incentive, meaning there's no reason to "paywall" competitive play with a mundane time investment that just involves logging in for an hour to do dailies for a few weeks. The common argument is "Well what about the players who play this game for the trading? Isn't their way to play worth anything?", and while I personally have more than a few bones to pick with treating games like a stock market, I suppose that's valid. My concern is if the entire economy is entirely built around these people, leaving the lot of us who actually want to "play the damn game" getting the short end of the stick.

I don't have a clear solution in mind, I think it'd be arrogant of me to champion a single way to do it. I do however have a rough idea that with some tweaking and tinkering could end up serving as an OK compromise:

What if PvP offered you a "temporary" card pool where all cards where available exclusively for PvP use? If you wanted to use your sick promos you still can, but your deck is never limited by what cards you have or what level they are for PvP use - It's all player skill.

This still leaves progression for PvE as well. I know the feeling of whipping out your first shiny new XL unit on Bad Harvest for the first time as much as the next guy, and I would never want to take that away from any newcomers, but PvP isn't meant to serve as that sort of setting.

I don't mean for this solution to be final. There are definite flaws in it. It just serves as a suggestion to get the conversation going. I just want for everyone to be able to enjoy the unique PvP experience this game offers without having to slave through a bunch of grind for digital pieces of cardboard first. :)

Navarr likes this

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@ImaginaryNumb3r Nice analysis.

This suggestion was made a while ago, but perhaps it bears resurfacing: 

The general idea is to rotate a 100% competitive PvP deck to each player, every week or so. This deck would be like a tutorial deck--it would be locked, you can't modify it, and you can't use the cards in any game mode except when you use the deck as a whole. We'd have a panel of top players decide what decks exist, and we'd include variations (like perhaps 100 decks total, with 2 variations for pure fire, 10 variations for fire nature, etc.). Perhaps the ratio of decks would change depending on popularity and the metagame, but it would essentially be random.

This prevents it from being useful in PvE or from collectors. And it allows PvP players access to play competitively from day 1, while retaining their incentive to get their own cards (even if they end up with exactly the faction they want, they might prefer the cards in a different order for hotkey reasons). 

 

I've been thinking about this problem for a while now, and my proposed solution is the culmination of my analysis. Of course, that doesn't mean a better solution isn't available, but I offer this as a starting place.

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@Eirias

I really like that idea. Only thing I'd want is for there to be more than one each week. It'd be really sad if someone got stuck playing something they hate just because it was the flavor of the week. If you have 2-3 to choose between with the restrictions you proposed I think that strikes a nice balance between maintaining a healthy competitive environment and retaining a sense of progression even in PvP.

It might even serve as a way for for experienced players to play out of their comfort zone without having to invest in a whole new deck.

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@PorousBoat I think those are very valid points. PvP certainly poses different challenges onto a player and the game should address these players and their individual needs. Looking at the challenges of each game mode:

  • PvP: The challenge should come from human-human interaction. Understanding the meta of Battleforge is not easy for many reasons. Understanding Void Power, energy advantages, knowing when to go for T2 or grab a well is difficult at first. On top you have to deal with common combos, know how to play around CC and train your micro (because BF is a micro intense game).
  • PvE: The challenge is less about reacting but more about building a strong deck that grows with the difficulity of the mission. You can do this with specialized decks or upgrading cards. Even when you play casually, you need to leverage your deck as the missions get increasingly demanding.

In a perfect world, we would have an abundance of cards like MTG, have a stable balance in place and players are free to mix and match their decks to fit their individual playstyles (pvp and pve alike). Now, we can't have that because MTG is expensive. And because Skylords cannot ask for money (thankfully!), the only currency this game has is user-time. And as PorousBoat has described user-time is of short supply.

Mind you, Battleforge is primarily an RTS game with customization mechanics which are presented similar to a TCG. As an RTS, the usual rules for balancing and fairness must apply in competitive play. However, we cannot neglect the customization part as it is the diversity that appeals to differnet playstyles and player types. The problem I see with pre-made pvp decks that constantly change is that you have to repeatedly re-learn your deck. I am afraid this could deter people from learning the fundamental of the game first. This is even more problematic since you are probably matches with players who know what they are doing. Furthermore, some decks like pure fire or stonekin appeal to very different playstyles and some decks like shadow or bandits require an incredible amount of in-depth knowledge to play correctly.

Different Formats

@Eirias I think that is a very sensible suggestion of you, but I'd like to expend it a little bit.

Personally, I think the best solution for pvp is to have different formats like MTG. You have a restricted mode and an unrestricted mode. Potentially, a restricted mode would allow you to play only with pre-made decks. While the unrestricted mode is pvp as we know it and should be used for expert players. Continuing this idea, pre-made decks should be kept very simple and promote learning the basics of the game.

You could argue that different formats will disrupt the player base, which I disregard. These formats appeal to different persons and expert players should not be matched with beginners to begin with.

Having these mechanics in place, people can enjoy pvp and pve from the get-go. However, both pve and pvp have a goal to work and the customization aspect of the game is preserved for cooperative and competitive play. The only problem for pvp players is to make the jump from restricted to unrestricted. However, I think once a player wants to leave restricted mode behind he already has amassed a certain amount of cards and upgrades as well as a good understanding of the game itself. Thus, he is well prepared for unrestricted pvp even-though he does not have certain ultra-rares or U3 on all cards. In EA's Battleforge, people with decent decks also participated in (unrestricted) pvp. I believe that players can live with some elements being uneven as long as they can go back to the restricted mode if they feel cheated because a guy had a clearly superior deck.

I also think that by the time a player choses to play unrestricted pvp, he has gathered enough cards to form a nice deck himself.

Personally, I'd advocate for making charges and upgrades to be less significant but I suppose this would be a huge and painstacking undertaking that is out of the question.

Player Progression

In this discussion about player progression we are mostly concerned with AH prices, how fast people are unlocking their dream decks that we forget one thing: Progression is not only about cards. Yes, the original BF only had cards but the game business has evolved beyond having mere content. Honestly, I think achivements are the way to go. They provide another external motivation to play the game and could provide a wide range of rewards. They should be separate from daily (or weekly) quests and provide additional long term goals. This can range from faction specific goals like "kill 100/500/1000/5000 entities with Bandit units". Or serve as tool to promote using different factions, like "build 25/50/100/250 orbs of nature, shadow, fire and frost".

Furthermore, you could also bundle Promo cards to certain achivements. Promo Swamp-Drake could be a reward for winning 250 games where you started a game with Nature. Honestly, making new promo cards should not be difficult. It's just a unit re-texture with some fancy FX. It's something I've done hundrets of times for the game's I've been modding.

I think promo cards can be seen as different versions to "skins" in usual games. I also think that the option for "visual content" should also be explored further if possible.

Overall, I think we can be a bit more generous with card distribution if you set other goals in place that serve as an addition to just "building a deck with the cards you want". After all, you are not just maintainers of Battleforge, you are developers of Skylords - an essentially new game.

Edited by ImaginaryNumb3r
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I am really, really positive to the idea of adding incentives for collectors and "grinders" beyond collecting the cards you actually play with. Promos and achievements are undoubtedly the way to go imo. More promos (possibly died to long-term progression to keep up rarity) is a great way to give both AH-grinders and collectors something shiny to work toward - Whether that something is a blinged-out Dreadcharger or a prestigious badge on your profile.

This approach allows for much more liberal distribution of packs, also resulting in a situation where no one really has any reason to be upset about card prices tanking - There are still expensive mantlepieces to collect or long-term goals to grind for.

I honestly think this beats out any format or "weekly deck" idea as it tackles the root cause of the symptoms either of those solutions would attempt to alleviate.

Another upside to adding "skins" (promos) and milestones/achievements is that it eliminates the risk of any potential feel-bads pertaining to exactly how much each type of player must compromise. Instead everyone just gets to have what they want more or less.

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8 hours ago, PorousBoat said:

@Eirias

I really like that idea. Only thing I'd want is for there to be more than one each week. It'd be really sad if someone got stuck playing something they hate just because it was the flavor of the week. If you have 2-3 to choose between with the restrictions you proposed I think that strikes a nice balance between maintaining a healthy competitive environment and retaining a sense of progression even in PvP.

It might even serve as a way for for experienced players to play out of their comfort zone without having to invest in a whole new deck.

Yeah, there are a lot of variations that might work. For instance, it could be totally random. Or maybe you get a choice of 3 decks each week, and you can choose 1 until the next rotation. Perhaps you get to choose your t1, and then t2 is random. Or maybe it's a kind of draft system, where you get 2/4 options for t1, then 2/4 options for t2, and from there the deck is generated.

Or perhaps you can just rent exactly the deck you want, from the marketplace. Maybe you get one random one, and if it's not the one you want, you can rent whatever you like. 

I kinda lean toward the last option, because even if renting exactly the deck I want removes my need to buy cards on the market, I'd still rather have my own cards to be in the hotkey order I want.

 

7 hours ago, ImaginaryNumb3r said:

Personally, I think the best solution for pvp is to have different formats like MTG. You have a restricted mode and an unrestricted mode. Potentially, a restricted mode would allow you to play only with pre-made decks. While the unrestricted mode is pvp as we know it and should be used for expert players. Continuing this idea, pre-made decks should be kept very simple and promote learning the basics of the game.

You could argue that different formats will disrupt the player base, which I disregard. These formats appeal to different persons and expert players should not be matched with beginners to begin with.

I don't think you should be so quick to disregard this. We have a tiny playerbase for PvP, so anything that splits it up might be bad.

That said, I do think there is room to have some kind of beginner mode PvP, where you only play against beginners, but there would have to be some strict regulations. Somehow top players shouldn't play. Probably the best solution would be to have a high 1-time reward for restricted PvP. As in, you choose a composed deck, your opponent chooses a composed deck, and if you win with your composed deck for the first time, you get a booster. If you choose the same deck again, you get no reward. This would prevent veterans from stomping on new players, while still having a quest-like feel so new players all try it.

I'm not entirely sure that a "restricted PvP" would be much different, or have extra benefits, from unranked pvp though.

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@Eirias I think no matter what, composed decks are a good mechanic to serve pvp. I am not sure how this would be implemented the best way, but I think the tinkering can be done later on.

Lately, I was thinking about a more sophisticated reward and proggression system. So far we've talked about rewards and progression as one topic, but I think they should be separated. I see rewards as a short term motivator, while the progression is a long term motivator. "Progression" can also mean something entirely different to a casual player than it is to a dedicated player.

In general, I think we should consider 3 player types, which concern pvp and pve alike:

  • Casual
  • Regular
  • Dedicated

I'm not going to define these roles and expect everybody to have a firm grasp what these roles mean (to keep it short). 

Player Progression

From personal experience, I'd say the lifespan of a player involves the following aspects:

  1. Gather new cards. To test out new cards and make the best of the cards you currently have.
  2. Enhance your deck. You work towards a deck of your liking and upgrade your first common/uncommon cards.
  3. Harden your deck. You acquire more specialized/exotic cards and apply more charges. You buy U3 upgrades and start upgrading rare cards.
  4. Finalize your deck. U3 on rare cards, upgrading ultra-rare cards.
  5. (Collect). Create decks of different colours and do further experimentation. Achievements should also incentivise playing/collecting different kinds of decks.

Of course, in reality you usually have multiple decks for different purposes. However, you usually have a "core set of cards", which your decks resolve around. This is also just a generalization, but I do think it roughly reflect usual player progression.

Progression Implications

Now, we cannot do anything about the progress (1-5) of a player. We can lower the player rewards so it is more difficult for players to progress, but without a tangible feeling of progression I'm afraid that people feel like they are stuck in the game and are subject to repetitive grinding. I'd greatly advocate that the game employs different mechanics for the following rewards:

  1. Aquiring new cards (enhance your deck)
  2. Upgrade low level cards, meaning U3 on commons/uncommons (harden your deck)
  3. Upgrade high level cards, meaning U3 on rares/ultra-rares. (finalize your deck)

In reality, we already have 3 different resources in the game which apply to the reward mechanics above. Each resource also has its own source of income.

  • BFP from quests and selling boosters
  • Gold from finishing rpve
  • Exp from doing campaign missions

Now, grinding campaign missions for Exp is not a good mechanic. To upgrade ultra-rare cards you must have rank 9/10/11, otherwise you cannot progress. You are subject to an artificial barrier that forces you to grind missions. This is exactly what should be avoided. However, campaign missions must still be included in the lifespan of a player, otherwise content would go to waste.

Also, I am not counting card upgrades which you get from campaign missions, as they aren't reliable. They too should be reworked, but that's another topic.

Progression Suggestion

My primary suggestion is a new resource to upgrade high-level cards. This resource acts as a "premium" resource in addition to the "common" resource, which is gold. Some decks absolutely need upgrades (and especially charges!) on ultra-rare cards to make them viable. This hits pvp and more exotic decks in particular.

Going back to the original BF, I'd reinstall a "token resource" as an additional resource (to clarify, just one type of token). These tokens are be earned at the places where you usually gain lots of exp.

Advantages:

  • No artificial barrier. If you want to upgrade high level cards you can do so by playing the according modes. It is very clear what to do.
  • Tangable feeling of progression. Instead of unlocking all high-level cards at once you upgrade your cards one by one.
  • Better control for the devs. The rewards and requirements of tokens can easily be changed and tweaked.

Possible suggestion for upgrade resources:

  • Common: 125/625/1,250 gold + 0 tokens
  • Uncommon: 375/1,250/2,000 gold + 0/1/2 tokens
  • Rare: 1,000/2,500/5,000 gold + 2/5/7 tokens
  • Ultra-Rare: 2,000/4,750/10,000 gold + 7/9/12

As rewards for tokens, I thought of the following:

  • Missions: 1 for standard, 3 for advanced, 6 for expert.
  • rPvE: 1 token for rpve 9. 3 tokens for rpve 10.
  • PvP: Depending on the rating, but potentially generous.

Of course, this is just a draft, don't take it too literal. But I hope to have given a good insight my thinking why the game could greatly benefit by having a a "common" and a "premium" resource for upgrading. At higher levels of play, gold should be given out in masses so you can upgrade a quantity of low level cards relatively fasts (which promotes trying out new cards).

Tokens are also only a concern for the higher levels of play so we can take different resource balancing into account. Therefore, the devs have direct control over how fast a dedicated player is progressing with finalizing his deck vs. how fast a casual player progresses in enhancing his deck.

On top, pvp should provide a generous amount of Gold and Tokens alike to make it easier to upgrade. Upgrades are most crucual to pvp and this would also provide an incentive to play pvp.

 

This is just covering the progression system. I've also been thinking about some more concrete mechanics for a better reward and achivement system. Depending on the feedback, I'll be making a separate post for this later on. The game has a very rich combination of content and progression mechanics. It would be an utter waste not to exploit all of its aspects.

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Is there a point to even having upgrades as a mechanic in the first place? All you're doing by even having a system like that is grind-checking people no matter how you try to "fix" the system. No other card game that I know of has anything similar to an upgrade system, and for good reason. You already have progression in the game by way of acquiring cards, why make it even worse? One could even argue that upgrades actively detract from the feeling of progression because once you finally buy that Harvester, you realize that it's trash until you get it to U3, which even with your proposed system takes a non-insignificant amount of time. On top of that you still have charge upgrades, which are deceptively time-consuming to collect (3x as time-consuming as getting the deck itself, in fact).

Upgrades are pretty dumb overall. Either give U3 out for free, or remove them and make U3 default. Standard PvE maps will become a bit easier, sure. Who cares? They're already piss-easy as it is.

I don't think you have to worry so much about "incentives" for playing all the content in the game. Hell, if you want incentives, lower daily quest rewards slightly and put a small, but meaningful bfp reward on all game modes that's proportional to the time spent on the map. The anti-AFK system in tandem with time-proportional rewards prevents abuse, and all game modes feel meaningful to play. If someone thinks that std. Encounters With Twilight is the best thing to happen to gaming, they can grind that 50 times a day and get meaningful progression out of it. Why force players to experience content they have no desire to play? Let people play how they want.

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4 hours ago, PorousBoat said:

Is there a point to even having upgrades as a mechanic in the first place? All you're doing by even having a system like that is grind-checking people no matter how you try to "fix" the system. No other card game that I know of has anything similar to an upgrade system, and for good reason. You already have progression in the game by way of acquiring cards, why make it even worse? One could even argue that upgrades actively detract from the feeling of progression because once you finally buy that Harvester, you realize that it's trash until you get it to U3, which even with your proposed system takes a non-insignificant amount of time. On top of that you still have charge upgrades, which are deceptively time-consuming to collect (3x as time-consuming as getting the deck itself, in fact).

Upgrades are pretty dumb overall. Either give U3 out for free, or remove them and make U3 default. Standard PvE maps will become a bit easier, sure. Who cares? They're already piss-easy as it is.

I don't think you have to worry so much about "incentives" for playing all the content in the game. Hell, if you want incentives, lower daily quest rewards slightly and put a small, but meaningful bfp reward on all game modes that's proportional to the time spent on the map. The anti-AFK system in tandem with time-proportional rewards prevents abuse, and all game modes feel meaningful to play. If someone thinks that std. Encounters With Twilight is the best thing to happen to gaming, they can grind that 50 times a day and get meaningful progression out of it. Why force players to experience content they have no desire to play? Let people play how they want.

Without upgrades you completely remove the necessity for rpve. Sure, some'll keep doing it because it can be fun. But in the long term it's just repetitive. I used to play rpve for fun in the original Battleforge, but somehow it's just not as rewarding as it used to be. I also can't spend my time as freely as I could in the past.

I think the incentive should move towards playing different kinds of decks, where the main motivations are bonuses and unique rewards from achievements. However, for this to work more cards need to be viable so the meta doesn't resolve around some must-have cards.

Upgrades should still be part of the game-loop. Still having upgrades would give you three possible motivations to do pvp/rpve/missions: for fun, reaching upgrades and working towards achievements. In general, upgrades are only required for higher-level play and don't affect casual players. Also, upgrades are not necessary for low-level play so it's not a problem having them either. The only part of the game that is affected by upgrades is pvp, but with premade decks this problem would mostly go away as well.

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I'm not sure if you read my entire post. A time-proportional bfp reward lets you play rPvE while still being rewarded for it in a meaningful way. This solves the issue of both card availability and incentives.

I feel like the main goal should be to provide the tools for each player to play the game the way they want, and offering a meaningful reward for every way of playing does that just fine. Having the reward be different for each activity just forces players to play game modes they might not like very much. Basically, I don't see the point of adding a bunch of arbitrary resources when BFP works just fine as a reward. No one will ever complain about getting some more of those, you know?

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On 10/28/2018 at 6:37 PM, ImaginaryNumb3r said:

Without upgrades you completely remove the necessity for rpve. Sure, some'll keep doing it because it can be fun. But in the long term it's just repetitive. I used to play rpve for fun in the original Battleforge, but somehow it's just not as rewarding as it used to be. I also can't spend my time as freely as I could in the past.

I think the incentive should move towards playing different kinds of decks, where the main motivations are bonuses and unique rewards from achievements. However, for this to work more cards need to be viable so the meta doesn't resolve around some must-have cards.

Upgrades should still be part of the game-loop. Still having upgrades would give you three possible motivations to do pvp/rpve/missions: for fun, reaching upgrades and working towards achievements. In general, upgrades are only required for higher-level play and don't affect casual players. Also, upgrades are not necessary for low-level play so it's not a problem having them either. The only part of the game that is affected by upgrades is pvp, but with premade decks this problem would mostly go away as well.

If I remember correctly the "card upgrade" mechanic was included into the game by Phenomic to justify the large amount of common cards (and number of cards in general) in booster packs. This was mostly to satisfy the "collect cards" urge from players and to prevent thousands of unusable duplicate cards in player accounts. Since BF is f2p now it's a good question whether these grinding mechanics are necessary or not. I think removing those weird tokens was a step in the correct direction.

When talking of rpve was included in the game to allow more grinding for upgrades since the token balance was weird and you ended up with lots of unusable tokens in pvp.

So, yea, the sole purpose of rpve vanishes when upgrades are gone, because that's what rpve was created for. On the other hand if rpve gives some bfp depending on difficulty (And with a declining amount the more games are played consecutively) this would fix itself.

The issue that I see is that the campaigns and missions are not that "great" to be played over and over again just for their storyline, especially not on the hard difficulties. So with removing upgrades you remove a vital reward mechanic for the pve part of this game. PVP would profit from this move though. Not having full upgrades is pretty limiting. Maybe it's an idea to put all cards at U3 per default but additional card purchases are necessary to increase the charges. This way it's still necessary to have multiple cards, but it's less unfair in pvp.

The idea of having pvp rotational decks is cool aswell. Helps players with getting to know the game.

The thing that bothers me the most is that many decks lack variation in terms of unit and spell usage. I mean even though the game has like 400 cards (or even more?) the amount of "viable" cards is relatively low. This makes many pvp decks pretty predictable. Even if you have many different splashes ranging from different starting orbs over pure/mixed decks the units themselves are the same and there are only a handfull of options that are truly viable - and that's the case from day 1. I still remember the day when they made War Eagles require pure frost. Before that the game was just centered around War Eagles. Other units like Night Crawlers or Assassins are present since ever. etc etc.

Of course not all cards are designed or playable as pvp cards, but many could become viable with a couple tweaks. Having a stale meta for years is not good for the playerbase, because newer players are stomped by the experienced ones and leave in frustration. Some will learn, but this is only a small percentage.

Edited by DarcReaver

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@ImaginaryNumb3r I agree with your progression system. Nothing to add, far better than anything I could come up with.

On 10/28/2018 at 8:21 AM, PorousBoat said:

Upgrades are pretty dumb overall. Either give U3 out for free, or remove them and make U3 default. Standard PvE maps will become a bit easier, sure. Who cares? They're already piss-easy as it is.

This is a whole other topic, widely debated and possibly the most-replied to thread on the forums (well, productive thread where people actually theorize). That monstrous thread has even spawned half a dozen other threads.

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18 hours ago, DarcReaver said:

If I remember correctly the "card upgrade" mechanic was included into the game by Phenomic to justify the large amount of common cards (and number of cards in general) in booster packs. This was mostly to satisfy the "collect cards" urge from players and to prevent thousands of unusable duplicate cards in player accounts. Since BF is f2p now it's a good question whether these grinding mechanics are necessary or not. I think removing those weird tokens was a step in the correct direction.

When talking of rpve was included in the game to allow more grinding for upgrades since the token balance was weird and you ended up with lots of unusable tokens in pvp.

So, yea, the sole purpose of rpve vanishes when upgrades are gone, because that's what rpve was created for. On the other hand if rpve gives some bfp depending on difficulty (And with a declining amount the more games are played consecutively) this would fix itself.

The issue that I see is that the campaigns and missions are not that "great" to be played over and over again just for their storyline, especially not on the hard difficulties. So with removing upgrades you remove a vital reward mechanic for the pve part of this game. PVP would profit from this move though. Not having full upgrades is pretty limiting. Maybe it's an idea to put all cards at U3 per default but additional card purchases are necessary to increase the charges. This way it's still necessary to have multiple cards, but it's less unfair in pvp.

The idea of having pvp rotational decks is cool aswell. Helps players with getting to know the game.

The thing that bothers me the most is that many decks lack variation in terms of unit and spell usage. I mean even though the game has like 400 cards (or even more?) the amount of "viable" cards is relatively low. This makes many pvp decks pretty predictable. Even if you have many different splashes ranging from different starting orbs over pure/mixed decks the units themselves are the same and there are only a handfull of options that are truly viable - and that's the case from day 1. I still remember the day when they made War Eagles require pure frost. Before that the game was just centered around War Eagles. Other units like Night Crawlers or Assassins are present since ever. etc etc.

Of course not all cards are designed or playable as pvp cards, but many could become viable with a couple tweaks. Having a stale meta for years is not good for the playerbase, because newer players are stomped by the experienced ones and leave in frustration. Some will learn, but this is only a small percentage.

@DarcReaver I think we agree that tedious grinding must not be a requirement to play the game. Personally, I like playing rpve occassionally because it's quick to do and getting some rewards is a nice motivator for daily quests. Without it, I had left the game right after I finished the campaign, as there is little point in creating a deck that you don't end up using since you know the campaign already.

Most games nowadays feature a "leveling system", and upgrades are no different to that. On one side, it has almost became an expected mechanic for new players and on the other hand it is a good motivator to keep playing, especially with additional rewards such as quests or achievements. Unfortunately, upgrades are the closest mechanic we got in regards to a leveling/progression system as collecting cards itself is only a shallow feature. I also don't think that upgrades are terrible as a mechanic, it only becomes tedious once you are forced to do repetitive grinding. As I said in the introductory post, the progression system and the game itself was a consequence of the time it was released in + corporate need for naive monetization.

You just absolutely need to have some kind of "subjective progression" in place and collection cards just doesn't cut it. Which is what this thread is about. If the game was only about cards, there is literally nothing left to do once you are done creating 2-3 interesting colour combinations.

A core problem is that, at the end of the day Battleforge has very little content. Even pvp combat in itself is somewhat shallow compared to other RTS games that are around. I see random generated content as one of the most promising aspects for the future of the game. This exceeds the notion of "Battlegrounds" and could potentially result in tower defense missions with random encounters/map elements, escort missions, objective based random maps or an attack/defend game mode that is built around waves.

Also, you are absolutely right that, in reality, Battleforge gets nowhere close to the 400 potential cards that it has. There are a few "must have" cards, several strong ones and many that are just "ok". However, the bulk of cards will never be in a deck because they are too situational, too weak or utterly redundant. Improved balancing absolutely is something from which the game would benefit tremendously (pvp and pve alike). But both, balance and upgrades are topics for other threads, ultimately this topic is about player progression.

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I'm not quite sure why some of you seem so keen on forcing all game modes to have a "reason" to play them. Shouldn't it always be up to the player if they want to play a certain game mode or not? Making certain rewards exclusive to certain game modes doesn't really make sense to me - If they're so boring/uninteresting/whatever (I don't really think they are, but that's the assumption), why make players slog through them for no reason? A hardcore PvE player most likely has no interest in clearing the entire campaign. Same goes for a speedrunner who literally couldn't care less about PvP.

I say we reward players for doing anything. A reward proportional to playtime more or less solves that. If a player wants to grind for 12 hours a day, they'll be rewarded for 12 hours a day. If they only want to do their dailies and a mission or two (in their game mode of choice because they're playing this game for fun), they'll get a smaller reward to reward that as well. Don't strictly associate one reward with one game mode (like it is now with upgrades, for instance).

If we want to keep players logging in and playing, forcing them to do things they find cumbersome is not a very good way to do that. Rewarding them for plaything their way is what I believe to be the best solution.

That said, the reward doesn't have to be strictly in bfp. I just used that because it's the most "universal" currency.

Edited by PorousBoat
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14 hours ago, PorousBoat said:

I'm not quite sure why some of you seem so keen on forcing all game modes to have a "reason" to play them. Shouldn't it always be up to the player if they want to play a certain game mode or not? Making certain rewards exclusive to certain game modes doesn't really make sense to me - If they're so boring/uninteresting/whatever (I don't really think they are, but that's the assumption), why make players slog through them for no reason? A hardcore PvE player most likely has no interest in clearing the entire campaign. Same goes for a speedrunner who literally couldn't care less about PvP.

 I say we reward players for doing anything. A reward proportional to playtime more or less solves that. If a player wants to grind for 12 hours a day, they'll be rewarded for 12 hours a day. If they only want to do their dailies and a mission or two (in their game mode of choice because they're playing this game for fun), they'll get a smaller reward to reward that as well. Don't strictly associate one reward with one game mode (like it is now with upgrades, for instance).

If we want to keep players logging in and playing, forcing them to do things they find cumbersome is not a very good way to do that. Rewarding them for plaything their way is what I believe to be the best solution.

 That said, the reward doesn't have to be strictly in bfp. I just used that because it's the most "universal" currency.

I am not sure if I was clear enough with my explanation, in fact I am strictly against splitting rewards between game modes. My agenda was to have the two pve modes (missions/rpve) have differently resource distribution. If we go into this, we should also see this from two perspectives: "Playing for fun" and "playing for rewards".

If you play for fun, rewards are secondary and you just play to test a deck/enjoy yourself. One game mode shouldn't be clearly superior to the other one, as this potentially lowers your motivation to play what you want (I assume that was what you were afraid of?). What I wanted to address was "playing for rewards", since with just one upgrade resource you always have one game mode that is more efficient than the other mode. Which is exactly the current situation where grinding rpve is pretty much the only way to upgrade your deck to higher levels.

This was why I suggested 2 upgrade resources with different purposes. Therefore, different game modes can utilize a different distribution of resources so one game mode does not become clearly superior to the other if you are just in for the grind. And if you are doing grinding, it is nice to have some variety in what you are doing. Again, this should not affect "fun play". The only constant in rewards should be that more difficult tasks should be more rewarding.

Starting with medium difficulties you are always rewarded with two resources anyway. So, you are always rewarded with both resources anyway and if you want to grind just one game mode, you can do that as well.

But my reasoning for two resources goes deeper. First, there is a difference weather you want to try out a completely new deck or "finish" upgrading a high level deck. If you already have a good deck, making another decent one should not be a chore. Players should be encouraged to make decks with different colour combinations, which requires consecutive decks to be easier to achieve. Therefore, making a new "decent" deck should be achievable in very reasonable time. Now, if we take into account that the bulk of most decks consist of commons/uncommons, these low-tier cards should be relatively easy to upgrade. Low-tier cards only cost gold, which should be awarded somewhat generously.

The more challenging part of turning a "decent" (deck level 45-70) deck into a nearly finished one (level 100+). 

I also agree that clearing the whole campaign is kinda pointless. The story is scattered and in the end, you are left with nothing more than the start. Some missions are really nice, especially 2 player missions on expert, but those are exceptions. I havent had the time to talk about achievements, but clearing the campaign on standard/advanced/expert should yield you some generous rewards. Especially clearing the campaign on expert requires some true dedication that absolutely needs to be rewarded. This also applies to other kinds of dedication, but achievements should also promote trying out new combintions/colours.

In the end, the most content of the game is hidden in the cards and any progress/reward/motivational system must resolve around trying new things. Of course, this also requires changes to balancing (as mentioned, it are mostly some key and core cards which deck building is reolved around).

This split in resource is also psychologically motivated. Because even if you are grinding for the premium upgrade resource (I call them tokens, but it could be anything) you still get some gold, that potentially encourages upgrading other cards which could promote experimentation with different cards/colours. And from the perspective of the devs, seperate resources allows for better income balance and fine tuning. And since new players are mostly concerned with gold, while (supposedly) regular/hardcore players are more interested in tokens the devs have a good mechanism for control to control the rewards for either groups independently.

On top of that, I truely would like to get rid of the level restriction for upgrading high level cards on ultra rares. Getting EXP is an obnoxious process that mostly resolves around grinding Bad Harvest (with people who potentially have no idea what they are doing), or just playing rpve 24/7. I think a premium resource that is directly awarded instead of a hard-limit for high-tier cards is a more tangable approach for subjective player progression. Higher player levels should should award you with rewards for being a dedicated player. They shouldnt serve as hard limits to upgrade cards that a deck could absolutely depend on.

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I agree completely on the level restrictions for upgrades. They really are just a truly meaningless time-check that, like you said, forces you to play Bad Harvest X amount of times.

While I do understand where you're coming from on the other points, I think my take on it is that if we're making the player grind, they should be equally rewarded no matter what they grind. 5 hours of playtime is still 5 hours of playtime, you know? Like you said, variety is really nice when grinding, and if we let the player pick that variety themselves, the problem solves itself.

I guess the bottom line is to tie the rewards to playtime rather than completion. Of course, you could balance it within in that game mode. So a higher diff of rPvE gives higher per-minute rewards than a lower one, and a std. campaign map gives less rewards per-minute than an expert one. To tie this together, 2 hours spent on rPvE should always give (close to) the same reward as playing a campaign map on an equivalent difficulty. This is of course something that's a little hard to balance, but with enough data and time I'm certain it's not impossible.

In addition to this I'd also like to see those achievements we discussed earlier for long-term goals and rewarding things like clearing the entire campaign on expert. I think that's a great idea.

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I think they must balance the grinding between rpve/campaign and doing multiplayer matches should reward more to encourage teamplay insted of solo grinding. Also i am not so glad that they removed the token system dont't get me wrong less grinding is ok but , right now with gold u can upgrade all your units without doing a single campaign and i think that's bad... new players must experience the storyline and teamplay. Now if u have just 2 deck (one for pvp and one for rpve) and it's fully upgraded u are done with the game but forcing to play campagin to get specific upgrade cards for your deck will open up more game experience , for example instead of having just 1 rpve deck for goldfarm u should have more deck with mixed cards for specific campagins since some of the requies more defense/offense cards etc... right now noeone using defensive buildings cuz why they should? rpve not needs them and this is bad.... the complete rpve is so... it's just faster and easier..... than make campaign drop gold too or make rpve drop random upgrade cards compared it's level.....

Edited by Szatesz
duplicated line

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I'm not trying to defend locking upgrades behind player exp but wasn't there a pvp level as well? I remember having a blue pve badge and a bronze or silver pvp one. Could that be used to unlock card upgrades?

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Make everything free! You should not spend that much time playing and earning BS bfps and gold. Make free at least PVP deck, i personally do not care about PVE. I have been playing Bf at least 5 years, but like other busy people i do not have time to waste on BS )

 

 

Thats my opinion

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