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Sunbridge - Discussion Thread


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Responsible members of the Skylords Reborn team recently met to discuss possible changes to campaign maps. What is outlined here are the proposed changes to the map Sunbridge. These changes are not final and are only proposed. As a warning, other map projects such as more RPvE presets and Defensive RPvE have a much higher priority for our team. As such, these, or any campaign map changes, may not happen for a very long time. 

Some changes here are firmer than others, all italicized proposals have accompanying explanations for why we are considering them, but they are the most tentative of all the proposals.

Proposed Changes:

1.   Make changes to the Switching Mechanic to not allow it to be swapped every 30 seconds and thus avoid any incoming waves.

2.   Fix the gate buckling interrupting attack waves

3.   In the first major attack wave, change the Twilight Dragon to an Abomination.

4.   Make the boss battle harder.

If you exploit the gate switch mechanic, Sunbridge is one of the easiest expert maps in the game. If you don’t, the map becomes one of the hardest maps in the game. One of the reasons so many players use the gate switch exploit is because they feel the map is unfair otherwise, and that is hardly surprising when you have to defend against a Twilight Dragon, one of the hardest standard enemies in the game, with your T2. We would like to end the exploit while simultaneously toning down the first major attack wave by replacing the Twilight Dragon with an Abomination. While still being very strong, an Abomination is a ground unit and susceptible to CC, meaning it should be substantially easier to defeat with only T2. Additionally, right now the attack waves are often more difficult than the actual boss, Mora. We would like to remedy that by increasing Mora’s encounter difficulty, potentially by allowing Twilight Dragons to spawn during the fight.

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I think there are various signs that maps have issues with either being unintuitive or uniquely vulnerable.

One such sign is when commonly advised tactics consist of outlier cards as crutches to easily overcome hurdles. These influence the progression in a round so heavily that runs with or without them become incomparable.

Another sign can be that people avoid interacting with certain aspects of a map entirely and instead circumvent them.

When the argument is that expert should be hard, then it completely undermines that point when those maps are rather broken in two. An expert map with half the enemies missing/not spawning or lots of its content not being engaged with no longer has a claim on being expert difficulty.

However, as initially mentioned, when expert maps are unclear, sometimes on top of being hard, then the entire thing is running into major approachability issues. Which in turn make players feel like they have to employ some exploit or meta strat, which curbs the creative process.

A big factor is also how easy a tactic that trivializes a map is to execute as well as how widespread it is. High-execution strats that are generally unsuitable or unknown for the broader playerbase don’t warp a map on a major scale. Meanwhile, low-execution tactics degenerate to “cheese strats” and make the content feel lame and unappealing.

It also creates the issue that people come to rely on meta strats and exploits to the point where even thinking about alternatives becomes unappealing. The perceived power gap between the established default strat and whatever they might come up with seems so big that it feels futile to even attempt something else.

The oppressiveness of meta strats and exploits erodes maps in multiple ways, effectively leading to a much shallower experience.

So I want to first look at what issues a map has. Then why they might occur and what parts of the map are getting undermined. Afterwards spitball some ideas on how these issues could be addressed. And finally various elements that could be changed to make these maps more approachable from different angles. Can also be possible compensation nerfs to maps in response to fixes that make them harder.

Main Issue:
The instant gate-switch exploit undermines the maps difficulty completely, making it arguably easier than the standard-variant. It is low-execution and has a drastic effect.

At the same time letting the gates break prevents incoming waves from building up any significant power.

Context:
As noted, the main reason why the exploit is used so heavily is just the immense pressure the attacking waves build up. Including really powerful anti-player mechanics like card-blockers and Twilight Dragons.

Clicking the gate every 30 seconds is not an execution heavy, intense strategy that elevates gameplay. It's a chore.

Letting the gate break is what the player is supposed to avoid because the resulting downside is that both sides have to defend against incomes.

But handling the gates correctly and responsibly, i.e. in the way the game tells the player to and letting one side defend the waves while the other progresses, is in fact the LEAST rewarding strategy.

The game should never lie to the player so that it turns out not completing objectives as intended is more beneficial than doing so.

Fix:
Adjust the switch-timer so it can no longer be used to prevent waves from attacking.

If the gate breaks, the waves hitting both sides progressively increase in power as they normally would with gate switching.

Approachability:
As noted, replace at least one Twilight Dragon with an Abomination. Nobody will spontaneously fall into a boredom-coma and auto-win the map because the very first big wave doesn’t have a Twilight Dragon anymore.

Adjust the appearance of card-blockers. Not being able to use any abilities or play out new cards in an important area is an extraordinarily powerful effect against players. Pushing these back a bit would leave more opportunities to react to incoming waves.

Adjust income spawns so that the ideal time to switch the gate is around the time it starts to buckle and the in-game callout happens. This is the most natural and intuitive time for players to switch as the game explicitly states it and should be rewarded.

Adjust well placement on the east side. While west can take two wells in total safety the east has to clear big hurdles first, leaving it at an economical disadvantage.

Edited by Cocofang
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  • 8 months later...

I'm not sure if making the incoming attacks less hard is really needed. Many players think the incoming is too hard because they only use the gate exploit but forget it one time and then face the dragon. But they don't realize that by using the gate as soon as possible they also increased the attack size faster. So if you use the gate in the last few seconds every time it takes a lot longer before the attacks get harder and it is actually really doable. 

So my suggested solution would be to change the gate to a scripted switch at the interval of the current timer where it becomes impossible for a player to use the gate control themselves so they can't mess it up. Another solution could be to increase the cool down of the gate switch so that you can only use it like 60 seconds before the timer ends. 

I'm also not sure about adjusting the well placement. It is true that getting one well is harder on the east side, but this is compensated because there is a tower less at t3. By adjusting this both sides would become almost the same while it actually is nice that both sides currently are not fully identical which enables different strategies to be possible at different sides (for example take t3 orb before t2 orb on the east side). 

 

Here is a replay in which the gate is not abused and a replay where the gates were not used: 

 

Edited by MephistoRoss
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1 hour ago, MephistoRoss said:

I'm not sure if making the incoming attacks less hard is really needed. Many players think the incoming is too hard because they only use the gate exploit but forget it one time and then face the dragon. But they don't realize that by using the gate as soon as possible they also increased the attack size faster. So if you use the gate in the last few seconds every time it takes a lot longer before the attacks get harder and it is actually really doable. 

So my suggested solution would be to change the gate to a scripted switch at the interval of the current timer where it becomes impossible for a player to use the gate control themselves so they can't mess it up. Another solution could be to increase the cool down of the gate switch so that you can only use it like 60 seconds before the timer ends. 

I'm also not sure about adjusting the well placement. It is true that getting one well is harder on the east side, but this is compensated because there is a tower less at t3. By adjusting this both sides would become almost the same while it actually is nice that both sides currently are not fully identical which enables different strategies to be possible at different sides (for example take t3 orb before t2 orb on the east side). 

 

Here is a replay in which the gate is not abused and a replay where the gates were not used: 

 

I think you got a valid point with the first paragraph. But I would disagree with the suggestion to remove the switch. Having the switch allows players to progress at their own speed an build fortifications before switching. If it would auto switch, this could add a lot of redundant waiting times because both players have to defend and noone has enough time to really make any progress.

Lans likes this
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Manually switching the gate also makes the player feel like they are interacting with the map, which is pretty unique. Its always cool to help out your friend by taking another wave early as well. I really like the play pattern of this map, and I think it would be a shame to make the switch automatic.

Metagross31 likes this
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