Looking back at 2014, looking forward into 2015

December 15, 2014

Time to review 2014 and make some 2015 predictions (I don’t get as fancy as some people and do two posts!)

Here are the 2014 predictions:

EQNL will have everyone loving it the first month of release. Shortly after just about everyone will be asking “now what?” and drift away.

Anyone want to comment this isn’t 100% accurate, other than the whole “release but its beta” scam?

EQN will continue to attempt to copy/paste from my design docs, and will continue to SOE them into failure.

Nope, but only because literally NOTHING happened with EQN, because SOE, so 50/50?

ESO will have a big launch, followed by a quick death (F2P). I’d like to pretend that THIS massive themepark failure will teach the industry to stop, but if SW:TOR didn’t, nothing will.

Big launch; check. Quick death; nope. Game isn’t F2P (yet?), and I wouldn’t be totally surprised to hear it has more subs than we expect (not a ‘huge success’ amount, but not skeleton-crew numbers).

WildStar won’t suck. Just throwing a dart here, as WildStar doesn’t interest me personally, but what little I know about the dev team, I like. If they stick to their ideas/goals post-release, I can see WildStar being a solid ‘niche’ MMO. We might even be calling it “themepark done right”.

Mostly wrong here, other than I think WildStar clearly is a niche MMO, although I don’t think the plan was for it to be SO niche.

The GW2 train will continue to roll, although with less steam and more heavy-handedness towards the cash shop. Such is F2P life.

I guess? So little gets posted about GW2 its really hard to follow, but I’m assuming Anet is doing something with the game?

LotRO will continue to provide us with amusing stories, perhaps selling you a character 3/4th of the way into the game, or something equally dumb. 50/50 on being able to play Sauron. 75% chance you will be able to buy the One Ring in the shop.

Guess 3/4th of the way into the game was giving Turbine too much credit. My mistake.

CCP will go bankru… haha just kidding. Best MMO out will continue to play chess while the genre learns checkers. 450k subs in 2014. Edit: Since we are at 500K already and this isn’t WoW, raising this to 600k.

600k didn’t happen, so nope. On the other hand so far CCP is showing what they can do with quicker releases, which is basically more than anyone else, and I think they are in a good spot going forward to once again return to growth after a stagnant 2014.

WoW will bounce back with the next expansion and have a strong 2014. Now that the interns are back to being interns, and the real devs are back from failing to make anything with Titan, WoW will prosper. It will also help that 2014 won’t offer it much real competition (Unless WildStar draws away a significant portion of the raiding crowd, which is a possibility). WoW will end with more subs in 2014.

Other than the WildStar bit, rather accurate.

2015 predictions:

DF:UW will shut down. The population is at an all-time low, AV is completely lost with the title, and Forumfall continues to stick daggers into the one game even trying to give that crowd something to do. I don’t see how the game survives 2015 short of a miracle turnaround or wipe/DF3 plan.

WoW will lose subs. Yea, going for easy points here. I think the WoD bounce will fade, and I’m not sure New Blizzard is capable of really fixing the game to return it to growth.

FFXIV will gain subs. More easy points. With an expansion coming, a solid foundation, and a studio not called SOE or Trion supporting it, I think 2015 will be an even better year than 2014 was for this gem.

EVE will gain subs. Again more ‘in the right direction’ thinking here, although less confident in this predication than I am in FFXIV, especially if Star Citizen launches (it won’t) and isn’t completely horrible.

LoL will continue to sit atop the gaming world. I don’t see Riot slipping in 2015, I don’t see any game challenging its popularity, and the MOBA genre has a long-established history of longevity. The eSport side of the game will also continue to grow and dominate that segment.

CoC isn’t budging either. Similar story to LoL; solid developer, solid foundation, no serious challengers, CoC will finish 2015 as the top mobile game, just like it finished 2014.

Hearthstone will continue as Blizzard’s least-successful title. A weak foundation, core design flaws, and a complete lack of long-term hook will continue to see the title float between unknown mobile titles on the revenue list, while occasionally getting a jump when new cards are released and the whale famewhores dive in, only to drop back down shortly after. Won’t be much of a factor in the 2015 eSports scene either.

ArcheAge will continue to be comically mismanaged by Trion, giving us as least half a dozen “Trion being Trion” moments in 2015.

EQN won’t release. Nor will Landmark move out from under it’s ‘beta’ tag.

The rest of the ‘that’s still online huh’ F2P junk titles like LotRO, SW:TOR, EQ2, etc will float on in who-cares-land. None will be put out of their misery, but none will move up either.

I think game funding via Kickstarter will see an uptick as more Kickstarter-funded games launch and are well received. Pillars of Eternity is the one that has my eye (and money), and the continued positive development of MMOs like Camelot Unchained will show people that the platform, when used correctly, does work.

I honestly don’t see any MMO in 2015 shocking us and restoring faith in the genre. It will be more of the same, with some good (FFXIV), some bad (pick a F2P MMO), and most being meh.


CoC: Things you learn from a tie

December 8, 2014

If you have been keeping up with our clan war update posts, (and who wouldn’t be following the statistical breakdown for a game they may not be playing or a clan they aren’t in!), you noticed that our last war resulted in a tie, a first for our clan. The tie highlights a few pretty critical design highlights about the game, and also serves as amazing motivation for everyone to progress and also improve.

I think the most important design highlight is that unlike many team-based games, in CoC success isn’t based on the weakness of our lowest player, but instead on the cumulative strength of our whole clan.

A weak player in CoC might not earn a single star, and give up 3 on the first attack against their base. That’s not good, but it doesn’t “wipe the raid” to compare things to another popular team-based activity. In the war we tied, all based outside the top 15 were 3-starred, so one weak player isn’t a huge issue. Now, they do matter, because a tougher base might have required more than one attack, which in turn means fewer attempts at other bases. Just like had they scored a solid attack, it would have freed up someone else to hit a different base. But the important thing is that at the end of the war, you can’t look at any one weaker player and really say “we lost because of person X”, like you can should someone wander into the whelp pit or fail to run away from the raid while being the bomb.

On the other hand, there were a lot of opportunities for hero plays. As the war was winding down, each attack was a nail-bitter in terms of the attacker being able to pull things off. A lot of times its someone hitting a really tough base, so failing is the expected result, and success is an awesome surprise. The same applies to base design; not giving up three stars against an attack that perhaps should 3-star you is an awesome feeling, while failing to do so might inspire some base design tweaks or a total overhaul.

The tie also highlights the depth of the game. In a blowout war (our current for example, where we knew we were going to win after the first dozen or so attacks), if you fail to 3-star someone you should, or your base isn’t as great as it could be, you might not notice because we won anyway. There isn’t that pressure, that motivation to improve. The same applies in a blowout loss; bases being crushed by overwhelming force isn’t teaching you much, nor is throwing troops into a meatgrinder of a base.

A close war shows that depth, and CoC has depth in spades. I think just from this war we had a lot of people notice the little details of really pulling off a great dragon attack vs just a decent one, or the difference between using three lighting vs heal/rage depending on the base layout. Our top-end guys saw the importance of securing down at least two stars, and how critical that might be. On the lower end I hope people were motivated to progress to at least these levels, where the game really opens up (though I would argue a TH6 attacking a good TH6 base is very interesting in terms of tactics and strategy).

What I’m most excited about is when our clan overall ‘grows up’ and wars focus more on TH9+ bases, as things then switch from trying to 3-star bases to pulling off 2-star attacks, and tactics expand from “probably dragons” to include golems, pekkas, hogs, loons, witches, etc, and army composition starts to really matter vs “all dragons, go!” Just watching some war review videos from clans made up mostly of TH9 and TH10 bases has me very excited for our future.

 


CoC: Supreme Cream! vs Sixlines 12/5/2014

December 7, 2014

(Writeup and stats by Delpez)

Supreme Cream! vs Sixlines

Supreme Cream

Enemy

Average TH Level

7.78

7.84

Score

124

124

Total Attacks Used

80

83

Total 3 Star Attacks

37

34

Total 3 Star %

46.25

41.0

3 Stars Against Same Level

32

27

3 Star % Against Same Level

50.8

39.7

3 Stars Against Lower Level

4

5

3 Star % Against Lower Level

44.4

45.5

TH4,5&6 3 Stars

TH4,5&6 3 Star %

TH7 3 Stars

16

17

TH7 3 Stars %

57.1

54.8

TH7 3 Stars (same level)

15

14

TH7 3 Stars % (same level)

71.4

53.8

TH8 3 Stars

17

14

TH8 3 Star %

42.5

36.8

TH8 3 Stars (same level)

16

12

TH8 3 Star % (same level)

44.4

35.3

TH8 Ave Stars / Attack (same level)

2.1

2.1

TH9&10 3 Stars

4

3

TH9&10 2 Star %

33.3

21.4

TH9&10 3 Stars (same level)

1

1

TH9&10 3 Star % (same level)

16.7

12.5

TH9&10 Ave Stars / Attack (same level)

1.67

1.50

I suppose it had to happen – fight in enough close wars and eventually you’ll run into a draw. Nobody really likes it, but in this case it was a slightly better result for us than for our opponents. They outnumbered and outpowered us where it mattered – at the top. Both their #1 and #2 players were higher levels than Sic and Dot, while their #3 was about the same. I’m referring to regular levels here, which is an indication of how advance the base is (not TH levels). Looking at the numbers, it seems as if we should’ve won. We scored more 3-stars at a higher percentage; overall and against same level bases. Our TH7’s beat theirs comfortably, our TH8’s were better by a smaller margin and even at the top our numbers look better. However, at TH10 they did manage three 2-stars against our three 1-stars. I can’t comment on tactics, but it did appear as though they had more advanced bases. These numbers are reflected in the stars left behind by TH level:

Supreme Cream!

Enemy

TH10

3

6

TH9

1

3

TH8

7

2

TH7

0

0

TH6

0

0

TH5 <

0

0

Sum

11

11

We left nine vs. four TH9&10 stars behind, while they failed to get seven TH8 stars against our two, which balanced things out for the draw. Could we have won? Sure, but I guess we could also have lost just as easily. There were a number of extremely close calls going both ways; especially towards the end of the war. Regardless, this was really tense and entertaining, and a good showcase for all that’s good about clan wars.


CoC: Supreme Cream! vs Kaskus Cavalry 11/30/2014

December 2, 2014

(Stats and writeup provided by Delpez)

Supreme Cream! vs Kaskus Cavalry

Supreme Cream Enemy
Average TH Level 7.71 7.78
Score 126 122
Total Attacks Used 82 77
Total 3 Star Attacks 39 37
Total 3 Star % 47.56 48.1
3 Stars Against Same Level 31 20
3 Star % Against Same Level 51.7 39.2
3 Stars Against Lower Level 4 13
3 Star % Against Lower Level 66.7 76.5
TH4,5&6 3 Stars 0 2
TH4,5&6 3 Star % 0.0 66.7
TH7 3 Stars 19 13
TH7 3 Stars % 65.5 61.9
TH7 3 Stars (same level) 13 8
TH7 3 Stars % (same level) 76.5 80.0
TH8 3 Stars 17 15
TH8 3 Star % 41.5 35.7
TH8 3 Stars (same level) 17 9
TH8 3 Star % (same level) 50.0 26.5
TH8 Ave Stars / Attack (same level) 2.3 1.7
TH9&10 3 Stars 3 7
TH9&10 2 Star % 33.3 63.6
TH9&10 3 Stars (same level) 1 1
TH9&10 3 Star % (same level) 16.7 25.0
TH9&10 Ave Stars / Attack (same level) 1.67 1.50

 

Another close war and another close win. In fact, this was the smallest victory margin (4) since I started reporting on the wars. If you analyse this margin, two of the stars came from 3-star attacks, and another two from stars against top level bases.

We have only three TH6 bases left, so their performance doesn’t really influence the wars. However, pulling clan troops is still a problem preventing some low level 3-stars. At TH7 the percentages were similar, but it’s worth noting that half our TH7’s were smashed by higher levels. At TH8 we did well, smashing their TH8’s half the time while they could only manage one in four – our recent focus on defense is still paying dividends. This forced their top bases to attack down – six of our TH8’s were smashed by higher levels. However, this meant less attacks against our TH9&10’s, and we beat them by two crucial stars at the top.

This war shows the inherent redundancy in war attacks. You can be quite inefficient and still get close, because each clan gets 90 attacks but only 45 targets. The war also showed the difference between attacking lower versus same level bases. Many wars can be won with a downward attacking policy, but you are sacrificing stars at the top. In a close war it’s better to have a predominant sideways attacking policy – if your TH7 and TH8’s manage to clear most of the opposing bases, it leaves more same level attacks for top bases. Having said that, it’s usually better for rushed or newly promoted bases to attack down until they acquire the necessary attacking power.

Some observations:

Livercat’s anti-dragon base weathered eight (!) attacks before being smashed. However, these bases can be unlocked, as a TH7 showed against my own anti dragon base. The advantage of these bases is that they really punish careless dragon attacks and forces the opponent to be more precise.

Lightning is still working well for me, even against anti-dragon bases. In fact, the TH7 who smashed my base used triple Lightning. My gut feel is that Rage and/or Heal spells are more powerful against most TH8’s, but Lightning spells are easier to use and more consistent against flawed bases (with an AD close to the edge). Against TH7’s there is no contest – triple Lightning is the best and cheapest.

Rushed TH9 bases with crappy air defenses are surprisingly hard to 3-star. Their #16 looked like a juicy target, yet he defended seven of our dragon attacks with his low level air defenses. The problem is that he had four AD’s, and even at a low level they deal a ton of damage. So even if you deal with two or three AD’s, the fourth usually got the remaining dragons.


Burnout is a myth

November 25, 2014

When WoW was declining due to one crappy expansion after another featuring accessibility-inspired dumbing down, some people tried to write this off as not being about the content, but just due to ‘burnout’. They would have you believe that after 1, 2, or 4 years, people were just getting burned out on WoW and that’s why sub numbers were declining. The counter point the entire time was EVE, but now you can toss WoW itself into the mix.

Related is this recent info about Payday 2. The highest activity in the game, which is now more than a year old, just occurred this October. Perhaps FPS gamers are just immune to burnout? Or maybe its because the content that is constantly added to Payday 2 is fantastic. Deathwish difficulty raised the bar and gave even the most experienced players a real challenge (or for most people, an unreachable/impossible tier, which sounds vaguely familiar to something else…), the mix of paid DLC and free updates have been solid and steady, and the game today doesn’t just have more ‘stuff’, but it has more stuff that fits and actually expanded all of the original content, rather than replace it (now where have I heard about that approach working long-term…).

LoL (4 years+, peak numbers), CoC (2 years+, top grossing app today (oddly Hearthstone didn’t show up in the top 150 for either downloads or revenue, wonder why)), DoTA2 (crazy growth this year), etc etc etc. I think you get the point.

If a game is great and keeping being great, while giving you more of that greatness, you don’t get burned out. If a game stagnates, or especially if it gets worse (hi Trion), people leave because of that, not burnout.


CoC: Supreme Cream! vs Kakakoko Team 11/23/2014

November 25, 2014

(Stats and writeup provided by Delpez)

Supreme Cream! vs Kakakoko Team

Supreme Cream!

Enemy

Average TH Level

7.60

7.62

Score

128

122

Total Attacks Used

84

83

Total 3 Star Attacks

43

37

Total 3 Star %

51.2

44.6

3 Stars Against Same Level

33

32

3 Star % Against Same Level

56.9

45.1

3 Stars Against Lower Level

9

5

3 Star % Against Lower Level

50.0

55.6

TH4,5&6 3 Stars

0

2

TH4,5&6 3 Star %

0.0

25.0

TH7 3 Stars

17

16

TH7 3 Stars %

54.8

61.5

TH7 3 Stars (same level)

12

14

TH7 3 Stars % (same level)

75.0

70.0

TH8 3 Stars

23

17

TH8 3 Star %

60.5

42.5

TH8 3 Stars (same level)

19

15

TH8 3 Star % (same level)

61.3

41.7

TH8 Ave Stars / Attack (same level)

2.4

2.1

TH9&10 3 Stars

3

2

TH9&10 3 Star %

30.0

22.2

TH9&10 3 Stars (same level)

2

1

TH9&10 2 Star % (same level)

33.3

14.3

TH9&10 Ave Stars / Attack (same level)

1.67

1.00

When you open the war screen you’ll see the following:

Supreme Cream!

Kakakoko Team

Attacks Won

70

78

Attacks Used

84

83

That’s right, not only did we manage fourteen zero stars across all TH levels, our opponents easily bested us in number of attacks won. The reason I show this is to once again emphasize the importance of 3-stars. Unless you’re fighting against the top bases, a one or two star victory just does not mean that much; wars are won and lost on 3-stars. It’s no coincidence that our victory margin and the number of 3-stars margin is exactly the same.

Having said all that, this was a fantastic war. It’s hard to believe that such a simple system could provide such tension. It also illustrates how the game allows players with vastly different levels of participation to play together. People with other interests or little time can log in, do their war attacks and collect the loot at the end. Others are literally logged in for the duration of the war, following each battle and planning their own attacks in minute detail. Both these groups can contribute equally, although I would argue that the latter gets a whole additional level of entertainment.

As for the war stats, the numbers are slightly deceiving. With two hours to go we were actually behind by four stars, and the 3-star percentages were too close to call. We then embarked on an incredible run of ten 3-star attacks that sealed the victory. Exciting stuff! By town hall level we only did two TH6 attacks, and both failed because CC troops were not dealt with. The TH7’s from both clans did very well against each other, but our TH8’s beat theirs convincingly as far as 3-stars were concerned. We edged the top bases as well, which proved to be quite important in a close war such as this.

Some general comments and points for discussion:

With lower level giant attacks, it’s imperative to deal with clan castle troops first. No matter how good the rest of the attack is, it will fail if the CC troops are not pulled and killed before giants are deployed.

Mass dragon attacks are the best way to smash same level bases at TH7 and most of TH8. So getting access to dragons and levelling them should be a high priority for all TH7&8’s. At high TH8 and above other tactics become viable, although barcher is most certainly NOT one of them!

Our superior TH8 stats were influenced to a large degree by 19 attacks our opponents launched against four bases (Nickio, JHO, Livercat and Draconis). Of those the first three bases were definitely anti-dragon, while Draconis’ base also had elements of anti-dragon. This contributed significantly to their low 3-star percentage against our TH8 bases (42%). For reference, during the wars we lost our opponents consistently scored above 50% against our TH8’s. I know it’s not as glamorous, but this war was won on solid defence as much as good attacks. Just remember that good players can still 3-star an anti-dragon base, but their margin for error is smaller.

As far as spells and clan troops go for dragon attacks, we had success with various combinations. Some bases are definitely more susceptible to certain tactics, but I’d like to point out that 3 x Lightning seems to be the real thing at TH8 (see Jonneh’s attacks). It might not work on all bases, but keep it in mind if the opponent has an air defence or two that can be taken out relatively easily by the dragons (Lightning the other AD). However, I’m not sure how well it will work if all the AD’s are deep within the base.


CoC: Dragon stats and analysis

November 20, 2014

(More amazing work from Delpez, and just one example of the depth and number of interesting decisions  CoC has. The main comment I have is that more data is needed overall, which we will collect as more wars happen, but even with what we have here, our clan can use this info to improve, which is what I love most about the work done here and the game in general.)

At TH8 dragon attacks rule. Sure you see some Hog or Pekka attacks at the higher end, but for the most part dragon attacks determine who wins this crucial battlefield. Since I’ve reached TH8 I became more interested in the trends behind these attacks (if any), and I’ve been gathering data from the last two wars. There are a couple of caveats, however:

Unlike the overall war stats I collect from time to time, there is more subjectivity in these numbers. For instance, one of the parameters I’m tracking is whether a base was build against dragons specifically (Anti Dragon). In some instances this is very clear (see Nickio and Jonneh’s bases from the previous war), but there are also some bases where I had to use a judgement call.

Also, although I’m trying to reduce the dragon attacks to a number of parameters, the big missing is player skill. A skilful player can get better results with level 2 dragons than an ineffectual attack using level 3 dragons. These types of effects should cancel out with large enough data sets.

Finally, although I’m looking at a number of parameters, I’m not looking at combinations yet. For instance, balloons and rage spells in combination might have very different stats than when viewed in isolation. However, calculating all possible combinations is a huge undertaking and something I’m trying to tackle.

Also a word on the usefulness of these numbers. There is definitely an element of chance in these high level dragon attacks. Numerous attacks hinged on extremely small margins – sometimes an almost-dead AD will take out the last dragon attacking it, and the result is a 1-star. Other times the dragon takes out the AD and it’s a 3-star. No matter how perfectly you execute your attack, there are too many unknowns to be certain of the result: defending CC, location and level of traps, dragon (or balloon) pathing in 50/50 situations etc. Basically what I’m saying is that the aim of this analysis is not to determine a cast-in-iron strategy to succeed with dragon attacks, but to play the percentages. By focusing on tactics with better numbers, we will improve our margins, rather than solve high-end dragon attacks.

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