CoC: Time for a little clan tune-up!

August 17, 2015

(Text by Delpez, and I agree with all thoughts/suggestions other than to attack down 1-2, I think if we generally improve we should still be able to hit our matching number, plus it causes less confusion overall)

As you guys have probably noticed, our war performance have declined over the last three or four weeks. In the past we used to smash rushed clans (we still do), beat clans of equal strength (it’s becoming 50/50) and put up a decent fight if the matchmaker screws us over (not the case anymore). I have some comments and suggestions on this, and would appreciate the clan’s views on the issue.

In my mind the problem is one of activity, both in wars and in general. Our war activity has been poor lately – in the last five wars we’ve missed 15% of our attacks. If I only count players who has opted in, that number is still very high at 10%. This means we are missing 10% of attacks by players who have actually opted into a war! I’m convinced that we’ll go a long way towards improving our war performance if we just sort out this activity, as there is no way we can compete against strong clans while missing 15% attacks.

I also see people waiting longer and longer to execute their attacks – sometimes with less than four hours to go we still haven’t executed half our attacks. A lot of players then squeeze both attacks into a small period of time. Although technically those attacks were made, they are often rushed and not planned out carefully. It becomes a bigger issue if you are a TH8, because as the war winds down there are less viable bases to attack, so you are forced to attack up. That won’t happen if you’ve used the twelve hour window to attack a base that is of similar strength. It also becomes really hard for TH9’s to plan a second attack if TH8 activity was low. TH9’s are supposed to clean up TH8 bases, but it’s difficult to decide which base to attack if a lot of TH8’s still have to attack (because you don’t want to waste an attack on an easy base). I know that sometimes you don’t have a choice – you might feel that your opposite base is too strong, or your heroes might be on upgrade, or sometimes real life happens. However, making your first attack within the first twelve hours should be the norm, rather than the exception.

As I’ve said, improving our war activity (overall and during the first twelve hours) will go a long way towards improving our war performance. There is also a second type of activity that is hurting us, and that’s general raiding activity. More and more players are not raiding anymore – doing only war attacks. There is nothing wrong with that, just understand that it will affect our war performance. I can see this in my own war attacks. When I just reached TH9 I was very active, and my 3-star percentage in wars was over 60%. Nowadays I raid a lot less, and that percentage has dropped to below 30%! I’ve not really moved up the war ladder – I’m still sitting around #10, and the bases I hit do not appear to be any stronger than before. It’s telling that my 3-star percentage started dropping when I began playing FFXIV – so blame Syncaine!

War attacks are hard; this is true at all levels but especially at TH9 and TH10. Not only do you have to execute a lot of actions very accurately in a short period of time, you also have to make decisions on the fly when the unexpected happens. Most of these skills are honed by raiding, so if you only execute four war attacks a week your skills will suffer. I can see three solutions to this problem. The first is to force people to raid – this can be measured in their experience level. I’m not a fan of this, mostly because I myself are not raiding much these days, but also because that would push us firmly into the territory of a hardcore clan. Just understand that as general activity decreases, we will basically become a social clan that will struggle in any tough war. Secondly, we can execute easier attacks first up. At TH9 GoWiPe and GoWiWi attacks are easier to execute than LaLoon or Hogs, but the 3-star percentages are also lower. However, from where we are now I will take solid 2-stars all day over the failed attacks with an occasional 3-star we are getting with Hogs and LaLoon. Finally we can attack down. The decision to attack our opposite number was made at a time when most players were active and we were all improving. If we settle for a more social setup it might make sense to start attacking down.

To summarize, I believe we can do the following to improve our war performance (I have included some points that was not discussed in detail, but are also quite important):

Get your first attack in as early as possible, and if you don’t plan to attack early state so in clan chat so someone else can take your base.

All TH8’s should try to complete both attacks two hours before the war ends. I know this is not always possible, but it would assist TH9’s a great deal when deciding which bases to clean up.

At TH8, get access to GoWiPe, Dragons and Hogs. The days are long gone where dragons were enough to be effective in a war. These days we struggle against any clan which prepares for dragons, and to a lesser extent GoWiPe. That’s why you need all three attacking options, as it’s very difficult for a TH8 to build a base that defends against all three.

Know how to execute your attacks! There is no point in having access to Hogs but not knowing how to execute a Hog attack. There are exceptions to every rule, but most LaLoon and Hog attacks should follow a similar pattern. You’ve GOT to deal with the CC and Queen before you release your Hogs or LaLoons. Nine times out of ten the CC and especially the Queen will ruin those attacks, so your first order of business is to take them out. Most players try to deal with the CC, but not everybody realizes how key the enemy Queen is for Hog and LaLoon attacks. So bring a golem or two, some wizards and both your heroes to take out the Queen and CC BEFORE the main attack starts. Btw, this step is not as critical with GoWiPe(Wi), which is part of the reason why those attacks are easier.

If you are struggling with LaLoon and Hogs (or are facing a tough base) don’t be ashamed to Town Hall dive you opposite for a 2-star. GoWiPe(Wi) is preferable to dragons, because it’s more powerful and reveals more traps.

Maybe we should attack one or two down first up? That would mean sacrificing some stars at the top, but those bases are usually very hard in any case. Also, our last couple of players would have to wait for others to attack before they can join in.

And finally, the only hard rule I would have. If you opt into a war you must use both attacks. As before, life happens and sometimes you miss an attack due to unforeseen circumstances. However, this should not become a trend. There’s nothing more demoralizing than being invested in a war, following the attacks and donating a ton of troops, only to lose because our activity was poor.

Any idea, thoughts, suggestions?

Hitting rocks to build success

August 13, 2015

For me the simplest measure of how much you liked a game is how long you played it. I think there is certainly value in a great 10 hour experience, but IMO no matter how great that 10 hours was, a game you spend 100+ hours with is the better game. Even if you disagree on that, I think we can all agree that if you’re a dev for an MMO, you certainly want your players playing for 100+ hours instead of 10.

Right now in the group I’m playing ARK with, there are people who have 2000+ hours spent with the game, which besides being INSANE on a personal playtime level, is an amazing compliment to the longevity of the game and its ability to entertain someone long-term. ARK isn’t an MMO, but if it was, I think it would be a fairly successful one just based on how well it retains people and the amount of time you can spend with its content.

And ARK, besides being RUST+Dinos, is basically a crafting/gathering simulator. Sure, there are other things you do like PvE (kill dinos), PvP (kill players), and PvB (bashing bases), but those activities occupy a minority of your time compared to hitting rocks/trees/bushes, and making stuff from the gains of said rocks/trees/bushes. You build a base to protect your stuff and craft more stuff, and dinos enhance your gathering or ability to protect your stuff from others. In short, given the popularity of not just ARK but games like it, a TON of people love gathering/crafting, and love it enough to do it for a LONG time.

Now the critical part is the motivation behind those basic activities. Much like few if any find mining in EVE thrilling, so many do it because the ‘why’ is worthwhile, not the ‘how’. The same is true for ARK; hitting a rock isn’t thrilling, but what you can eventually make from hitting that rock is very worthwhile, so you hit that rock, and the rock next to it, and the next thousand rocks after that. It also helps that gathering in ARK can both be relaxing in its simplicity (running a low risk, familiar gathering cycle), and occasionally more of an adventure if you go far out into hostile territory with a valuable dino along with you.

What I find absolutely insane about the MMO genre is that, despite these obvious examples of player wants, few if any MMOs cater to this crowd well. Sure, EVE has its mining, and FFXIV might be the best example with its gathering/crafting roles and all of the additional gameplay options related to them, but what about everyone else? Why is gathering/crafting such a footnote and total mess in games like WoW? Why hasn’t someone made ARK, The MMO already? ARK itself is close, but clearly the design intent is to sell the product and allow players to play on various servers, which is a slight but very important difference from playing/paying for an MMO service.

The market is there, by the millions who are willing to play for a long time, and it’s crazy that not only do we not have a full-on crafting/gathering focused MMO (ATitD is the closest, but in all honesty is a pretty poor product overall when compared to the gameplay and features of RUST/ARK), but that so many current MMOs minimize this aspect of the game or outright neglect it. We keep talking about MMOs today lacking longevity, perhaps if we looked at what players DO spend a lot of time doing in other genres, we might be able to return to a time when MMOs lasted longer than a month or so of content consumption.

ARK – Dino fun that is well worth the time investment required

August 12, 2015

I wrote before that ARK is RUST with dinosaurs, and that general opinion hasn’t changed. However, I think that statement is somewhat like saying “DayZ is a shooter with zombies”. It’s a true statement, but doesn’t really explain why DayZ is what it is compared to a lot of other shooters with or without zombies, and why DayZ is a mega-hit and some of those other games aren’t.

And much like zombies make a game cool (or did before every game had zombies), there is something interesting and relatable to dinosaurs compared to more generic creatures or monsters. It’s easier to understand the fear behind a T-Rex chasing you or smashing your base compared to the same happening from a pure-fantasy monster, at least for me. In fact, the whole “survival in a harsh world” theme works better when said harsh world is one that is somewhat like the one we know existed on Earth long ago, with all the dinos walking around and whatnot.

Another major aspect that ARK gets right is the amount of time you invest in things. Taming dinos is a major undertaking. For many of the best ones, you have to commit multiple hours straight just to complete the initial tame, and success not only depends on bringing the right materials to get the job done, but also on external factors like a big aggressive dino not coming by and eating your unconscious dino, or you. In addition to that investment of time/effort, there is also however long it takes you to prep the items you will use, and then your dino storage solution (usually a larger containment area in your base). Having a tamed dino is awesome, as they are very functional for both gathering and/or combat, so when you lose one, it really strings.

Building up a larger base is an even more serious commitment, so you really care about its location, setup, and functionality. A lot of planning goes into one, and seeing it take shape and working out the kinks that come up is a great deal of fun and challenge. Similarly, raiding a solid base isn’t a trivial matter, but the rewards can be huge. Such an action can however start a war, and you might quickly find yourself on the receiving end of a raid. Because of the amount of effort involved, raids and wars aren’t done on a whim, and carry a good deal of weight behind them.

Other examples exist, but my larger point is that ARK does a great job in getting you invested in what you are doing, and caring a great deal about all of it. You want to log in the next day to keep progressing forward, because you know forward also means unlocking new systems and items to play with, and to also get further and further invested in what you are doing. It’s a very similar feeling to playing a great MMO, but more on that in another post.

In summary, even though ARK is very similar to other games of its type, so far it has gotten a great deal of the details correct, and because of that the game is a ton of fun even in its early access state (though this is one of those ‘early access’ games that could be released tomorrow and no one would notice its missing anything major). Highly recommended, even if you have recently played something similar.

CoC: Spot open

August 11, 2015

Just a quick programming announcement; we currently have a spot open in the Clash of Clans… clan, “Supreme Cream!”. So long as you are active and willing to learn/improve, please apply mentioning the blog.

HS: New Blizzard’s method of balancing the game is to not balance it at all

August 10, 2015

When Blizzard’s MOBA game was first announced, one of the items I wanted to keep an eye on was how well Blizzard would do at balancing the game, because Blizzard is always slow to make changes, and most recently hasn’t been very good at much of anything when they finally DO release something.

Unfortunately HotS is such an abortion I can’t even be bothered to keep up with it on any level, but ‘luckily’ I do keep up with Hearthstone, and can see how well New Blizzard does in balancing that PvP game. Spoiler alert: Not well, not well at all.

First the ‘how often do they balance anything?” question can be answered by this link, showing not only that balance patches don’t come often, but that when they do, they aren’t much of anything anyway.

But beyond the somewhat expected “Blizzard doesn’t do anything quickly” issue, we have this quote from Blizzard I pulled from Az over at In An Age:

“I think we’re going to keep making some crazy cards in every set that are dangerous and hopefully going to work out.”

Another spoiler: It hasn’t worked out. Patron Warrior is an absurdly strong, very easy-to-play deck. It’s also a cheap deck to make (been playing a version myself since the release of the card, before finding out its also a pro-level deck), so perhaps I’ll find the motivation to faceroll myself up the ranks with the refined internet version just to prove that point. Likely spoiler: Won’t happen because my patience with rolling my face across the keyboard is pretty low, especially for no gain other than “SynCaine’s right again”, and that happens so often anyway even I’m growing tired of it.

The biggest problem however isn’t even the strength of that deck (a huge problem), but the fact that in a serious environment where someone cares if they win or lose (which, given how hard Blizzard is trying to push HS as an eSport title, would suggest HS should be considered such a game), having something so strong means other options aren’t viable, which leads to not just a boring pro scene, but a boring game overall.

Imagine if Riot was Blizzard, and left LoL’s champions as brokenly powerful as Patron Warrior in the game; in every pro game you would see that option banned or picked, and if Riot was Blizzard, the pool of viable champions would be a fraction of what it really is today.

The quote above shows a gross misunderstanding of how game balance works in a PvP environment. Players always flock to whats powerful, and they do it so strongly that anyone NOT doing so is simply fodder. Proper balance means not just fixing a broken aspect of your game (Patron Warrior IMO isn’t strong, it’s broken), but also allowing more options for players, and more options means more diversity and a more interesting pro scene. I recently watch (don’t ask why) a few minutes of a HS ‘pro’ broadcast, and deck diversity was a joke. In fact, it was almost as big a joke as the games themselves (insert dice rant here).

As a random, ‘who cares’ game, you can have broken stuff like Patron Warrior exist, because people won’t care enough to win meaningless games and will more focus on finding the fun. But when you push a game as being serious, that changes, and you have to change how you run the game as well. So far, Blizzard is failing horribly in that aspect with HS.

WoW Legion: We get to watch it all burn down to the ground

August 7, 2015

Oh New Blizzard. After attempting “We are making the game like Vanilla again, come back!” with WoD, and failing to actually deliver, New Blizzard is back with “We are making the game like TBC, our one good expansion, come back!”, and, based on the feature list, have failed again.

Likely the only good that will come out of Legion is it further reinforces that TBC was the last time WoW was growing because it was still a solidly designed MMO, and I’m one of those crazy people who believes that the quality of your design has an effect on how successful something is. New Blizzard is, in a somewhat ironic way, trying to copy/paste Old Blizzard now. Unfortunately New Blizzard isn’t as good at the copy/paste game (see WoD vs Vanilla design), so isn’t getting the expected results.

Another problem going forward for New Blizzard is people aren’t going to be fooled again. WoD provided a large spike because people want WoW to be vanilla/TBC WoW, and bought into Blizzard being capable of return the game to that level of quality. A lot of people experienced that Blizzard isn’t capable of that today, and won’t believe Blizzard saying it this time around.

Additionally, past mistakes like the initial release of Diablo 3 with it’s RMT AH, subpar games like Hearthstone, and abortions like HotS have all worn away at the Blizzard name. They aren’t a sure-hit studio anymore, and fewer and fewer people will blindly buy the next Blizzard offering just because its a Blizzard game. What Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo built, these new release have torn down.

There will of course be some spike in numbers when Legion releases, because for all its long-term faults, enough people do still enjoy the first month of new WoW leveling content, and even at increased expansion prices, still see that month as a worthwhile buy. But between now and launch, subs will continue to erode away due to bad design and the fact that FFXIV is doing to WoW what WoW did to EQ2; just being a similar but outright better game (though for all its faults, WoW today isn’t nearly the disaster that EQ2 was, so at least the fight is a bit harder). How far those sub numbers fall will be interesting, as will seeing how much smaller the Legion pop will be compared to WoD.

I also think another major factor will be when Square-Enix announces it now has the largest sub MMO out, because that announcement will be seen as big news and draw the curiosity of the ultra-casual WoW player who doesn’t follow gaming news as closely as a lot of us do. MMO population momentum can turn quickly, and if suddenly guilds in WoW are getting empty, with everyone going to that FF MMO they keep hearing about from their friends/guildies, that snowball is hard to stop.

For me the most interesting item to watch is not when WoW is dethroned, or how quickly it falls overall, because those items are now inevitable, but the larger picture of when will Blizzard stop being considered a major studio? Right now their pipeline looks terrible (HS, HotS, and the only upcoming new title is Overwatch, which I think most of us know will be DoA), and they can’t live off older IP glory like Diablo and StarCraft for long. Can’t say I’ll shed too many tears over seeing the studio that nearly destroyed the MMO genre finally burning down.

I just fixed WoW, you’re welcome Blizzard

August 6, 2015

As I wrote over at TAGN, what the next expansion should be, but won’t because this is New Blizzard, is an expansion of garrisons, with Blizzard taking one of the current most successful games (Clash of Clans) and doing what Blizzard did best; copy/paste + apply Blizzard coat of paint.

Garrisons should be expanded to be used in the same way a base is used in CoC. You set up its layout to defend, and your followers become your troops that attack. Via questing, crafting, raiding, and battlegrounds, you can collect resources to upgrade both your defenses and followers, and your overall garrison has an ‘iLvl’ like your character.

You would initiate a search for a base to attack, be able to skip to another until you find one you want to hit, and then the attack would play out much like it does in CoC; you can’t directly control your followers but they have different AI with different focuses (some target defenses, others resources, etc). Since WoW is focused around a character, you can also use your character in the fight as a kind of super-minion, with customizable AI.

Add in a ranked mode, along with guild vs guild wars, and you have something that ties a lot of the existing WoW content into this new ‘end-game’ feature, allows you easy expansion (more defenses, more followers, more skins for garrisons/followers) without having to create new zones, more character levels, or dungeons/raids that would go stale once someone has the items they want.

But knowing New Blizzard, the expansion will just be more orcs or something equally dumb.


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