(Excuse me while I reach out through the force, and try to channel some Ferengi business acumen for this post.)
The unique selling point of this game as compared to other games is it is dual faction, and in the Star Wars Universe. The starting point must therefore be that it needs both sides to be able to flourish for the maximum chance of profit for the developers. Bias, or perceived bias for or against one side must harm opportunities for profit.
At the time of typing the current stats commanders on the KSoD ranking site are that there are 272,512 commanders in all, of which 108,018 are rebel faction and 164,494 are imperials. Roughly a 60:40 split. That is a significant imbalance for a dual faction game. It follows from this that gameplay needs to be equally attractive for players to want to play both sides.
One of the signs that the game is in crisis is that recent leaderboards do not reflect that breakdown. They are almost exclusively dominated by one faction.
This is essentially a PvP game, and so numbers matter. The more commanders there are, the better the chance for profit, and the better gameplay for all. No-one likes hitting dev bases endlessly. That does not assist with customer retention. It undermines it. It is always easier to sell to the customers you have and that already like (are addicted to?) your product.
For the dual factions to be equally appealing to new (if not current commanders) they do need differing strengths and weaknesses. In the pre-armoury days this worked with the Empire having better vehicles, and the Rebellion having superior infantry. Whilst there was a great deal of discussion on the forums arguing the merits of one side over another, the game was broadly balanced. Both sides were able to succeed in attack in a high percentage of cases.
Then came the dark times (the armoury era) and everything changed. The armoury boosts are so powerful, that attacking without them, against a base that has them (active) is impossible. What has happened since then is that each side has had to have the new unit to attack, once they do they have to attack with it, as no other attack is viable. It was at this point that faction differences disappeared.
It is clear to me that the GR units were intended to bring some faction differentiation back in to the game. It did. And it has changed game play significantly, but no-one seriously contends it was balanced or fair.
I'll pause there, I do not want this thread to be a discussion of the merits and demerits of the Imp sniper-med. There are a lot of other threads to discuss that in (the discussions are endless, and the only real solution is for recordings / replays to be shared, and it is clear from another thread I started to encourage this, no-one is prepared to do that).
Whatever the merits or de-merits of the units, there is an easier way to make the essential point. It is not enough for justice to be done to each faction, it must also be seen to be done. Put another way, everyone can see the unfairness in giving one side 12 UCs worth of units, and the other only 3 UCs worth of unit. Tinkering with the code for the 3 UCs to make it more effective against game units no-one was using (mech in an era of jets) did not balance anything. More recently, providing a skin that boosted only one faction's GR unit does not assist the imbalance either. In business terms, the customers from the neglected faction had no reason to participate in the conflicts (buy crystals), and in a dual faction PvP game it does not make good sense to discourage half of your customers from buying your products. But of course it's not just sales that were affected. A PvP game requires other players to play against. If one faction is not participating because they see no advantage / fun in doing so, the other faction will get frustrated by the lack of bases to attack, and see more Can Not Find Opponent errors, and thus they other half of your customers are discouraged too.
This begs the question, how to re-balance the game, and how to make it fun for both factions.
I'll start with the 'fun' part.
Where gameplay for both factions involves use of one unit deployed in large numbers, something has gone fundamentally wrong with a strategy game. The business model applied for the last 9 months is that the new unit/skin will drive sales. It must therefore be a must-have unit/skin, and each unit/skin will only be available for a limited time. Whilst this did encourage many players to play incessantly (grind) such intense activity is not realistic for all of the customer base.
I suspect the customer base for games like this will consist of 1% hard core wallet warriors, that buy crystals in large numbers to get the latest developments / advance soonest, 20% casual cash commanders, spending some money sometimes, perhaps for quick re-builds in War, or the occasional grind, and the remainder are free to play, that bulk up the game and make PvP viable. Of that remaining 79%, the playing style is likely to vary too, with 5-10% being highly active, another 20% moderately active, and the remainder being very casual (non-daily) players. A PvP game needs them all.
Whilst the hard-core / highly active customers may have unlocked all of the early units this year, there must inevitably be a rate of attrition over time. Buffed troopers were made obsolete by buffed heavies. Both were made obsolete by buffed jets. Some paying customers will have kept on paying, others will have fallen away, or spent less.
If attacking success requires the new unlock, and a large number of customers don't have it, they have less and less reason to play each day, and this reduces the pool of players for the PvP customers to play against. This is more likely to adversely affect the 79% than the paying customers, as they are less likely to make each unlock. But those are the consumers you need the most of to make the game viable.
The position now (in October 17) is quite different from where we were in January. Perpetual week long conflicts have taken their toll. Many players want fun, and endless grinding is not fun. We don't really need new units at this point. We need the units we have (and not just the (latest) buffed ones) to be viable.
Interestingly, when the original elite units were conflict rewards, player/customer participation was at it's highest point this year. In previous years they were available every week, and yet participation was higher. People now complain when conflicts on Dando, or Tako require 50 or 60k gears for UCL, but this time last year, conflicts for Kessen and A-wings could need 90-100k. Of course, over time, many players will have maxed them out, and Squad War wins have included frags for these units since June. But they were clearly the most desireable/profitable items, and they have been neglected in 2017.
To make the game fun to play, I am essentially arguing that we don't need more units. We need previous unlocks (if not elite units to be re-cycled. Frag fatigue is driving customers away from the game. If the events / units recycle on a knowable schedule, say every 4 weeks, but on different planets, missing out on a conflict through work or other commitments would not be a reason to quit the game. Shorter conflicts would also help. It's more realistic to encourage commanders to spend a weekend competing in a conflict than over a whole week. From a business point of view, I repeat, the customers you already have are the ones you are most likely to sell to (there must be a Ferengi rule of acquisition about that). I advise the devs to 'adapt' to retain them.
By way of illustration of the principle, in Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes, they have rare unit events every other month (Yoda and Palpatine), and 'extremely rare' units (Commander Luke Skywalker, Thrawn, R2, BB8) every 3 months or so. If you don't get the unlock on one occasion, there's no need to quit.
Armoury - short term gain, long term pain
Armoury boosted unit were fun at first. But after 9 months of them, the downsides are glaringly apparent and they have become a problem for the future of the game. Firstly because unbuffed units are not viable in PvP any more, so the original faction differences are lost (thereby damaging one of the game's original USPs). And secondly, because customers that don't have the unlocks can't win, and when they can't win, they stop playing. This reduces the potential customer base, and the numbers for PvP.
Like a great many others, I favour reducing the power of armoury boosts significantly. The original 30% boost worked well. As others, have said (Plagueis? Dark Rebel?) it made a noticeable difference, but wasn't game changing, but even that is a strong disincentive from using unburied units in game play. For my part, I'd suggest a 20% boost for L1, with increments up to 35% at L10. Droideka upgrades came in small increments, and that hasn't stopped players grinding towards level 50 dekas.
I appreciate that the GR buffs did introduce a faction difference in the fame, but that's the wrong way to do it in my view. The faction differentiation needs to be in the underlying game units and NOT in armoury units that change the win/lose chance for one faction so significantly. Buffs should be equally valuable for both factions so that both customers have a reason to play / buy crystals. Alienating one faction's customer base is not a sensible business strategy for long term success.
Another, development that would assist, in my view, is a planet, like Sullust, where armoury units do not work. It would be a useful training ground for Wars, and allow casual players a place to compete even though they have not unlocked any buffs.
Obi-Wan's armoury suggestions are:
1) nerf all armoury buffs to max at 35% (at L10) to make unburied units viable again
2) armoury buffs should be equal between factions, justice must not only be done, but be seen to be done
3) a non-armoury planet should be added to the game (either Sullust, or re-purpose Tako) to enable those without buffed units or v limited buffed units to play/compete
4) frag conflicts should be recycled more frequently and have differing, shorter lengths, as it did in 2014, 15 and 16)
Matchmaking - PvP
The recent leaderboards have been dominated by squads of players with high HQ levels, but low base scores. This is not a customer/player model that encourages others to compete / participate in conflicts. There should be a matchmaking HW level cap so that attacking more than one (at most 2) level/s below your HQ is not possible. That cannot be hard to code. It can be simple expressed: if HQ of E v HQ of R =>2, match = fail + seek new match. These cannot be good customers. You don't need to buy crystals if you can win each tournament by exploiting this loop hole in matchmaking.
Grinding on dev bases has become a single-faction option, because one factions GR is regarded (true or not - that's a separate debate for a separate thread) as being OP. If one side needs to use SC and air with a 2 hour cook time for each attack, and only get 60-350 gears per attack, whilst the other can re-load in 7 minutes, and get a guaranteed 500 gears, that is not fair or balanced. Over 2 hours one faction will end up with 60-350 gears, but the other will have 8,500 gears (120 minutes/7 (to recook)*500 for a dev base). The disadvantaged side aren't going to buy crystals to rectify that. They will stop playing PvP, and just do Wars. Either reduce significantly the gears available for dev bases for both sides to give a comparable score, AND/OR impose the HQ limit I have suggested previously.
Matchmaking - Squad Wars
There is data on this in another thread. No-one likes gross mismatches. The superior side has no challenge. The weaker (by comparison) side has no reason to participate. If the global base score discrepancy is greater than say 5,000 (where HQ10s are involved), it is not a viable match. Same side Wars should not just be on by default. They should be on permanently. Of course, everyone prefers to hit the other faction. The dual factions are one of this game's unique selling points, but gross-mismatches discourage participation, and lead to non-participation. With a 60:40 faction split and other game balance issues, this should not be exacerbated at this time. If the War faction split becomes 55-45 or better, it should go back to being optional. At present it's driving players away from Wars. Wars are all that keeps players disenfranchised from PvP, playing the game.
My last topic in this lengthy post, Dev participation / feedback in this forum would be a significant step forward. Thanks to the efforts from Squads of Death, Dark Brigade and Imperial Enclave we still have the ranking site set up by Kender. It is the source of the data for much of the discussions on this site. Occasional responses from the devs would assist leaders in squads, if not factions to deal with some of the complaints often made. Eg - "yes we know there's a problem and are dealing with it " Or "No that imbalance is intended to be there to create differences between the factions, we will review how it's working in 2 weeks".
I suspect this game has been a runaway success. It has outlasted a great many other Star Wars games in the interim, and outgrown it's initial expansion limit of 10 levels. It has a passionate following and an enthusiastic player base. This site, the ranking site, and the LINE chat groups all evidence this. It also has a new movie on the horizon (50 days away at the time of posting). It therefore has a bright future, but at the moment some of the recent developments have put all of that in jeopardy.
Last edited by DeathStriker on Thu Oct 26, 2017 4:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Updated Thread Title - Capitalized
HQ 10 - Sons of Death
You must do what you think is right, of course.