Structural analysis, PvP model (long)

MacEiferMacEifer Posts: 45 Just Dropped In

I posted a few of my thoughts on the game here and there, but I spent some time expanding on the idea and thought I'd make it its own post, especially since it needs expanding to a significant degree from the original subject matter of that thread.

As a bit of background, I've worked in the game industry for about 9 years. Now I'm not a designer, but working with game systems every day somewhat changes your perspective.

I'll be referencing Hearthstone at some point because I got a good look into how that sausage was made and the two games have some basic structure in common.

The game in its current state has some holes in it that development clearly is trying to address, but it seems they're not quite sure which way this should go as they've gone back and forth on the PvP structure a few times in recent history.

Structure is the operative word here. The game's mechanics as soon as the tiles drop are great. However, the things that happen under the hood and where the magic happens in any game like this is with the structures that the actual gameplay rests on.

To know how we need to look at the structural problems, some basics have to be established.

- Rewards are important

An FTP game hinges to a great degree on rewards being given to the player. They need to

be meaningful enough so that the player tries to get them and scarce enough to make the player feel like they gained something without devaluing the experience.

- Structure is important

Any reward centric game that you sign up for needs to show you what you get, how you get it and how much you need it. Failure to do so breeds frustration.

- There is more than one target audience

Any game with a veriety of game modes attracts players of different mindsets, different goals and different economic means. Because of this, game systems need to be diverse.

- Making changes is difficult

Any significantly popular game will go through backlash over changes. There is always some subset of the playersbase that wants change, one that doesn't and one that doesn't care. Each of these have their own reactions to change in a game and you have to make sure you balance that to some degree. Meaning...

- Perception matters

You can make the best changes imaginable but if your playerbase doesn't “get” them, you're back at square one. Selling your changes is just as important as making them. Even a mediocre change can appear fantastic if you sell it well.


Alright, so, where are we?


Right now the game isn't a mess, but it has significant weaknesses.

It is incredibly hard to manage your progress as a new to mid-level player because you have no idea where you're going. Normally that wouldn't be a problem, if there wasn't the specter of decaying covers. So the problem there is that you don't know what you need, what you'll get and how to manage it. You get a token you shouldn't open yet or command points you shouldn't spend, but you open them and spend them. A bit down the line you get a severe case of buyer's remorse for all the wasted covers, points, HP etc.

Learnability is always a problem in games with complex structures but here there's a possibility that you're spending hard earned cash on some “progress” which has a big potential to get wasted without helping much or anything at all because the choices weren't clear or their short to long term benefits weren't transparent.

This is where goal setting comes in. You have a very hard time to find out where you are in the progression and where you might want to go. At first you think that more is better, but then you realise that having everything you can costs more resources than you can afford. Then you have to make choices on what you need to keep and again run into potential loss scenarios. When you have a transparent goal, a place you want to go on your way, you start formulating strategies on how to get there. Formulating strategies is what gives you ownership and ownership is what gets you to come back.

Giving you goals, plateaus on which to rest, is essential to making progression rewarding.


I'll quickly say a few things on the daily rewards structure and PvE as they're somewhat well done and should help illuminate where the PvP system falls short.


Daily rewards

Shield resupplies are reasonably paced and give you just enough hope to get something shiny. It's a well done system.I also appreciate them not doing some stupid wheel spin animation or dangle some super rare reward in your face that you won't ever get. My girlfriend plays silly amounts of candy crush since it came out and has never won the daily jackpot.

Deadpool Dailies are a good source of daily income and a good incentive to fill out your roster.

It also mercifully limits the number of mandatory minimum one stars you have to roster to Juggernaut.

Daily deals on the shop also are good enough to occasionally tempt me to rip open a cover, even though I'm not sure I should. I'm just a glutton.


PvE

PvE Structure is mostly fine. You have a linear reward track, a competitive reward track and per-game rewards.

You can get your linear rewards and then also pick up some extra bits from the competitive side.

You can expand on your rewards by putting in more timing, time and effort and that in itself is rewarding, on top of the actual rewards.

The different target audiences here can find levels of engagement that benefit them to a comfortable degree

The biggest problem at this stage is the exploitability of the ranking system (tapping) on which there are a couple threads around, but that's merely a numbers tweak away from solving and does not fundamentally affect game design.


PvE gives you a reasonable impression on where you're at as far as challenges go and most players likely know exactly what they should be doing when they select challenge levels.


PvE could benefit from more to do, but I won't get into that here.


Well, this is where things get messy. PvP.


PvP has no linear reward track. It has two rank based reward tracks which just pay out with different mechanics but are based on the same principles. Climb as high as you can as fast as you can and shield at the right time. Also don't hit the wrong guy. Who is the wrong guy? Well, good luck piecing that puzzle together at first glance and then find your guides on how that actually works.


PvP does a fairly bad job of telling you what your challenges will be due to the open nature of rosters. I ran into fully covered 4*s at CL 3 or 4. I don't know why that is and the game doesn't tell you that. You're now forced into minimum CLs based off your level, but that actually makes the problem worse, not better.


PvP unfortunately has a terrible challenge and reward structure compared to PvE and could stand a significant overhaul both of its challenge level and reward systems because unlike PvE it does not cater to its full potential audience.


Suggestions


The game needs to split the competitive players from the non-competitive players so that the groups don't feel like they're being victimized by each other.


The two sides are basically blaming each other for standing in the way of what they want or threatening to take away what they have. That's mostly a perception thing based on the assumption that in order for someone to have something, it needs to be taken away from soneone else.


Hearthstone did this with giving people casual mode, which came in because people needed a place to just “play the game” without affecting their ranking. If you want to play somesthing stupid, test a new deck or don't know if your girlfriend is finished getting dressed for dinner before you can finish the next match, you play casual.


The other thing the game needs to do is to cap rosters. The game can't tell how good a player you are from your roster. You need to be able to have a better understanding of what you're up against.


There's ways to do that and I think I found one that could work. I'm not saying it's necessarily the best one, but I'm sure it's a decent enough kick-off for some kind of meaningful discussion.


So here we go, first, we put up two different types of PvP events. We'll call them capped and open for now.


Capped division:


CL1 = up to 1*, max level 50

CL2 = up to 2*, max level 94

CL3 = up to 3*, max level 166

CL4 = up to 4*, max level 270


Open Division:


CL5= up to 2*

CL6= up to 3*

CL7= up to 4*

CL8= up to 5*


Capped division gets win based progression and rewards more in line with the limited natue of the environment.

In turn, as a number of “victims” are removed from the system, the open division which will stick to the rating system as is needs a way more aggressive reward structure to reflect the high risk, high reward nature of the competitivve environment.


You sign up for the open or capped season and the events are all of that type for the duration of the season.


If you have a character over the level for an event it gets forced down to the cap. Your level 130 Magneto is level 94 in CL2 and stays a 130 in CL3 and above.


Unlike getting boosted as it is right now, featured characters now would simply scale to other event brackets and become available there, regardless of their stars. You have a level 200 Mystique and during identity theft she becomes a lvl 50 / 94 / 166 / 270 character for the capped division and a 144 / 200 / 304 / 484 in the open division.

The same applies to boosted characters. They basically become free agents and scale up and down depending on your CL.


All this would offer a number of benefits.


- Clearing up challenge levels

You know what you're up against. You have a clear understanding of the level your roster has to be to compete in the event.


- Separating player types

The two main audiences can't be as happy with each other as they would be apart. Let them be split and merry.


- Provide intermediate goals

Satisfaction is gained from reaching goals and making it up to a new division gives you a better understanding of the step you're at at the time.


- Shaking up the meta game

The meta game is fairly settled as far as I can tell from the posts of seasoned players. I'm not sure what happens when a boost rotation puts a level 370 Ares, IM40 and OBW in CL7, but at least it should be more interesting than what we have at the moment.


- Remove the collection penalty

At multiple points I have seen the warning to not expand my roster to this or that point unless I wanted to hurt my MMR. Because the CL caps what you have available, they don't have to evaluate your roster anymore to see where you stand.


There's stuff I haven't really thought about, like alliance scoring, but I'll consider that details for now.


Thank you for sticking with me this far and please keep it civil. I'm not trying to take anything away from anyone, I just want everyone to have more for themselves without bothering anyone else.

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Comments

  • maguirenumber6maguirenumber6 Posts: 456 Mover and Shaker
    Excellent and well thought out. Thanks for posting. Changes definitely need to be made to make things fairer for everyone.
  • Rod5Rod5 Posts: 537 Critical Contributor
    mexus said:
    You need to seek the gurus out in an external chat application to learn the Secret Rules Of PVP.
    The problem is, that's another secret rule the game don't tell you about.
    Seems to me that anyone who wants to learn about the game finds out about Line somehow, not that secret really. If you want to be competitive, then you will find it.
  • MacEiferMacEifer Posts: 45 Just Dropped In
    edited December 2017
    The funny thing is I don't mind that the top tier players need to do their extracurricular research to go through the system. The problem is that the system works the same way all down to the bottom with the added difficulty that you suddenly face off against a level 200 C4rol and you have no idea what's happening or what you need to do to fix it. That was my first WTH moment in PvP a few months back.  

    I certainly didn't want to paint the intricacies of the current system in a bad light, which is why I think it survives the path I laid out. The top tier would sooner or later meet in CL8 and there the game is more or less like it is now. I made sure I'd come up with a system that would leave the game alone at the highest level because I get that the overwhelming majority of the people already there like it that way.
  • The rockettThe rockett Posts: 1,993 Chairperson of the Boards
    edited December 2017
    :D mexus said:
    mexus said:
    Rod5 said:
    mexus said:
    You need to seek the gurus out in an external chat application to learn the Secret Rules Of PVP.
    The problem is, that's another secret rule the game don't tell you about.
    Seems to me that anyone who wants to learn about the game finds out about Line somehow, not that secret really. If you want to be competitive, then you will find it.
    Maybe, maybe not. Would still make more sense if the game had a real FAQ about how to make the best out of the current structure / system. :)
    Now that I can agree with you.  I didn't join an ally for the first 200/300 days (I can't remember now) cause I had no idea what to do.  Also at that time you had to buy roster slots for ally's so it was a different time.  
    Side note, it isn't a "secert" if everybody tells you we can help if you do X.  That's not a secert, that's people being hard headed and not listening to the free help a lot of people that have been around for a long long time been trying to give out. 
    Yey, we're agreeing! :D
    Don't get used to it. :D
  • Pr0spect0rPr0spect0r Posts: 291 Mover and Shaker
    I enjoyed this read. I'm not much of a pvper but I would love a casual capped thing such as you described. Also wouldn't mind reading your write up on pve if you were inclined to make one
  • PenniesForEveryonePenniesForEveryone Posts: 294 Mover and Shaker
    The playerbase is way too small for this to work.  Currently 2% of PvP players finish Top 10.  This makes up the majority of competitive players.  Currently these players are split into 5 different time slices and they typically play in SCL 7 and up.  The rockett did some work on this recently and there are maybe 50 total brackets across all slices in SCL7 and up - 25,000 players.  Take the top 2% and you get ONE bracket of 500 competitive players across all slices.  These are players used to getting T10 rewards - half of them regularly get two 4* covers each event.  So how do you structure the rewards to maintain this level of progress?

    The casual and competitive need to be mixed so that you can't just casually join a competitive bracket, finish in the bottom half and still get great rewards.  Or have some qualifying portion of the event where you have to beat out some percentage of players before you can even enter the competitive bracket that just about guarantees good rewards.
  • The rockettThe rockett Posts: 1,993 Chairperson of the Boards
    As @PenniesForEveryone said, during the Win based PVP I put in a lot of work to collect data with a lot of help from friends. While some of these ideas are good, you have to remember there are not enough people playing PVP to do some of these.  Example, I have the data to back it up, that during a certain time some slices will only have 8 SL 7/8/9 brackets all together.  That's it.  During this same time, I know that other slices will have 20+ brackets for 7/8/9.  I do not think you can split these up. The best they can do is SL, which we have, and lock outs, which we have.  Now since the lock out just started, it would be interesting to see how these brackets run now.  The first event of the season is always hard to see due to people waiting for flips and whatnot. So we see how this lock our shakes things up. 
  • MacEiferMacEifer Posts: 45 Just Dropped In
    I can tell you for a fact that the lock outs don't work for me and that my shield level seems to be an imperfect representation of how strong my roster is or should be. Maybe if I was facing only opponents within X shield levels difference from mine that would be helpful, but I don't think that would address the underlying problem.

    The only thing I can answer at this stage is I don't feel that not having the player numbers is not a compelling argument.
    That is based on two points.

    - It might be fair to assume that the number of hardcore PvP players is low not because that's the total number of people you can get but because that's the number of people who put up with the current system.
    - The assumption that only people getting top 10 or 25 as of now would be the target audience is based on the current audience.

    Looking up the tree I want to climb, I can say that I know enough about progression systems to know that this will not be fun for a very long time as is. Depending on how close I am to the average paying F2P player, that might be very bad news for the longevity of the game.
  • BowgentleBowgentle Posts: 5,038 Chairperson of the Boards
    MacEifer said:

    Looking up the tree I want to climb, I can say that I know enough about progression systems to know that this will not be fun for a very long time as is. Depending on how close I am to the average paying F2P player, that might be very bad news for the longevity of the game.
    The game has been running with that system for over four years.
    I think the longevity is fine, despite your personal experience.
  • The rockettThe rockett Posts: 1,993 Chairperson of the Boards
    The rewards this game has increased from when I started is amazing.  Yes, as a F2P player it will take longer.  The more money you "invest" into your roster and the game, the quicker you will progress. 

    What i am also talking about is total player engagement. Somewhere between year 2 and 3 it seems that more people have left the game then joining.  
  • PenniesForEveryonePenniesForEveryone Posts: 294 Mover and Shaker
    MacEifer said:
    The playerbase is way too small for this to work.  Currently 2% of PvP players finish Top 10.  This makes up the majority of competitive players.  Currently these players are split into 5 different time slices and they typically play in SCL 7 and up.  The rockett did some work on this recently and there are maybe 50 total brackets across all slices in SCL7 and up - 25,000 players.  Take the top 2% and you get ONE bracket of 500 competitive players across all slices.  These are players used to getting T10 rewards - half of them regularly get two 4* covers each event.  So how do you structure the rewards to maintain this level of progress?

    The casual and competitive need to be mixed so that you can't just casually join a competitive bracket, finish in the bottom half and still get great rewards.  Or have some qualifying portion of the event where you have to beat out some percentage of players before you can even enter the competitive bracket that just about guarantees good rewards.
    I would argue that a slice of people that small might indicate that it's no fun to get there, which is one of the biggest problems the game has at this stage, saying that as someone who eventually wants to get there.
    That's like saying if your nine year old wants to learn some Jui Jitsu he better be ready for some 20 year old brown belt to pop his shoulder out because that guy might not have enough people to spar with.
    Successful games that have a competitive top tier have ball pit modes at the bottom where you can just "play the game". The ones that don't, generally are not that successful.

    The game as is for a large portion of people not running around with champed 4*s is not very much fun. If you want to keep on having that game around it would be wise to adress that.

    If you make the rewards appealing enough, people will try to punch up into it and provide the also-ran group of people.

    All that being said, the general statement of "I need 98% of the bracket to be victims so the competitive players can finish top 10" is not an argument you can make for a good game system.
    It just muddies the line between "high tier" and "competitive". Being a competitive player means that you're competing. If you're not looking to compete against the majority of the other top tier players, you're not competitive.
    I wouldn't say that "it's no fun to get [to the end game]" just that it takes a really long time.  Most players that are there have played religiously for a year or more, and/or spent a fortune on the game to compete at that level.  A low percentage of players at the end game doesn't necessarily indicate a flaw in game design.

    Plenty of players have been playing somewhat casually for a year+ now without any champed 4s and still love it - so again, I'm not sure anything needs addressed in this area either.

    Given similar levels of effort the top 2% of players should have an easier time obtaining the top 2% of rewards, that's the current structure and it works well enough.  I'm not entirely sure what you are suggesting exactly, but it sounds like you want the top 2% of players competing solely against each other for what would need to be at minimum equal levels of rewards.  And I'm merely saying that this won't really work under the current structure of the game due to the relatively small number of high tier/competitive players in the bracket/slice mechanics, and honestly isn't totally necessary.  Top tier players already only fight each other (5* MMR is a tinykitty), and only "compete" with lower tier players for placement (or when they break MMR at the high end and are competing for placement anyway).  So in this sense the line between "high tier" and "competitive" is not quite as muddied as you might think.

    If you allow players to self-identify as casual or competitive you have the same problem as today where depending on how good the rewards are even relatively non-competitive players will attempt to bracket snipe top tier placement rewards with minimal effort.  As I mentioned before if you are going to lump only the top 2 or even 5% of players together you need to have those rewards readily accessible....which draws in tons of non-competitive players.....and ultimately you end up with something very similar to what we have now anyway.

    All the 5* players are already competing against each other anyway due to MMR, and I think by now every slice has a bracket room to coordinate and split up so that bracket sniping rarely if ever earns top tier rewards.  Forcing them all into the same bracket and to only fight each other really doesn't change much other than making bracket sniping more lucrative (since you would theoretically have fewer brackets each giving out significantly better rewards further down into the bracket...I assume.)

    Just seems like you are trying to fix something that isn't really all that broken in practice, while introducing other problems that the current system (and meta) has already done a pretty good job of solving.
  • MacEiferMacEifer Posts: 45 Just Dropped In
    PvP is not an enjoyable experience down here and saying "it must be fine because people got through it before" is simply not an argument that applies to the vast majority of the low to mid tier players whose opinions I've read on these forums and on reddit.

    If your main concern is that people could "bracket snipe" into your rewards, I would ask you to explain what that problem actually looks like. Don't people get rewards based on their rank? Don't they compete for points with everyone else? So if they're placing in such a way, don't they earn it just as the next guy?

    I'm just trying to understand what the game looks like where you are and I hope in turn you try to understand what the game looks like where I am.
  • SpudgutterSpudgutter Posts: 739 Critical Contributor
    Just seems like you are trying to fix something that isn't really all that broken in practice, while introducing other problems that the current system (and meta) has already done a pretty good job of solving.
    i'll leave the rest of your post alone, just because this is the crux of your argument.  Among those that have played for some time, it's pretty well known that pvp is far from perfect, and often described as broken.

    why else would they run two tests and then a season of wins based?  you think the time and energy spent to make that change was for nothing, because the meta already solves the problems with the current system?
  • PhumadePhumade Posts: 2,170 Chairperson of the Boards
    Bracket rooms are where groups of 50plus track the flips of scl 6,7,8,9.  As people join natural brackets, they report their ranks.  People will space joins according to join results.  Most rooms are formed with the goal of 4* placement, so they coordinate joins so that 5-6 players are competing for T5,  while overflow players will just play for T10, or wait for the bracket to fill and compete in a fresh bracket.


  • PenniesForEveryonePenniesForEveryone Posts: 294 Mover and Shaker
    edited December 2017
    MacEifer said:
    PvP is not an enjoyable experience down here and saying "it must be fine because people got through it before" is simply not an argument that applies to the vast majority of the low to mid tier players whose opinions I've read on these forums and on reddit.

    If your main concern is that people could "bracket snipe" into your rewards, I would ask you to explain what that problem actually looks like. Don't people get rewards based on their rank? Don't they compete for points with everyone else? So if they're placing in such a way, don't they earn it just as the next guy?

    I'm just trying to understand what the game looks like where you are and I hope in turn you try to understand what the game looks like where I am.
    It's not my problem, it's D3's problem.  They aren't in the habit of giving out top tier rewards for minimal effort.  If you take steps to group all the top tier players together then you must give out more top tier rewards to that group.  But because of how the bracket system works it's possible for people to join at the end of an event and claim top rewards with very little effort.  They don't want that.  It's not a major problem today because only the top 2% of players get the really good rewards so there are only 5-10 players/slice that can potentially benefit from a late flip, but if you condense those top tier players into a handful of brackets then bracket sniping becomes far more lucrative.

    The game at my level is already incredibly competitive, My first 20 or so fights are against other 5* teams, then I might be able to find some 4* teams, but they won't be worth much - 20 points each maybe, and if there are lots of others climbing at the same time it could be another 20 fights to 1200.  Sometimes I can't get there and have to hop a couple times.  Then if I want T5 I have to continue to hop over the other 5* rosters in my bracket.  The last off-season event was particularly rough because the boost list was so large.  I spent a couple hours climbing from 800 to 1100 hitting and taking hits from 4* and 5* teams.  I'd get up to 1050 and come out of a fight to a -200 and have to start all over.  So the changes you are proposing remove the handful of "easy" fights that I get against boosted 4* champs, so that the second half of my climb is the same as the first half (this doesn't really bother me all that much as some events I do play the full time only hitting 5*s....no big deal), but also forcing me into competition for placement solely among other 5* rosters.  And that just makes for a lot more needless effort.

    Is the 3* and 4* game really all that different?  I know you guys take hits from 5* players because I am often the one doing the hitting, but it can't be that big of a deal since you are losing probably less than 10 points/hit from 5* teams, right?  So do you really think that separating out the 5s would really change the 3* and 4* experience all that much???
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