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Shiri
02-25-2013, 06:05 PM
Hello! The subject of this thread isn't really an issue in the game yet, but I thought since we had progress with the stat-tweaking being free, it might be worth trying to cut potential problems off at the root.

Basically, for competitive games, one thing that I think should be valued highly is the ability to play on an even footing with the top players - so playing more doesn't grant you more options, more flexibility etc. This way, when you're playing, it's never just because you have to grind in some experientially different game to compete - it's either to experiment with new setups (the customisation in this game is excellent and far better tuned than in almost anything else I've played) or to play to win. The difference between winning or losing would be because you're better or worse at the game, not because of your gearscore or because you didn't have enough points to make the good team setup you want or whatever.

Right now I think this is true. By buying a bunch of experienced units with renown from the shop, you can get a pretty good proportion of reasonable team makeups for 25, and probably the more esoteric ones at 50. 50 is pretty expensive for an indie game but compared to other F2P games like League of Legends, where you must be playing for months and months or pay upwards of 700 (and STILL not be playing the same game as everyone else for literally hundreds of games thanks to their awful levelling system), it's very generous.

However, it's possible this will no longer be true in the future when new ranks of units are released. When you have units requiring 30 kills (assuming the info I hear in chat is correct), firstly you can't just pick up a max-statted unit and experiment with him, and secondly if you decide you really need X unit to fit your comp, you have to play with a much weaker one for quite a while. If "superexperienced units" can be bought in the shop that come with the kills needed for max rank, that would solve the problem, but I think it would be interesting to keep an eye on how much it would cost for a new competitive-minded player to have everything in this scenario. We already know from the beta that the gameplay of the Banner Saga is good enough and customisable enough to provide many, MANY fun experiences even when everyone is on an even footing in terms of number of stat and rank points. My hope is that this can be preserved even as the content in the game increases, so that not only people who've been getting renown and kills from playing the game for ages are on a level footing.

P.S Yeah I know you can win with underpowered units relative to your opponents, but that's not really the point. Handicaps should be voluntary, and higher ranked units are strictly better than their lower ranked counterparts.

EDIT: typos everywhere

Slimsy Platypus
02-25-2013, 06:21 PM
I think it's tough to say (without playing and getting a feel) whether the higher rank units will provide an extreme benefit when played against lower rank units or not. With that being said, I dont think the transition will be nearly as abrupt as the one from Rank 0 to Rank 1 because the addition of abilities and armor break is what I think causes that turning point.

The system is designed so that similarly progressed players that are in queue are paired with each other, so the best remedy to matchmaking issues is flooding the system with tons of players. I'm sure if matchmaking issues persit months after launch, the godly developing team (Stoic!) will certainly make adjustments. I think it's very tough to gauge what the equilibrium state of progression will be since the game is so recently released. I think we need to give it a little time to determine exactly how many players are still getting poorly matched after the initial period of rapid change has surpassed. But hey, that's just my opinion :)

franknarf
02-25-2013, 06:25 PM
Well, I think the competitive game is in the tournaments, and Stoic doesn't need to impose "only fully rank-3" as the criterion for entering a tournament every week. They could say "level-1's again this week" or "anything that adds up to 8 this week".

And, despite being a frequent player, I expect to be training up units from 0 on a regular basis (e.g., to try out a five-bowmaster or five-thrasher build).

I don't have experience in LoL and games like it, so I may be completely misunderstanding the point you're making here. :p

Shiri
02-25-2013, 06:37 PM
I think it's tough to say (without playing and getting a feel) whether the higher rank units will provide an extreme benefit when played against lower rank units or not. With that being said, I dont think the transition will be nearly as abrupt as the one from Rank 0 to Rank 1 because the addition of abilities and armor break is what I think causes that turning point.

The system is designed so that similarly progressed players that are in queue are paired with each other, so the best remedy to matchmaking issues is flooding the system with tons of players. I'm sure if matchmaking issues persit months after launch, the godly developing team (Stoic!) will certainly make adjustments. I think it's very tough to gauge what the equilibrium state of progression will be since the game is so recently released. I think we need to give it a little time to determine exactly how many players are still getting poorly matched after the initial period of rapid change has surpassed. But hey, that's just my opinion :)

It's not just a matter of how MUCH it matters that their units are better than yours, it's a matter of them being better at all. Tournaments excluding underpowered people is one thing, but I would rather just avoid the issue entirely by making it simple even in the games' future for players to be equal IN PRINCIPLE. It's of value on its own. Matchmaking fixes only address symptoms, so to speak.

Franknarf, I expect to train units from 0 too, because I've gotten in at the ground level (and skipped the part I wouldn't have enjoyed with a bunch of rank 0 units, so now I only have to grind up 1 at a time and HOPEFULLY get matched up against equal teams if other people adopt this tack.) I'm not necessarily thinking about just myself though. I had an experience with League of Legends where I got in early, but it didn't work well on my computer. By the time I got a new computer, I was like 50 heroes behind and that would cost literally hundreds of pounds AND hundreds of games of grinding for their awful runes to ever have the same customisation options. Now obviously that doesn't bother a lot of people judging by how disgustingly successful that game is, but it's really offputting to some to know that they're not playing "the same game" as people who have just been at it longer, and not because of meritocratic grounds like "they had longer to practice so they're better than me."

I would like it if in 3 years, I could go on a forum and see someone looking for a good tactics game to compete with me and others in, and tell them "hey, get the Banner Saga, it's an amazing game and even though it's FTP you can catch up with the long term players and get all the units for only XYZ." In other games this is not possible.

It's possible Stoic will determine that this isn't a high priority, or that it would be too costly (the first solution I thought of, gradually raising renown per value over time so it still costs similar amounts to get all available units, would obviously scare people off buying renown in the present due to fear of inflation, which is a terrible idea.) If so, so be it. But I'm hoping framing the issue in this way might lead to at least some productive discussion.

franknarf
02-25-2013, 07:32 PM
Ah, I've been training level-zeros three at a time, so far.

Yeah, I like the scenario you describe being possible three years down the road, and, in light of that, agree with your general point (which I read as: make it possible to progress faster). I think for longevity, lowering the entry barrier in that way is key.

Another turn-based multiplayer game I repeatedly reference unlocked some units via non-grindy achievements (http://howdypedia.com/Dog_Soldier), so they're gated via either skill or cash. I don't know if that sort of thing makes sense when we're talking about different levels of the same unit, but maybe...?

raven2134
02-25-2013, 09:21 PM
Can I please ask someone to tl dr or summarize the discussion in clear and short salient points :)? I'm finding this hard to follow.

But based on what I understand, Shiri you're concerned about how later rank progression may create mismatches and unbalanced battles because of the time it will take to build up the teams.

I both agree and disagree on :
"Basically, for competitive games, one thing that I think should be valued highly is the ability to play on an even footing with the top players - so playing more doesn't grant you more options, more flexibility etc."


I do get that playing more shouldn't be the be all and end all for the game, and that at the end of the day, skill should triumph. I disagree though on the idea that playing more can't/shouldn't give you more options or flexibility.

The second point was actually something previously debated...if KS backers/Single Player, Saga owners (who get privileges related to the single player) have an edge in more options from early/exclusive access to units (following an initial proposal of unlocking units in Factions via Single player).

In this scenario, people with more units have access to more builds or strategies...but the important thing is that these strategies aren't OP. I and some others were pointing out, those "limited" to Factions had just the same chance of winning given how balance was being designed into the game. (no hard counters, no perfect/optimal builds).

More options/flexibility doesn't necessarily mean a less fair and competitive game I think, it just means players have more choices to make to answer the same number of questions. We can debate or discuss this as needed (just hope you sorta get what I'm trying to say).

Now how the abilities affect the efficacy of units, the team synergy and battle dynamics is another matter. I had a brief discussion with sweetjer where we realized really high Renown costs may not necessarily be very rewarding for some of the rank 2-3 abilities compared to others- imagine paying 100 renown to get BlF to do 1 more hit and get 1 more stat point...compared to paying 100 renown to increasing Run-through range by 1 tile and 1 stat point.

Having teams of varying ranks is something, as franknarf said, we'll have to observe in the future to really figure out how balanced things are and feel, and how the MM or game limitations could be adjusted to promote "balance in principle."

Also, at the end of the day, I think playing more should feel concretely rewarding, besides increasing something less tangible than skill. I think it's a bit off we might think: in 3 years, someone would want to hop in and be able to fight on par with someone who was here since day 1. They shouldn't have all the options someone who's been here since day 1 has worked for. They should have choices and options, just more limited.

I realize Total War isn't the most competitive game, but they had a really nice system for balancing new comers vs old-timer players, using unit value and the general who's value changed depending on how long they had been playing/how much they have played. A new player would have quantity, an old timer would have quality/technique.

Maybe we can explore some way to implement this kind of thing, to keep flexibility and options something which affects playstyle more.

franknarf
02-25-2013, 10:58 PM
I thought Shiri's main point was that

I would like it if in 3 years, I could go on a forum and see someone looking for a good tactics game to compete with me and others in, and tell them "hey, get the Banner Saga, it's an amazing game and even though it's FTP you can catch up with the long term players and get all the units for only XYZ." In other games this is not possible.

If, three years from now, there are not tons of players, it won't be possible for a new player to pick up and play the game without either (i) paying a huge amount of money or (ii) repeatedly playing grizzled vets like us :). One way to resolve this: let owners of the Banner Saga play friend matches with all of the units. Then the price will always be reasonable and having fun won't depend on the continued presence of a large community. Of course, Stoic could cross that bridge if/when it is reached.

This might actually be a different problem from the one Shiri's talking about...I just realized that after you asked for a tl dr... :cool:

Shiri
02-26-2013, 05:49 AM
Raven, my point is that I would actually like if people could pick it up and play it on the same level as vets at some point in the future (but they probably need to pay some amount of money for that, because this is an F2P game and the devs need to make money on it.) For example, in Starcraft, if I buy it tomorrow I can play anyone with the exact same units and stuff as them and still get owned because they're better than me. Options are power, and they're ALWAYS going to be power even if a game is 99% perfectly balanced (which exists only for platonic games, although I do think the options given you by Banner Saga units are incredibly balanced-feeling.) So we disagree in principle.

I will say though, that I'm not opposed to the early access to units from kickstarters. Having to wait a couple weeks to get the new stuff is a really minor "problem" so it's totally forgivable (and in any case it was already promised to the kickstarters so there's no point asking for it to be cancelled even if I didn't like it.)

Also, it's not that EVERYONE needs to be able to have all the options. Some people like grinding up and that's the advantage of a F2P model, you can get these players that will never pay and just like catching up by playing a lot from whenever they start. But for a competitive game, there should be an option to pay to catch up and just play the full game, and while that's true right now, I'd feel better about recommending this game past the first few months if it were true in future too (clarification: I mean that I am recommending it to lots of people right now, but I know some competitive minded people that hate playing games without being able to explore the options because they're locked behind a grind wall, so if people ask about it in future it'll be harder to recommend if the price becomes too high.)

TL;DR: Make sure price to catch up and have a similar/the same amount of options to experienced players in in-game power (not skill) doesn't spiral out of control as further content is added.

Softclocks
02-26-2013, 06:07 AM
I have to say that I share many of Shiri's concerns.

While I'm not sure whether or not Stoic really intended for this game to be competitively viable, but having people trudge through grinding and such is a quick way to kill any hopes of balance. When looking at most competitive games like Starcraft, Dota and CS, where everybody can jump right into the game and be on an equal footing, it doesn't take long to realize the obvious benefits of such a system.

Some players certainly feel that they need to be rewarded for playing a lot, beyond the obvious "reward" (enjoyment)and I completely understand that. Just please let that progression be something geared towards buying cosmetics or maybe expanding your barracks and so on.

Shiri
02-26-2013, 06:23 AM
Well, rewarding people by making the progression be for power is fine too, in my opinion, as long as you can bypass it with a reasonable amount of money like buying a copy of starcraft or something. That way the players who were never gonna pay anyway get to play and enjoy themselves, but so do the players who don't mind paying but do mind grinding with restrictive option availability.

raven2134
02-26-2013, 07:21 AM
Well I see how a reasonable buy-in to level the playing field, for a any day 1 player works.

Though there are many questions/issues that also need to be asked:

Does the one price unlock all units, at any quantity to give the new player access to any and all possible builds, at maximum rank?

How much should the player be able to access from that buy-in to level the playing field, if we do equate options with power?

Remember at some point the game will have 64 units (especially looking 3 years down the road).

Is there a way in which to provide a buy-in so that a day 1 player can meet a vet on equal terms in battle, sans skill level - given that many units, possible stat distributions, and build combinations?

I do think a buy-in for what you propose would be great. And I'm asking these questions to see how it might be worked out. How could we avoid making the player feel they wasted the buy-in, if they happen to choose units, use them, and end up realizing the units they chose don't fit their playstyle/feel as if what they chose doesn't work?

Also, because the game though free, has a paid component, there's pay-to-win perception.

If we do want to go forward with this kind of buy in...might this give non-paying players a possibly bad perception? We're not just providing a "starter pack." We can give the entire "unit power potential" to someone on day 1 as long as he pays...this is the extreme of extreme of pay to skip (possibly bordering pay to win).

I mean even if matchmaker does make balanced matches, part of what serves as a middle ground for non-paying players and paying players is that the pay to skip is not possibly this drastic. What could take someone 1 year to achieve cannot be bought with money. No doubt if this became possible, more people would feel the game is a grind...because they would have the option of getting in an instant purchase what someone would take a year to work through.

Evil Laughter
02-26-2013, 07:49 AM
Just to add something relevant to the op. The game picks your opponent on 2 criteria, first your experience and second how much renown your team is using. During the beta there was quite a discussion about how to pick opponents and the game tries to make the match as close as possible. So if you just start out you should be playing against other newbies with similar point spend, and if you play against a grizzled vet you at least will be playing on an equal renown footing.

franknarf
02-26-2013, 08:47 AM
I agree that if a competitive player wants to get the nice toys, there should be a non-grindy path available, so they can enrich competitive play at the top asap. However, (partly for the reason raven gave) I think it shouldn't/doesn't have to be cash up front.

Instead, if they are indeed competitive, provide a very large reward (say 500 R) when they

get a win-streak of 10 (which doesn't seem grindy to me and would only benefit <10% of players, I'm guessing) or
do well in a once-monthly base-class tournament only available to players who joined within the last month.

Then, all they have to do is hone their skills and then demonstrate them. They are competitive after all, right? Conundrum won with <30 games since launch, y'know; if his reward (200 R) had been larger...

Shiri
02-26-2013, 09:22 AM
Being competitive-minded doesn't mean they're GOOD. It's a question of enjoyment. When I play in a game like this, I like knowing that the reason I lost was due to them being better than me (at least on average), even though we both started with the same pool of stuff. Having to be epically good as soon as I'm starting a game to get onto an even footing seems like missing the point.

That's not to say it's a bad idea, just that it doesn't seem like a good place to start addressing this as a potential issue in future.

franknarf
02-26-2013, 09:51 AM
Okay, different issue. :) It sounds like your concern is a balance issue Stoic could address down the road, no? Not that we shouldn't talk about it now.

raven2134
02-26-2013, 09:52 AM
I get that Shiri, this is a very good discussion also.

There are definitely things we need to consider then, to achieve this, and that's what my questions are directed at.

Maybe the buy-in is effective as being a starter pack of some kind. As was also previously brought up, how rank 2 and rank 3 not only feature into the game's sense of progression within, but also how it affects new players coming from without...is something that could use the thinking right now, before it enters the game.

Shiri
02-26-2013, 10:06 AM
Okay, different issue. :) It sounds like your concern is a balance issue Stoic could address down the road, no? Not that we shouldn't talk about it now.

I guess you could call it a balance issue. You're right, it's not an issue right now, I can afford all the experimentation I really want at somewhere between 25 and 50 right now so I have no complaints with the current state of the game.

@Raven, you're right there, and just so you know the reason I ignored your questions is that I have no good answers right now, I am thinking about it though!

raven2134
02-26-2013, 10:15 AM
I know Shiri, I don't mean for you to take the burden of answering solely either. The questions are for the discussion in this thread :). Thanks for a good topic!

Flickerdart
02-26-2013, 03:41 PM
If you need to grind a unit up to max rank, you don't replace one of your valuable units. You hire a whole new team and start breaking necks of comparable teams due to your experience with the game.

Alex
02-26-2013, 11:07 PM
Not sure if this helps the discussion, but rank 2 units add 2 points to your team power and rank3 units add 3. This would mean a full team of rank 3's will try to match you with an equal 18 point team. Will there be problems 3 years from now if you just want to play a match vs a friend? Yeah, I could see that, as we basically don't allow you to easily buy your way up to speed, or give you everyone in friend mode. I think we'll have to figure out solutions for that over time and it may offering all units in friend mode, or letting players pool their units or something. We'll figure out something that feels fair, and keep an eye on how people are reacting to the game.