Hello, Pirates! CM Chris here to do a brief look-back at all things January, then a sneak-peek at what’s coming our way in February.
January marked the start of our 9th calendar year (official 9th birthday in May) and that’s an impressive feat for an MMORTS Flash game. Most other games in this space aren’t around anymore, and Battle Pirates’ longevity is a testament to our passionate community. Thank you!
As the PvP Refactor settled in, feedback and exploit reports cropped up, which the Design team was able to work through and resolve. Balance patches will continue to go live quarterly to correct any outstanding issues that are devaluing certain pieces of content or overvaluing others.
To ensure we’re setting expectations correctly, it’s important to note that Battle Pirates is a live game. The expectation we should all have is that balance changes and tuning are regularly taking place to ensure that the landscape provided to players is engaging. Much of what we need to balance is surfaced through community feedback - so make sure to continue letting us know if any hull or item in particular is overpowered or underpowered based on how it should be performing in the tier it’s in.
The improvements made to Bounty 17 have helped refresh community interest in the activity. We’ll continue to hone in on making this activity the best it can possibly be, but we’re off to a good start!
The other positive addition to activities has been additional Blitz and Leaderboard options. While these aren’t features that we plan on tuning events around, providing more options to Blitz and get through the grind of an event, or stack additional prizes by placing on the leaderboard, is the type of agency we like to put in players’ hands. Engagement with those features has been healthy, so you’ll likely continue to see these options available in activities.
Something I’m optimistic about for the future, but was not well-received at the time, was VXP Battlegrounds. For now, this was considered a one-off activity. However, structuring a VXP Weekend in a way that doesn’t involve suiciding empty hulls against targets is a clear goal we have on our list of things to improve about the game - and VXP Battlegrounds was a step in that direction. The issues encountered during that activity primarily had to do with confusion around what targets to hit and what to expect in terms of payouts - both of which are easily resolved concerns. Expect future iterations to VXP Weekend that take those recent learnings into account and move us closer to a more engaging way to earn VXP for hulls.
The major rough spot with events was sentiment surrounding the January Raid. While it saw high levels of engagement, there was concern about a lack of readiness that was voiced leading up to the start of the Raid and throughout its duration. Lack of readiness was one part of what made targets difficult, another part having to do with the PvE Defense Update work that WrongThinker spoke to recently in his dev diary (more on that later), and the last part being the learning curve of engaging with new targets.
By the end of the Raid, videos and strategies were being shared for how to knock out the targets fairly easily, which is something we expect each time we release a new target, and I was glad to see the community supporting each other in that fashion. We’re taking on board the rest of the feedback that was voiced during the Raid and seeing what we can do to alleviate some of the concerns for future events.
The last several months have seen increases in lag reports or performance issues while events are running. This is considered the current top community issue - as it is the most immediately disruptive roadblock to playing the game. We are continuing to investigate and alleviate problems wherever we can find them.
The first big change coming to Battle Pirates, scheduled for the 9.08 Update, is the Battle Report. The goal behind this feature is to provide greater levels of insight into where your build/defenses are working and where they are not, based on how much damage you are taking or avoiding.
WrongThinker discusses this in greater detail in his WrongThinker Thinks post - but the gist of it is that we are doing what we can to equip you with whatever information you need to make an informed decision about strategy and builds. Hopefully it helps!
Over the last 8 years, the PvE Defense stats have been modified in ways that were deemed necessary for short-term health but have since resulted in immobility and volatility on the design side of the game.
The result - and crux of the issue that we are trying to correct - is: a single piece of equipment should not mean the difference in hours of repair, or complete failure in running a target.
The difference in one or two pieces of equipment should have an impact on efficiency that players can experiment with, and should allow for different gameplay styles, but it should not be a binary difference between an unconditional win and a blistering defeat.
The design team is working through some changes to Defenses that will help stratify the experience a bit better, and this change is also slated for the 9.08 update. More details are in WrongThinker’s recent post.
For the initial pass, however, if our playtesting and closed previews suggest that we need to delay the feature to make final tweaks, we will do so. Much like the PvP Refactor, this will likely be a change that sees ongoing balance adjustments in response to community feedback.
February’s Raid, Molten Fury, contains both Eradicator and Shrike targets, which you can battle to unlock a powerful new T8 PvP Conqueror hull, called the Basilisk.
As part of this Raid, there is a special Valentine’s Day Leaderboard offering a Valentine’s themed Breacher Dreadnaught skin - and a brand new Rogue Crew called “The Siren”. Keep your eyes out for more details!
Molten Fury begins Wednesday, February 13th @ 3:00PM PST and runs through Sunday, February 17th @ 3:00PM PST.
Throughout the month of February, our Engineering team will be working on identifying areas in which performance improvements can be made to the game. This is a major focus for game improvement, so it’s all hands on deck!
The team is currently in discussion on incorporating the Forsaken Mission activity into the event cycle rotations. This would see event targets first appearing in monthly Raids, then moving down to the Forsaken Mission when the cycle changes over, then eventually moving down to the World Map (as usual).
Approaching target transition in this manner would extend the life of your fleets significantly, allowing you to continue to use all your latest content in the FM to get content and tokens long after the season ends. Not only will this add value to your Hulls, it will also add more variety to your daily play experience, without adding to your to-do list. This change will likely land after the next cycle (in May or June), but we wanted to present as much notice as humanly possible!
While this is not a change slated for February, the work for converting Battle Pirates to HTML5 has moved past consideration phase and is being actively worked on by our central engineering team at KIXEYE. We expect it to be completed before the end of 2019.
As an aside, this work speaks directly to a point that is sometimes lost amidst the chaos of changes we throw at you. The point is this: we want Battle Pirates to have a long life. Longer than it would have if we just let it be.
Decisions were made in the past to evolve Battle Pirates in ways that assumed the game only had one or two years left. This not only hurt Battle Pirates at the time by making it more exclusional and convoluted, it also put the game in a position where there’s little room to move forward in a healthy way. Our Design and Product teams are unwinding those decisions and getting the fundamental balance and formulas of the game back to a point where the game can grow and be easily understood. The PvP Refactor, Sector Consolidation, Global Chat, World Map Fleet Manager, Battle Report, PvE Damage Formula Change, Event improvements to Bounty/FM/VXP Weekend, and conversion to HTML5 are the core of this effort. They are not change for change's sake - they are part of a full-scale effort to get Battle Pirates back on its feet and ready to run another marathon, rather than barely crossing an arbitrary finish line.
For those of you who ask us to focus on bringing the fun back to Battle Pirates, to keep Battle Pirates going, that is exactly what we have set out to do. First, we must build the foundation that will ensure the game has many years to come. Once that foundation is built, all eyes turn towards quality of life improvements and turning the excitement in the game up to 11.
We’re looking forward to doing that with all of you. Good luck out there on the high seas!