Please check out this write-up discussing PVP in War Commander written by one of our Product Managers.
Here at War Commander HQ, we’ve been taking a hard look at PVP; what we want PVP to look like and what is holding it back. PVP is something we want to be core to the War Commander experience, and something that we haven’t given enough attention to in the past. We’ve got a whole bunch of things in the works that will add more depth to the experience and change incentive structures.
This blog series will try to lay out our vision for PVP and explain some of the plans we have for it. By opening up the process, we hope to assure the community that we are doing something and that we are taking this seriously. We’re also hoping to get even more honest feedback from our players. Every time we’ve held focus groups, ran surveys or released “fixes” we get great, passionate responses from all of you Commanders. Ultimately, this is your game. And since we choose not to engage in PVP because it damages you but not us (we cheat), all of you understand the nuances better than we ever can. So let’s get in to it! This is going to be long, hold onto your butts.
The first topic we want to address in this series is one of the ugliest problems plaguing a fun, competitive PVP scene. This is the behaviour known in the community as “69ing”. We know that this is a problem, and after many brainstorming sessions, chats with the community, surveys and false starts, how has fixing it gone? Not great.
Before getting in to the details it is important to develop a shared definition of what 69ing is, since it has been confused with other activities (e.g. ring of fire) in the past. At its core, players have leveraged protective bubbles as a form of self-preservation. To get these bubbles, players will tend to enlist a friend, a helpful sector-mate, or an alt account to hit their base. Depending on the time of bubble they desire, the level of destruction will be limited. Given that, we will move forward with the understanding that 69ing can be stated as follows: 69ing is the act of providing the longest desired damage protection to a friendly target, by dealing the lowest amount of damage possible.
There is no doubt that bubbles have a reason for existing. But are they good reasons? Does the bubble achieve its aims? Unfortunately, none of the original designers of the mechanic are still around to ask what they were thinking, so here is what we believe their purpose is:
Allow players to safely rebuild after destruction;
Ensure players have the chance to participate in defensive content;
Ensure players have the ability to manage and use their base;
Protect against unlimited, undefended farming while the target is offline; and
We feel that all of these goals are absolutely worth addressing, and no matter what solutions we implement, they have to be addressed. But did the bubble achieve these aims? In most cases the boxes seem to be ticked. So maybe bubbles might not be the problem, and the real problem is the unintended side effects that the bubbles introduced. Thinking along these lines has led us to some new ideas.
Because infamy is an exchange system (that is, when you are successfully attacked, you lose your infamy), players are going to take advantage of any mechanic they can to preserve their status. The bubble became a rational and effective tool to employ in this cause.
While people PVP for all sorts of reasons, some common ones include:
the shiny goodies;
the satisfaction that comes from being the best; and
The thrill of demonstrating your superiority over your enemies
No matter what your motivations are, they are placed at least a little bit in jeopardy because of the chance of loss. You can lose resources, you can lose infamy, you can even lose the ability to use your base. To make things worse, these losses are almost completely outside the control of the defender.
Then there is the seasonal structure. The weekly and end-of-season payouts are all done based on a snapshot, a point-in-time accounting, a single number that describes your place in the world and your worth as a Commander. An aggressive enemy group could easily undo all the hard work throughout the season in the 11th hour. With these high stakes, it’s only natural that a player would want to protect what they worked hard to earn, especially while if they were asleep or at work or whatever it is you all do outside of War Commander.
Under the current landscape of our game, it’s almost as if there is no way for a player to feel good, let alone come out ahead, while not 69ing.
This situation sucks! As Commanders of War you should be out there waging war all the time, telling your own story and showing your enemies that you’re better than they are. But we now realize that we are essentially punishing exactly this sort of behaviour. Like we’ve already stated, we believe that PVP should be core to the War Commander experience, so we are committed to fixing this.
Some things we’ve implemented or discussed in the past have all taken the form of saying “no”. We’ve tried to create rules that tell you what you can’t do. We’ve come to appreciate that this approach just creates a sort of arms race between players who can best take advantage of the rules and those who are frustrated by them.
Now that we’ve laid all of this out, let’s talk about some initiatives that we have underway. Instead of looking for a silver bullet, we want to think about what our goals for PVP are and then provide incentives that support them. In terms of 69ing, we don’t want to tell you that you can’t do it. Instead, we are interested in changing the things that make 69ing worthwhile. That way, if you want to 69 you can, but no one should feel like they have to in order to keep up.
These initiatives are shaping up to take the form of more instant rewards, less punishment of defenders, and more rewards for defending. We want to incentivize defenders to give bloody noses to attackers, and reward attackers for the risks they take on a daily basis.
We’re working on new ways to score attacks, and making sure to appropriately reward the tough ones. Then, we’re going to make sure to tie some rewards to your actions rather than just your status. This means that the way you want to play is up to you, but for people who are hunting the biggest rewards will have much more responsive rewards.
That’s the attacker covered,, but in PVP it takes two to tango. In order for attackers to go on a rampage, they need victims to crush. But, like we touched on earlier, being the victim kind of sucks. We’re developing a system that rates a base’s ability to defend itself, based on its repaired status and strength of defensive units & buildings. Then, if you are putting yourself out there as a strong defender who is ready to be attacked, well… it seems to us that you should earn infamy!
We’re also looking in to how infamy is transferred. Consequences are great. We believe that the ability to inflict a loss is a very strong motivator on both sides of the battlefield (attacker and defender); it adds stakes to the exchange and makes the fight feel more impactful. Unfortunately, there has been a loophole based around how stars were awarded that allowed players to easily drain others of their infamy. We’ve recently changed stars to be awarded based on damage that is actually done in an attack. If you want to beat up on half-repaired bases and grind your enemy in to the dust, you still can! But don’t expect to earn a lot of infamy for it.
The bottom line for all of these changes is: 69 if you want to, but if you want to get ahead you’re going to have to get out there and crack some skulls!
While this post was meant to primarily be about 69ing, before we wrap up we want to acknowledge that attackers have ran so far ahead in power that it’s time for some catch up. The Sentry and Lancer units both have had an eye towards improving defensive power, and without giving away too much you can expect the next Command Center level to continue this theme. Trust us, defense is far from dead.
We have dozens of other plans in flight that we aren’t ready to get too detailed about yet. In the interest in gathering feedback and continuing the conversation we do want to throw out some teasers of the sort of ideas floating around.
We want to strengthen the alliance system, making it more consequential. Declaring war, creating peace treaties and controlling territories.
Engaging, quick, skill-based platoon vs platoon battles
A more active role for the defender