Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Professor's Two Year Anniversary

This blog published its first article on January 30th, 2014.  

And just in case you are wondering, that first article was a review of a new hull - the Sawfish.  The Sawfish was released in the Forsaken mission - along with Agility System and the D33-D cannon.

Going back over that article, there was one real interesting sentence I wrote that really illustrates how the game has changed over the last 2 years:

This hull is the lower end ballistic hull that we were all expecting.  It is in the same vein as the Mercury, Mauler, Mako, or Rampart, with reduced capability compared to its bigger brother hull, but also reduced build time.  The Sawfish compares fairly closely to the Stingray, but is it worth it?
And again, just to refresh some history for those readers without a steel-trap memory, the MCX, Dreadnaught X, Thresher, and Goliath were the "big brother" hulls.  Each of the the littler hulls (except the Mako) had reduced build time & reduced capability from the higher end hulls.  Those hulls were released to be appropriate for up and coming players, and they are STILL relevant to up and coming players.  Why?  Low hull build time.  

But the point is that we expected low-end, little-brother hulls because that's what Kixeye was doing.  When was the last time Kixeye released a hull that was not targeted at the top-end players?  Was it January 2014?

After that article, the Nuclear Cruiser & Launchers were introduced in the February raid, and the Atlas Carrier & Hornet UAVs were introduced in the March raid.  In April we saw the first Limited Hulls - Grimshine's Berserker & the High-Lander Nuclear Cruiser.

It really seems I started my blog just as Kixeye decided to kick off the flood of content and start to ramp up the complexity of the game with new weapon types, and it really hasn't slowed much since.

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For my 1 year anniversary, I did a look back & tried to highlight some of my most useful articles.  For my 2 year, I'm going to do something different.  I'm going to try to explain how I play Battle Pirates.  Certainly over the last two years the "whales" have been emphasized more & more.  Players will spend thousands of dollars on this game - then get extremely upset when they realize they are not having fun.  Essentially they realize that they didn't get VALUE for the money they have spent, and then the rage quit in a blaze of glory.  Or just walk away without a peep.  

I will say that it is really tough to compete in this game without spending a cent.  I played free for a couple years, then spent a little bit of money in a raid to win the Strike Cruiser (when it was new).  Once I got those built (about 2 months later) I actually had a competitive fleet, and by continuing to spend a little bit ($10-30) per raid I have been able to continue to keep up.  For those players who fiercely choose to say that you won't give Kixeye a cent, but keep trying to "get over the hump", I suggest that you aren't ever going to get there.  It's tough to get value for nothing... consider what this game is worth to you.

And for those players who spend thousands, you also need to consider what this game is worth to you.  If you have the disposable funds to spend that much money, and you choose to, that's fine, but you should also consider what else you could be spending that money on and decide if Battle Pirates is the best way to spend that money.  If you decide that it is... good for you, but don't get upset when you realize that you haven't received thousands of dollars of value for the thousands you've spent.

I highlighted the same phrase twice up above - both in relation to whales and free players.  CONSIDER WHAT THIS GAME IS WORTH TO YOU.  Be willing to spend that much, but not much more.

So I continue to put in about $50 into this game every other month, and I think many players out there would say that you can't compete while spending that little.  I will admit that I generally can't crack the top bases, and I can't defend my base against the top fleets.  But I have fun playing this game.  I don't feel like there is any part of this game that I just can't do.  To go into more detail:
  • I hit bases to get my alliance points every week.
  • I keep a guard fleet and nobody walks through my base (less than 25% fleet damage).  I have been in the range of 250 - 300 medals for quite a while... without going "medal hunting" or "medal shedding".
  • I play every raid. I get the top prizes but not always the limited prizes.
  • I sometimes help other players in raids.
  • I do Elite Tier in the Forsaken Mission twice each week without coining repairs. 
  • I continue to work on the new R&D - I'm working on Objective 6 now.
  • My retro lab is constantly busy - specials & weapons I use frequently are R15.
  • I use VXP weekends to get my key ships to Legendary.
  • I beat the TLCs without coining repairs, but usually not all 5 Mastery rounds.
  • I compete in the FAT when I feel like it.
  • My arena rating is 1514 but I haven't played in it for a long while.
So what's the key to playing like that?  Having good fleets.  Some players will tell you that a ship is obsolete a month after it is released, but a well designed fleet will be useful in this game for much longer than that.

My overarching philosophy towards fleet design is that you need to start with a good fleet design, and build it.  It seems sort of obvious, but some players just jump from building ship to ship without a plan, and then have a bunch of mismatched, ineffective ships.  It can be tempting to build the newest, shiniest hull, but having three half-done fleets is less useful than one fully completed fleet.

Let's look at the last few full fleet builds I've done, along with the hull's release date:

Hellstrike - Dec 2013
Nuclear Cruisers - Feb 2014
Harlock's Atlas - May 2014 
Interceptor V2-H - Sept 2014 (build is a bit of a guess - I did some refits & forgot the original build)
Crusaders - March 2015 (Monarch added later)
Rhinos - August 2015 (with Aegis / Neptune / Proto-Hunter)
Tiger Sharks - October 2015


As a side note - the only major builds that I started and abandoned along the way are a Greta's Nuclear Cruiser fleet, and a Goresaber fleet.  For the Greta Nukes - I started those with F launchers but no armor.  I got fair use out of those in the Frost/Snow series of raids running them behind a Jugg X tank, but never finished the fleet, especially when I learned how bad the F launchers compared to others once ranked.  I have two Goresaber hulls done with a few Dragonfire rockets & specials, but saw those falling out of favor very quickly, and decided to stop those in favor of the Crusaders.  I never got much use out of them, although I continue to suicide them occasionally in Reaver Assault Bases for rank.

I also think I used a Frosty / Mastodon fleet for a while in there somewhere...

I've also built a few more hulls here and there, sometimes for Base Guard (like Enforcer, Goliath, or Omega Behemoth) or for other specialized tasks (Juggernaut X to tank, Mastodons for fire support).  But you can see I've skipped a lot of hulls too.  I didn't feel like playing too much with Reaver hulls and their 150% repair modifier.  I missed out on Nighthawks, Kodiaks, Fusion Cruisers... just to name a few hulls that were "worth building" yet I never did.  I also never got into the slow weapons like mortars, and the short range weapons like rockets & scatterguns.

I'm still finishing out the Tigers, as well as working on a few more goodies (like a Harlock's Aegis), so I still don't know what the next hull I would build around is going to be.  If I were ready to start today it would be the Draconian Carrier (not the Heavy Cruiser).

When I look back over those last seven fleets, four of them (NC, V2-H, Cru, Rhino) have been generalists.  I used those fleets in Forsaken Missions, Raids, Campaigns, and Base hits.  The Hellstrikes were mostly useful in Base Hits only (I still used MCX for other areas), the Harlock Atlas were not useful in FMs, and not very good base hitters without a Grimzerker, and the Tigers are obviously more specialized.  Whenever I've built a non-generalist fleet, I've always had an existing fleet that I felt was still a useful generalist.

My latest generalist fleet (the Rhinos) really benefits from having more specialized tank ships - the Proto-Hunter is optimized against ships, the Neptune is optimized against land targets & provides anti-mortar coverage, and then the Aegis provides anti-missile & more defense. I foresee being able to continue to use that fleet effectively by replacing the tanks and/or Aegis with upgraded ships while keeping the Rhinos (saving me shipyard time vs. building a whole new fleet).  My Punisher tank finished yesterday, so we will see how much of an upgrade that provides.

One of the benefits of not building every hull, and not doing it as soon as it has been released is that I watch other players to see what works and what doesn't.  I also get the benefits of being able to utilize tech that may not have been available when the hull was first released.  V2-H with Siege Missile Z is a good example of this.  I also was able to take advantage of using a HLNC with my NC fleet since that limited hull was released before I had a 4th NC built.

One of the drawbacks - You don't have every fleet type.  Nighthawks were often real effective yet I didn't have any.  Kodiaks were great once the Siege Z missile was released (and remember Strike B Kodiaks when bypass was reversed?).  But since I've always been able to play this game effectively, I never felt too left out.

So let's get back to where I started - how do I play this game for around $25 per month?

Where do I spend my coin?
Raid repairs:  200 coins has been my "average" raid spend for a while.  This is how I gain access to the tech I want.  I never have a build that I can't do because I don't have the blueprint. The most recent exception to that was when I didn't get the Harlock Aegis on its release.  That first Scourge raid was HARD, and I was not willing to spend the coin or time to get me those points.  I did pick up the Neptune even though I didn't have an immediate need for it... but it has turned out to be a real useful hull for me as a tank.
Ship builds:  For the amount of money I spend, I can't coin up full fleets, but I will speed up the last day or two if I want a ship done before a raid, and I'll speed up a few hours if it will be finishing overnight or some other time I can't access the computer.  Coining some Interception Systems on my Tiger Sharks before the December raid was a great investment to reduce repairs taken.  Really, I'd rather coin a build than a repair but it quickly gets too expensive.
Dock repairs: This is pretty rare.  More often I'm willing to walk away from the game & do something else.  

Where don't I spend my coin?
Non-raid ship repairs: I won't say never, but it is pretty rare for me.  I don't usually feel like it is worth it to me to spend money just to hit a base.  Campaigns, Missions, Uranium... it all can wait.  One very important case of this - snipers.  If someone is out hitting fleets with a Ghostcrawler or Phantom, I will absolutely bring in my ships and walk away.  I'll let the snipers stare at an empty blue ocean & have fun with that.
Research: It can wait.  Once in a while (like ship builds), I'll speed it up it if will be completed overnight as I do like to keep my retro lab busy, but more often I can wait for that extra retro level.
Buildings: Again, it can wait.  I defend my base, but I don't have an "ego" about my base.  If someone smashes it, I am perfectly fine with hitting repair & moving on with my life.  
Rank: Rank is super effective for increasing your ships' firepower, but it is too expensive for me to see the value in coining it.  Before VXP Weekend came around, I would grind away to the 45% - 60% range for my mainline ships... then be ready to move on to my newer fleet by the time I got there. Now I can get them to Legendary without too much trouble.  On the Reaver Assault Bases I use old outdated ships (like those Hellstrikes or Harlock Atlas) to tank while the other ships blast away at Hellhounds & rack up VXP.  I also generally do my ship builds by building them with partial weapons & specials first, then taking them out to rank while the rest of the fleet is building.  This lets me start ranking them earlier and gives me a general idea of their effectiveness.  My interim Tiger build was surprisingly useful.

I hope this summary helps you understand where I come from in paying this game, and how you can spend a little bit of coin to get a lot of enjoyment from this game.  One key - I don't let my ego get in the way... I'm always willing to walk away.

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One more announcement... you may have seen this on Wednesday's Battle Pirates Crib show (or elsewhere), but Kixeye has started a series of meetings with a small group of experienced players called a Town Hall (as a closed group I'm not sure that's the best term for it, but so be it).  These meetings are with the Kixeye Battle Pirates leadership & staff.  The first meeting was last week.  The players participating were Dead Sinner, Boba Fett, PriceIsWrong, Dirty Harry, & myself.  Attending from Kixeye were Michael Murguia (VP/GM), Paul Preece, CM Doomrooster, and approximately 15 more staff (whom we didn't see or meet).  Our first meeting was a bit of an orientation, but we also were able to discuss some substantive issues, such as the overall complexity of the game, as well as build & repair times.  I can't go into full detail, as all players participating were asked to sign an NDA, which I take very seriously.  We plan to have these meetings every other week going forward.  It is early to make any conclusions, but I am optimistic that they are interested in listening to what we have to say.  Although I would prefer an even more public forum, I hope that this format allows for 2-way, frank discussion where we can suggest concrete, realistic actions that will improve and sustain the game going forward

Since I announced this Wednesday - I would like to add two more notes: 

  • I'll say this first one bluntly - I (and the other players involved) are not doing this to be your suggestion box.  We each have been playing a long time, and have ideas about what makes Battle Pirates fun and what makes it not fun.  We have all been involved in the community and know that build & repair times are a drag.  Fair play (no hackers) is critically important.  Our issues are your issues, and we don't need our inboxes bombarded.
  • Price brought up a concern about announcing this group, and I share it.  It's an issue that both he and I have run into previously - We don't want to be Kixeye's propaganda tool.  If I write an article about something, or when Price talked about something on the BV show... we were (and still are) always concerned about pumping up something that really isn't very good.  I don't want my announcement of this group to be taken as some sort of rosy statement that everything will get better.  If it is just for us to bring up the same issues that have been brought up over and over in the Kixeye Forums and various Facebook groups already, it won't be very useful.  We will need to get the 2-way discussion with Kixeye going, under cover of the Non-Disclosure, in order to make any progress at all.  I want people to know that there is potential for progress, but we will have to wait and see what develops.