Saturday, September 17, 2016

Rise of the Warlords - Two days in

I've had some time to make some first impressions of this raid, and I think the biggest surprise we got just before the raid started was the point awards:

The reduction in points paid out to a Tier "5" (that's an A set for those that don't adapt well to arbitrary name changes) for players above level 80 is unprecedented.  It makes some weird incentives.  

Just to set the stage, for this raid I'm running two fully ranked Hellwraiths with the following build: 

Some people like Mimicus, some don't... some prefer X armor for this raid, some don't.  Anyway, the biggest advantage of this build is that the extra Concussive Resistance cuts the penalty when you screw up & surface in range of the enemy.

So with that build, I can do an A set for 3 coin (no crew) and earn 1,725,000 points, which works out to 575k points / coin.  The weird thing is that if I do a B set, it costs me 2 coin to earn a little less than 725,000 points, or 362k points / coin.  But since the health on the B set targets is lower, I can blow through 2 B sets faster than an A set (where you really need to be careful and pick your way through).

As another reference, I was earning about 1 million points / coin on the previous raid cycle.

So the result is that ... (for high levels), the A set is the "grind" target, but the B set is a more costly, quicker point earner.  That's the wrong progression through the targets, and a real indicator that Kixeye hasn't correctly balanced the time / difficulty of the targets.  In fact, it's the time/tedium factor that bugs me the most about this raid.  A targets are just too slow to complete.  It's been a theme in raids lately as the target maps are too big to do quickly.  Higher speed ships like the Hellwraith and Apollo help, but for players without the top tech it's a huge problem.

I haven't talked about the S set yet - I'm hearing about players doing those for 8-12 coin (300k - 460k points / coin) with no crew, which is a bit lower but in the same neighborhood as other targets.  I'm doing those as well, and I'm doing them cheaper, but I'll say my experience isn't average or repeatable for most players.  You may recall (I've mentioned it once or twice) that I recently earned and built a Ghostcrawler.  Although the high repair modifier on the GC means that taking damage from death weapons is expensive to repair (1.5 coin for each scout), I've been using the GC to prep for myself.  Since a Ghost never surfaces, it can drive right through these targets and attack whatever is convenient as long as you keep a decent distance from the drones (I'd estimate 50-60 range or so).  So the technique I'm using is to prep all of the ships in the S target down to a sliver of health with the Ghostcrawler, wait for a timeout, then come in with my Hellwraiths and blast through and finish everything off.  I end up with about 4 coins repair on the Hellwraiths (and nothing on the GC if I do everything right).  Since my GC isn't ranked yet, this takes a while (2 cycles in the S, so 20 minutes), but it's the cheapest way for me to do this raid, and doing an S set like this is also faster than doing 2 A sets (which would pay about the same points).  By the way, mixing the GC and HW in a single fleet doesn't work too well - the surfacing of the HW draws drones and can get your GC spotted, you can avoid most of the Hunter Killer Mortars by sitting the HW in a corner but not all of them, so I'm playing it safe and using the extra time.

FYI here's my Ghost build right now (not done yet): 

So in the end... how upset should we be at Kixeye for this raid?  I've often tried to remind players that Kixeye is a business that has to pay its employees, and they do need to make money somehow.  This raid is about 2-3 times as expensive as the last raid cycle (if you've been planning for it... near impossible if you haven't), but I have no idea whether Kix is making a "reasonable" amount of money on these raids or not (and any player who does say they know is full of crap).  

What I can comment on whether these raids are "fun" and whether I feel like they are providing "value".  

For the fun factor... the real problem I have with this raid, like many others lately, is that it feels tedious.  You have to pick your way through the random cavitator fields, wait for the blink on and off, or get destroyed.  Removal of the retreat button makes it even worse, since unlucky drops of those fields may result in a really long drive or even no safe path at all.  Frankly, the last raid style that I found really fun was the Scourge.  Although those targets were really hard for many players, I think they were fun and the targets were not nearly as tedious as the current crop.  If those raids were introduced like they are introducing targets now - with lots of previews and information to get fleets ready, I think there would have been a much lower shock to the player base, and we wouldn't have reacted as poorly (yet justifiably at the time) as we did. 

For the value factor...  I've always thought a reasonable amount of spend for a raid is about 100 coin ($10).  Also remember for a four day raid, you have 96 hours to repair your fleets which works out to having 192 coin if you can use all that time effectively.  Even if you are on the lower end of the "doable" points / repair spectrum - 3 coins per million points, 100 coin gets you 33 million points, which is enough to get the top prizes (but not the tokens).  As always, the problem is for players that aren't prepared.  If you need to spend $50 to get caught up to current tier tech, that's a bit tough to swallow.

So in the end, I'm not mad, just disappointed.  (I think I've said that one before).  In order to improve the player experience, Kixeye needs to try harder to balance the points, damage, and TIME these raids are taking.  I think that we can have fun AND coin enough for Kixeye to pay the bills, but we're still waiting to see the right balance.