Competitive Play (1.1.0)

edited February 2017 in General Discussion
Implementing rankings has been huge for Wands. Tons of people are playing and every game feels so much more important now. I love it! :mrgreen: But as great as it is, there are a few small issues that keep it from being amazing:

Prison and Armor must be accounted for in every loadout
The majority of new players who are on the leaderboard got there using Gas/Prison or using Armor and hiding. These tactics are difficult even for skilled players to overcome and make for very tedious games. Also, it forces you to have a spell that counters Gas/Prison and a spell that counters Armor in every loadout, taking up half of your relics and preventing you from using creative loadouts. Some ideas for fixing Prison are here, and some ideas for fixing Armor are here.

Spells cost too much mana, which makes it difficult to set up attacks, encourages you to wait for your opponent to attack first, and slows the pace of the game
It's very difficult to land hits against top players because attacks are easy to see coming and you can block or dodge them. I actually think this is a good thing because you should have to work hard to hurt a great player. The problem is, it's nearly impossible to put together effective combos since attacks cost so much, and initiating the attack often leaves you vulnerable (because you run out of mana so quickly). This encourages players to stare at each other and wait for their opponent make the first move. Once you spend all of your mana trying to hit each other, you're stuck staring at each other (or hiding) for 20 seconds waiting for it to recharge so you can do it again. If you don't wait, you'll only be able to use one attack at a time (no combos) which can easily be blocked or dodged. The pace of the game right now is much slower than it could be and big chunks of the game are spent waiting for mana to recharge. I think the solution is to make all spells cost 40-50% less.

Being able to win on damage encourages defensive play styles and running when you have the damage lead
I think this is much better than just getting draws when time runs out, but it's made me play much more conservatively because taking even one hit could result in a loss since your opponent can (and sometimes will) just run away from you for the next three minutes. I think the easiest fix for this would be making the winner the one who has more health left when time runs out. That way, at least your opponent would have to prevent you from getting pickups if they want the win.

Comments

  • edited December 2016
    The volume of players I've seen on Spectator over the last week has been nothing short of amazing. All of that hard work is finally starting to pay off. Congrats, @nux!

    The large amount of players is going to give some great information about which way the winds are blowing balance-wise. Hopefully you guys are recording bulk data about things like: the order each spell is unlocked, how often they are equipped in a loadout or fired, what the win-rate for each spell is, what spells are paired together most frequently, etc.

    I've posted about balance at length elsewhere, but a quick summary of what I think should be addressed next:

    -Prison/Chaos Leap invalidating each other.
    -The repetitive Armor recast loop (add a warmup or a cooldown to break the cycle).
    -Lightning: Charging it up telegraphs much too quietly, VFX too random and hard to time, baiting needs a mana cost.
    -Hail: A little too weak to be useful atm (bump DMG back to 4 and tune other attributes accordingly?)
    -Dome: Too powerful in too many ways (giving it a short warmup time before it activates to make it less effective at close range would be a good start.)
    -Shield: Fix the crotch shot.

    I do agree that it's worth testing out lower spell costs (or higher max mana) to experiment with stringing together slightly more elaborate combos.

    The speed of mana regen could also possibly be slightly higher, though this would primarily affect only the pace of the game.

    I don't think that using damage dealt OR remaining health is an effective tiebreaker, as both encourage running/hiding once you have the advantage. This is the only change I was disappointed to see. It's certainly harder to find ways to reduce the frequency of draws, but that is the right approach in my opinion (and in the long run will result in much more exciting gameplay).

    Also, if you have access to the heat sensor, you could generate a LOT of great word of mouth by adding a HUD indicator when the player's phone is getting close to the overheating threshold...I'm talking Valve levels of goodwill if you can get this to work.
  • Also, if you have access to the heat sensor, you could generate a LOT of great word of mouth by adding a HUD indicator when the player's phone is getting close to the overheating threshold...I'm talking Valve levels of goodwill if you can get this to work.

    YES!!
    When it takes 30 wins to make up for 1 loss, the thought of overheating is terrifying.
  • Agreed to all of the above. I would like to echo the cry for reduced cost of spells to enable more use of stringing spells together in combos, and at least personally I would like the speed of the game to be a little quicker in terms of mana usage. (Fewer stare-downs and hiding waiting for regeneration.)

    Another note worth making is that especially with a growing player base, more equal matchmaking would be AWESOME.

    Instead of queuing up against the next person who's ready, maybe hold players for a bit, and then match with the closest ranked player who is also queued up. It's frustrating to get online, when there's 30 people on (which is otherwise great!), and seeing several top 10 players, all of which are busy wailing on new players and not playing each other. They may not even be able to play each other because when they queue up, they are immediately matched up with a different player.
    A side effect of this is that those trying to farm points from new players can't use spectator to try and pick and choose matches they know they can win.
  • edited December 2016
    I'd actually like to see neither mana costs lowered, nor mana regen raised. This would make the game more twitchy and less strategic with more spells being slung around chaotically and less carefully chosen usage of precious mana. This came up in chat awhile ago, and for my own gaming preferences (not that they match everyone else's) I'd prefer that if anything, max mana was raised. Or, spell cost was lowered and mana regen was lowered proportionally (same effect as raising max mana). This would have the effect of permitting a burst of mana expenditure, but still requires you to be wise about preserving mana... It would also have a greater reward to people who were more skilled at leveraging mana advantages in firefights. Maybe you could even start mana at 50% in this case since there would still be plenty of mana to start with but it wouldn't pressure players to immediately spend mana in order to keep generating more.

    A side effect though of mana being so finicky currently is that lightning is kind of overpowered because it's the one spell you can use to push the opponent around without using any mana. I have lightning on all my builds always since it's so versatile. Adding a small mana cost to baiting, as pleased said, is probably wise... But it should be low enough that you can still use it to drain dome players as lightning is an essential dome counter, and ideally low enough that you can drain a shield player at the same rate you get drained (so it cancels out, like it does with armor currently)

    Lastly, I think there really needs to be an adjustment to teleporting... Running is kind of the last blatant issue in Wands that needs to be addressed. Ultimately, as discussed a week or two ago in chat, there would be a short delay when you teleported (~200ms would be the low end, or maybe even better as high as 500ms+) which would eat into and perhaps eliminate the latency issue of last minute hits not registering. Currently due to latency it's simply not possible to hit someone who is doing a series of teleports without anticipating and getting very lucky. It would also slow down chain porting in general and make it less twitchy and opponents more likely to be able to counter and land a hit without them simply being able to switch to tp as fast as possible and get away immediately after firing a spell. If you have to fire a spell before tping then it guarantees a certain amount of delay after that last spell before you actually tp.

    Edit: Oh and I don't think dome needs to be nerfed much... It's already basically impossible to use it on the close spots like adjacent pillars in temple, though kitty-corner pillars in temple are juuuust far enough that you can do it if you're really careful, but it's still not easy. There's a certain radius where it isn't effective if the projectile is already past. I suppose that radius could be adjusted but then it would catch more stray projectiles like fist and give more hp. I think it would be a shame to have to introduce a delay though.
  • edited December 2016
    jcwilk said:

    I'd actually like to see neither mana costs lowered, nor mana regen raised. This would make the game more twitchy and less strategic with more spells being slung around chaotically and less carefully chosen usage of precious mana. This came up in chat awhile ago, and for my own gaming preferences (not that they match everyone else's) I'd prefer that if anything, max mana was raised.

    If the spells were less expensive, more strategy would be involved in choosing relics since they could be used together in more complex ways. Right now, if you want to try a Spikes/Phoenix/Lighting combo, forget it. After using Spikes and Phoenix alone, you'll be a sitting duck. You'll be punished for trying to force the action and your opponent will be rewarded for waiting you out.

    Being able to combine spells in creative ways would require planning and foresight to break down your opponent's defenses and to keep them from breaking down yours. The pace of the game would be faster, so you wouldn't have as much time to reflect and plan your next move mid-battle. This would reward having an effective strategy before the game starts and being able to improvise during the game.

    Even if spells cost half of what they do now, I think you would still run out of mana sometimes, but there would definitely be less time spent helplessly mashing the button to teleport away. I don't think this is a bad thing, because I prefer having to use skill and creativity to induce vulnerabilities in my opponent rather than having to wait for them to make themselves vulnerable.
  • Pace of the game being faster and making it more strategic are generally, to a degree, conflicting goals. Having a higher max mana also accomplishes allowing a lengthier, more complex series of spells without increasing the pace of play. It also adds a cost to executing a series like that as it means your opponent will then likely have a mana advantage afterwards, so you have to make it count.

    I think there are two factors here that can be considered independently for balancing:

    - maximum complexity of combo - control this with max mana, or equivalently by lowering spell cost and regen rate together. The more complex and devastating the combos the higher the strategy, and the higher the punishment for using a bad combo. This should be low enough though that mana does run out... if it's too high then a high combo potential turns into a bottomless pit and it just gets silly.
    - pace of play - control this with raising mana regen rate, or equivalently lowering spell cost and max mana together. Too fast and it becomes too twitchy and strategy gets muffled by chaos/coinflips and fumbling with controls, too slow and it's boring.

    Imo the current overall pace of play seems ok, there's time to think but it also gets very intense at points. Pace of play preference varies from player to player of course. I tend to be more of a schemer so i don't mind erring slightly on the side of too slow rather than too fast.

    If your specific goal is strategy though, look to the other factor rather than regen rate as pace of play is independent from strategy until it gets increased too much and then it can only harm it.

    Lastly, as i said before, the real problem is running. None of these adjustments address that in any real way. We need either new spells (more things like prison but less broken) or teleporting needs to be nerfed. The latter is the simpler solution, and because of level complexity it would be difficult to simply raise cost (getting around halls would be too expensive) so some other factor like timing needs to be introduced.
  • I think there would still be lots of scheming if all spells cost 40-50% less. It would just be in shorter increments (~10 seconds instead of ~20) and you would be able to craft more interesting schemes since you could string together more than two or three spells at a time without leaving yourself vulnerable.

    But I agree that the pace of the game shouldn't be too fast. Having periods of intense action followed by lulls to regroup is great. There's definitely a sweet spot, and for all the reasons I've listed above, I don't think we're in it.
  • edited December 2016
    Looking at each spell's cost in terms of time instead of mana will hopefully hammer my point home:

    Teleport: 4 seconds
    Chaos Leap: 5 seconds
    Armor of the Sun: 10 seconds
    Lightning Strike: 10 seconds
    Devils Spit: 5 seconds
    Acid Cloud: 9 seconds
    Devils Twins: 7 seconds
    Flaming Phoenix: 9 seconds
    Blazing Meteor: 8 seconds
    Electric Fist: 6 seconds
    Stone Demon: 16 seconds
    Soil Spikes: 8 seconds

    And many attacks miss, so it's even worse than it looks. I don't think any player with more than a week of experience needs as much time to scheme as the spells require them to wait.
  • edited December 2016
    @jcwilk After considering your arguments and paying closer attention to the pace of the game, I think my suggestion of lowering the spells' cost by 40-50% was probably too much. I still think they need to be cheaper, but ~35% would probably be better in terms of making combos more viable without making the game too fast, and the last minute would hopefully be intense without being absolute madness.
  • Yeah the pace could probably be sped up a bit... I'd probably vote for something a little more incremental like... -25% spell cost and -10% regen rate. I think that comes out to 20% (0.9/0.75) increase in pace and ~25-30% increase in combo complexity (1/0.75 = +33% but rounding down since slower regen means a few less mana points gained during the combo). Probably changing either more than 25% in one step would throw off spell dynamics too much... Even with that change some timings and projectile speeds might need adjusting, hard to say without trying it.
  • edited December 2016
    @OccyRing
    Teleport: 4 seconds, etc

    I take it those are the times to recharge the mana cost of each spell? This is a good way of looking at it.

  • edited December 2016
    @CharmedImSure exactly

    Let's look at Armor since I think it's the biggest culprit right now (in terms of slowing the pace of the game):
    Using Armor and playing cautiously is probably the best way to avoid taking damage, and lots of good players are using that strategy. But every time you retreat to recast Armor, you have to wait 10 seconds to get that mana back plus 4 seconds for each teleport you used to find a hiding spot. If you don't wait the 14+ seconds for your mana to recharge, you won't be able to launch an effective attack against a good opponent, because you have to spend 4 seconds worth of mana for each teleport to get back to them and won't have any mana left for an attack. The result is lots of waiting around for mana to recharge. Edit: I'm not suggesting Armor should be cheaper. I think it needs to be reworked because lowering its cost would make it way too powerful and raising its cost would just cause longer wait times.
  • Yep, decreasing spell cost with a smaller decrease in regen rate will reduce that waiting time but also increase the time it takes to fully recover mana... Both of which are good changes. Pace should be a bit quicker but spent mana should also be a longer lasting condition to fully recover from so that mana advantage is a more significant factor.
  • Let me start by saying the pace should not slow down.

    I am on the action side of the fence, rather than the strategy side. If I get to the last minute of any game, I suddenly have a much better chance of winning, even against the best players. My style of play suits the faster pace and even though my opponent also has the faster regen rate, I am very good at shielding and teleporting at the last possible second. I would have to make a strong case against any teleport changes as I actually enjoy the 'twitch'iness attributed to it. I also think that the mana cost of it is fair so i feel that running and hiding should be sorted elsewhere.

    I've played several games against Occy today and can confirm (grrrr) that playing against a good player with Armour and Dome is very difficult to counter. He kept his distance and chasing him down, trying to down his Armour and then following up with an attack was near on impossible. That's a good strategy and I'm not knocking it; I need to get better :smiley: but if I had more mana or a faster regen, I wouldn't have been struggling so much.

    I think it would be more fair to go with more mana, you could then string together the combos but you would still have a limit. As much as I would LOVE the faster regen, I've said countless times there's nothing more fun than that last minute of a game where everyone is zipping about firing off whatever they want. I would love the option to have games where there were no pickups and it was always faster regen but maybe this should be restricted to friendlies.

    I've not encountered anyone who has done the Armour and run strategy to me yet but that would really irritate me. After losing to Occy a lot earlier, I even tried to do it to him to scoop up a few points. Granted I didn't have Armour and all I was doing was running but in that last minute he managed to hit me once and even though I had picked up health, he had that one won. I like the idea of Armour costing health. You would then be forced to get a pickup from the go, especially if you wanted to cast it a second time.

    I hate using Leap, there I said it. However, I'm forced to bring it because of Prison. I don't even have Leap in two of my wands, which means I have to take a Prison/Gas loss then switch to always using my Leap build against my opponent once I have realised that's what they can and will do. I would love a move similar to Prison, where it just holds your opponent in place via something on the ground (vines or something). Spikes and Gas would NOT be place-able on this so even though you would be trapped for a bit, you could still easily defend yourself.

    I also don't like the tie break rule. I don't even want a fancy rule to sort it. A draw is a draw. Nil Poi!

    TL;DR
    Pace is fine. No tweaking.
    Teleport is fine. No tweaking.
    More mana, not faster regen. More chance for combos but still room for error.
    Faster regen mode for friendlies would be nice.
    Alternative for Prison, a vine-like move that holds you in place. Spikes and Gas not place-able on top so you can easily still defend yourself.
    There should be no tie break rule! A draw is a draw.
  • Thank you all for your input. I shared this with the whole team and we all agree this discussion has been great.

    While we still have some thinking to do about how to approach it all, I figured I can ask and perhaps answer some questions.

    The heat sensor suggestion was great, thanks @CharmedImSure for that. Although we don't have access to that kind of information at the time, I'll do my best to get it asap.

    I'm not sure I agree with you regarding highest damage dealt. We actively chose not to decide the winner based on remaining health because we thought it would be easier to keep track on. Plus how would that counter fleeing opponents better than using highest damage? If anything it opens up to a tactic where you grab as many pickups as you can before the last minute begins and then run around? I'm totally open for suggestions on how to counter the issue, I just want to make sure the solution truly is better than the current one.

    Regarding spell balancing, mana cost, etc. We're getting close to finishing a patch that should counter the last major critical bugs, which means we can finally shift focus to improving the actual gameplay in the coming weeks. Happy days! :)
  • edited January 2017
    @hanlid "I'm not sure I agree with you regarding highest damage dealt."

    You were probably talking to someone else at this point, but if not, I want to make it clear that I think BOTH highest damage AND most health are poor tiebreakers that each encourage running. Giving out points for ties is also probably a contributing factor.

    I'm in favor of going back to the old system where a tie occurs whenever both players are still alive when time runs out. No points are awarded to either player for a tie (again, to discourage running). You must WIN to benefit from the match and that means you must engage.

    If ties are too prevalent under these conditions it should be addressed through gameplay changes that result in more decisive victories (pickups that shift the momentum, etc)...NOT tiebreaker mechanics that encourage running.

    Running is the primary problem here, not tying.

  • @CharmedImSure I meant you in a sense of all of you, but I see now you were indeed in support of none.

    Point taken, I'm willing to agree with you that it does seem like the best approach after all. Will bring it up to discussion with the team.

    Again, thanks for your input!
  • edited January 2017
    @hanlid
    hanlid said:

    I'm not sure I agree with you regarding highest damage dealt. We actively chose not to decide the winner based on remaining health because we thought it would be easier to keep track on. Plus how would that counter fleeing opponents better than using highest damage? If anything it opens up to a tactic where you grab as many pickups as you can before the last minute begins and then run around? I'm totally open for suggestions on how to counter the issue, I just want to make sure the solution truly is better than the current one.

    Yeah, the nice thing about damage alone mattering is that it's pretty easy to keep track of.

    If you make the winner when time runs out the player with the most health and let maximum health go over 100, that pickup grabbing tactic could be a big problem on Halls, but I don't think it would be on Temple or Prison since their pickups are all in pretty exposed locations and pretty close together. But Petrifying Prison (as it works right now) would become extremely powerful because you could use it to hold your opponent in place for 10 seconds while you make a pickup run. Overall, using strategies to control pickup tiles and distracting your opponent long enough to grab a pickup would probably become big parts of the game, and hiding would almost always be a bad strategy while the pickups are still available. I don't know whether these are good things, and the answer to that question depends on the creators' vision for the game. But I do think it would help a lot with the running/hiding problem and would be an improvement over the current state of things, because right now shameless players can always force a draw, and the best strategy for anyone who's done more damage than their opponent (even if it's just landing one Hail) is to play extremely defensively as long as they're ahead on damage. Fleeing players would still be a problem after the pickups disappear since the player in the lead with 1 minute left could just run away for the rest of the match to avoid damage and win when time runs out. But right now that's already a problem during the entire game, not just the final minute, and if a shameless runner lands the first hit, there's basically nothing you can do unless they're not very good and you can catch them.
    hanlid said:


    Regarding spell balancing, mana cost, etc. We're getting close to finishing a patch that should counter the last major critical bugs, which means we can finally shift focus to improving the actual gameplay in the coming weeks. Happy days! :)



  • I'm in Occy's boat, the smallest incremental changes I can think of that would probably improve things significantly (but not fix entirely) would be health pickups permitting you to go over 100, maybe they only give you 5 or 10 if they're pushing you over 100, together with winning it based on health. They're kind of significant changes that would likely require rebalancing, but they at least don't require adding anything new.

    There would be no reason to run if you could just camp the pickups and win by default. It's harder to guard them all on halls but you can at least see two of them at once so you can still guard a majority. I think it'd add a really cool positional dynamic compared to right now how where you are positioned, aside from where you are relative to the enemy, is of fairly low importance. Forcing someone to teleport away usually only has the value of distraction and/or mana burn so it would deepen the strategy around that.

    I think the problem can be reduced to changing one of these two things:
    A: Running can reliably avoid damage entirely
    B: Doing damage is always a prerequisite to winning

    Charmed is I think suggesting fixing A, Occy is suggesting B. Either works imo, but I think B is a less risky, more incremental approach which would at least sidestep letting weaker players trivially decline losses which is the most problematic aspect of it. Adding something to push things in a more decisive direction can always be added in additionally afterwards.
  • I'm on @CharmedImSure side here. A draw is a draw. I shouldnt have to play so aggressively that it leaves me constantly open to be finished off.

    The better player shouldnt have to risk everything to beat some punk.

    Maybe 1 point each for a draw so its not a total loss.
  • If additional victory methods were introduced (eg, winning by health pickups) then runners can be countered by simply winning whatever the other way is. If players are engaged then it's the same as it ever was. The only times you'd have to "risk everything" in my suggestion is if you are either significantly behind your opponent to the point where even getting pickups won't get you back ahead (in which case the loss is deserved), or if you failed to get a majority of pickups (in which case he at least objectively did something better than you).

    Hopefully something we can all agree on is it would be far too generous to the imminent loser of a match to permit them to choose a draw at any time (as it used to be) and even choosing a draw only prior to any exchanged damage (as it is now) isn't viable particularly when draws cost points. If A from my last post was resolved then sure, but that's a more difficult problem to solve.
  • edited January 2017
    To echo @jcwilk's thoughts, going back to the old system would allow you to easily force a draw if you're about to lose by just running and playing defensively until time is up. Even if you didn't lose any points for draws, this would still be a problem because you would be cheesed out of many hard-earned wins, and you would be tempted to do the cheesing when you're getting beat. Ultimately, if every player knew and employed that strategy, nobody would ever win a game.

    If you do go back to the old draw rule, a tiebreaker pickup could solve this problem (whoever gets the most wins if both players are still alive when time runs out). Since draws would be fair and relatively rare, no changes to Elo would be necessary. The pickup would probably need to be on a central tile since players would be inclined to fight over that tile and it would punish running/hiding.
  • Looks like 1.1.1 has addressed most of these issues. =)
Sign In or Register to comment.