Producer Letter - March 6th, 2017

EejEej Member, Administrator, Moderator, Boss Fight
edited March 2017 in Announcements
Howdy all, my apologies for this being delayed from when originally planned.

The purpose of this post is to give folks a better high level view in where we're at, where we're going, and the goals behind different areas.
Rather than one gigantic post - I am summarizing each section discussed, and a reply for each of those sections will go into more detail. Note: that means this post will stay locked until I've replied with all the detail sections.
Since the release of PvP Seasons in late January - elements of the game have caused continued frustration and, in some cases, confusion as to our goals and purpose.
To provide some transparency and clarity to our goals, where we're at, and where we're going - I would like to take the opportunity to discuss the following topics in this letter.

PvP Seasons
The overall goal for the creation and introduction of PvP Seasons was to add more depth to the previous system, in the following ways:
  • A progression system (Leagues) that allow for a variety of progressively-better rewards to be earned daily, upon rank up in a League, and at the end of the season.
  • In addition, we wanted to offer more options in the Honor Shop and to keep some of those options rotating on a season-by-season basis.
  • This progression of Leagues was intended to have soft ceilings based on player Level and team power - that we wouldn't restrict Leagues based on level, but that the player would naturally hit a point of end progression based on matchmaking.
  • In terms of actual per battle competition - our goal was to focus your choice of opponents based on the League you were in with the ideal being players of similar Level and power.
With the release and subsequent pre-seasons - we've encountered issues, both technically and within how the design has played out with a large population. I will cover the current state of these issues and our intent on how to resolve in the Part 2 reply below specifically around Seasons.
Our continued focus with Seasons is on:
  • Continued tuning of matchmaking to ensure fair and fun matches - meaning that there should be a variety of opponents offered within your Level range (generally +/- 4 levels past 40), and that the frequency of a player being offered and attacked is balanced across the League - not as disparate (some with no attacks, and some with too many).
  • Re-examining the "soft ceiling" intent - how do we keep Leagues as progression (both in competition and player Level) but not put non-maxxed players in a state where they can't battle or enjoy the system because they have no fair fights. Essentially... stop pushing the player away when they hit such a "soft ceiling".
  • League progression remains a challenge, with appropriate rewards for the League you're in, and that you can feasibly reach an end progression point with medium engagement (some raid refreshes, but not excessive) and successful play.

Combat / Hero / Meta Balance
While there have been concerns identified previously with certain heroes and the impact of Runes - this has come into even more focus with the release of PvP Seasons.
The current concerns can be categorized as follows:
  • Specific heroes or combination of heroes (synergy or just individually potent) dominate both attack and defense teams.
  • That Runes, when stacked towards one Stat (primarily ATK at this point) and that in the current combat system, Rune bonuses (especially at highest tiers, aka Superior) are causing significant balance issues around length of combat (aka one shot teams) or unintended conditions (like 100% damage reduction).
  • Both concerns above are exacerbated by current combat formulas that prioritize ATK over other Stats - reducing the actual strategic options of heroes and Rune selection.
Part 3 below will cover the state of these concerns and our current intent on how to resolve.
Our current focus in regards to balance:
  • Continue to invigorate, improve, and find a place for existing under-utilized heroes - similar to Monsters, Reptiles, and Beasts recently. This includes focusing on Epics for older heroes over newer heroes.
  • Address Runes and systemic balance issues with a significant Combat system tuning revision - damage, how Stats contributes, and how to handle high bonus/stacked Stat values.
  • As a last resort, propose and identify changes to existing heroes that cannot be mitigated in the above two initiatives.
  • Ensure that any new hero releases don't further contribute to the problem, but rather look to mitigate existing imbalances / strengthen existing weak synergies.

Events, Rewards, and Hero progression
Another area of frustration as identified by you has been event/reward value, reward tuning in other systems such as the Crown Tournament, and inability to make daily progress on the heroes you want to.
The current concerns can be categorized as follows:
  • Event quests and activities requiring high amounts of participation with rewards perceived as not valuable for the time or effort invested.
  • Changes to rewards - such as removal of one type and converting it to another - that are viewed as significant reduction in value. (e.g. removal of Heroic Summons replaced with a lower Gem value than the direct conversion)
  • Availability, or lack there-of, of tokens for many heroes released in the last several months as a daily activity (such as tokens in Dungeons) – requiring lengthy and unpredictable periods of time between opportunities to advance, or only available via Heroic portals or premium offers.
The overall view that these issues engender is a lack of generosity and ability for players to earn meaningful rewards through gameplay that aren’t high cost based.
I’ll cover further details in Part 4 below, specifically around recent and upcoming plans to demonstrate that our goal is for all players to enjoy the game – based on a reasonable level of effort for value.
Our current focus in regards to rewards:
  • Ensure that events provide appropriate rewards for the effort/challenge involved – our first demonstrable result was in the recent Beast event and upcoming events this week.
  • Be clear about changes in rewards – especially conversion or reduction – as to the reasons before any change takes place so that you have awareness and the opportunity to provide feedback.
  • Provide daily opportunities (outside of events) to progress or earn Tokens for the heroes you’re currently interested in developing – in addition, ensure that other avenues such as shops, PWNage and Honor, provide additional variety and use.
  • Re-examine portal catalogs (not just Heroic), behavior, and value in an overall effort to ensure that they are regarded as useful and beneficial.
  • Examine Aether shop pricing/conversion and offer variety to ensure Aether is a) actually used/spent on desirable offers, and b) fairly priced/converted based on effort/value.

There are a variety of other initiatives in effect as well – and I will endeavor to cover those in the next Producer letter planned for March 16th.

It is our hope that providing a better view into what our plans are – both in transparency and intent (the Why?) – will better provide clarity and reduce confusion/concern.

Ultimately, words are only as good as the actions that follow them. In that regards, we hope that the recent days/week have demonstrated initial action and a clear regard to the feedback that you provide.



  • EejEej Member, Administrator, Moderator, Boss Fight
    edited March 2017
    PvP Seasons
    As mentioned above the goal of PvP Seasons is to create a more in-depth PvP system for the individual player - where there is more clear purpose (Leagues) and a wider breadth of rewards (ranking up in a league, end of season, daily chest, and at the highest end: Top 100) and choice in specific rewards (via the Honor Shop).
    As part of this, we wanted the competitive nature of PvP to be reinforced via matchmaking within Leagues (intended to stratify naturally as players move within Leagues) - that players would be matched most often with equivalent level/challenge opponents.
    The intent was that players below max Level (70) would eventually reach a soft ceiling within the Leagues - where matchmaking reached a challenge beyond their current means.
    • For example, it was intended that as players below level 60 approached Warlord III - they, by nature of win/loss and opponents offered, find the League that they "topped out" in, and that players level 60+ would continue to progress until Legend II and beyond was really the realm of 68+ highly powered teams.
    Given where we're at - and based on feedback - these are the remaining areas that remain areas that need to improve.
    Matchmaking has had multiple iterations/tuning - but what remains are as follows (based on feedback/data):
    • Some players appear as offered opponents / recipient of many attacks - this seems to be based on activity level, which is counter to intent: the answer to avoid being swarmed shouldn't be stop playing PvP
    • Compounded by the above, players are seeing the same opponents offered rather than the broader mix of their League
    Our focus going forward is to better “load balance” being the recipient of attacks – regardless of activity, such that all players in a League are attacked roughly in the same frequency, understanding that:
    • Some players in a League are avoided based on Defense team composition, or conversely are targeted more often when offered as an opponent because of this.
    • More competitive Leagues that have smaller populations may see similar opponents more often, but this should be from the overall population of that League, not just a sub-set.
    • In addition, that the overall category of League (e.g. top level labels such as Champion, Warlord, and etc.) may be used for opponents when populations are low.
    • That opponents offered outside of a player’s League/category should be a last resort only due to extreme circumstances – like the population of an entire category being very low.

    Soft Ceiling in Leagues - the intent was to not require hard level restrictions on later Leagues.
    However, the negative experiences of players who hit a League where they simply cannot find opponents that are suitable (primarily approaching Leagues 6 and better) requires that we re-examine how this is handled.
    • In broad terms, currently, Leagues 18 to 8 currently maintain tight Level restrictions on matchmaking, essentially defining a soft cap at ~50 that progressively raises to around League 6 where it starts to tighten to levels 60+.
    Our goal going forward is to determine how best to handle the current effect that a player who isn’t max level reaches a League above their expected player level. We’re currently examining options including hard Level restrictions at certain Leagues with recurring rewards on additional trophies gained when at such a cap.
    • We're still evaluating data and feedback - so please don't hesitate to give your thoughts on these current "soft ceilings".

    Our driving desire is to continue to take feedback from you and metrics in play data to work towards the goals above - and if need be, change these goals from what we learn and hear.

    Here are some of the recent changes, largely based on feedback from you:
    • Seasons are now shorter - 1 week in length.
    • Honor Shop offers have reduced League rank requirements.
    • Both progression and rewards have been tuned to be more in favor of the player - and these will continue to be tuned based on feedback.

    We will continue to push for timely improvements - that move the quality and enjoyability of PvP Seasons forward.
  • EejEej Member, Administrator, Moderator, Boss Fight
    edited March 2017
    Part 3
    Combat Balance – Heroes, Runes, and Meta
    With the release of PvP Seasons, any existing issues with Balance have been exacerbated. Meaning that PvP Seasons and Combat balance are heavily intertwined.
    Concerns with balance are classified in three broad areas: Heroes, Runes, and Meta (or systems like team synergies and the combat formulas overall).
    Hero Balance Goals
    • That no single hero or combination of heroes (via synergy or raw individual potency) dominate as a single solution for combat in PvP (and to a lesser extent, PvE).
    • The PvP battles will, on average, last between 2 and 3 rounds.
    • That when there is an identified issue with a hero or combination of heroes, our first priority is to address this via balancing other heroes to act as counters - and that only as a last resort do we reduce a hero to solve a balance issue.
    • That all heroes, old and new, have a place individually or in-synergy in PvP and PvE.
    While we have been working to improve underpowered heroes - as seen with Beasts, Monsters, and the Reptiles most recently, there are three heroes that still present a challenge.
    Our current focus (discussed below in more detail) is evaluating how systemic changes in the Combat formulas, especially around Stats like ATK and damage overall, will mitigate these challenges.
    That said, in the efforts of transparency – here is the list of Specific Heroes with concerns:
    • The intent for Koros was to be a disruptive inclusion, especially towards buffs or effects, and that his primary purpose was to remove these.
    • Secondarily, his damage potential was meant to be focused on magical opponents and consuming burn/poison/other magical effects.
    The current issue we're evaluating is that Purging Pyrge as an Area of Effect damage ability that intentionally removes buffs/effects before it applies damage has a higher than norm modifier for damage.
    • E.g. if a base attack is 1x, each ability has a multiplier that increases or reduces that damage - most AoE abilities have a reduction.
    This is in addition to the Rune slot configuration that promotes ATK runes (Red/Green slots).
    Currently, we're evaluating how systemic combat changes may resolve Koros - before directly attempting to reduce any aspect.
    That said, our current proposal if we did touch Koros would be to reduce Purging Pyre's damage modifer as well as examine other ability damage potential, and up his Defense.
    • This would reduce his significant 1st round damage - while making him more survivable and still extremely valuable with the purge effects.
    Masuta Kira
    MK has long been the best of the best - high damage, high survivability, and a complete foil on Undead. The largest concern with MK is that he's basically awesome at everything.
    Again, we're evaluating how upcoming systemic combat changes impact MK before making any final decisions.
    It is likely that IF MK was modified directly - it would be in regards to Tenacity (the removal of it), damage modifier on Death Blossom, and re-examining how Undead Slaying functions.
    Shade was introduced as a disruptor in regards to Dark Shroud - a pre-combat buff that protects Dark Allies.
    In addition, Shade was introduced with a variety of unique abilities like Spirit Link and Possession.
    He also had a Rune slot configuration that allowed for significant ATK stacking.
    We are evaluating how the systemic changes will affect Shade, but we do believe that his signature ability – Haunted Past – is overpowered in its damage modifier, and a consideration of the DARK +DMG debuff is also too much.

    With all three of these heroes, we’re evaluating other options than reduction – but we did want to provide forewarning that we are considering reduction options as well.

    Rune Balance
    With the introduction of Runes, our goal was to give you far more customization options in configuring your heroes in battle.
    Over the last months of this system being used, we’ve identified some areas of concern – both from play data analysis and feedback from you.
    Largely, Rune balance is heavily dependent on Meta balance – especially Combat system formulas and how Stats influence combat outcomes.
    Our overall goals with Runes are:
    • That players have options in customizing a hero’s impact in combat – increasing various Stats that have meaningful impact.
    • That the player has more than one strategy in this customization – balancing Stat bonuses versus heavily stacking in a specific Stat bonus.
    • That all Rune types are useful – even if some are special case.
    • That Runes are a separate progression path for Heroes – acquiring new Runes, determining interesting configurations, and chasing powerful high-end Runes are interesting and motivating activities.
    The concerns raised and experienced are:
    • Only certain Rune bonuses – especially ATK – are valuable, and that getting those other bonuses on crafting attempts or as drops is frustrating.
    • SKL bonuses are imperceptible and/or not working
    • Rune bonus variance or which Stats are included is frustrating – the amount of RNG is frustrating
    • Runes – especially based on combat system usage – grant too high of a bonus, especially when stacked where possible, leading to unbalanced battles (e.g. one-shot situations, or must have heroes because they allow for more bonus stacking).
    • The number of Rune types and recipe requirements are overly complex
    We intend to focus on the bulk of the Rune balance issues (bonus amounts, stacking, only certain Stats being valuable) in our larger combat system revision.
    That said we are focusing upcoming efforts on significantly reducing the complexity of Rune types and recipes – and in conjunction, reducing some of the RNG elements associated with Rune stats and bonus amounts.

    Meta Balance (Combat system)
    The combat system itself is being re-evaluated to ensure that it better accommodates Rune bonuses, and better utilizes Stats in general.
    This is a large-scale change that is underway – and will take considerable testing time to ensure PvP and PvE are improved and not negatively affected.
    The key aspects of changes:
    • Ensure that ATK and DEF matter equally in terms of damage done.
    • That current damage curves maintain similar mid-points, e.g. average damage not done in unbalanced situations remain similar.
    • Ensure that bonuses (from Runes or otherwise) are balanced such that stacking has benefits but that hyper-stacking does not break combat balance.
    • Ensure that SKL matters in healing and buff bonuses, and affects the resistance of debuffs/status effects in an attacker SKL vs. defender SKL ratio. E.g. that SKL helps apply/resist debuffs.
    • Ensure that Damage reduction cannot reach 100% except when clearly marked as “Immunity to…”
    Some aspects of these revisions will arrive sooner – such as the Damage Reduction revisions – to mitigate immediate issues.
    We will continue to keep everyone updated and the progress of these changes, and your feedback will be considered.
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