Saturday, 13 August 2011

The Die2Nite Herald Issue #6 R&D-Upgrades

The Die2Nite Herald Issue #6 R&D-Upgrades

Trying to remain competitive in D2N is hard. The game is demanding and real life problems or commitements can really get in the way. How many of us have died because we planned to go back to town 5 minutes before the attack only to have our internet die and our game avatars with it. Or going on a holiday with no means to log-in and eventually turning to dust due to the lack of water. Its hard to be an elite player in this game. Not only you have to pay to get the premium abilities but you also have to play long enough to really enjoy the benefits that come with being a hero. So with all the whining on the world forums lets take a moment to remember that the top players have invested way too much $ and time in the game to remain silent. The only problem is they usually just whine and dont really offer any solutions to the problems but thats where the Research & Development team of the Herald comes into play. Because there is one thing that every developer knows "when players make suggestions about how to fix things they are usually wrong".

Yours Azmael


People love upgrades. I love upgrades. YOU loves upgrades. Upgrading in games has always been a way to reward the player for his hard work and dedication. Wherever it will be with increased stats or new equipment options or just your eyes start to shine everytime you fart its always a great feeling to earn an upgrade.
Naturally Die2Nite has an upgrade system of its own. It is not a customization tool for the players but rather a Town wide improvement tech. But the system is flawed!
The game is in its 3rd season right now. And many seasons have passed in other realms aswell so the game designers have had alot of time to observe how the game mechanics play out and what the players think about them. Listening to the community doesnt mean you have to do everything your player base wants, but feedback can give you alot of directions when you are lost in the desert and looking for the road to that buried treasure called "customer wallet".
So why is our upgrade system flawed and why hasnt it been fixed? Who knows. . . .i will point out that Motion Twin do support a range of games and products so maybe it is simply a fact of being understaffed to handle all the work. On the other hand maybe there is just no developement team that sits on a round table with 50 can of beer and tries to figure out the secrets to making awesome games. Because there is this one thing called specialty. While they are some people who are really good and programing and coding and some people who design great websites and UIs there are also people who come up with shit for the former to do. And sometimes when that creative spark goes missing from the initial lunch of a game (especially a browser one) it can be very hard on the programers to come up with new content. The trick to keeping your player base happy is NEW CONTENT. Even if you add a different picture on the main page that alone does ALOT to make your players have that believe that their game is being worked on. If you want to be more succesfull naturally you will make more and better content with time but if you just want to milk there are ways to do that aswell (but with the latter strategy your game will die off eventually).
The English version of Die2Nite has had regular upgrades every 3 months. But players fear that receiving already developed content from the original D2N time after time means that our version will go down the same path as the older one. It is a valid concern and hopefully MT understands that after season 4 when they run out of pre-made content they will need to come up with new stuff. And thats why today we will talk about the Upgrade Tech Tree of D2N.

3 Seasons we get updates but the broken upgrade system was never tackled. Even today with the arrival of the blueprints mechanic the tech tree remains painfully familiar to all players. For the past 6+ months the way to go was:
Watchtower 1,2/ Searchtower 1,2,3,4,5/Defense Focus 1,2,3,4,5
Sotimes the Searchtower upgrades came before the WT and here and there towns might upgrade the PUMP between days where they needed some extra water rations. But the upgrade path was always set. You could not hope to survive in the game without following it. Similar problems existed with the constructions but now due to the blueprints things have become more tricky and volatile. But the upgrade path remains set and broken and BORING!
Boring is a word Motion Twin as a developer does not want to hear from its players. EVER.
So how can the upgrade path be fixed?
1) Fix the bases of the upgrades
Workshop to this day remains the most pointless and useless upgrade in the game. If it is never used by players why is it even in the game?  
2) Cut the levels. With Epoq stating that the main goal of the designer team is to make the average town last 15 days why are all the upgrades stretched to 5 levels? Thats way too much. What needs to be done is have the bonuses from each level beefed up and cut the last 2 upgrades.
3) Make choices matter. Die2nite is a VERY social game. However due to the broken tech tree upgrade decisions are never really discussed by town residents. Its obvious what needs to be upgraded and if it is not the town is screwed. Each upgrade has to be designed in such a way that it is always a valid option and by doing so forcing players to discuss at lenght the tech path the town should take. When players get involved in decision making they get more attached to the game and get a better sense of achievement.

Ultimately you want your players to fight for their upgrades!
Now all these may seem like very base and logical solutions but sometimes the most obvious answers remain hidden from people.

So lets try to give Motion Twin something to think about shall we?
Here`s the list of the current known upgrades:

Defensive Focus:
WIth the nerf of the Focus the whole Defensive Objects mechanic became obsolete. In the past DOs were way too important for the towns survival so we understand the nerfing but now they are close to useless. The Heralds solution? Ditch the upgrade and give DOs a permanent 4 pts score. With the SearchTower now being a blueprint and if a town lacks scouts or willing residents to camp it might become hard to keep up with the defense needs of the town. So a healthy amount of DOs that can help cover some of the early pressure is the answer. There is really no need for the upgrade anymore.
Great Pit:
The DEF bonuses of the Great Pit upgrade have always been retarded. Thats not an upgrade thats an insult! The def points should be seriously beefed up.
Level 1-50
Level 2-100
Level 3- 200
You dont need more than 3 levels. And each of these levels can cover an early, mid or late game attack just by itself. And note these bonuses are per level not the total amount. The point with this upgrade is to make the town residents aware that even with the lack of materials there still ways to buy some times and try to get out of the tough spot they are in. Giving the pathethic 13 pts or so per level up in previous seasons was completely useless and had no real effect on the meta-game.
Water. The most valuable resources in the wasteland. No matter what game no matter what movie no matter what setting. Water is always the most important thing in a post apocalyptic world. Now good towns dont have alot of deaths not until mid-game around the 8-10 day mark. 3 seasons of playing has created alot of high level players or at least players with enough experiance not to die from noob mistakes. That means more players play per town and the average in-take of water has been increased. Its all good to try to flavor the game with the old "its more cool if we make water hard to keep" but you have to understand that your water item is far from pure flavor in Die2Nite. Its source of survival (if you dont drink you will die) and its a source of game time. And since D2N already has a limited amount of action a player can do per day you dont really want to limit him anymore by forcing him to ration water. Water rationing strategies should be left to elite players who want to survive those crucial 2-3 extra days in order to become the number 1 town.
Die2nite players spend alot of their time in the game so they should be nurtured by allowing them to actually do stuff instead of just staring at the auto-search counter. Thats why the pump upgrade tree should be much bigger:
Level 1- 80
Level 2-100
Level 3- 120
*WHOAAA thats alot of water per upgrade* some of you will say. Yes it is. But the real thing here is to not force a water starved town ot keep upgrading its pump and forfeit any other chances of advancign in the game. Water upgrade should give you the power to go out in force and try to get the town in a better shape. Not to just wet the lips of everyone and then have em thirsty on the next day.
Too important and takes too many upgrades. It has always been the most obvious and boring build in the game. But without it towns are doomed. The Searchtower should be quick to upgrade because right now in season 3 the meta game has changed too much.
Level 1 45% chance to replenish a zone
Level 2 85% chance to replenish a zone
Why only two levels? Because SearchTower is no longer day 1-2 achievable. Most towns dont ever see a searchtower. And some get it too late to even make a difference. Thats why a fast upgrade tech on the search tower is the way to go. The way the mechanic will work is that it will give a fair chance of slow or unlucky towns even if they got their ST on day 10. And a lucky town....well they were lucky in getting it early anyway...and no town will ever upgrade anything else beyond the ST to level 5 once they get it. But thats BORING. And we dont want boring. So we already know the lucky town would go for level 1-5 upgrades straight away so we just cut things and make it nice and easy for everyone. Let them argue what to ugprade after the ST.
The watchtower is a very curious upgrade. It is a dual blade because non experianced players cant or dont know how to use it to their advantage and the high level ones dont really need the WT that much to keep things rolling:
Level 1 Shows 6 zones and zombies in them
Level 2 Shows 12 zones and zombies in them.
Level 3 Shows the whole map and the zombies in them. Unlocks a building that once built will open the teleportation option (2AP) the materials could vary and i wont go as far as making up a list or a name for the building now.
Most useless upgrade EVER! Ironically one of best players in the game is called Workshop :D
The AP reduction is a good thing but it just seems so insignificant when you look at the low AP prices of buildings. Extream Projects and Wonders can truly benefit from it but those are late game buildingsg and you need to survive that long. And now with the 15 day average goal set in place workshop upgrade has become even more frowned upon by players.
What upgrading should do is give players that AP reduction bonus but most importantly serve as a tech unlock in the Construction Yard. think of it as a flavor to the game. The citizens of the town have their Architect Study and practice new stuff at the workshop and eventually come up with new way to build. Thus maybe reducing even the construction materials and even unlocking a new building or two at the last level 3.

Bottom Line:
The bottom line here is to make choices MATTER! Make them all strong enough to have people discussing the tech path they want to go for. By making ST only 2 levels you remove the boring upgrading and go on to the good stuff with the rest of the tree. Besides it is in no way too overpowered because towns have no set time of obtaining the SearchTower and you also need to get that Study first anyway and sometimes that steroid or vodka can be quite problematic as the Herald has pointed out in previous issues. So the goal here is to have the citizens sit down in their town forum and have a conversation like this:
Okay so we upgrade the PUMP we all go scavenging and we do the Moat to cover the nights attack or we upgrade the WT to level 2 to see where the rest of the map buildings are and we go camp there to find us some blueprints nad hope for the best. OR we make the Great Pit to cover the attack and dont worry about the moat.
Its all about choices. Making the players have options. Making the game flexible. This way things like what day you got your ST and what blueprints you find can really make for some fun decisions. In the long run towns will become so very different from each other and the social aspect will be boosted because players will need/have to interact more with each other in order to get the best out of the new tech tree.
Also because humans are humans it will make for some crazy situations when two coalitions clash and start arguing what to upgrade. But even if the citizens have a fallout the upgrades themselfs always have to be powerfull and beneficial enough to outweight the rest of the problems. Its all about choices and freedom. They all will die but after their town is dead they will remember the road that led to it. Was it a boring ST 1-5, WT 1-2 Pump 1-3 or was it some kind of a crazy mix between everything?

At The End Of The Day
I have been meaning to talk about this for a long time. Originally i planned to make this a video on youtube but i just cant find the time for it. This issue is obviously a bit different from the others. Its actually mostly aimed at Motion Twin`s dev team and The Crow and Epoq. Hopefully it will make them sit down for a minute or two and think about this. In reality fixing the upgrade tree can change the game so much and it is only tinkering with the numbers (well mostly). One of the best ways to get your game right is to play around with numbers and try out new things all the time. I remember a game called Utopia that back in the day was probably THE browser game to play. And each of its seasons it changed things so much that just when you learned how to play your race and figured out a tactic everything got flipped on its head. It was crazy ballzy and it was totally awesome. The game never felt boring or the same. So lets hope for a new and improved tech tree in the future.
And in the mean time . . . try not to die2nite!

1 comment: