So 500 days ago today Small Giant Games first teased the introduction of the Hero Academy to the game and since then players throughout the game have rejoiced at being able to convert their useful duplicate heroes into something useful and so it’s time to raise a glass of celebration at 500 days of the Hero Academy.
The question is how will you be celebrating 500 days of the Hero Academy? To mark the occasion I personally am quitting the game, I have these past few weeks been checking out other games in anticipation of this landmark occasion and have already found my new fix but enough about that how will you be marking the occasion?
OK so about 90% of me wanted to leave it at just that but with my posting history many have come to expect the long waffles and rants that might be feeling short-changed by such a short final send off so if you want one final bout of verbal diarrhoea on my leaving and the state of the game then here it is in this drop down section but for the rest of you save yourself the bother and don't click as it is long as having put it all in drop down I can't then put the digressions in it in further drop downs so only click if you're a hardcore follower and ready to be pummelled into submission by text. As it is all off topic from how people plan to mark the 500th day since Hero Academy was announced it has been shoved in the drop down but I’m also hoping veering as far off topic as this within the drop down from the topic’s OP that I bag the title for topic that went off the fastest in the most spectacular fashion on the way out.
How in the name of Alby’s sweaty ball sack (Point of information: when not reviving heroes Alby spends his time coaching Powerball from Gladiators in an effort to revive it as a sport and not whatever your mind may have gone to that could have required this to be moderated) have we got to the point where 500 days have passed without it even appearing in beta for proper testing. From a technical point of view the Hero Academy would not be much more than a glorified Training Academy with the build requirement, build time, research time, input requirement and output reward values tweaked. That is not by any stretch of the imagination difficult to do – here’s the obligatory link to the pseudocode I produced to implement a much more complex and divergent take on a Hero Academy that took about half an afternoon to do to emphasize this is not difficult.
The reality is there is an underlying problem within the community in that the community is shaped a lot by its senior players and many of those senior players started playing when the game was very much in its infancy. Back then Small Giant Games was a struggling start up games company whose first two games had tanked was essentially taking a final punt on a game they came up with by pinching ideas off other games in the top 50 in that position it meant SGG needed to be cut a lot of slack. And that was the first impression many of those senior players got from SGG – at least it was for most that stuck around.
Now you know what they say about first impressions, once formed they’re hard to shift and so despite the fact SGG is a million miles from that struggling start-up position having been acquired by one of the biggest mobile games makers Zynga and the CEO goes swanking around mobile game conferences as a poster child to other mobile game start-ups an attitude of “they’re small and trying their best with what they have,” continued and permeated through the forums to players below such that much of the player base is so much more willing to make excuses, cut slack or make allowance SGG now than they would for any other games company of a similar size – or even to the volunteer Beta Testers that test this game (I mean everyone seems completely happy to roast them as clearly beta testers are those all-powerful beings that ruin the masterpiece that SGG would have otherwise put out without their meddling). SGG is no longer “small” out of necessity but by choice. In the talk I linked to earlier in 2018 they were already blowing $90m a year in advertising to get new players and was admitting that was where most of their budget spending was going and more would be going in future years. And of course it was as whilst the player base was happy to make excuses for why it has taken SGG many months more to do x or the reason why y came out as a stinking pile of garbage then there is little need to invest any more in improving on the quality of new features as the player base will forgive it anyway. Indeed they’ve managed to get parts of the player base to voluntarily do roles to manage their own forums and test their games that other companies would actually have to pay someone else to do!
And so we get a conveyor belt of junk because SGG knows they can skimp as much as they like on quality such as:
Raid tournaments that were announced to fanfare that they would be an exciting new source of AMs are so fundamentally logically flawed in their implementation (If you are going to score people’s defences then each defence must receive a fair number of attacks to be able to fair score it. If you then set a limit on the maximum number of attacks each player can do you have set a finite number of attacks that can be done in a day across the tournament such that if you don’t then set a limit on the number of times each defence can be hit a day then most defences will not receive an adequate number of attacks a day for a fair assessment of their score whilst a small minority receives way too many hits. This problem will only be made worse for those receive the most extreme number of attacks if only counting the result of the first hit each hour for if multiple players are hitting that player at the same time then it is more likely the first hit each hour will be a loss for the defence as an attacker with either a heavy stack or a lucky board will finish before an attacker that loses over a protracted battle. As such setting a hard limit on attacks but not on defence – along with the other daft rules – mean defensive scoring is typically nonsense as most defences won’t be hit a fair number of time to get an accurate assessment and a small handful at the other end of the spectrum are disadvantaged by counting only the first hit each hour) that the rewards for the whole thing were nerfed to oblivion to severely reduce the number of people that would even care about it.
Is there really much more we can say about the Alchemy Lab besides that what we got answered the question of what would happen if a great idea was taken and driven through an automated car wash in which the water had been replaced with liquified horse manure?
Despite months and months of requests to overhaul the Challenge Events to give more of the player base an actual reason to do more than just the completion rewards when the overhaul did finally come in a game of around 2 million players SGG
generously increased the number of prize pools such than now at best (assuming nobody gets a top position in more than one of rare, epic or legendary which we know is not the case) 0.08% of their player base can win a 4* AM from a Challenge Event each event. No real incentive for the vast majority of the player base to try compete or improve their scores at all.
Even now updates such as the Class System need to be re-evaluated based on what we know now. 4* AMs have always been scarce in E&P but it was mitigated to a large extent by the fact that a team of 3/70 5* and 4/70 4* heroes still have a reasonable shot at taking down a full team of 4/80 5* heroes HOWEVER the stat boosts that would come with +20 5* heroes meant that 3/70 5* and unemblemed 4* heroes would be about as competitive as a 3* against a 5*. As such many cautioned at the time that the prospect of +20 5* defences in wars and the need for 6 competitive teams in wars that 4* AMs would need to be made a little more obtainable especially for newer players to catch up. However given we had been promised exciting new sources of AMs with raid tournaments, an overhaul to Challenge Events and the prospect of the Alchemy Lab the problem was perceived to likely be solved in the year or so that it would take for people to get the emblems for a +20 defence but we know what happened to most of those ideas. Instead we’ve just got a new Choose Your Ascension Material deal which couldn’t be a bigger admission that the Alchemy Lab wasn’t fit for purpose and 6 additional 4* AMs for F2Pers with the Path of Valor which isn’t even enough to ascend 1 additional hero a year. The assumptions on which the Class System depended on occurring did not take place and so counts against it to.
And so it is at this point I will address what will be the inevitable smart-■■■■ comment that someone will have posted in this thread of well you’re gonna leave just before they’re going to put it the Hero Academy in beta to which I say:
- You have to have your limits, if you have them or continue to stretch them for people you become a doormat that people will walk all over and as far as I’m concerned 500 days is plenty of patience already spent and…
- Given how all those things above turned out I have absolutely zero faith that this too won’t be just as rubbish. At this point after the introduction of the Tavern of Legends with possibly the worst event gate ever released you better start praying to Ares their grand idea for Hero Academy is you trade in a legendary hero for enough trinkets to do a single pull at that awful gate. Then again taking the 5* hero they just got from a training camp so they can turn it into enough tokens to pull the pretty much guaranteed Dawa that gate will return I sure is just about as friendly SGG can get to F2Pers when they mean “F2P friendly”.
Besides it is just but one problem out of many. The small tragedy of this game is that SGG has the startings of a game that could have become a full blown franchise Angry Birds style but through greed and I guess laziness they have squandered it. The game starts out really good, you’re unlocking new modes of game play all the time and having so few heroes you’re regularly getting something new that refreshes your gameplay constantly but from about level 40 or it becomes more and more into a daily grind that you have to keep up than it is about fun anymore. Unless you’re willing to shell out hundreds it will be many months before you see any new heroes that might refresh your gameplay a bit. (I will say the new game I’m in I’ve found a refreshing change of pace having scored both this week and last week’s weekly critter and both April and May’s monthly ones through free gameplay already – does that mean I’m not spending there? Absolutely not I’m spending on other parts of the game as I am happy to spend money in a game I’m getting entertainment from but I’m also actually getting something out of what I spend whereas for so long here as SGG continues to lower the odds on things it becomes a bigger exercise at pouring it in a drain. You want people to keep spending, I don’t recommend increasing the chance that they get nothing for doing so). You eventually find the sad truth that whilst the initial game is great the end-game here is far from it. At this point we have become slaves to the only thing that keeps us in the game – no I’m not talking about the alliance for you can all decamp collectively to another game if you wanted and have a new alliance or guild there – our rosters. Having painstakingly gathered or spent to get them it can be hard to leave them behind but it is the sunken costs fallacy at work in which we continue to grind and spend to justify or make good what we’ve done before to which there is no end.
And the thing is deep down most of us know this already that raids and raid tournaments are mostly pointless, titans repetitive, wars generating more drama than they need to and you’re just logging in so you can grind a particular hero up to level just in time for a hard-counter or replacement hero you’d rather have spent the mats on to have been released for them or you can just save all your resources and do nothing else for the whole month in hope you’ll get the upcoming hero to instantly max to show off on a defence team somewhere. All the while whilst we’re to varying degrees aware of the issues in the game we’re holding out some hope those issues will be improved because if they are and the game is getting better overhaul that justifies continuing maintaining your sunken costs.
But unfortunately things are not doing so. As the Alchemy Lab and Challenge Event overhauls demonstrate SGG bungling addressing some of those problems but actually goes so far as to make them worse – so far within the first 4 months of this year the number of new 5* heroes is more the 50% of the total number of new 5* heroes released in the whole of 2019! With more Season 3, Seasonal and HOTM 5* to come 2020 will almost certainly see more than a 50% increase in the number of 5* heroes released this year and yet the rate at which you can get 4* AMs has not increased at a similar rate. There is little point pulling if you don’t have the AMs to ascend most of what you get and as pointed out earlier in the age of +20 defences a 3/70 5* just doesn’t cut it enough to be worth chasing in the first place. There will always be arguments that you need to pick and choose who to ascend rather than ascend all of them – this is not an argument against that, it is an argument that if you want people to chase an increasing number of heroes AMs need to increase to reflect that increased rate and so far just introducing the Path of Valor goes nowhere near it.
Those points however have a further problem in that SGG with their special deal with Zynga will be getting big honking bonuses based on their performance over the two years after acquisition and that has meant they’ve been a whole lot happier to undermine the balance of the game to do so.
At the end of the big analysis of power creep in terms of hero stats I did last June I finished with an alarmed warning about the new Challenge Event heroes that were then being tested in Beta. For years the power creep in the stats heroes had been growing very slowly which was fine, you expect some power creep in all games but you don’t want too much of it and especially in Empires and Puzzles given how damage is calculated for as we should all know by now from Titans and our use of attack and defence modifiers is that damage in this game is not linear and that as stats diverge the difference is magnified such that heroes with small improvements in stats, especially after magnifying that difference further with troops and class emblems, can much more significantly improve their tile damage or the damage they receive from an attack than the small stat difference would immediately suggest. The result of this type of damage formula is that if power creep is not kept tightly under control the power differential between the latest premium heroes and the basic ones the likes of F2P and C2P rely on quickly spiral out of control such that the chasm between them and the higher spenders widens to the point where F2P and C2P can no longer compete – even before we consider the specials that come on those heroes. Well in the power creep analysis there was an alarming discovery in that with the new Challenge Event heroes being tested that their stats had jumped up in power compared to Poseidon released a few months before by the same amount of power creep we had witnessed across 19 months of HOTM power creep. This power jump was a massive acceleration in power creep and unfortunately it has continued at this new accelerated rate with costumes, Season 3 and the new Seasonal Heroes. So as to chase quick money SGG have thrown caution to the wind to make heroes appear as appealing as possible to justify lower and lower odds, this means game threatening power creep in stats along with some other questionable decisions like making an exception for Vela’s “extra damage to” to be +70% rather than the +40% others with the similar “extra damage to” wording have. So much so that unless you are willing to chase heroes with lower and lower odds the rate of power creep will push you out faster so we can say for certainty that we’re not just maintaining our roster until the game improves.
SGG have little intention to fix the issues they hope you will, are introducing more problems than they fix and are happy to undermine game balance in the hope of boosting that bonus from Zynga come the end of the year with fingers crossed the player base won’t actually demand they up their game enough to make the improvements that should be expected now they’re no longer a struggling start up. So no I’m getting off of this train and departing now. I would like to thank everyone in the game and forum that have made me feel welcome and hope to see some of you in other games at some point.
I know it doesn’t work this way but when it comes to replacing my fat backside in beta I would like to nominate @FrenziedEye to take my place if he wants it. Whilst in beta I’ve tried to speak out as best I can for F2P and C2P players despite not being either and with a lot of the issues I’ve raised here the health of the game needs a few more F2P and C2P voices in beta if we’re assuming it will make a difference. To be honest after my time in beta I honestly can’t see how it is any different than a glorified clap-o-meter that they hope to also use to generate hype as the vast majority of things introduced there are already too close to their set release date to do anything meaningful about and they pretty much ignore the minor stuff anyway and going from their AMA we’re not their for bug testing anyway.
Anyways tootle pip and good luck everyone with your future pulls (or games if you’re also intending to leave). And with that the moderating team let out a collective sigh knowing they won’t have to check through another dissertation for moderating reasons again – seriously again they should be getting paid, not just for my comments but for everyone’s just as they would be if they were moderating the official forums for a different games company.