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(False) Choices: A Tale of Swords and Javelins and little else

3 Replies
Lockdown51
18 October, 2016, 3:41 PM UTC

Dear Forum Lady,


Hi! It's me again! Guy that is here to complain about things and give props where they are due. TL:DR at the bottom.


So I've mentioned player choice before as being one of the things I like to have in my games and that is how I came to the conclusion I am going to talk about today. It has to do with Choice, or the honest lack thereof that you give players. And it's a shame really. Because you do give the illusion of SO MUCH CHOICE!


Let me be up front in saying that I came to this conclusion after a lot of thinking and poking around at the rather thin wiki for this game. And doing some math which told me that one idea I did have wasn't true but then I thought about it some more and finally landed at my result.


First off I have to say I love the setting of the game. I can't think of too many games that acknowledge that Romans and Greeks existed side by side before the Romans took over everything so hard we still talk about them today. The graphics are nice for the category of gaming it is in and the animations are nice too. And you present us with a plethora of units. Around 40 units or so, which is a nice meaty number.

Naturally you can't build them all right away. And some are stronger than others. That's fine. Practically ever game in existence used a troop tree. That's par for the course. What's not, and this is where I begin complaining, is the accessibility.

Let's take a look at your gorgeous Agreement Tree. There are a lot of agreements. Each agreement needs x amount of articles to unlock that agreement before you can move on to the next one. And you have to do the agreements in such strict order. When I first saw the tree I was like, oh I can jump to cavalry pretty which and make myself into a quick hitting raider! AWESOME! Despite the fact that Rome and Greece were not famous for their cavalry but rather their infantry. But I digress. This is part of that false choice illusion. You have to slog through a lot of agreements to unlock cavalry. Okay fine. "Game balance" right? Despite making cavalry expensive to recruit you lock it behind a pretty tight wall.

For your average player it might as well be a locked box that sits in the deepest vault of Fort Knox. You aren't getting it. Not in this lifetime or the next. And I will tell you why. Time. Yes, I'm going to complain about your timers again because they are very Spartan. Draconian. Punitive. Harsh. You get the idea. Here's why.

Let's go back to this beautiful Agreement Tree. So many agreements, lots of juicy bonuses for those willing to invest reasonable amounts of resources, including time, into. Until you take into account the glacial rate at which you gain articles. 1 per Terra rotation. One. Uno. Okay, fine, you have to throttle and handicap, I mean pace the players some and that's understandable but I wish to go back to my Grain post. It's 12 Articles for Eleusis! 12! And that's assuming RNGesus doesn't give you duplicates. Trading sort of helps bit from what I have seen, the trading pool isn't very robust. Most people only seem to want to trade within 1 Agreement on the tree, either up or down. So if you are given something completely useless to you, you are sort of boned. All you can do is sacrifice a small mammal and pray to RNGesus not to screw you over. On top of that, friends can't help that much either. You get 2, two, dos, articles that you can send someone per day. So there is that. a 24 hours timer for Articles to get Agreements. Okay. Admittedly, I'm okay with a 24 hour timer. 

It's just with how restrictive and brutally on the train tracks the Agreement Tree is, you're never going to produce most of the units that are available to produce. Not in a reasonable time frame anyway. So, I can't remember how many articles you need for some things, but let's just look the total Agreement count to get to the first Cavalry units, the Mounted Peltast. You need, from a fresh game start and counting the Corinth Agreement itself, 14 agreements. If we say an average of 6 (I'm not sure if that is the actual average, I'm using it for an example) articles per agreement, that is 84 articles. Or 84 days. Wow. That is, of course, not taking into account that you, as a player can't even really direct your Agreement Tree. It just sort of happens based on the blessings of RNGesus. 


So you have this wonderful illusion of choice. Until the actual game mechanics come to your house, kick in the door and do unspeakable things to you. Realistically, a new player should probably expect to wait 6 months or more before they can even start to produce cavalry. Combat cavalry. Scouts don't Forum Lady. So instead of being 3 Agreements way, you're 14. Which sucks because the tree honestly makes it look like you can dive for cavalry. And honestly, I think you should be able to. Give the player the choice to go cavalry first/heavy. You already balance out the cavalry units in terms of cost and build time. If someone who is in a low level city really wants to save up to produce a handful of cavalry give them that choice. It work out poorly for them but at least they have the choice.


But this tale of woe doesn't stop at the sheer amount of Agreements one must slog through on the Agreement Tree. Oh no. You guys have another, wonderful glorious roadblock that is even more time killie than the 1 per day timer. You have Glory Points. Okay, I will admit it is a nice little incentive to partake in the many tournaments you guys have and I do personally think the tournaments are a nice touch to the game. It helps provide daily goals and gives fair rewards. But you're choking a system you have already clamped down on.

So in addition to forcing people down the path of linear progression, which by the way makes everyone the exact same, you force us to get these GPs which are only available through the tournaments. Heavens only knows how hard this limits player progression. On top of that you can't even skip the progression. You have to buy the Agreements that require GPs in. that. exact. same. order. This hard to get currency, that you have to expend resources to get, just unlocks the next rung on the ladder. Want Legionaries? AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA. Nope. You have to 400 GPs instead of 100 because you have to buy the Agreements before it. But OP, I just want Legionaries. Well too bad! You don't get a choice! You will be the same as everyone else and you will like it!


It's heartbreaking. It is. I thought I could get my own legion in quick order. Sure they would be expensive being higher up the tree but it didn't look like it would take that long. Oh how naive I was 30 days ago. Again I want to point out that you guys have already BALANCED THE UNITS. If someone wants to get Legionaries you really ought to let them do so. And no, saying "You can get Legionaries, by filling in the Agreement Tree in a slow methodical manner" doesn't count. I'm talking in a reasonable time frame. Under my suggestion, I'd already have my Legions. Well okay, maybe not a legion. It takes time and resources to train people and as I mentioned before in my Grain Thread, I'm sort of running a grain deficit so I can't just magically summon up an army to conquer the world. I'd have like 3 guys to guard my palace with by now. Maybe. But the point is I would have the ability to get them should I have resources on hand to acquire them. Now, honestly, I have no idea when I will get my first Legionnaire. This time next year. Maybe. It's hard to tell since the source of GPs isn't constant or consistent. Unless you post up the tournaments in advance somewhere I don't know about.


So to recap up to this point: +1 for a great variety of units. +1 Kudos on the Agreement Tree, it looks wonderful. -1 for how awfully restrictive it is. -1 for GPs restricting things even more. -1 for breaking my heart when I figured it out I can't have cav or Legions anytime soon. Net of -1 kudos.


Op, your title says something about Swords and Javelins. Get on to that part. Okay, but I will get to that part but the talk about the Agreement Tree was necessary to get here. But let's ignore the Agreement tree for now. Let's look at units for a second.


The first offensive unit in the game is the Swordsman. He is our basic infantry grunt. As a former infantry grunt myself, don't underestimate us. I'm talking to you, with your fancy spear and horse and more hitting power. Sure you can carry more on your horse and get places faster but when things get ugly you come crawling back to me! Well, not ME. More like me and 50000000 of my battle brothers.

Swordsmen, by default cost 8 resources to make per offensive point they have and takes 5 minutes to produce. An Agema Horseman costs 8 resources per offensive point and take 210 minutes. That's 3.5 hours. Do you realize that Captain Kirk went back in time, saved a pair of humpback whales, and came back to the present in shorter than that time (202 minutes run time on Star Trek IV: A Journey Home)?Sure, Kirk is a great man, but come on. Now, granted I will admit I have no idea if an Agema Horseman murders more or well than 42 Swordsmen would. I'm looking at this primarily from a time and Agreement Tree point of view. Cost wise Swords and Agemas are identical. A player should be able to choose which they will produce. Except they can't. Not really. It's a nonchoice. Players have access to Swords from the get go. Cavalry, and Agema in particular, are so far over the horizon it's not even funny.

Well, okay, the Cavalry are the best producible units. Lets aim lower on the tree. Phalanx! What the Greek were famous for! AHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH. Nope. Buried deep in the tree and GPs locked on top of that. But what about Heavy Infantry? It took a month. Of praying, cursing, begging, pleading, trading, bribing, buying, and weeping before I got the Maroneia Agreement unlocked. But I'm sort of okay with that time frame. I'm not okay with the how. Seriously, let us have more freedom in the Agreement Tree. 

As it stands, you are going to spend most of the resources that you earmark to troops on Swords or Javelins. Not because they become awesome through the power of sheer numbers, but because there is honestly little else to spend them on. They are amongst the first agreements you will clear in the Agreement Tree meaning you can invest in them earlier meaning they get powered up faster. You get General gear for them faster and can get your General pimped out in good order in a reasonable time frame, throwing more bonuses on your Swords and Javs. Which is good, because that's what you're going to produce for the super majority of your game time here. 

You don't have a choice. You're stuck with, at default, 288 Swords/Javs per day. That's it. You're not even allowed multiple barracks to try to pump out more men. We have 36+ building spots available to us in the city. Let us have the real choice of what we build in it the city. Unit training times are slow enough as it is. Let us at least have multiple queues running at once. You can even charge drachmas for the extra barracks. You already charge for the building slots themselves. And more builders. And time boosts. Why not quadruple dip while you're at it? I mean it seriously. Why not charge for extra barracks? Give the players the choice.


Right now we are drowning in so much nonchoice it's sad.


TL:DR: The Agreement Tree looks really nice and lovely but it's all a lie effectively trapping you into producing Swords and Javs for the majority of your gaming life time here.


Sincerely,

Guy who promises to write a nice post about what choice you do give us that is meaningful. But that's later. It's late. I'm tired. And hungry. Little cold...

UTC +7:00
Prometheus
20 October, 2016, 12:33 PM UTC

Hello Archon !

I adore your writting skills and agree in most of the parts that you are suggesting. I will ask a CM to have a look at it and give their opinions in your suggestions!
UTC +4:00
Alyona Kolomiitseva
Community Manager
20 October, 2016, 3:12 PM UTC

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Lockdown! 

A very well-written post and very interesting to read. I hoping that some players will also share their opinion here. 

I'm glad that you love the game setting, the graphics. Our developers and designers did their best to create the atmosphere of an ancient Greece here. And I guess you're right about some historical facts. Like Cavalry vs Infantry usage, etc. This game has a historic setting, but it's not actually based on a real story, so there can be some inaccuracies, let's call them like that.

As for the Choice issue, I guess you're also right here. You have a choice within your actual opportunities that are limited by the game mechanics. But it's not something that our devs have no idea about. It's the way how they see the game dynamics. When they started working on this game they had a certain vision of it, of how it should operate, how it should be monetized, etc. 

I guess time, which you've mentioned, is the most valuable Resource in our game. You will need a lot of it to progress, evolve, grow, and dominate. If you have plenty of time, you can get Resources, produce Units, make them stronger and strengthen your City. Seems easy when we talk about it. 

But in fact, you will need a lot of time, especially if you want to become a TOP player. I'm not even sure how long does it take to upgrade all Buildings and all Agreements. More than a year - that's for sure. And I totally understand why players want to progress faster. But also I understand that it's exactly how our devs see this game - you develop your City, step by step, you take your time and learn how to use Units and features before you can get the access to the new ones.

As an experienced player you already know what you need. Even some new players know the game genre good enough to understand which Units are better to build, and they may find it frustrating that they need to play with weaker Units for the next several months. Some players like it, and just change weaker Units into the stronger ones on PPs, some don't.

The whole idea is that stronger Units are not just a part of your Army. They are also a part of your City development. Only the Archons that are experienced enough can start training them.

I don't think it's bad. Of course, everyone wants to have all options available from the start. But there's also a chain of events and activities that you need to pass before getting more options.

As for the training queues, I've passed a suggestion to separate Offense and Defense, speed up Unit production, but they all were declined. Mostly because the current training times were not occasionally set. They were calculated, considered, and our devs know what they're doing. They really understand your wish to send huge squads into the battle each day and get them back in 24 hours or in a few days. However, that is totally against our game balance and dynamics. Our game is about epic battles where you can lose everything and will have to rebuild for months. That's what making this game a Hardcore strategy!


Plarium Community Manager. Please note that I will be unable to respond to your private messages, review your tickets, or check your account information. All technical issues should be directed to our Support Team at plrm.me/Support_Plarium
UTC +2:00
Lockdown51
23 October, 2016, 3:43 AM UTC

Dear Forum Lady and Firetaker,

Hi, it's me again! Guy replying your replies on my thread!


Glad you enjoyed my long winded ranting. I just wanted to reply with a few things.


Yes, I'd agree that Time is ultimately the most valuable resource in the game. It's probably the most value resource anyone has in their life.

For the Choices and free picking of Agreements, I do understand why the Devs did things the way they did. Doesn't mean I like it or want my cake (Cav) now. But like I said it really slows down the game, and ultimately for a browser based game, that is the standard design. After all, no matter the game type, the players will always chew through content faster than it can be created by the Devs.

I still think Offense/Defense buildings would be nice. I guess it does add a strategic layer by forcing you to pick what you will produce in with your resources and time. However, I feel it can have a negative effect. If people spend all those resources and all that time building up a grand army, they might get attached to it and not want to send out into battle. After all, it was really expensive, took forever, and looks oh so pretty. So it ends up sitting in the Acropolis on Honor Guard Duty. It's exactly what happened to the Army of the Potomac in the US Civil War. They founded and trained a huge army and it sat in Washington DC doing nothing for years while the Civil War raged on because the General in charge didn't want to lose the army he had built. I guess that is also a sort of watershed for players though. You can see the ones that the difference of building an army and just looking at it being shiny, and actually using it in smart, meaningful ways. Another famous example is the Potsdam Giants which was made famous by Fredrick William I of Prussia. Never saw combat during Frederick William's reign as far as I know because he spent a lot of time and effort (sometimes kidnapping recruits) to build his taller than average regiment. Point is, slow build times might backfire in making people overly attached to their units. Especially Champions.

As an aside, I love the Infirmary. Brilliant idea. And as a monetized building I'm perfectly okay with it because it A: Provides a service, B: gives players the Choice to get some of their units back, and C: isn't too expensive on the individual unit level. It can get pricey though if you have a huge fight and want to get back several thousand troops. Still, love it as a mechanic.

Also, as it isn't part of my Meaningful Choice Post that I will get to, I want to also say kudos on making Combined Arms a thing. Sure it is a forced thing but at least it is a real thing that works organically. You have no idea how many games try to do this and fail miserably. Slow build times and Persian Positions help to really enforce this and I personally love that. Most games have the different unit trees but usually there is an ultimate unit or two that totally makes entire classes invalid. Here, you need to have your Light and Heavy Infantry, Your Phalanx troops and your Cavalry. Yes you can throw everything into the meat grinder but smartly attacking PPs with the correct unit types is a lot better. And to make sure you have the correct units on hand you have got to build them all. Which is why I suggested the Offense/Defense queues. With PPs especially, having 1 production building for what is essentially 2 different progression paths really bottlenecks things.


Okay, that's all for now. I'll get to the Meaningful Choices Post. Really I will. I just have to cram English into the heads of young impressionable minds right now.


Sincerely,

Guy that is late in posting a thing that he promised to post.

UTC +7:00
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