Please welcome new contributor AnarchoDom to MECH*SPECTRUM. For his first piece, he’s got a few things to say about the upcoming “item promotion” endgame…
As we understand thus far, item promotion to an “Mk2” version will consist of paying some fee (probably Gold, but it’s hard to tell these days) to start the promotion of the selected item. Said item will then go back down to Level 1 (or its lowest in the case of bots starting lvl 6?) but with a 20% bonus: to HP for bots while weapons get it for damage.
This means that at max level, an Mk2 bot like the Griffin will see its HP top at something like 190,000. Right now, a Death Button Griffin does around 170,000 damage in 3.2 seconds. An Mk2 version would do around 204,000 in the same amount of time. That means bot for bot, a regular, maxed DB Griff will die in less than 2 seconds against its Mk2 opponent. Just think about how much of the current bots this kind of damage can kill in 3 seconds.
Given that, here are three reasons why implementing this change isn’t good for the game overall:
- Further imbalance in matches in higher leagues
The lack of players population in Champions league (and even Master) means that the matchmaker is grabbing pilots ranked in lower leagues, as far down as Diamond 3. Some of these pilots are still limited to four slots in their hangar, with bots ranging from Levels 6-10 and weapons around the same level. You also see these weird weapons setups that are typical of mid-tier gameplay but are otherwise absent in maxed out competitive hangars.
The worst scenario is when playing solo and being teamed up with these pilots against a full squad of champs. It’s not that they are unkilled – some of them are awesome, all things considered – but they are fighting with an insurmountable handicap. Matches of this sort tend to become a 4 vs 6 affair rather quickly. It’s hard to single out players for fault here, either.
The league ranking system will obviously distribute players pool into a “pyramid” with fewer and fewer players the higher you climb in league points. This means that Champions will always have less players online than Bronze League at any given time in the day. Making sure only to match people that are closer in league ranks would mean longer waiting times for those players in higher leagues. That’s not such a great experience for players as this means the higher you climb, the longer you (likely) wait.
Now, imagine that among those Champions, some of them are using gear that is 20% more effective on both Mk1 maxed out players, but also on those Diamond players. Roughly, this is the same as when a 12/12 bot fights another that is level 9 and has level 10 weapons for Mk1 pilots that are currently maxed and for the others. Put another way, it’s about the same as those tankers they might have faced in Bronze to Gold Leagues.
The whole point of having leagues should be to match up people of equivalent strength, be it gear or skill. When you finally had a maxed out competitive hangar, one of the great advantages is that now gear isn’t too big of a factor compared to skill. Of course, not all maxed bots and weapons will perform well at this level, but if there is an interesting variety of options that will do well, it’s all good.
Pixonic presents item promotion as being optional, but everybody knows that some players will jump at it and that whole clans are going to as well. More importantly, we know that some players will simply drop the money to instamax their Dash bots, Ancilots, Griffs, and so on to Mk2 in a matter of days if not hours. In fact, the imbalance in hangar strength will skew more heavily towards resources, in game or real money.
To remain competitive, you will simply have to start promoting items. Because even falling a bit behind in leagues, with such a small players pool at the top, is a sure recipe to still face these maxed Mk2 hangars. This means no more fair matches where gear doesn’t count as much for all poorer players. Because if I look only at my current lineup, I would need 1 billion in Silver to bring my bots and weapons to Mk2 max level. At around 200,000 silver per match without premium, we’re talking five thousand matches!
This leads us to our second reason.
- Grinding for max level: fun once, but twice? Really?
War Robots is what some call a “freemium” game: it’s free-to-play, but paying money speeds your progress. At the end, though, both paying and free players will get to the same point. Paying ones will feel they keep the game alive and free ones like they really earned whatever they got. Win-Win.
Now, the reason why going through the grind is okay is that we understand it’s all part of the process on our way to top level. Furthermore, at the time I was still in the process of upgrading everything, you earned four times the Silver you now get post-fight and matchmaking was based on hangar strength (meaning that you would meet players whose gear would be comparable to yours). Reaching max level was still long, hard and somewhat painful, but it was mostly fair and balanced as far as actual fights are concerned.
As I mentioned previously, reaching Mk2 lvl 12 will cost around 1 billion and take me around 5,000 matches. That’s only for five bots and a fraction of the weapons I have in inventory. At around seven minutes per match in Beacon Rush (damage is also higher in that play mode so one is more likely to maintain higher Silver earnings) this means 35,000 minutes or roughly 583 hours. At two hours per day every day – which is a significant time investment for what is a mobile game – it’s 292 days.
Almost ten months.
Ten months during which I will routinely face those rich players and get clobbered. What if I were to take Premium, you say?
That would bring my average earning at 300,000 Silver per match, so around 3,000 matches instead of 5,000. 21,000 minutes, 350 hours, 175 days or 6 months. At 10$ US per month for premium, sixty bucks on top of my time. All of this to max the SAME gear just so I can remain competitive in a PvP environment.
If you consider my whole inventory, I’m looking at another 2-3 years to bring everything to Mk2 and regain the variety of bots and weapons available to me right now. It took me almost three years already to reach this and (mainly because I didn’t focus my purchases and upgrades, being more interested in exploring all the options the game made available). Oh, and during those three years, I most certainly spent $2,000 in Premium, Gold, event Tokens and even Keys. I’m not the biggest spender in the game, sure, but I’m far from being a stingy player that wants everything for free through some feeling of entitlement.
I’ve already been through that whole grinding process and invested huge amount of time, effort and money. I’m looking for other challenges now. It is utterly uninspired game design to provide no other “end game” challenge than “rebooting” my whole progress.
- This is the ultimate pay-to-win feature in War Robots to date
Selling overpowered gear for ridiculously hefty prices is bad enough, but item promotion offers the big spenders the ability to retain their overpowered status for months if not years over poorer/free players.
When Pixonic first introduced the Dash bots through the Black Market, it took only a couple of days to see hangars with three or more of these bots, already Level 12. Considering the odds of winning these bots, this means that a significant portion of the players in top leagues and clans seemed to have little trouble spending thousands of dollars to get and max them early.
The same is happening with the Inquisitor and Ember. Consequently, lots of angry players are calling “foul” on this practice and Pixonic, if it wants to keep calling the game “free-to-play”, need to come up with better ways to make these available through grinding.
You don’t need to be a genius to figure out that the same players who splurged on the Black Market or Components, being so eager to have the most overpowered stuff, will jump on the whole Mk2 thing. Considering the amount of time it will take for the others to catch up, Pixonic is indeed telling their “whales” that for another injection of cash, 90% of the players will serve as fodder to be slaughtered and they won’t have to worry about losing their edge for a good while.
Isn’t it the perfect deal for the true wallet warriors?
On top of that, by presenting Mk2 as “just an option” while making new items more readily available, Pixonic will save face in front of both customers and app stores.
Not for most of us.
AnarchoDom, over and out.