War Robots

Subtraction by Addition: The Perils of Gear Promotion

New author Anarchodom has a problem with Pixonic's new "Mk2" scheme- and isn't afraid to say it

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:

  1. 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.

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Just when you thought it was safe to go into the matchmaker

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.

  1. Grinding for max level: fun once, but twice? Really?
zoolander-miner-o
I’ll be re-leveling my Griffin, all the live long day…

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.

  1. 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.

counting-money-2
Let’s see… I’ll take a couple Haechis, a Bulgasari, a Kumiho, six Scourges and three Embers, please. Oh, and a small Coke.

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.

Win-win?

Not for most of us.

AnarchoDom, over and out.

20 comments on “Subtraction by Addition: The Perils of Gear Promotion

  1. “Fodder to be slaughtered” is an unnecessary and redundant turn of phrase.

    Like

  2. Just busting chops, but if you employ the phrase “diametrically opposed” I will burn down the internet.

    It’s an interesting article about something I hope won’t affect me so long as I continue keeping myself outta Android expert.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like your analysis on this article Dredd77. I agree with you, we do not want to go through grinding the same bots twice. I think Pixonic should either increase the weapon’s or the robot’s level. This way we can easily identify top level players. If we level the same bots twice, how can we identify if they are mk2 players or not?

    Like

  4. Call me cynical but I don’t believe the purpose of the current MM is to match people up by gear or skill, rather it is designed to frustrate people into spending money. I have been stuck for the last three months between 75 points of the change fromE3 to E2. 95% of my games has at least one (almost always at least two) champion grade players per side. My grade 9/10 hangar means I am never competing for the first two slots, gold has dried up. MM is designed to frustrate players into spending money.
    I think you give pixonic too much credit.
    Of course, the conclusions you reach are correct.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi! Yes, I do also believe the MM is created to encourage spending through frustration. I see item promotion to Mk2 as the ultimate step in that direction as it will serve to push maxed out pilots to buy premium and gold again in order to stay competitive.

      I didn’t mention it in the article because I did not want to sound overly negative. 😉

      Like

  5. Are you the Nard Dog because you Nailed It!

    Like

  6. Big-Dope-P!

    Completely agree with this analysis! I am a regular player in champions league. Its bad enough now with all the sealclubbing clans who opperate in squads of maxed dashbots. I can only imagine what the next phase of sealclubbing will be. I think it will also have a trickle down effect as your 12/12 normal hangers now will lose league points and might end up in masters, expert and below.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think that the release of mk2 will accelerate my departure from the game. I have played a year and a few months, starting after release of Brit Bots. The current BM / component system has in my view firmly established a P2W game. I can not fathom how Pix can remedy this. I now question if they truly even want to.
    Pix has in the past said they are ‘working’ on several issues with little or no results to show for it. These issues have not stopped or slowed the release of new content. This prioritizes spending above all else to be successful, further dividing and segregating the player population.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your feedback. I’m glad to hear about how it is perceived by players who have some experience with the game but are not some old vets like me. 😛

      It is also my perception that all efforts on their part is going into monetization instead of actual game design. People have been saying for months that the dash bots in their current version were overpowered. I think it actually convinced Pixonic to release them as is.

      Like

    • maybe they now have investors to answer to….They’re only concern is a return on their investment…no matter how short sighted it seems.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I agree with a lot you have said AnarchoDom, but I would go further and say this is an attempt by Pixonic to hoover/soak up the ‘pots’ of Au and Ag that a lot of Champion and Master level players have been hoarding for a long time. It allows them to find a use for the hoard without actually gaining anything new (in terms of technology, Dash bots , Inquisitor , Scourge and Ember or the soon to be released Shocktrain) Once the reserves have been used up , they are then left with the options of being happy with their lot or as you said , spending on VIP, Au and Ag again.

    Secondly, another pointer to what I have said, could well be the reports and screen shots (if anyone can verify them) of Dash bots being offered on ‘sale’ to new(ish) players for the reported sum of 14,000 Au. If these reports are true (and for the following reason they may well be) they make sense when coupled with Pixonics’ lack of action against tankers. If you are a new player , with deep pockets, and you get destroyed by a Dash bot in Silver or bronze , you are going to buy one , spending real money to generate the Au required. While a Champion or Master league player would only have to dip into his/her grafted Au reserve , thereby denying Pixonic of income.

    Thirdly, after the initial player backlash and the sudden flurry of Pixonics’ PR team swinging into action, there has been a deafening silence from Pixonics in the last week, are they now happy with the status quo? Do they believe they have ridden out the storm caused by the initial shock , the gnashing of teeth and the wailing? Do they believe the old grinders of the free to play game will go quietly into the night. Does their analysis of their financial data from the last month prove that they are on to a winner ? I bet it does. Do they care if the old grinders , disappear? Probably not , the free to play in Champion or Master League , destroying all who dared to challenge them are or will be no more. Pay to play / Pay to win, will rise through the ranks faster than the light bots can become obsolete.

    Fourthly, The reduction is skill level needed to play the game and win (as previously stated by Lloyd). ‘I’ve just bought a new shiny Dash bot, I’m in sliver league II, but this old free to play player has just destroyed my Dash with his rusty old, Stalker/Rog/Gep/etc etc’ ‘I’m not going to invest anymore money in the game’ ‘Hmmm , how to fix this?’ , ‘ahh’ says Pixo, ‘Who fires first wins’!, Corner shooting, flanking, positional awareness , when to jump, when not to jump, target prioritization, great skills that take time to learn, are nerfed easily by the increase in splash damage, weapons that ignore any type of shield and ridiculously accurate guided missiles, aim roughly and fire,kill,win. The new cash player , plays on.

    Finally, I still love the game, I pay for my VIP as it allows me to level bots and weapons faster , without to much grafting and grinding. With most games I have an unusually long attention span, about 4 years. I have no stats on the average, but I would hazard a guess of about 6 months for the majority of casual mobile gamers. I will last the four years , unless I run into over powering bots in every game , at which time my interest in being cannon fodder will also reduce my interest in the game to approximately zero. BUT, by then Pixonic will have had my measly $10 a month . before I withdraw my funding. By which time Pixonic will have made $XXX millions from the game and the casual and not so casual pay to win players.

    If you are one of the old time, free to play players, it must be heart retching to see your accumulated wealth being reduced to nothing and your once proud Rhino,Fury,Lance or Galahad being laid waste by a new younger, faster, more powerful bot….. But a thought, (only a little one) maybe , just maybe , if more of the old guard had spent a little money Mail.ru would not have acquired Pixonic,

    Finally, Finally, I apologies if you have read all of this , I did not start with the intention of posting an article.

    Edit : Replace the word Pixonic with Mail.ru , if it makes you feel better

    Liked by 1 person

    • I concur with all your points. I think they lacked good incentive for spending in their first year. I mean, I was paying for my premium and the occasional gold, but the friend that introduced me to the game was roughly in the same zone as me in terms of gear. He simply made sure to optimize his hangar composition to have the best ROI.

      Now, changing silver earnings after release and trying to make up for that initial mistake would have probably gone better if they showed transparency about the issue.

      But you know what? If they lacked funding for development, I’m pretty sure that asides from in-app purchases, they could have received tons of money in crowdfunding campaigns. Even a goddamn Patreon for Pixonic would probably earned them lots of money.

      They had a great opportunity of maintaining a creator/supporter relationship with the community and should have found ways to capitalize on that. I think, in the long run, War Robots could have gotten HUGE. It’s a great brand and intellectual property.

      On the other hand, even if Pixonic made more revenues in the early days, they would look juicy to acquire for a big company. That is what Hasbro did, when they bought Wizards of the Coast: Magic: the Gathering was becoming a money machine. So, I don’t know if Pixonic would’ve remained more independent.

      If I had to sum up what pisses me off the most about all this situation I’d say this: They shifted the creator/supporter relationship for a company/customer one.

      Like

  9. This is so on point its ridiculous that a “medium” bot aka bulgasari at level 12 has more hp that a Lancelot at level 12. even factoring in the Ancile shield you would still lose because you would be outgunned 3 weapon slots to 2. And of course the only way to counter this is to spend money.

    Like

  10. Pilot Stam

    Any follow-up comments now that they actually released this into the wild?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It took me by surprise! At the time I wrote the article, I thought we’d see Mk2 dropping in like, late November or something.

      The only things I have to say at the moment is:

      OMG! It took less than 24 hours to see the first maxed out Mk2 hangars! It’s even worse than I thought. Good thing I’m on ios. I still have about a week left before this mess drops on our side too.

      Also, Battle of Titans gets better the more you play and master it. 😉

      Like

      • Pilot Stam

        Yup, it really didn’t take that long at all.

        I have deliberately, and by choice, kept my hangar at Bot9/Weapon8 levels. That, along with some gold weapon acquisitions, has managed to progress me from Diamond3 through Diamond1, where I hover in the middle these days.

        So by that choice, I have mostly or completely made the Mk2 effect irrelevant unless I’m squadding (and thus Champion-hunting).

        I’m also on the BoT side, but haven’t put enough hours in.

        Like

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