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View Full Version : A Couple Months In (Shorter than the Last One)



Planeshaper
03-11-2016, 02:41 AM
SPOILERS AHEAD (Start Post 1/2) SPOILERS AHEAD

So, I've continued to play for a little while, and indeed spent some initial money on Hex -- partly out of a sense of realization that I couldn't keep telling myself I was just "testing" the game ;)

But I have been doing a not insignificant amount of playing through the PvE. Working on my 11th Hardcory pass at the moment, in addition to catching up on the Arena. I should note that I speak from my own perspective as someone primarily interested in PvE and casual, with no desire to participate in competitive PvP. But that shouldn't be taken to mean that I believe all people with similar interests will agree with or share my feedback.

First off, many of my impressions from my original post (https://forums.cryptozoic.com/showthread.php?t=47606) remain. So, if you've read that, some of this post will not be surprising. I take notes and screenshots as I play, as those document my own mindset at the time and I cross-referenced those as I wrote this, in order to best capture my emotions and thoughts.

Although I didn't get back to Ben Stoll's reply to my original post (I happened to be on vacation with extremely limited internet at the time), I feel humbled that he chose that particular thread to reply to and I definitely want him to know that I read every word. I definitely understand that the developers are super busy with this game and I can absolutely tell that they love this game and community. If they only even had time to read 2% of anything I wind up writing, I am already honored by it.

I didn't get as much time to proofread through this particular post before posting it (as I am currently in the process of moving), so I apologize in advance for anything that is rough around the edges. When reading, I would be grateful if you err your interpretations on the side of me not intending to be disrespectful or a jerk or anything.

Wiktor and Power of SHARD Review
I want to start off by referencing a particular subject in my earlier thread. I was criticized for my use of the word "ruined" in terms of one of my experiences, which was indeed a harsh word, though purposefully used. This comes down to referencing those notes that I document as I play -- I even attempted to caution against getting too focused on that specific aspect of my own initial experience. Make no mistake, my initial experience in Devonshire was a controller-throwing moment of anger, frustration, and shock over something I believe the game simply did not telegraph appropriately in advance. I believe I wouldn't be alone in that kind of an experience, and while those experiences may attract more hardcore gamers, they won't help the game grow wide when they are positioned directly in the player's path.

It is absolutely my own mistake that I did not fully read the warning when choosing a particular Power of SHARD card. I'm personally embarrassed about missing such a detail, because I normally take pride in actually reading (and enjoying) quest text and the like. In my defense, the UI for choosing a card is exactly the same as the Shroomkin Haus UI for card selection, and the text begins the same way. Perhaps I was tired, perhaps my excitement was heightened by the dungeon itself, or perhaps I did mentally read the text but it simply didn't wind up registering in my memory by the end of the dungeon. I make mistakes, but it contributed to my feeling of frustration at the end of my playthrough, in a manner which is solvable.

The difficulty cliff going from Spitfire Elemental to Wiktor in the final dungeon was the other half of my frustration, and I should stress, that both aspects of this experience combined (not either in singular) were what led to me using the term "ruined." It did not seem fair (and still does not) that the game would effectively allow me to walk into wasting two hours of my time without broadcasting to me that I would most likely indeed be wasting two hours of my time if I walked into Devonshire without deepening my own collection.

Much can be said about letting the community be the Strategy Guide, but most players aren't going to look to a guide until an event precipitates it (and while this community is among the friendliest, it's still an online community with some very rough edges and plenty of people looking to swindle or con newbies). If you wait until a player has a frustrating experience as the event that precipitates them turning to other resources, it generally turns out poorly because the conversation begins in a hostile manner. And impatience (and exhaustion from providing the same response over and over) from veterans can easily lead the conversation to continue that way. I've already seen this very chain of events happen.

These are easily avoidable problems, even if the developers do not desire to take any steps to lower Wiktor's specific difficulty or modify the reward within the dungeon itself (although it was stated in my last thread that they do wish to modify that). Though, in my mind, Wiktor himself remains problematic -- and this transitions me towards my feedback in this post.

HC Mode, Non-HC Mode, and the PVE Campaign
While I have some specific feedback on certain races and race/class combinations, this is for more general feedback.

I've done 10 Hardcory playthroughs, and am working on my 11th. HC is probably my favorite option, as it provides a creative deckbuilding restriction, and makes the games I play against the AI less one-sided (which I prefer). I haven't done HCFL, though I might in the future -- I like actually getting to use the cards that I open in packs :p Regardless, it allows me to continue to play as though I were a new player each time.

I have also played various encounters and dungeons in the campaign with more complete decks using my entire collection, to include obtaining at least a playset of all the campaign optional encounter rewards (Piranhas, Sea Hag, AOM6, etc.).

Deck Management
I neglected to track the cards in my initial playthrough (Elf Mage), so I can no longer continue that specific character into further Adventure Zones in HC mode. I don't know if it's really necessary to spend the development time on supporting HC mode within the game system, as it can pretty easily be tracked on spreadsheet, but after playing so many characters, I even more desire a per character deck management system, even if that information is stored on client side or an uploadable hash that checks against your collection.

Either way, 1). Per character deck management system is still strongly desired after making repeated characters.

Tutorial and UI
As for the Tutorial, I did accidentally wind up back in the Tutorial again (yes, accidentally), and I discovered that you can skip it! I guess I needed to go through the Tutorial after all (though I don't believe anything in the Tutorial actually told me how to concede) :p The concession menu (when you hit Esc) is a different menu than the one brought up with the mouse by clicking the Gear icon, which lets you close the client. Is there a purposeful reason why these are two different menus during a match? As far as I can tell, there is no way to bring up the client closing menu with a keyboard shortcut during the match, and there is no way to bring up the concession menu with a mouse during the match.

2). Unify the in-match mouse/keyboard menus.

Coin Flip and Randomness in PVE
After playing through Arena a handful of times now (with a few perfects), I can understand the presence of the Coin Flip there, because the Arena seems sort of slot machine-y to me already.

But it's very much an annoyance when doing something like spam conceding against Army of Myth Level 6 or Piranhas or Wormoid Queen -- or fighting a boss in a dungeon and watching them go first 3 times in a row and you losing to them. It just causes a number of petty frustration / feel bad type moments that don't actually make a later victory more satisfying. They're still just bitter moments that could have been avoided.

Frustrations like these, while perhaps manageable in single-player, become exponentially multiplied in group play, where the time of multiple people becomes wasted. Here's what's going to happen on average in group play -- 3 people are going to dedicate a time to meet online twice a week, and if they spend one entire night just having to lose against slot machine RNG, it's just going to rack up a desire to not continue to participate again. As I mentioned before, PvE tends to demand predictability, consistency, and progress group PvE even moreso, where people are scheduling long term to play regularly with a common group of others.

Fel Lord Zakuun and Iskar in WoW are current raid bosses that cause a lot of RNG issues, and I can tell you first hand as a raid leader how demoralized a group of people gets after wiping to RNG problems for even an hour, let alone an entire night. Their frustrations feed into an echo chamber on each other, and even as the raid leader it becomes difficult not to let those same emotions take hold of me. So, if you think complaints about randomness elements and frustrating experiences are bad now, just wait until group PvE play when 3 people simultaneously have unlucky streaks (which happens more often than you might expect) and that ruins one of two entire nights they may have scheduled to play with each other.

I don't mean to predict doom and gloom, but it's a worry that I have in terms of current direction and a word of caution for expanding the base of players wide (rather than tall).

(Cont.)

Planeshaper
03-11-2016, 02:42 AM
(Cont. – Post 2/2)

Miscellaneous PVE Follow-ups
After playing through 10.5 characters, most things from my earlier thread stand.

On the upside, I have a lot more appreciation for the optional encounters when having access to a non-HC mode pool of cards. As I figured, they do spice things up and add a more engaging experience for those with collections to use. Additionally, I still love all the light-hearted side encounters, like Guru, the Fae Tricksters, etc. They are the casual encounters to the campaign's more stoic dungeons. They are the spice to use sparingly.

On the downside, I god damn cannot stand the Gnome quest anymore. I finally cracked on one of my characters in the initial set of 10 and decided that as long as I took 15 Gnomes across via HC mode, I could take the other 45 across non-HC. By my 11th character I did not even pretend. This encounter is so grindy, and I'm sure plenty more people with less patience might have just stopped right here the first time through. This type of game design should be avoided in the future.

Chained Goliath
While I've been going on and on about the game needing to telegraph to players that they should expand their collection or seek assistance prior to those players spending an hour or two in Devonshire Castle, to be perfectly honest, most “new-to-card-games” players are probably going to need that telegraphed to them before they go through The Smoldering Dead dungeon, rather than Devonshire itself. I've managed to get through this relatively short dungeon with no more than 1 bad attempt per character (and often in a single attempt) -- but that comes with over twenty years of Magic experience, too. I'm a new player to specifically Hex, not a new player to TCG's or even Hex's underlying system.

Wiktor
Wiktor is a problem, though, regardless.

Two (of 10) characters defeated Wiktor on HC mode (I gave each a college try since I needed to get through each of them). Both were Clerics. Both had Armor 1 (Necrotic and Dwarf). And both happened to stumble into 1x Adaptatron and Cog of the Machine (although it was actually Soul Vessel that was the MVP for the Dwarf on the Wiktor encounter specifically, the Adaptatron helped breeze through the rest of the dungeon).

Nine characters dispatched Spitfire Elemental and actually progressed to Wiktor.

This is about what I expected and alluded to in my initial post. Wiktor represents a difficulty cliff that the last dungeon simply does not scale up to well. There isn't any telegraphing of the expectation beforehand. Most players will get to Wiktor and be astonished, and a relatively small but not insignificant number of players will get to Wiktor having accidentally fallen into the appropriate comp for the fight and appreciate it. They'll wonder why all these other players are having such a difficult time.

And then, when going back to face Wiktor in non-HC mode using a pretty humble collection, he's simply a worthless pushover, not even a speedbump on the road. I'm honestly not sure how veteran players appreciate Wiktor when you have access to a complete collection; Devonshire might as well be Crayburn Castle.

I strongly feel like the difficulty and telegraphing of Wiktor is a miss -- it's likely too rough for people who just show up on his doorstep with only cards they earned in the campaign itself, and it's trivial when you can just move in with a real deck. Ultimately, I hope that it's a lesson learned for future Adventure Zones in terms of the expectations for players as they wrap up the mandatory questlines.

Individual Character Feedback Highlights
Character List, Unranked
Elf Mage
Coyotle Cleric
Orc Warrior
Dwarf Warrior (didn't complete Devonshire HC, but notably did complete Piranhas HC)
Necrotic Cleric (completed Devonshire HC)
Shin'hare Warrior
Dwarf Cleric (completed Devonshire HC)
Human Mage
Vennen Cleric
Elf Warrior
Elf Cleric (currently unfinished)

I am not going to dwell on each of these here (that's for another thread that I believe already exists), but I would like to touch on some highlights.

By far the Vennen Cleric was the worst. I heard a lot of complaints about Shin'hare while I was playing, and at one point decided to try my own (before changes were made to their starting deck). But I have to say, that the Vennen starting deck is atrocious. To summarize the problems: it relies too heavily on both colors having multiple thresholds early. It relies excessively on smoothly curving hands. It is effectively a non-Spike Timmy deck with a bunch of unnecessary creatures and almost 0 board control having to play against a number of more rapidly aggro and Spike-oriented decks. Neophyte of Xarlox should be replaced with counterspells/bounce, and Atrophy (which I'm surprised is even a card) should be replaced with real removal, bounce, or Blood Aura (since Blood Aura is the only aura of the five that isn't present in any of the starter decks).

That's the summary. It's terrible. That aside, I didn't have any actual problems with the Vennen Cleric itself, once I unlocked it from HC mode. It was my first character to beat AOM6. It's really just the starting deck that causes problems.

Orc Warrior was the second worst in the late game while playing HC mode, simply because the last encounters just aggro better than you can. You, Mindpyre Wraith, Spitfire Elemental, and Wiktor are all competing to be the beatdown (http://www.starcitygames.com/magic/fundamentals/3692_Whos_The_Beatdown.html). But they all do it better than you, which can be very difficult to overcome when you have limited options.

Dwarf Warrior defeated the Piranhas in HC mode, but that was while the Dwarf Warrior battle was bugged and still prevented the AI from playing a shard if they played a shard the turn before you used the charge power. It helped that this character opened a singleton Staggering Blast. It still took something like 25+ matches, probably more given the number of concession chains due to coin flips (I think the longest unlucky streak I've had was the AI winning the flip 8 times in a row).

Dwarf Cleric was the strongest of all the characters in HC mode, all because of Soul Vessel, really. This character actually had an extremely engaging battle with Wiktor that indeed hinged on tactical decisions and purposeful plays (e.g. choosing not to block a Bloated Zombie) rather than simple RNG or resource problems making the battle lopsided. The match that this character had with Wiktor I can easily hold up as the ideal experience for a game of Hex. More games of Hex should be like this match. (Adaptatron did not hit the board until very late in the game, at a point the tide had most probably turned in my favor already).

No matter what though, any character that stumbled into an Adaptatron had a much easier time than any character that did not. Any character that also stumbled into a Cog of the Machine had a dramatically easier time, though a singleton copy was still not an absolute guarantee of success.

AZ1 is always going to be AZ1, and all new PvE players from this point are going to be experiencing AZ1 (as far as I understand it). So it remains critical that it not be neglected in terms of consideration even if most current players are through it already.

Arena
You probably have a ton of feedback on this already, given how long it's been out, so I'll keep this short.

Arena is kind of a gameplay style that I already don't like, so keep that in mind. It stands as a contrast to the Campaign, which I find beautiful and engaging. I'm not trying to change the Arena with my feedback, because I'm sure there are players that absolutely love it, and I'm sure I'll run it for its unique rewards...but every time I start the Arena it feels like a chore, while every time I start the Campaign, I feel excited. I could take a hundred characters through the Campaign before I would be as tired of it as I already am with Arena. That's the type of player I am :p

I have only two specific pieces of feedback for it:
1). I wish that Arena was Two-Headed Giant. Because I would have a lot more fun with it if I could play it with a partner. It would feel less like doing the dishes alone.

Unlike the Campaign and my expectations for group PvE content, I already know when sitting down to Arena that I'm playing what amounts to a slot machine at times. I don't have expectations of long term commitment or desire for narrower variance. I mean, I hate most of the encounters (I mean that as a compliment?), but it would be much more tolerable as a whole if I had a friend that I could share the misery with while I work on completing its rewards and then never stepping foot in it again.

2). I wish that I could pick a single encounter out of the arena and just practice decklists against it for no reward at all.

END END END

Yoss
03-11-2016, 01:42 PM
Amazing write up and spot on.

Might be good to have an Easy Mode option at character creation? There are lots of ways to do it.

Give the player the Mastery of Time challenge bonus from Arena in every fight.
Give the player a free starting resource.
Give the player extra starting cards.
Give the player extra starting HP.
Give the player extra starting charges.

Those are the easy ones I can think of that could probably be implemented pretty quickly.

Planeshaper
03-16-2016, 12:15 PM
I'm not sure if an Easy/Novice Mode is necessary. There are a number of potential issues, such as: Are the rewards from EM the same as HM? Will people who should be playing EM/HM actually be playing EM/HM (are they able to self-evaluate their skill appropriately)? If someone builds a character in EM, but gets better, do they need to start an entirely new character in HM?

I think, before the step is taken to have options like that, the game needs to first try to inform/communicate/telegraph to its players in a better fashion.

For instance, and as an example that is actually different from the telegraphing of encounter difficulty, during my first play through, I didn't know what to do with my gold. I was only passingly aware of the AH (and from other MMO's that I've played, typically the very first piece of information given to a new player is "don't spend your money at the AH"). In game, there was a service to take my gold (the fortune-tellers), but no information regarding whether the game would let me actually purchase anything with gold or not.

Coming from a colloquial understanding that RPG's have "shops" and "vendors," I kind of expected to run into some of those one my way through the playthrough. But eventually I was at Devonshire Castle with thousands of gold, no idea what to spend it on or how, and no idea what those thousands of gold even meant in terms of purchasing power. I, me as an individual, did not need it ELI5'd, but I did need it ELI30'd. I know what gold and currency in a video game means, but I didn't know what it meant in Hex.

I could ask the community, but let me tell you how good of an idea it is to rely on your new players asking the community of an MMO what they should be doing with their money (this sentence is a rhetorical device).

To belabor the "strategy guide analogy" -- there is a difference between a strategy guide and a game manual. A game manual tells you what things do what, a strategy guide tells you how to to use those things to your advantage. The current game manual (the Tutorial) tells you a little bit about what things do what in the card game called Hex, but there is not much of a game manual that tells you what things do what in Hex.

Where is the game manual that released when the PvP portion of Hex initially released? Did the community figure out what all the buttons did via collective exploration? Or was it sort of information that was available but in a more piecemeal and non-unified fashion since the playerbase was smaller and more interconnected with themselves and the developers?

-------------------

These sort of basic communication principles between the game and its players as it seeks to grow its audience wide (rather than tall) would most likely take a lot less development time (and man hours in general) than incorporating a second difficulty mode of play. But it would be more akin to "busy work" than programming something new in code and working through its potential ramifications.