Sentineloids: A Great Moment for Kabam (Yes, Seriously)

This is an article I wrote for MutaMatt's website - The Class Advantage, and a link to the post can be found HERE!

Hello everyone, this is Dragon here! Resident UMCOC podcast co-host and moderator for Concierge! Mutamatt invited me here today, because I wanted to take a moment to give Kabam some kudos! (And no, no sarcasm.)

When the news broke of the updates to Sentineloids in AQ on Friday evening, I saw a great deal of the community rejoicing. Speaking from experience, it’s always frustrating to question your skills when fights are consistently not going your way, and you don’t know how to master a particular fight. With the changes coming up in the next round of AQ, I want to direct the thanks to where it is rightfully deserved - to Kabam.

Sentineloids have been in place since April 2nd. It’s currently (at the time of writing this sentence) April 13th. They’re going to have a fix in place by April 18th. That’s sixteen days. When you consider it took time to receive the feedback (let’s say 1-2 days), and then a handful of days to see there is a big problem (let’s say another 1-2 days), to have a solution planned, coded, and implemented by the 18th is not only impressive, it’s a Herculean effort on Kabam’s part. The last time we saw something addressed this quickly, we’re looking at 12.0.

Which is why the topic that I really wanted to address is helping the community understand how extraordinarily well Kabam handled this, and how we can help this happen again. Not only does Kabam deserve kudos for how they tackled the Sentineloid issue, we as a community need to realize that when our concerns can be backed by data - actioning happens. Quickly.

How do I know this was backed by data? And what data was used? I’ll admit that this is supposition, but I’ve got that supposition backed by facts. So hold onto your butts while I walk you through what I believe has happened in the Kabam headquarters in the past ten days, because I believe you’ll be just as impressed as I am!

Going into the Sentineloid/mini boss update, we can make three assumptions, based on information we have. Assumption #1 - Kabam has data about what changes in AQ cost players. This assumption is based on the knowledge we have that Kabam tracks character usage in AQ. Extrapolating that data collection to include item use is pretty minimal. Assumption #2 - Kabam knows there is a learning curve with any new changes. Kabam has changed AQ enough times, they can make a proper educated guess on the increase in item use they will see, until things level out again. Assumption #3 - Kabam is not actively trying to piss the player base off. Simple business sense here.

With all of these assumptions in place, let’s set the stage for April 2nd. The Sentineloids are in place. Folks have had a chance to deal with them in event quests, so they aren’t completely unfamiliar, and have had a chance to learn their move sets and abilities. Mini bosses are also getting a refresh, giving AQ a bit of a “new” feel. Clear intent by Kabam - keep AQ fresh for those that have found it boring/routine, and set the stage for further updates down the line.

At this point, Kabam (in my opinion) had made some assumptions of their own. Assumption #1 - This is a routine/standard update to AQ and won’t rock the boat. Assumption #2 - The player base, having experienced Sentineloids in the EQ, is ready for them in AQ. Assumption #3 - The player base has bothered to take the time to read, and understand the Sentineloid abilities.

So, with two clear sets of assumptions - one I am guessing Kabam thought going into this, and the other based on past actions/facts, we go into April 2nd. There is a large and immediate backlash. It’s a Monday, so full staff is in office at Kabam, observing. They expected some backlash with the changes, so that’s not uncommon. They are in a “monitoring” state. By April 4th (Wednesday, day 3 of AQ), videos are coming out from prominent YouTubers on how to handle the Sentineloids. Complaints are only getting louder and some are coming from an unlikely corner - tenured/experienced players who have completed end game content.

My guess is that by April 4th (Thursday, day 4 of AQ), this felt like more than simple grumbling about changes. So, at this point, I am also guessing that Kabam went to compare data to the last AQ transition that was made. How did the first three days compare to the last time they made changes? (For a time check here, they posted the changes they are making and the implementation dates on April 14th, only 10 days after this point, two of which are non-business days, so really only 8 days.)

From a business perspective, nothing short of a ludicrous-level disparity is going to cause action to be taken as quickly as it has been. Imagine this - Kabam is expecting a 10%-20% increase in potion usage. And instead, when they look at the data, they see a 200% increase in potion usage. (These are fake numbers I have made up, but are meant to showcase what necessitates this level of action.) By the end of AQ (April 7th), I’d be willing to bet that whatever the initial increase in potion usage was had gotten even worse.

Something was very, obviously, broken.

More videos by YouTubers are published. Guides for handling the Sentineloids are passed out by community contributors. This is a topic being addressed by everyone, in multiple avenues, and the frustration only continues to grow. (They are now 7 days away from the announcement they made today.)

Two things had to happen at this point. 1. Ideas to address the issues are discussed by Kabam. 2. Community feedback has to be scoured to find the truth behind the problems.

The latter is where we hurt Kabam so much more than actually helping them. They knew they had a problem, a big one. But when you have to dig through hundreds (and there were hundreds) of posts to find the suggestions that were actually going to help, and were feasible, you’re talking about a truly epic uphill battle that Kabam did not have time for at this point. They needed solutions, and they needed them immediately. Any changes made had to be designed, coded and added to the implementation schedule, because this was now priority one.

Anyone who has ever worked in a corporate office, or done beta testing/UAT/triage of new software, understands, in some capacity, how absolutely incredible it is to go from: “This is horribly broken.” to “We have a solution, we have the time, money, manpower, and effort to get it fixed.” in five business days. But that is precisely what Kabam did.

To those of you who do not have the context to understand, I shall reiterate the comparison from earlier - The last time we saw Kabam stop and action this quickly, with this level of efficiency, was 12.0. This was treated (based on the timeline) with the same level of urgency. The fact that we are getting all of the updates and fixes we are on the Sentineloids by the start of next AQ is nothing short of a miracle of manpower.

We owe Kabam (as a community) a huge thank you. The handling of the Sentineloids was everything we could have asked for, and more.

What now?

When I first sat down to write this post, I had a different direction in mind than what this ended up being. I’m going to leave it as-is (because we give Kabam a lot of **** sometimes, but this time they deserve the praise), and add this on.

(Continued Below)
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Comments

  • Addyos wrote: »
    Savio444 wrote: »
    ly1vpbb7i996.gif
    Well I read the entire post, because if you've ever listened to any UMCOC podcasts, you would know that Ms Dragon and her co-hosts are very passionate about this game and she's one of the nicest and most pleasant persons with Concierge. So anything she says is definitely worth my time.

    Regarding this post though, I have to respectfully disagree with the sentiment of it. Yes Kabam looked to rectify and make changes in quick time. But they created this mess in the first place. And they knew what they were doing when they introduced Sentineloids and new mini bosses, without a bump in rewards. Just like they knew what they were doing when version 12.0 came out; to wring more money from their players.
    They probably just didn't anticipate the level of backlash that followed these new changes in AQ, and to their credit they are going to tone down the Sentineloids.

    It remains to be seen how much the level of difficulty will be decreased, so for that and for introducing them in the first place I won't say "Thank you Kabam". I will say "Thank goodness" instead.


    Thank you for the compliment! Glad that you enjoy the podcast!

    I think they intended to make it harder to challenge us, but I think my (fake) example of item use increases shows that they missed the mark on how hard, and that's why they reacted so quick to change.

    I'm far from one to normally compliment everything Kabam does, and I'm much more likely to be on the other side of the fence, upset and frustrated. But when I sat down and really thought about this, I had to come out more positive, because this shows that when the feedback is legitimate? They act. And that in and of itself is huge!
  • Kpatrix wrote: »
    They didn't listen to us until they saw the data we predicted. I'm not getting all gloom and doom on them, but I am displeased with their actions taken. When they made the change they basically split up alliances and caused issues that can't easily be fixed like simply changing stats on sentinels. They can't reverse the losses suffured and have made no effort to do so other than say they will make a change going forward. Nothing was mentioned about the negative impact of the two weeks of us doing a beta test.

    I've played this game since it's inception, and I have always stuck through things even when it wasnt in my best interest. What has happened in the past two weeks cannot be fixed with their proposal.

    I've played the game since inception too, and I'm just asking you to understand that no corporation has ever (or will ever) change overnight.

    We didn't predict the Sentineloid issue, no one did, because no one bothered to read the descriptions. Sure, everyone didn't like that they couldn't bring Wolverine/X-23 any longer because they don't bleed, but hey, changes happen.

    The thing they (and I) am asking you to understand is that there is very rarely a great "player consensus" about how Kabam should do things. We act like there is, but there really, really isn't. So they have to try, and fail, sometimes, in order to continue improving. They've made multiple and continued updates to Alliance War, they've added difficulty to EQ with Uncollected modes, there's now Uncollected area, 4-hour and daily crystals, etc.

    They ARE listening. They're just acting on a grander scale than tossing you a few potions because you had some tough fights in AQ. I know I got my butt handed to me by the Sentineloids. More than once. It took items, changing my team up, and knowing how to fight them for me to do better. That's my adjustment as a player. That's not their fault I came in unprepared and had to use items.
  • DNA3000DNA3000 Posts: 11,225 Guardian
    @DNA3000 - I was going to quote your post, but it's really long, so I'm not going to do that.

    Also, I had to trim 60 characters from it to post it, so quoting it would mean you probably could only say "I do think" and then the forum would cut you off.
    I do think that there is some responsibility on both sides (a lot of my player perspective comes from my own experiences and those in my alliance who, when we made changes, have all been able to succeed against the Sentineloids), but I am glad to see that Kabam has not only acknowledged their mistake, but has actively worked to fix it.

    I wouldn't use the word "responsibility." Whenever the developers introduce new difficulty in any part of the game, how well the players adjust to that difficulty and what rewards and experience they get out of it depends greatly on how intelligently and efficiently they react to that. I'd say that is a valid perspective when it comes to, say, the introduction of uncollected difficulty. Some players were so strong when that happened that uncollected difficulty was not a significant challenge. For some players, it was entirely out of reach. But there was a range of players for which that difficulty was high but not insurmountable with thought and practice you could either beat it or work towards overcoming it. The return you get is based in large part on the effort you put it.

    But while that's also true for AQ, I think the problem goes beyond individual player efforts. Alliances grow and evolve over time to mesh together many different players that are compatible with each other. Part of the criteria those players have to satisfy is being compatible when it comes to alliance events, AQ and AW. It is unrealistic to expect that every single player will be able to adjust to changes in AQ and AW at exactly the same rate, but it isn't an inability to adjust that can tear an alliance apart. It can be simply the differences in the way and the rate at which each individual player adjusts. Even if every player does everything right, a sudden change in difficulty and content in AQ can put enormous pressure on an alliance that didn't exist before. It is one thing to expect an alliance to deal with gradual changes over time, putting a small amount of pressure to adjust on each individual player. It is another thing to expect everyone to adjust quickly to a sudden change, all in the same way at the same rate in a way that will allow them to still mesh together.

    A question for you is: do you think it is a good idea to periodically "shake up" whole alliances and challenge them to adapt or die? That seems contrary to me to the purpose of player groups like alliances, which is usually to promote players forming attachments to other players in ways that allow games to retain players for longer periods of time.
  • DNA3000DNA3000 Posts: 11,225 Guardian
    Please forgive my naivety, but couldn't all of this have been avoided with some proper beta testing before rollout?

    This was asked in the official thread as well. If you believe that the Kabam developers honestly believed that the Sentinels would not be significantly more difficult except because they were novel, and players would need time to adjust to that novelty, then it is unclear to me what beta testing would accomplish. They would be expecting players to complain about the Sentinels being more dfficult, and that's exactly what beta testing would show.

    What beta testing would not be able to easily show is just how much that increased difficulty would affect whole alliances running AQ maps across an entire week, without a massive beta test program. In effect, we were the beta test program.

    I think they should have caught this problem on paper. But barring that, I'm not sure how effective limited beta testing would be, if Kabam was already predisposed to thinking everything was fine.
  • DarkestDestroyerDarkestDestroyer Posts: 2,570 ★★★★
    Kpatrix wrote: »
    Too little, too late, too much damage done. No compensation or any acceptable apology. Faith in the company is at it's lowest point ever in my alliance. We continue to lose players and a look at recruit rooms shows widespread chaos.

    Dude it was a 7-10k PI sentinel, what do you want a medal and some flowers sent?

    They were simple to beat, even with bleed champs.

    Don’t deserve an apology or compensation
  • DNA3000DNA3000 Posts: 11,225 Guardian
    Kpatrix wrote: »
    Too little, too late, too much damage done. No compensation or any acceptable apology. Faith in the company is at it's lowest point ever in my alliance. We continue to lose players and a look at recruit rooms shows widespread chaos.

    Dude it was a 7-10k PI sentinel, what do you want a medal and some flowers sent?

    They were simple to beat, even with bleed champs.

    Don’t deserve an apology or compensation

    They might have been simple for you to beat, but they were clearly not simple for most players to beat. You can argue what players deserve or don't deserve, or what they should or should not believe, but at the end of the day the situation between the players and the game company is not symmetric. For me this is a game. For Kabam this is their livelihood. The effort I put in is commensurate with how much effort I'm willing to put into a game. The effort Kabam puts in should be commensurate with how much they enjoy eating regular meals.

    What Kabam does when managing the game should have nothing to do with what they think players "deserves." Deserves has nothing to do with anything. The only thing that matters is what is best for the game, and its long term future. I'm not a big believer in apologies and I'm not really a big proponent in compensation either. I believe in intent, execution, and transparency. I believe the best way forward is to acknowledge what went wrong, explain what you are going to do about addressing it, and presenting a plan moving forward to avoid anything like it from happening in the future.

    It would be nice to see all three happening all the time, or even once. To my reckoning, it hasn't happened yet.
  • DNA3000 wrote: »
    @DNA3000 - I was going to quote your post, but it's really long, so I'm not going to do that.

    Also, I had to trim 60 characters from it to post it, so quoting it would mean you probably could only say "I do think" and then the forum would cut you off.
    I do think that there is some responsibility on both sides (a lot of my player perspective comes from my own experiences and those in my alliance who, when we made changes, have all been able to succeed against the Sentineloids), but I am glad to see that Kabam has not only acknowledged their mistake, but has actively worked to fix it.

    I wouldn't use the word "responsibility." Whenever the developers introduce new difficulty in any part of the game, how well the players adjust to that difficulty and what rewards and experience they get out of it depends greatly on how intelligently and efficiently they react to that. I'd say that is a valid perspective when it comes to, say, the introduction of uncollected difficulty. Some players were so strong when that happened that uncollected difficulty was not a significant challenge. For some players, it was entirely out of reach. But there was a range of players for which that difficulty was high but not insurmountable with thought and practice you could either beat it or work towards overcoming it. The return you get is based in large part on the effort you put it.

    But while that's also true for AQ, I think the problem goes beyond individual player efforts. Alliances grow and evolve over time to mesh together many different players that are compatible with each other. Part of the criteria those players have to satisfy is being compatible when it comes to alliance events, AQ and AW. It is unrealistic to expect that every single player will be able to adjust to changes in AQ and AW at exactly the same rate, but it isn't an inability to adjust that can tear an alliance apart. It can be simply the differences in the way and the rate at which each individual player adjusts. Even if every player does everything right, a sudden change in difficulty and content in AQ can put enormous pressure on an alliance that didn't exist before. It is one thing to expect an alliance to deal with gradual changes over time, putting a small amount of pressure to adjust on each individual player. It is another thing to expect everyone to adjust quickly to a sudden change, all in the same way at the same rate in a way that will allow them to still mesh together.

    A question for you is: do you think it is a good idea to periodically "shake up" whole alliances and challenge them to adapt or die? That seems contrary to me to the purpose of player groups like alliances, which is usually to promote players forming attachments to other players in ways that allow games to retain players for longer periods of time.

    That's an interesting question!

    I do think the answer to that question is yes. If you were asking me as a designer, I would answer yes.

    I think it is contrary to player groups - but I think if one player advances quicker than one alliance as a whole, they'll hop up until they end up in a group at their skill level. What has happened (for most of us) is that we've leveled out and found an alliance of similar skill and like minded-ness.

    But even then, after extended periods of time - you often see people step down, or step up. There are shakeups that happen, especially in large break periods.

    So, I think for the health of the game, yes, I do think that is necessary from time to time.
  • BahamutBahamut Posts: 2,308 ★★★★
    Savio444 wrote: »
    ly1vpbb7i996.gif

    That’s not their problem
  • ADDIS0NADDIS0N Posts: 785 ★★★★
    edited April 2018
    DNA3000 wrote: »
    Please forgive my naivety, but couldn't all of this have been avoided with some proper beta testing before rollout?

    This was asked in the official thread as well. If you believe that the Kabam developers honestly believed that the Sentinels would not be significantly more difficult except because they were novel, and players would need time to adjust to that novelty, then it is unclear to me what beta testing would accomplish. They would be expecting players to complain about the Sentinels being more dfficult, and that's exactly what beta testing would show.

    What beta testing would not be able to easily show is just how much that increased difficulty would affect whole alliances running AQ maps across an entire week, without a massive beta test program. In effect, we were the beta test program.

    I think they should have caught this problem on paper. But barring that, I'm not sure how effective limited beta testing would be, if Kabam was already predisposed to thinking everything was fine.
    I’m envisioning maybe 30 groups of of 10 real-life players using alternate dummy accounts provided by Kabam that are similar to their personal accounts, playing a single BG AQ cycle on a testing server, so it wouldn’t affect their own gameplay.

    Break the groups up logically into the most popular cycles played, e.g., 5X5, 55432, 55552, etc. whatever they are in actuality.

    Run two, three, maybe 4 full cycles and get constant feedback.

    It seems to me that something similar to this would’ve accomplished a LOT.

    And for one of the most lucrative mobile games on the market, this kind of testing does not seem massive at all.

    BUT... there’s a good chance I have no idea what I’m talking about.
  • DNA3000DNA3000 Posts: 11,225 Guardian
    DNA3000 wrote: »
    @DNA3000 - I was going to quote your post, but it's really long, so I'm not going to do that.

    Also, I had to trim 60 characters from it to post it, so quoting it would mean you probably could only say "I do think" and then the forum would cut you off.
    I do think that there is some responsibility on both sides (a lot of my player perspective comes from my own experiences and those in my alliance who, when we made changes, have all been able to succeed against the Sentineloids), but I am glad to see that Kabam has not only acknowledged their mistake, but has actively worked to fix it.

    I wouldn't use the word "responsibility." Whenever the developers introduce new difficulty in any part of the game, how well the players adjust to that difficulty and what rewards and experience they get out of it depends greatly on how intelligently and efficiently they react to that. I'd say that is a valid perspective when it comes to, say, the introduction of uncollected difficulty. Some players were so strong when that happened that uncollected difficulty was not a significant challenge. For some players, it was entirely out of reach. But there was a range of players for which that difficulty was high but not insurmountable with thought and practice you could either beat it or work towards overcoming it. The return you get is based in large part on the effort you put it.

    But while that's also true for AQ, I think the problem goes beyond individual player efforts. Alliances grow and evolve over time to mesh together many different players that are compatible with each other. Part of the criteria those players have to satisfy is being compatible when it comes to alliance events, AQ and AW. It is unrealistic to expect that every single player will be able to adjust to changes in AQ and AW at exactly the same rate, but it isn't an inability to adjust that can tear an alliance apart. It can be simply the differences in the way and the rate at which each individual player adjusts. Even if every player does everything right, a sudden change in difficulty and content in AQ can put enormous pressure on an alliance that didn't exist before. It is one thing to expect an alliance to deal with gradual changes over time, putting a small amount of pressure to adjust on each individual player. It is another thing to expect everyone to adjust quickly to a sudden change, all in the same way at the same rate in a way that will allow them to still mesh together.

    A question for you is: do you think it is a good idea to periodically "shake up" whole alliances and challenge them to adapt or die? That seems contrary to me to the purpose of player groups like alliances, which is usually to promote players forming attachments to other players in ways that allow games to retain players for longer periods of time.

    That's an interesting question!

    I do think the answer to that question is yes. If you were asking me as a designer, I would answer yes.

    I think it is contrary to player groups - but I think if one player advances quicker than one alliance as a whole, they'll hop up until they end up in a group at their skill level. What has happened (for most of us) is that we've leveled out and found an alliance of similar skill and like minded-ness.

    But even then, after extended periods of time - you often see people step down, or step up. There are shakeups that happen, especially in large break periods.

    So, I think for the health of the game, yes, I do think that is necessary from time to time.

    I'm not sure if that addresses the question I was asking. Yes, it is unavoidable that alliance shake ups happen from time to time, so it is necessary to allow such things to happen. The players themselves as a natural consequence of progressing in the game will on occasion find themselves outgrowing their alliance or vice versa, and we shouldn't constrain individual player progress to avoid this.

    But should you *deliberately* induce those shake ups, because there's a specific benefit to those shake ups in and of itself? And if so, what is the actual benefit to the game and/or the players?
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