How to fix Alliance War Defense Tactics in two steps

Full disclosure: I don't do competitive war anymore. I do more relaxed war, so I'm not in a tier where I have to deal with Defense tactics. Entirely by choice, by the way. I'm aware of how they work, and I'm aware of their impact on Alliance War. This comes from my understanding of the situation, but I'm not a victim of them myself.

So there are many complaints about Defense Tactics in Alliance War. I had an idea of how I would address those issues from the very first day of DT, but I decided to let the system play out for a while, first to see if Kabam would do this themselves (they don't seem like they will) and to eliminate the "lets see how it works first" objection. It is fair to say that objection is no longer applicable.

In my opinion the problem isn't that Flow is too strong or anything like that. The bigger problem is that there's no way for players to decide for themselves which tactics are the biggest threat and attempt to counter those DTs. So to me, the solution is almost absurdly simple, although perhaps it takes some thought to see what happens when you use the solution.

Counterplay.

If an alliance can turn on a Defense Tactic against their opponent, their opponent should be able to turn on an Offensive Tactic that can counter that tactic (and of course, vice versa). It is just that simple.

The problem with the current system is that if the players decide one DT is the strongest, then everyone will use it. The game settles down into a hole where everyone uses it *because* everyone uses it. The war meta gets locked in place. But suppose there was an anti-Flow attacker buff. It doesn't matter what it is; for the sake of argument suppose it was a global attacker buff that suppressed power gain for all #Control champs. Lets call this the Drain Offensive Tactic. Now, if everyone thinks Flow is the best Defense Tactic then everyone will use it. But knowing that everyone is using it, everyone will also assume that Drain is the best Attacker Tactic.

Now, if the Defense Tactics were actually balanced, then no DT would be more likely to be used than any other, and thus no Offensive Tactic would be overwhelmingly better either. Alliances would choose different DTs and OTs, and the war meta wouldn't get "locked in." Alliances would keep changing things just to keep their opponents off balance. But if DTs are highly unbalanced, then by extension so would the OTs: because if one DT is overwhelmingly powerful, the value of the corresponding OT to counter it would also be overwhelmingly valuable. Everyone would use the OT that protected them against the most horrible DT, and then everyone would pick DTs from whatever was left (because with everyone using same OT to protect themselves against the worst DT, there's no good reason to use that DT either).

This counterplay creates dynamic balance between the DTs. If Kabam makes them fair, then everyone should try to use different ones to catch their opponents by surprise. But if Kabam fails to make them fair, then the system quickly evolves into a state where that worst DT basically gets voted off the island by the players: every alliance protects themselves from that one horrible DT, and then everyone chooses from the rest of the DTs. This signals to Kabam to fix that one DT everyone is running away from.

So in the current war meta, everyone would be using Drain because Flow is just too powerful to *not* use Drain. But because everyone would be using Drain, everyone would also know not to bother using Flow anymore. Everyone would use Drain as insurance just in case, but then everyone would mostly move to a different Defense Tactic. If someone tries to "cheat the meta" by no longer using Drain, eventually alliances will catch on and start using Flow again to catch those guys. The equilibrium would be set by the players themselves.

There are technical details to make this work. You'd want to make sure that the OTs are not *just* anti-DTs. There has to be some benefit to them beyond just neutralizing a DT, because when DTs are balanced you want there to be some reason to pick one OT over another beyond just guessing what DT is heading your way. You want to make them interesting enough to be a good mechanic on their own. But making Tactics in pairs, a DT and its sister OT, means one single DT (or OT) cannot get out of hand, because every Tactic has its anti-Tactic, and players can decide for themselves if a tactic is too powerful and has to be neutralized, and the war meta can evolve much faster to confront problems than Kabam can (or will) rebalance the game.

This is not a solution to Flow. Flow is not the first "worst" DT, and probably won't be the last. This is a solution to what options the players have to counter an error on the part of Kabam in the form of handing unbalanced weapons for the players to bash each other with. Right now if Kabam hands everyone nuclear missiles, the only option available to players is for everyone to go nuclear and mutually annihilate each other. But if each weapon was paired with a countermeasure, then players could decide whether to use the countermeasure or use something else instead because they don't need that countermeasure. And if everyone is using the same countermeasures, that would tell Kabam they probably did something wrong. But while they take their time fixing it, the players won't be nuking each other off the planet out of necessity. They can just counter the problematic effect in the actual game and go on with their lives.

The weird thing to me is this seems to be a simple design principle, in fact Kabam's developers acknowledged that counterplay was a foundational principle of how they viewed war. So it is rather strange to me that for the most problematic addition they've ever made to alliance war there was literally no counterplay option introduced at the same time, and no attempt to add one once it became clear it was missing.

Someone, maybe even Kabam, might argue that there is counterplay in the system: the attackers themselves can bring the right champs to counter a particular defense tactic (or learn how to overcome it). But that's not actually viable counterplay, because none of these things can exert any meta-gameplay pressure to get alliances to stop using a problematic DT. If the DT is particularly problematic, as it was for Dodge, then Siphon, then Flow, then people will just keep using it because whether you get better at it or not, its still the best option. A true counter has to be so strong that it can make the best Defense Tactic into the worst Defense Tactic if you use it. At the moment, it is clear to me no such counters exist for whatever Defense Tactic sits at the top of the metagame at any particular moment, because wars seem to keep falling to local Defense Tactics minima.

Comments

  • DNA3000DNA3000 Posts: 13,272 Guardian
    I said there were two steps, I should clarify what I meant. Step one: make counter-measure Offensive Tactics to pair with the Defensive Tactics. Step two: datamine the wars to see if any particular DT or OT was overwhelmingly used. If so, assume either that tactic is broken, or its sister is broken and everyone is using the sister to counter it.

    It is what they are doing now, except in the current version players have to suffer bad tactics until they get fixed. In this system players counter the bad tactics and sort of "play without it" forcing Kabam to fix it while the players can, mostly, ignore it because the meta automatically migrates to a state where that happens.
  • HavanaknightHavanaknight Posts: 233 ★★
    So to summarize... paper rock scissor lizard Spock, right? I like it.

    My alliance just moved to tier 5 but got matched against a tier 6, so we have yet to experience DT. But I sure have read a lot about it the last several days.
  • ChriissRChriissR Posts: 487 ★★★
    Just remove all the defence tactics and leave war how it used to be and leave all opponents showing. It's so stupid having opponents hidden and these defensive tactics.

    Leave nodes on different placements and that's it.
  • PolygonPolygon Posts: 1,903 ★★★★
    No need to engineer it mate, simply just get rid of them. AW is becoming more and more like story with these extra nodes
  • SeraphionSeraphion Posts: 1,492 ★★★★
    That idea is cool. It would counter the problem we have and makes worse champ playable in war. Depending on the OT ofc.
    For that we could look at incursions buffs as well.
  • Bugmat78Bugmat78 Posts: 944 ★★★
    DNA3000 said:

    I said there were two steps, I should clarify what I meant. Step one: make counter-measure Offensive Tactics to pair with the Defensive Tactics. Step two: datamine the wars to see if any particular DT or OT was overwhelmingly used. If so, assume either that tactic is broken, or its sister is broken and everyone is using the sister to counter it.

    It is what they are doing now, except in the current version players have to suffer bad tactics until they get fixed. In this system players counter the bad tactics and sort of "play without it" forcing Kabam to fix it while the players can, mostly, ignore it because the meta automatically migrates to a state where that happens.

    It makes sense yes, but a simpler solution is probably to remove DTs, because as we know the more coding involved the more potential for bugs and "unintended interactions". Adding another layer of modifications might (probably) cause more problems than it solves.

    War was more fun before these DTs. Now it's just stressful & expensive.
  • DNA3000DNA3000 Posts: 13,272 Guardian
    Bugmat78 said:

    DNA3000 said:

    I said there were two steps, I should clarify what I meant. Step one: make counter-measure Offensive Tactics to pair with the Defensive Tactics. Step two: datamine the wars to see if any particular DT or OT was overwhelmingly used. If so, assume either that tactic is broken, or its sister is broken and everyone is using the sister to counter it.

    It is what they are doing now, except in the current version players have to suffer bad tactics until they get fixed. In this system players counter the bad tactics and sort of "play without it" forcing Kabam to fix it while the players can, mostly, ignore it because the meta automatically migrates to a state where that happens.

    It makes sense yes, but a simpler solution is probably to remove DTs, because as we know the more coding involved the more potential for bugs and "unintended interactions". Adding another layer of modifications might (probably) cause more problems than it solves.

    War was more fun before these DTs. Now it's just stressful & expensive.
    The simple unchangeable fact is that if you want to get rid of DT, the absolute best case scenario is Kabam fiddles with it season after season after season, and maybe, just maybe, eventually decides they can't balance it effectively and then starts to consider removing it. If you want DT gone, you'll have to live with several more iterations of it minimum, because Kabam will not remove a feature like this from the game until they are convinced they can't fix it.

    The problem with DT is each iteration loop takes an entire season. Remember that the first time they did a major revisit of Alliance War we saw iterations of things like defender diversity and point systems that lasted from version 14.0 to 16.X.

    The larger problem is that you think if you could wave a magic wand and get rid of Defense Tactics that Kabam wouldn't just replace it with something else. As long as the game exists and Alliance War exists, Kabam will continue to fiddle with it. Every time they do, they make the mistake of handing players weapons - harsher maps, stronger buffs, invisible enemies, and Defense Tactics - and not giving them any way to counter those weapons with other options of similar caliber. This isn't about fixing Flow, and it isn't even about fixing Defense Tactics. It is about the philosophy that would prevent the next Defense Tactics. Every time you add something players can use to make other players miserable, add something players can use to defend themselves against that.

    Kabam is looking at this wrong. They want to change the defensive meta so players are encouraged to place more varied defenses, so that players attacking in AW see more variety. In effect, they want to co-opt us to be their content creators. We are the map designers, and apparently we suck at it because we don't make entertaining diverse maps. But Kabam keeps forgetting that our job isn't to entertain our competition, it is to crush them. It isn't to be fair, it is to be as unfair as the game rules allow. They think of Defense Tactics as if we were employees: look, we got a cool tool, now let's see how the players use it to make wars more interesting.

    Except none of us want to make wars interesting. We want to win them.

    The only way for the players to help you balance wars is to give them tools and counter tools and then get out of the way and let the players, in their own self-interest, use the tools as effectively as they can. And if war is monotonous, that's because your tools suck, and you go adjust those. But you make sure that while you're doing so you don't leave war in a state where a single weapon can run amok and there's nothing the players can do to stop it.
  • StrStr Posts: 547 ★★
    Lets just sign a mutual peace treaty where we don't fight and instead we split the rewards 50/50.

    We all get our stress free lives back, we get rewards for compassion and coexistence, and our top champs can actually be used to explore content. We don't need to check our phones at set times every other day, we don't need to rank up random diversity champs to 5/65 for AW defense for a whole 30 points, we don't need to keep switching suicides off and on again costing us units and grind time (or real money) and we don't need to spend units, glory or loyalty o potions, boosts and revives.

    A win win situation all round. Lets just say plat 1 rewards all round as standard then? ;)
  • JohnLocke117JohnLocke117 Posts: 442 ★★★
    Step 1: Yeetus
    Step 2: Deletus
  • DNA3000DNA3000 Posts: 13,272 Guardian
    Str said:

    Lets just sign a mutual peace treaty where we don't fight and instead we split the rewards 50/50.

    You couldn't get everyone to agree, of course, but I have often wondered what Kabam would do if every alliance tied for first place with zero points as a protest. Would they be forced to give master rewards to everyone? I mean, there's no tie breaker for season points.

    Kabam doesn't have to worry because a single defector breaks this. But still, it is an interesting thought.


    I should point out there's a real deep design idea in this ridiculous thought that I've observed some game designers understand and some say they do but don't. Difficulty balancing is important in, say, AQ because difficulty determines rewards. The less difficult AQ is, the higher the maps we can do, the more points we get, the more rewards we get. We the players can collectively get more or less rewards depending on how well we play against the content.

    But in AW, the total amount of rewards we can get is fixed. No matter what we do, no matter how good or bad we play, no matter how easy or hard war is, the playerbase as a whole is going to get basically the same rewards. Because someone always wins and someone always loses (barring the rare tie). So one alliance gets the victory rewards and one gets the participation rewards. Exactly one alliance gets the top rewards. Exactly twenty alliances get Master rewards overall. Rewards are given out based on overall placement at the end of the season, and there will always be exactly one alliance that gets every reward allocated to every placement from first to ten thousandth.

    So what does making war more difficult do? Mostly, it reduces participation. I mean, there will always be some people who want things more difficult and some who want things more easy, but the net overall effect of making war difficult doesn't change the rewards that get handed out and it doesn't increase the overall enjoyment of the game mode across the entire playerbase. Which is interesting, or would be to anyone who knows how online games like this are managed. Almost everything, and especially difficulty, is balanced in part on the rewards entering the system. So what happens when difficulty and rewards are completely disconnected?

    I want to say there's a very specific and in my opinion unhealthy adversarial component to this, but that's a very long conversation.
  • naikavonnaikavon Posts: 236 ★★★
    Absolutely agree with your sentiment. The best games featuring alliance vs. alliance/war incorporate methods for the player base to adjust the meta themselves.

    Honestly, I'm surprised it's not already a feature in this game. It saves devs a ton of time trying to implement large "fixes" or adjustments based on players rather than small tweaks which are far more manageable.
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