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What makes challenges interesting?

Whenever the devs make changes to content or introduce new content, the question of what an interesting challenge comes up. Some things are considered reasonable, and some things are considered "cheats" or "money grabs." And opinions vary: no two people will agree in all respects. What one calls reasonable another will call cash grab.

In thinking about this, I happened to encounter these two node buff combinations while playing:





What I find interesting about these two node combinations is that the first one is at least in theory completely counterable by any champion. All you have to do is not get hit, or take too many blocked hits. Like, ever. Meanwhile the second one contains one of the less-loved defensive buffs in Spiked Armor, and this node combination affects different champions in different ways. And yet, I find the second set much more interesting and fun to play around. In fact, it is the very things that might make it bad on paper that make it interesting in practice. It does have a very annoying defensive buff in spiked armor. But it is that very fact that makes it very rewarding to work around it by using the other defensive buff to my own advantage: Dulled, which eliminates my critical chance and thus the chance I will trigger Spiked Armor.

The first pair seems uninteresting to me because it is all punishment and no reward. There's absolutely no thinking or strategy involved. Just don't get hit. "Don't get hit" is not a tactical choice: that is what we try to do all the time. You just get punished for failing to do it perfectly. Conversely, if you do avoid getting hit perfectly the node will start to punish you for that by making the defender hit harder and harder over time, including through your block eventually. So the node combination punishes you for getting hit, and also punishes you for avoiding getting hit for too long. The primary way to escape that node combination is to end the fight as quickly as possible by bringing champs that simply deal as much damage as possible. I know that is an oversimplification, but that's the core of the issue.

On top of that, how do you scale up those node combinations to increase difficulty? With the second one, that's easy. Increase the damage of spiked armor, or reduce the effectiveness of Dulled (i.e. lower the percentage reduction, or require buffs and debuffs to be unique, or both). You can then bring champs that don't crit like Crossbones, or you can bring champs that have a lot of rainbow buffs like Angela, or you can bring champs that have a lot of rainbow debuffs like Void.

How do you make the first combination more difficult. Well, we know how Kabam does that already: add Mesmerize. I'm not saying that doesn't have counters, but I'm saying it seems to me that countering Mesmerize/Dismay is a lot less interesting and fun than countering Spiked/Dulled.

For me, the lesson encapsulated in these two examples is that what makes a challenge interesting is not whether the node combinations are "easy" or "hard" but rather if they've been designed to offer non-trivial tactical options. Dismay/Countertactics has a counter, but the counter isn't a tactical option: not getting hit and ending the fight as fast as possible is not a tactical option. That's simply always the goal.

Also, every challenge must have a reward, and I'm not talking about crystals and gold. I don't "feel" rewarded for getting past Dismay/Counter. I just feel relieved I ended that as quick as possible. I do "feel" rewarded for getting past Spiked/Dulled. I feel like I got away with something. And I know Spiked Armor is not an especially hard node to get past regardless, but it still feels like I "cheated the game" by getting past that node with basically near-full health. Because there's still the rest of the map to complete: that's not the only fight I have to deal with.

I'm not saying Spiked/Dulled is the perfect defensive node combination. I'm saying that somewhere in there is what I believe the devs should be striving to aim for, in monthly quests, in AQ, and perhaps especially in AW. Consider how difficulty in AW would be judged if something like Spiked/Dulled existed on AW maps and Spiked was local but Dulled was a link. Does that change how the map gets run, how lanes get coordinated, etc? Suppose one alliance found an especially awful defender to place on a node, but the attackers could counter that placement with unconventional tactics like deliberately leaving a link up.

The game should reward tactical thinking at least as much as it does twitch skills. I think Dismay/Counter isn't bad: it rewards twitch skills. But it does so in a less interesting way that is difficult to tweak for higher difficulty, and it encourages something that needs no encouragement: bringing super-high burst damage dealers. Spiked/Dulled is perhaps a bit simplistic and easy to get around, but it perhaps offers the blueprint for how to scale that up to higher and more rewarding difficulty.

Comments

  • JohnHSJohnHS Posts: 489 ★★★
    Absolutely agreed! Hopefully we get more stuff that is beaten by strategy and less that is beaten by throwing potions and revives at it.
  • CoachiditeCoachidite Posts: 30
    I could say a lot about this write-up but I think I'll leave it at this: absolutely excellent. That is a fantastically well thought-out opinion and I agree wholeheartedly.

    And as much flak as everyone gives Kabam Miike in the forums, I'd like to take a second and commend him as well. First reply to this post is a moderator - that's impressive and shows exactly how well put together this was.

    Excellent job.
  • GluteusMaximusGluteusMaximus Posts: 899 ★★★
    the best is when erudite patrons of the game can pontificate the machinations of gameplay and discern patterns and processes from what most likely was a pile of Nifty Node Ideas scrawled on index cards and pulled out of a box (or, at best, tacked onto a board and stared at by a conference room full of devs). Hey guys, turns out someone made sense out of this stuff! hire him!
  • DNA3000DNA3000 Posts: 8,716 Guardian

    the best is when erudite patrons of the game can pontificate the machinations of gameplay and discern patterns and processes from what most likely was a pile of Nifty Node Ideas scrawled on index cards and pulled out of a box (or, at best, tacked onto a board and stared at by a conference room full of devs). Hey guys, turns out someone made sense out of this stuff! hire him!

    I think you meant to say the machinery of gameplay or the machinations of the developers.

    Also, I did not discuss, nor was my intent to discuss, the design intent of the developers. This isn't about what they were trying to do. This is about what they did in two examples, and how I react to those two situations. It is easy to say the game is or is not fun, but you can't just ask the developers to add more fun. This was an attempt to describe a specific example of something I think is fun and tactically interesting and go into some detail regarding why, comparing it to something I view as the polar opposite for reference. I think many people would agree, but hopefully even people who disagree will have a point of discussion to disagree with.
  • RiderofHellRiderofHell Posts: 1,737 ★★★★
    DNA3000 said:

    Whenever the devs make changes to content or introduce new content, the question of what an interesting challenge comes up. Some things are considered reasonable, and some things are considered "cheats" or "money grabs." And opinions vary: no two people will agree in all respects. What one calls reasonable another will call cash grab.

    In thinking about this, I happened to encounter these two node buff combinations while playing:





    What I find interesting about these two node combinations is that the first one is at least in theory completely counterable by any champion. All you have to do is not get hit, or take too many blocked hits. Like, ever. Meanwhile the second one contains one of the less-loved defensive buffs in Spiked Armor, and this node combination affects different champions in different ways. And yet, I find the second set much more interesting and fun to play around. In fact, it is the very things that might make it bad on paper that make it interesting in practice. It does have a very annoying defensive buff in spiked armor. But it is that very fact that makes it very rewarding to work around it by using the other defensive buff to my own advantage: Dulled, which eliminates my critical chance and thus the chance I will trigger Spiked Armor.

    The first pair seems uninteresting to me because it is all punishment and no reward. There's absolutely no thinking or strategy involved. Just don't get hit. "Don't get hit" is not a tactical choice: that is what we try to do all the time. You just get punished for failing to do it perfectly. Conversely, if you do avoid getting hit perfectly the node will start to punish you for that by making the defender hit harder and harder over time, including through your block eventually. So the node combination punishes you for getting hit, and also punishes you for avoiding getting hit for too long. The primary way to escape that node combination is to end the fight as quickly as possible by bringing champs that simply deal as much damage as possible. I know that is an oversimplification, but that's the core of the issue.

    On top of that, how do you scale up those node combinations to increase difficulty? With the second one, that's easy. Increase the damage of spiked armor, or reduce the effectiveness of Dulled (i.e. lower the percentage reduction, or require buffs and debuffs to be unique, or both). You can then bring champs that don't crit like Crossbones, or you can bring champs that have a lot of rainbow buffs like Angela, or you can bring champs that have a lot of rainbow debuffs like Void.

    How do you make the first combination more difficult. Well, we know how Kabam does that already: add Mesmerize. I'm not saying that doesn't have counters, but I'm saying it seems to me that countering Mesmerize/Dismay is a lot less interesting and fun than countering Spiked/Dulled.

    For me, the lesson encapsulated in these two examples is that what makes a challenge interesting is not whether the node combinations are "easy" or "hard" but rather if they've been designed to offer non-trivial tactical options. Dismay/Countertactics has a counter, but the counter isn't a tactical option: not getting hit and ending the fight as fast as possible is not a tactical option. That's simply always the goal.

    Also, every challenge must have a reward, and I'm not talking about crystals and gold. I don't "feel" rewarded for getting past Dismay/Counter. I just feel relieved I ended that as quick as possible. I do "feel" rewarded for getting past Spiked/Dulled. I feel like I got away with something. And I know Spiked Armor is not an especially hard node to get past regardless, but it still feels like I "cheated the game" by getting past that node with basically near-full health. Because there's still the rest of the map to complete: that's not the only fight I have to deal with.

    I'm not saying Spiked/Dulled is the perfect defensive node combination. I'm saying that somewhere in there is what I believe the devs should be striving to aim for, in monthly quests, in AQ, and perhaps especially in AW. Consider how difficulty in AW would be judged if something like Spiked/Dulled existed on AW maps and Spiked was local but Dulled was a link. Does that change how the map gets run, how lanes get coordinated, etc? Suppose one alliance found an especially awful defender to place on a node, but the attackers could counter that placement with unconventional tactics like deliberately leaving a link up.

    The game should reward tactical thinking at least as much as it does twitch skills. I think Dismay/Counter isn't bad: it rewards twitch skills. But it does so in a less interesting way that is difficult to tweak for higher difficulty, and it encourages something that needs no encouragement: bringing super-high burst damage dealers. Spiked/Dulled is perhaps a bit simplistic and easy to get around, but it perhaps offers the blueprint for how to scale that up to higher and more rewarding difficulty.

    Finally.someone else who realizes that dismay and counter tactics dont go well together
  • Mathking13Mathking13 Posts: 772 ★★★

    DNA3000 said:

    Whenever the devs make changes to content or introduce new content, the question of what an interesting challenge comes up. Some things are considered reasonable, and some things are considered "cheats" or "money grabs." And opinions vary: no two people will agree in all respects. What one calls reasonable another will call cash grab.

    In thinking about this, I happened to encounter these two node buff combinations while playing:





    What I find interesting about these two node combinations is that the first one is at least in theory completely counterable by any champion. All you have to do is not get hit, or take too many blocked hits. Like, ever. Meanwhile the second one contains one of the less-loved defensive buffs in Spiked Armor, and this node combination affects different champions in different ways. And yet, I find the second set much more interesting and fun to play around. In fact, it is the very things that might make it bad on paper that make it interesting in practice. It does have a very annoying defensive buff in spiked armor. But it is that very fact that makes it very rewarding to work around it by using the other defensive buff to my own advantage: Dulled, which eliminates my critical chance and thus the chance I will trigger Spiked Armor.

    The first pair seems uninteresting to me because it is all punishment and no reward. There's absolutely no thinking or strategy involved. Just don't get hit. "Don't get hit" is not a tactical choice: that is what we try to do all the time. You just get punished for failing to do it perfectly. Conversely, if you do avoid getting hit perfectly the node will start to punish you for that by making the defender hit harder and harder over time, including through your block eventually. So the node combination punishes you for getting hit, and also punishes you for avoiding getting hit for too long. The primary way to escape that node combination is to end the fight as quickly as possible by bringing champs that simply deal as much damage as possible. I know that is an oversimplification, but that's the core of the issue.

    On top of that, how do you scale up those node combinations to increase difficulty? With the second one, that's easy. Increase the damage of spiked armor, or reduce the effectiveness of Dulled (i.e. lower the percentage reduction, or require buffs and debuffs to be unique, or both). You can then bring champs that don't crit like Crossbones, or you can bring champs that have a lot of rainbow buffs like Angela, or you can bring champs that have a lot of rainbow debuffs like Void.

    How do you make the first combination more difficult. Well, we know how Kabam does that already: add Mesmerize. I'm not saying that doesn't have counters, but I'm saying it seems to me that countering Mesmerize/Dismay is a lot less interesting and fun than countering Spiked/Dulled.

    For me, the lesson encapsulated in these two examples is that what makes a challenge interesting is not whether the node combinations are "easy" or "hard" but rather if they've been designed to offer non-trivial tactical options. Dismay/Countertactics has a counter, but the counter isn't a tactical option: not getting hit and ending the fight as fast as possible is not a tactical option. That's simply always the goal.

    Also, every challenge must have a reward, and I'm not talking about crystals and gold. I don't "feel" rewarded for getting past Dismay/Counter. I just feel relieved I ended that as quick as possible. I do "feel" rewarded for getting past Spiked/Dulled. I feel like I got away with something. And I know Spiked Armor is not an especially hard node to get past regardless, but it still feels like I "cheated the game" by getting past that node with basically near-full health. Because there's still the rest of the map to complete: that's not the only fight I have to deal with.

    I'm not saying Spiked/Dulled is the perfect defensive node combination. I'm saying that somewhere in there is what I believe the devs should be striving to aim for, in monthly quests, in AQ, and perhaps especially in AW. Consider how difficulty in AW would be judged if something like Spiked/Dulled existed on AW maps and Spiked was local but Dulled was a link. Does that change how the map gets run, how lanes get coordinated, etc? Suppose one alliance found an especially awful defender to place on a node, but the attackers could counter that placement with unconventional tactics like deliberately leaving a link up.

    The game should reward tactical thinking at least as much as it does twitch skills. I think Dismay/Counter isn't bad: it rewards twitch skills. But it does so in a less interesting way that is difficult to tweak for higher difficulty, and it encourages something that needs no encouragement: bringing super-high burst damage dealers. Spiked/Dulled is perhaps a bit simplistic and easy to get around, but it perhaps offers the blueprint for how to scale that up to higher and more rewarding difficulty.

    Finally.someone else who realizes that dismay and counter tactics dont go well together
    I mean that was already pretty obvious. I'd say it's more that this is the first time we've seen someone go into this level of detail to explain what we couldn't; the deep REASONING behind why that node combination isn't fun to deal with or overcome.
  • JestressJestress Posts: 1,183 ★★★★

    Fantastic Opinion Write-up! I'm walking this over to the team to get it in front of their eyes right away!

    How about we get bugs fixed first -_-

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