I wanted to share some thoughts about the current state of Gold League and the new player experience in general.
Gold League is where most motivated new players go, since it’s the highest league with easy enrollment at levels that you can reach in your first few months of playing. It’s also the first league where team prizes for events are worth competing over, even if they’re still small.
It seems like most of the attention—both here on the forums, and from the devs—is on the high-level player experience, and some things have changed since most of you guys were hatchlings. There are a few problems that I haven’t seen much recent discussion of, likely because new players are underrepresented here, although maybe I just missed it. Here’s my list:
- Way too many level 200s and 300s in low-level leagues. From what I can tell, it used to be the case that advanced players might have lower-leveled alts in Gold. They’d have advantages over most players of their level, in the form of being better at the game, but the players they’d beat could learn from them, and eventually start using the same tricks. Everyone won. Nowadays, advanced players are taking their main accounts to gold. Level 40s are competing against level 300s in events. It’s like having pro athletes come down to break up your little league game; it’s not fun at all, and it’s completely demotivating. New players can’t use the same tactics as these guys, because the main tactic is “be thousands of times stronger than you currently are, with tens of thousands of times more resources.”
We’d prefer not to be competing against sapphire and diamond league players. But if PG can’t fix their league system, they should at least rebalance the prizes to reflect that a bunch of 200+ level jackasses are going to be a lock for 1st and 2nd place and maybe 3rd-5th too. As it stands, those guys are ruining the game for people who could’ve gotten into it.
In case anyone was about to respond with, “can’t you just play for 6th-10th?”, that’s an interesting point that I’m sure will resonate with everyone who, deep in their hearts, has always wanted to give their best for a chance to be #6. I.e., the people who were going to get excited about the game want to at least have a shot at taking first place, whether the prize is a single arcane striker rune or two thousand sigils. Competitions make people want to compete. If the competitive new players realize that they’re going to have to sit through months of big kids beating them up and taking their lunch money, a lot of them are going to head for a game with matchmaking that isn’t a bad middle school simulator.
Divines break low-level balance. You can hatch your first divine dragon at level 28. The moment he hatches, he can solo bases in their 30s and 40s. At the highest level he can reach before evolving, he can solo most well-built bases in their 50s, or badly-built bases in their 70s. This in turn means that in the 30s and 40s, base defense is mostly irrelevant. This isn’t great for teaching new players the game, because that’s when leveling starts to slow down. Players get the idea that defense doesn’t matter, which starts to hurt them a little later. They also get the idea that their divines are indeed gods, so the need to evolve them is less obvious.
Low-level lineage dragons are borderline useless. Kinnara is the first and last important lineage dragon new players get for a long time. You’ll get your first divine at some point in the purple or blue tiers, and he’ll be stronger at level 1 than the maxed form of anything you’ve bred. By the time you can breed Amarok, once the dream of new players, he’s not very useful except as a breeder on some less popular optimized paths. After 100-200 max xp runs, you can start to use him as a low-tier farmer when your divines are resting. This, combined with the minimal token cost and high time cost of breeding in the early tiers, makes a lot of new players lose interest in the breeding portion of the game for a while, only to later realize it’s the core progression mechanic.
There are a few reasons for this. First, the lower tier dragons’ kits are based around towers that existed when they were created. Nowadays, bases start to get relatively strong elemental towers in their 50s, so your cannon, archer, and (everyone’s favorite!) ballista resistances are not very meaningful.
Second, per point 2, lineage dragons are completely overshadowed by divines, who are more powerful from day 1 and can evolve to stay useful.
Third, the early lineage legendaries’ leveling requirements seem to be scaled based on the idea that they’re going to be used for a long time. (E.g., Amarok takes about 250 max XP runs to get to breedable when you get him on an optimized path, or 1250 to get to expert.) However, the existence of divines mean they get outclassed long before they hit that point. An expert orange legendary lineage dragon will beat a level 6 orange divine easily, but by the time time a new player can get the lineage dragon to expert, the divine will have evolved to green and is likely closing in on gold.
- Information. There are at least 3 crucial points about the game that new players won’t know unless they search the Internet for resources:
I.) Breeding requires data mining to do well. Breeding guides exist, and you should use one, or preferably 1 guide + Amoeba’s breeding spreadsheets.
II.) Build up, not out.
III.) Warriors, while amazing against low-level bases, fall off around gold tier.
The game itself doesn’t communicate these things well, and in some cases encourages players to do things that will make them bad at the game. E.g., the game encourages you to clear fog far more quickly than you should be building out. It gives you little early quests to build ballistas and trebuchets. There’s a loading screen tip to “keep building towers! One more tower can make all the difference.” (And the wasted time and resources for that tower can make a difference, just not in the way that they mean.) There’s another tip about how warriors are great for brawling through tough bases, which is certainly true at the start but won’t be forever.
I’ve thought about ways to address each of these problems that are simple and easy to implement, and which don’t alter the experience for higher-level players in higher leagues. (I know that’s where the money is, but you don’t get more high-level players unless new players stick around.) #3 is hard to do well, but the others aren’t.
- For Bronze through Gold leagues, set a maximum recommended level for players for each league, ideally beyond what any legit players who started there will have. (Maybe set the mark at 3x the mean level for the league. Percentiles are tricky because the ideal cutoff varies with how big the issue is.) If your team has players over the maximum level, they’re put in a veteran’s pool for events, wherein they compete against other overleveled players. This way, veterans can play with their low-level friends, and splinter teams can form, without knocking over the kiddie pool.
(This should only be implemented for events, not wars. If a team has lots of high-levels and wants to climb until the opposition is competitive, the game shouldn’t stop them from doing that.)
Keep the total divine sigil costs and XP costs to reach green tier the same, but rescale leveling so that divine dragons start at lower tiers. If divines started at blue or purple tier, the gap period in which bases are indefensible to most attackers will narrow.
Rebalance lower tier dragons and in particular their resistances.
I know there’s a thread about loading screen tips. Maybe that’s a good place to start for helping new players with information. Remove loading screen tips and quests that are actively steering new players in the wrong direction (the ones mentioned earlier), and add these:
“Choose breeding parents carefully! Find a breeding guide online to help you breed better dragons!”
“Concentrate fire! Upgrading towers instead of building many towers makes your base tougher to beat!”
“Warrior dragons are great for smashing low level bases! Past gold tier, hunters shine more!”
Thanks for reading!