AvA Summer Revamp - Design Review

Hello Bannermen! Today we're going over the mechanic and system changes in the AvA revamp.

 

 

 

Before we dig into the specific changes, I want to go over the four things that guided our revamp design:

  • Eliminating the performance issues that have plagued AvA since its inception.
  • Updating the UI to make AvA clearer and easier to use.
  • Updating actions, camps, and VP gain to make the competition more exciting, strategic, and encourage multiple ways to achieve victory.
  • Updating AvA rewards, encouraging more participation from Alliance members.

For each core area of the revamp, we laid out a quick summary of what we wanted to do:

 

Eliminating Performance Issues

We’ve gone into the root cause of these performance issues on the forums, and they ultimately led to a reworking of how our servers process AvA actions. We are making extensive changes to AvA performance while also decreasing the number of processes needed for AvA. While these changes have the least amount of discussion in this blog post, it’s the most important and time-consuming aspect of our AvA revamp.

 

Updating the UI

Almost every screen has been touched and changed, with the ultimate goal of better surfacing information for all of our players. You’ll find the UI has changed significantly. While the core concepts of building and attacking camps remain, the information and screens involved in AvA have been streamlined and collapsed into fewer, but more useful, screens.

 

Updating AvA VP Gain

97% of AvA VP in the last few phases came from attacks, with the VP gained in a direct relationship with the number of attacks sent. This wasn’t good for the game, and more importantly, it wasn’t fun for our AvA players. In the updated AvA, VP has been significantly rebalanced across the board. Actions have been reworked to be more tactical and meaningful, and camps now play a more active role in both attacking and defending. Lastly, the ability to buff and debuff camp effects has been introduced alongside the camp’s silver pool, providing a new way to modify camps through your actions.

 

Updating AvA Rewards

AvA rewards are adopting a similar structure to Tales. Individual participants can collect threshold rewards as they compete, winning seals, crafting materials, gold - even dragon materials and peerless items! At the end of a phase, Alliances win titles and tokens, which can be redeemed for new, epic peerless items on par with dragons.

 

Part One: Core AvA Updates

AvA Participation Changes

One of the big questions going into these updates was: How do we make AvA more exciting across many levels of competition?  When we did a deep dive on the data, even the largest Alliances had only a core of fewer than 100 players who were heavily involved in AvA. Many of the participants who were part of AvA contributed only a handful of items, or participated in only a few attacks. With that in mind, we have lowered the Alliance war participant cap from 500 to 100.

When looking at AvA participation numbers, during the busiest hours of the last phase, only three alliances had more than 100 members sending out actions - and those Alliances only had a bit over 100. When looking through data on previous phases, we found time and again that the vast majority of Alliances, including Alliances that won first place spots, had a core of players that were almost always under 100 members.

That being said, this is a significant change that we expect will generate a lot of discussion on the forums. It makes mercing more difficult; it prevents mega-Alliances from fielding hundreds of participants; and it turns AvA into a more selective activity. Some Alliances may choose to create new Alliances for their members, or join other Alliances looking to compete. Other Alliances will continue as they are, or recruit a few dozen members to reach the cap. This will be a significant change to how AvA is fought, but it will ensure a more balanced and exciting playing field

 

Command Points to Garrison Points

A persistent complaint about AvA was the way that you couldn’t participate in quests, adventures, or other actions if you were fully engaged in AvA. Since Command Points were shared between these actions, players, especially lower-level or mid-level players, had a difficult choice of whether they should participate in AvA or continue adventuring and questing.

With the AvA revamp, we’ll have the chance to implement Garrison Points, which will only be used in AvA. Garrison Points function exactly as Command Points previously did in AvA, including increasing with level, but increase at a different scale. This allows us to give lower- and mid-level players more Garrison Points earlier on, without disrupting the current Command Point curve. Players will still have the same number of Command Points to be used in Adventures, quests, and other parts of the game.

Your Garrison Points will be located on your Camp Garrison screen. The garrison point formula is still being hammered out, and we’ll discuss it in a future post.

 

VP Updates

VP itself will be updated across the board. Camp VP will be greatly increased, and VP overall will receive a substantial rebalance. Our intent with the VP rebalance is to introduce parity between the three main action types, so that it is possible to win using all three types of camps and actions. When reading through the rest of the design, please keep in mind that actions may not have the same amount of VP as previous AvA.

 

Defense Changes

We’re updating camp defense and garrisons to allow you to specify which of your Sworn Swords should remain as a defender for the garrison. By checking off your Sworn Sword as a defender, you prevent it from being sent in AvA attacks. That Sworn Sword will remain in the garrison, defending the camp, until you either uncheck the option or the Sworn Sword dies. You’ll finally be able to “Send All” without worrying about sending away your defenders. Sworn Swords that aren’t marked as a defender can still defend if they’re in the garrison and not on an action.

We will also be working on the “zombie” bug where a single Sworn Sword was sometimes used for defense - even when that defense had them taking more than five wounds. And we’ll be looking at the “Ghost CP” bug as well.

Lastly, we may be changing how we match defenders to attackers. If we do change it from the current formula, we will let you know in a future discussion.

 

AvA Tiers Removed

With the changes to camp upgrade costs, the lowering of participant limits, the removal of caps on how many Sworn Swords you may garrison in a camp, the lowering of maximum garrison size, and VP updates, we have removed tiers from AvA. All Alliances will participate in AvA at the same tier, and camps will cost the same across Alliances.

Alliance Tactics tiers are unaffected.

 

Part Two: AvA Rewards

AvA Rewards have been overhauled to more closely resemble Tales rewards. Rewards have been split into two distinct sections: Participation Rewards and Ranking Rewards. Participation Rewards give specific items once you reach VP thresholds, and Ranking Rewards will give end-of-phase prizes, including titles and tokens. As part of these changes, we have removed the overall reward from AvA.

In previous phases, overall rewards were fought over by some Alliances, but many others competed for the regional firsts. After talking internally, we decided to remove the overall rank in favor of regional ranks. Our hope is that more Alliances will compete for the regions that offer tokens they find useful or desirable. If there is a desire to add in an overall reward, we have made the rewards system flexible enough that we could add one in the future.

 

Participation Rewards

Participation Rewards are unlocked as you reach thresholds of VP gain from your individual actions, so we’ll be able to reward you better than before. As you gain more VP, you’ll receive resources, silver, seals, and useful items.. At the higher thresholds, you’ll even see gold, seals, and peerless items, which you may acquire in every phase.

Why participation rewards? New players in a less competitive alliance can still be rewarded for their participation, and have a number of personal goals to work towards. In previous AvA phases, we saw some Alliance members riding the coattails of their more active members, since there was not any difference in rewards between highly active members and casually active members. We want AvA to be an intense experience that rewards active participation, and by putting participation rewards in, we can better reward our players for their contributions.

Ranking Rewards require some more explanation.

 

Ranking Rewards: Seasons and Arenas

When we sat down to go over Ranking Rewards, we compared them to World of Warcraft’s Arena Seasons. In WoW, players compete against each other to earn Conquest Points, which are then turned in for awesome Arena gear. Since the points are like a currency, you can spend them on anything you want. Using that system as inspiration, Ranking Rewards in AvA will reward winning Alliance members with tokens that can be turned in for epic gear. All members will gain a number of tokens as defined for the rank rewards. For example, if the rewards for first place were five tokens, each participating member would receive five tokens at the end of AvA.

With the addition of The Vale, there will be nine regions to compete for in AvA. Three regions are assigned for each type of token. Those tokens can then be crafted into new, epic gear through crafting recipes. This epic gear will be on-par with Young Dragon stats, and can only be acquired by trading in tokens for the item in the new building. Our plan is for this new gear to be epic armor and weapons to complement your dragons.

We are balancing tokens so that it is possible to get the gear even if you don’t get first place in AvA. Our goal is for these items to cost a number of tokens that require several phases of first-place finishes, OR multiple phases of second, third, or fourth-place finishes. Alliances who win first-place will win the most tokens, but Alliances that place below first can still save up tokens and have a chance at getting these items.

The ultimate goals of these changes are to reward Alliances who do consistently well in AvA with craftable epic items that are far better than the previous AvA rewards, and provide better rewards for Alliance members who participate at high levels in AvA.

Ranking Rewards will continue awarding unique titles for our victors, giving our players a new way to earn titles.

Here is a quick chart going over the flow of how to gain tokens, and trade them in for an item:

 

 

 

Ranking Rewards: Winning Multiple Regions

With the removal of the overall rewards, the lowering of Sworn Sword caps in a camp, and the reduction of AvA participants, we have decided to allow Alliances to rank in more than one region. With hundreds of participants, it was feasible for larger Alliances to easily dominate more than one region. With all of the changes we are making, we’re opening up more than one region to Alliances.

We understand this change shakes up how rewards are given out, and opens up the possibility of Alliances winning more than one region, potentially three or more. At the same time, with the lowered caps on participation and the reduced garrison size, more Alliances will be competing for regions than ever before. Not only will there be more Alliances competing, it allows new and more interesting intrigue between smaller and larger Alliances, who may jump into a new region partway through a phase. Since this is such a major change, we’re open to discussion, but believe it will make for a more competitive and interesting AvA phase, rather than previous AvA phases which saw Alliances settle into a single region, winning it handily.

In conclusion, participation rewards will provide a variety of rewards as you gain VP, while the end-of-phase ranking rewards will be the source of the most desired prizes including titles and tokens. Tokens are being used to reward Alliances across ranks, allowing members of first-place Alliances to craft epic items with tokens over a few phases, and other ranking Alliances to gain items over multiple phases. The overall power of the items you gain by crafting tokens will be around Young Dragon stat levels.

 

Part Three: AvA Camp Updates

Camps have been significantly changed in the new version of AvA. Let’s go over those changes, and how they affect AvA.

 

Camps: From Nine to Three

With our changes to camps, we want to focus on clear camp choices that have a real impact on how you play AvA. Camps types are now only Battle, Trade, or Intrigue. Each specialization will have unique bonuses that can greatly impact your camp stats. Camp building has also been streamlined, with the greatest change being a reduction of spoils from nine types to three types. This means that you’ll no longer earn spy, fight, barter, or any other types of spoil; instead, you’ll earn Battle, Trade, or Intrigue spoils. Silver has also been removed from camp upgrades.

For our Alliances who run challenges with the spoils, we’ll be changing the challenges to reflect these new spoils. We’ll let you know how exactly they’re changing in a future post.

 

Camp Health: Not Just a Percentage

Camp health needed to be revamped in a serious way. In the previous system, you had a percentage of camp health, which could only change in 1% increments. This meant that camps were quite easy to damage to 100%, even with a relatively small set of Sworn Swords. In the new design, camps have defined health that increases as camps gain levels.

As an example, a level 5 camp may have 10,000 health. Attacks that come in deal damage, and that damage is subtracted from the camp health. Your overall health is represented both as an absolute number, and a percentage of the total. A level 20 camp may have 100,000 health, and the same number of attacks that would take a level 5 camp to 100% damaged may only drop a level 20 camp to 90%.

As a result, camp attacks have been changed from percent to damage. Actions will deal damage in different increments, and have different penalties on loss. For instance Fight will deal high damage but be high risk, with a lost Fight reflecting high damage back against the attacker. Harass will deal less damage but is less risky, with a lost Harass reflecting lower damage back against the attacker. Using damage instead of percent allows us to carefully balance all of the different actions against each other, and against camp health. To heal damage, AvA participants may heal camps with silver, or have allies send Aid actions against their camp.

Lastly, your camp’s hourly VP declines in direct proportion to how damaged your camp is. If your camp is at 25% health, you’ll only receive 25% of the hourly VP from your camp. An important note is that camp stats DO NOT decrease with damage; they decrease based on the silver in your camp, as detailed in the next two sections. The exact time your hourly VP is consistent and set at the beginning of the phase, but will vary between Alliances.

 

Camp Upgrades: No More Silver to Upgrade Camps

You no longer need silver to upgrade your camps. You still need camp materials to upgrade your camps. In addition to repairing your camps, silver plays an exciting new role in in buffing your camp’s stats and will be the focus of the updated Trade actions.  

 

Camp Buffs and Debuffs

This is a pretty major change to AvA, and should be reviewed carefully.

When we were working through camp upgrades, we quickly realized that we needed something more for camps other than damage. We also realized that, with upgrades gone, silver didn’t play much of a role in AvA at all. That meant that camp actions only had damage and VP to alter, which was very difficult to balance. Out of those discussions came camp buffs and debuffs, giving silver a more dynamic and important role in AvA.

Every camp has a “pool” of silver that you may fill. This pool scales in size alongside your camp, so a low level camp has a small pool of silver. If your pool is empty, your camp has greatly reduced stats. If your pool is half full, your camp has its normal stats. And if your pool is twice as full, you’ll get double the stats from your camp. Think of it as paying your soldiers: if you don’t pay them at all, they quit. Pay them their normal wages, and they’ll do the job you want. Pay them double, and they’ll work extra hard to make sure your camp is the best out there!

With the silver pool, AvA players now have another way to affect camps other than dealing damage. If someone is climbing the ranks quickly, you can do damage with fight camps to stop their camp VP gain. You can now also use Trade to reduce their silver pool and debuff their camp. After a phase is complete, silver in the pool is removed, and you can’t transfer silver out of the pool or to your other camps.

In addition to performing Trade and Intrigue actions to gain silver for their camp, Alliance members may contribute silver to camps. In order to prevent players from continually replenishing the pool, you can only contribute silver once every X minutes - currently set to 30 minutes. Your wagons need time to come back after delivering the silver!

As a result of these changes, camp attack and defense stats will be rebalanced so that there is a significant difference in attack success between buffed and debuffed camps.

 

Camp Stats: Fewer of them!

Although there are only three types of camps, what they do has become quite different. Each camp now has the following stats:

  • Base stats (battle, trade, intrigue). There are no longer separate offense and defense stats.
  • A specific ability dependent on the type of camp. Battle camps can do and take more damage, trade camps are better at debuffing, and intrigue camps gain a bonus to camp VP.
  • Spoil drop rate. Spoils drop rate has not changed, and grants a 5% higher chance of dropping spoils per level.

All stats increase in magnitude with each level. Camps no longer affect the stats of other camps of the same type in the region.

 

Camp Garrisons: Smaller Cap, No Limits

Camp garrison limits have been changed as well. Camps now have a limit at level 20 of 1,000 Sworn Swords per camp, but, we have removed the limits on how many Sworn Swords may be garrisoned per player. We have also made significant changes to the garrison itself:

  • You may now add multiple Sworn Swords to a garrison at once.
  • You may now filter your Sworn Swords when adding them to the garrison.
  • And, lastly, you may now set Sworn Swords as defenders, so they will not be available when sending out Sworn Swords on attacks.

When viewing the number of unique Sworn Swords sent out during a period of several hours, we found that, for the majority of Alliances and for the majority of a phase, fewer than 3,000 unique Sworn Swords were sent out per Alliance per region. We have set the limit at 1,000 per camp based on the data we reviewed from previous AvA phases, and based on the idea that more Alliances will be competing across multiple regions, spreading out their camps and their garrisons. Garrisons are first-come, first-serve in the new version of AvA, but may change in the future. We are working on an ability for leaders and officers to kick Sworn Swords from a garrison, but it may not make it into the first version of AvA.

Your feedback is welcome on these changes, but we ask that you consider the changes alongside all of the other updates to AvA, including the rewards changes, camp upgrade cost changes, Garrison Point scaling, and new actions.

 

Part Four: AvA Action Updates

The New Archetypes

With the AvA revamp, we had a chance to rework actions to better fit their archetypes, as well as making sure each action makes sense throughout the entirety of an AvA phase. The actions have been reworked to do the following:

Battle: Focused on doing damage to camps. Damage reduces a camp’s health, preventing hourly VP from accruing. The beneficial action, Aid, restores health to a target.

Trade: Focused on adding and removing silver from camps. Silver has been reworked to buff and debuff camps, giving Trade actions new meaning. The beneficial action, barter, gives silver to both camps.

Intrigue: Focused on doing both damage and modifying silver, but with the added benefit of having no downsides except for Sworn Sword wounding. The neutral action, Spy, gives detailed info on other camps.

With that being set up, the individual actions fell into place. Some notes on wording for below:

There is a difference between taking and removing silver. Taking silver means there is a transfer of silver - if I take silver from an enemy camp, it is given to my camp. If I remove silver, it means it’s deducted from my target, but not given back to my camp. That’s why Sabotage and Steal are different; Sabotage does damage and removes silver, so you hurt the enemy, while Steal doesn’t do damage but does take silver, helping to buff your camp.

 

Battle Actions

Battle actions are focused on doing damage and reducing a camp’s VP gain. By damaging a camp, you reduce their passive VP gain from their camps, which will be rebalanced so it is a significant part of an Alliance’s VP gain. Both hostile actions do damage to a camp, but also have a risk of doing damage to your own camps as well.

 

Fight now does a large amount of damage to the target camp on victory, and results in a large amounts of damage to your camp if you lose. In both cases, the losing Sworn Sword takes a wound.

Harass does a medium amount of damage to the target camp on victory, and results in a low amount of damage to your camp if you lose. In both cases, the losing Sworn Sword takes a wound.

Aid repairs a large amount of damage for the winner, and a lower amount of damage for the loser. No Sworn Swords are wounded in Aid.

 

Trade Actions

Trade actions are focused on adding and removing silver from camps. With silver going into a silver pool, and that pool affecting the stats of your camps, players who want to reduce the effectiveness of other Alliances would be wise to use Trade actions against their friends and foes. Keep in mind, however, that Trade isn’t without risk; you may find your own silver pool depleted if you’re not careful.

 

Swindle takes a medium amount of silver from the target camp for your camp on victory, and the enemy takes a small amount of silver from your camp to the target camp if you lose. In both cases, the losing Sworn Sword is wounded.

Bribe removes a small amount of silver from your camp to start, and has the possibility of removing a large amount of silver from the target camp on victory. If you lose, the enemy gains low silver. In both cases, the losing Sworn Sword is wounded.

Barter gives a large amount of silver to the winner, and a lower amount of silver to the loser. No Sworn Swords are wounded in Barter.

 

Intrigue Actions

Intrigue actions are unique in that they do both damage and take silver, but without any negative effects to your camp. With Intrigue actions, you can play it secret and safe, either hitting a larger enemy without any risk, or gaining VP through safe actions.

 

Sabotage does low damage and removes low silver from an enemy camp, with no negative camp effect for failure. In both cases, the losing Sworn Sword is wounded.

Steal takes low silver for your camp, with no negative camp effect for failure. In both cases, the losing Sworn Sword is wounded.

Spy contributes to your spy points on a target camp. We’ll go into Spy in more detail in the next section.

 

Spy Continued

Spy has changed significantly in the current design. In the old design, spy was functionally useless. On the one hand, you only needed a single spy to get information on your target. On the other hand, you only ever had information for a moment of time, and there was no benefit to being specialized in Spy. That is changing in the new AvA.

It’s easiest for us to explain using the diagram of the new Camp Attack panel:

 


 

This is an example of the revamped “Attack Camp” option. After you select an Alliance in the region, you get a list of three of their camps. Those three camps now use the above panel, which contains a lot more information that’s revealed by Spy. There’s also the new “Spy Reports” section, which tells you how much information you’re seeing, out of the total information it’s possible to see.

So what does the new Spy do?

  • Spy now accumulates over time. The information that is shown to your Alliance for the camp is based on how many successful spies you have sent out over the last X minutes. For example:
  • Specialization and Level are shown after at least 1 successful Spy in the last hour.
  • Camp status (fine, under attack, heavily under attack, dead (0% health)) and number of actions received in the last hour are shown after at least 10 successful Spies in the last hour.
  • Size of the garrison and amount of silver are shown after at least 30 successful spies in the last hour.
  • Actual health shown after 60 successful spies in an hour.
  • All data is automatically refreshed for your Alliance every X minutes (tentatively set at 5 minutes) as long as you have done enough spies in the last Y hours (tentatively set to 1 hour). If you stop sending spies, the data remains, but becomes stale and does not update beyond the last camp update you received.

Please keep in mind that all values above are tentative and could change before release.

The new version of Spy provides more information for our players, and make certain that the target camp’s information is only a few minutes old at most. Most Alliances will want a few people sending out Spy attacks against their targets to keep the information fresh, giving more meaning to players who choose to specialize in Spy.

 

Part Five: The Battle Log

The Battle Log is the new way to tell what has been going on for each of your camps. Every X hours - our internal goal is every two hours - each camp’s Battle Log is updated to reflect the last X hours of actions for each region you have camps in.

Our goal with this system is to give players a better way to know who is doing what to your camps. Previously, it was very hard to know what occurred to your camps, and which Alliance was responsible. Alliance members had to check their incoming actions on the PtP screen, which was time-consuming and only showed the last few hundred attacks. With this change, more information about AvA  will allow our Alliance leaders to make better decisions.

 

Part Six: UI and Usability Changes

We will be making a number of small changes to AvA to help AvA UI and usability. Among them are:

  • Adding an AvA help button to the screen, containing an updated FAQ and guide on using AvA.
  • The ability to garrison more than one SS at a time.
  • The ability to filter SS when adding them to garrison.
  • The ability to send SS through a single screen, whether you’re sending all, some, or only a few SS.
  • The ability to see your individual VP gain per phase.
  • The ability to search through the leaderboards for your target Alliance.
  • Multiple changes that add useful information to various screens, including the war map, region, and camp attack screens.
  • General cleanup of the UI, removing unnecessary tabs or clicks, breaking the UI out of the Alliance window, and other changes.
  • Something we’re trying to get in for the first version of AvA: displaying a member’s AvA activity in the Alliance member list.

 

Conclusion and Wrap-up

Reworking AvA has been a huge effort for our team. With thousands of blog posts, dozens of forum threads, and countless emails and Skype calls, it’s safe to say that this is the most discussed - and most contentious - system we have tackled.

Like all game systems, the designs presented here may change before they go live. Some systems may have to be modified, while others may be scrapped or pushed to a future iteration of AvA. When working with tens of thousands of players who have spent years of their lives in our game, changing a core game system like this will expose places where improvements can be made. other improvements may not be obvious until the system has a few phases under its belt. We’ll continue working on GoTA to improve it well after the AvA revamp is complete.

Lastly, not every Alliance will be pleased with the changes presented in this document. Some of our players will look at the changes, and believe they could be improved or modified to be more fun. It is very important that you present your feedback in a calm, thorough manner on the forums. While we may not agree with or implement your changes, we need your feedback and suggestions to make this the best release it can be.

 

Thanks for reading, and have a great week!

- The Disruptor Beam Team