I think it may be over. If what I’ve heard coming is true, I actually regret paying for the current Campaign Pass.
For those who don’t know, “Jumping the Shark,” usually refers to TV series who start putting crazy things in their scripts in a vain attempt to recover viewers after their ratings plunge dramatically. The phrase comes from the show “Happy Days,” which literally had Fonzie jump over a shark on water skis.
In my opinion, there’s three things reportedly coming or already here that qualify as Jumping the Shark in Gems of War. I may have heard wrong, and I hope the true ones get changed ASAP, but there we go:
- A new Gem colour/type
All three of these speak of a sense amongst the designers for a need to add new things when they don’t actually have any good ideas left. At least, none that they feel are big enough and will fit the schedule.
In my opinion, they would retain far more players, both veteran and brand new, by fixing all the dumb stuff in the game: the GUI issues, weird design choices and other “non-bugs” that have been ignored for years.
Someone pointed out that Banding is far too weak for a third trait. It’s also hard to understand, hard to build a team around, and completely redundant. Why redundant? Because it’s essentially a much weaker version of Pet bonuses (and team bonuses, in general).
This is a huge troll. It’s sole usefulness will be in Guild Wars defence, to randomly hope to mess up a strong attack team using a very weak troop. Even then, it will only be relevant to the most competitive brackets. Finally, because it has no reliably positive effect when inflicted on the enemy, it’s a huge nerf to Essence of Evil. (And it’s both very buggy and hard to debug. In other words, it was an enormous waste of time to program.)
If Lycanthropy were simply a trait on a particular Delve Room or Faction’s Troops, that would be fine: an interesting mechanic in a limited context. But because it can be applied by Essence of Evil (and some other troops/weapons that are very rarely seen), it’s basically going to be interpreted as a humongous F You to all the long-time, competitive players.
I so hope this isn’t true.
On any game – or any software project – there are always certain elements that are so core to the behaviour of the software that they absolutely must be decided right at the beginning. Any attempt to retrofit these kinds of things later on in the process inevitably result in disaster, and huge amounts of work. Not only that, because the remedial work is both rushed and not catered for by the existing design infrastructure, it always ends up being poorly integrated and very buggy.
Adding an extra colour to the game absolutely qualifies as this type of change.
I want to emphasise that, while adding an extra colour or gem type may not have huge technical implications, it would certainly have enormous design and balance implications. That’s because the entire game is designed around 6 colours plus Skulls.
Here’s two examples why a seventh colour cannot work:
The game currently has nearly 1000 troops and 350 weapons. Not one of those uses the new colour, nor interacts with it in any way. Even fast-tracking 20 troops that use the new colour would have no significant impact on the fact that a new colour would make it hugely more difficult to get mana for essentially every useful team in the game. The new colour might as well be Stone Blocks, except they regenerate.
Comparing Gems of War, Puzzle Quest and Puzzle Quest 2, it’s clear that the skull and damage mechanics are completely different in the three games. Suppose the attack gems from PQ2 (which are used solely to fill your weapon) were added to Gems of War. They would serve no purpose, because GoW doesn’t have weapons to fill. Similarly, adding an Attack Skill to PQ would require deciding what the attack skill numbers were for every troop in the game, in order to know how much damage a Skull match did (it’s currently 1 point per skull, plus modifiers).
- What I’m saying here is that, even though the three games are very similar, certain mechanics cannot be moved from one game to another. I believe the same is true of adding a new gem colour/type to Gems of War.
None of these three changes appear to fit the existing game. None of them seem to be well thought out. Two of them are dramatic in their likely impact on the game.
The number of players in any game depends on:
- How easy the game is to find – GoW is never marketed, so it’s incredibly hard to find.
- How much the game pulls players in, both initially, and later on – GoW is average on this point, because it’s not especially addictive, but it does have a nice community and fun game-play.
- How much the game pushes players away – GoW is not good on this point, because it’s hard to learn, and none of the pain points ever get fixed.
If 505 want the game to grow, or to maintain its player base, they need to work most on points 1 and 3, especially because point 3 tends to be cumulative over time.
Instead, whoever is making the decisions seems to believe that adding new things to the game – especially major new things – is the only way to maintain players’ interest. This is a huge fallacy. Even if it weren’t, it is definitely the most risky approach, simply because you can never tell how successful a major change will be in the wild. Much better to stick with a winning formula and improve the little things that otherwise push people away – for one, it’s a lot less work!
Sadly, I’m completely certain that the people making these decisions are so caught up in their own little bubble with their own, small-minded preconceptions, that I just completely wasted almost an hour, writing this.