Scripted battles are even worse than bad RNG


#1

It seems to me that we’ve moved to such blatant manipulation of the board in GoW that it’s almost to the point where battles are scripted and/or predetermined.

It’s now common for me to sit back and watch some combination of wisps or other looping combo cascade over and over until my team is destroyed in one move, often only two or three moves in… basically as soon as defense can charge anything.

While that is ridiculous by itself, it points to a larger and far more insidious problem: because the algorithm makes that possible at all, it implies that the only times it doesn’t do that is when it decides not to.

Because the algorithm has shown me again and again that it’s perfectly capable of destroying any team I might field in a handful of moves, when I manage to win a battle, it’s a rather hollow victory, because I’ve simply been allowed to win.

It’s as if I were playing chess against a grandmaster champion that could easily beat me any time he liked. Sure, I might beat him, but I can just picture him patting me on the head and saying “yes, nice job” when really he simply allowed me the victory, and could have defeated me at any time.

This whole situation makes the game very unsatisfying, like a child being handed victories by his parent or something. I really, really wish the Devs would go back to a manipulation-free algorithm that doesn’t just decide whether it feels like winning a particular battle, and utterly destroying me if it does decide to, or else sits back and lets me win if it decides that instead.

Now, obviously it depends on the Defense team. A poorly designed team may force the game to let me win regardless of how it manipulates the board. So it can’t decide to win every single match. I’m more talking about the defense teams that allow the algorithm to cascade and loop. Sometimes, it seems to not be paying attention, or else it’s decided to let things fall in a reasonably random fashion. But there are many games where it’s pretty clear the game has decided to crush me, and after letting me match a couple of times (typically 3-matches of a color I don’t need), it gets bored and proceeds to crush me in one massive, looping cascade of death.

And that would all be amusing and such if GW wasn’t involved. In PvP, I can just shrug when I lose three out of four troops in the AI’s second move, retreat, and start over. No big deal. But today I had to watch in GW while the AI took control of the board in move 2 or 3, and proceeded to wipe me out in a single long move, twice in a row (I may have been allowed to do 1 3-match or two somewhere in there before I was totally wiped out… I forget, it happens a lot). That really just sucks…

I would urge the devs to stop over-manipulating the board and causing these epic cascades all over the place, and looping mega-turns. By having that capability in there at all, not only is it incredibly frustrating when that capability is exercised, victories against teams that could exploit it are pretty hollow, since you know it could have destroyed you easily, and it simply didn’t… that time. There’s no real skill or even random chance involved - the result is really just based on whether the game decided to win or not.


#2

The man said it right. I agree with you to the letter.


#3

EricBLivingston verbalized my experiences…thank you @EricBLivingston


#4

I’ve been on console for over s year know and said this a while ago, noe you guys finally see what we were talking about.

Smarter ai, yes. Boards always heavily favored for them yes, a challenge, yes.

So sit back, buckle up and enjoy the ride. It’s going to be a bumpy one.

I’m used to it by now so nothing new for those of us on the consoles.

Is it still in our heads?


#5

Yeah,i saw people talk about console play and, honestly, thought such talk is over inflated. Now that i saw what that is, i apologize. It’s far worse than i thought.


#6

I think Ithose of us on consoles who stuck it out are professionals by now, the rest ran off with their tails between their legs, apology accepted.


#7

Yes, agree, sometimes happens. A bit of rational gameplay is removed with this update. Not actually a bit, quite a large chunk. Might just as well throw the dice and decide who wins and who loses. I feel the same way quite frequently.

IMHO, several factor contribute to this.

  1. Mana inflation due to 4-match surges. And general increase in mana surge chances due to natural guild progress. There is no compensation for that like for example corresponding increase in mana costs.
  2. Very streaky pRNG of gem spawning. Streaks can be quite long and last for several matches.
  3. No pRNG rounding results is some weird patterns with probabilities of 1 in a billion. Human brain typically cuts off somewhere around 95% and healthily considers the rest 5% just non-existent. Recall bias does not account for similar events in favor of the player. They may be slightly more frequent, yes, does not change anything, it is how normal human perception works. That is why most games have 20-sided dice, not billion-sided dice.
  4. Some glitches, well, there are a lot of glitches and bugs.
  5. Possible errors in the code with skull storms and generally with blobs of gems of the same color dropping. Less frequent in current version but still occasionally an issue.
  6. Secret combo breakers, triggered apparently randomly after 3-4-5 consecutive looping turns. This is annoying as we don’t exactly know how they work and what triggers them. I personally wish developers are more transparent on this but probably there are a lot of people who like some mysteries. Ideally, there should be some sort of indicator in game that shows chance of combo breakers triggering on this particular turn.

This IMO sums up the problems but I am completely clueless about possible solutions.

AI is still completely silly. Devour targets cards with barrier instead of cards without barrier, cannot see even one drop ahead to get a cascade, etc, etc. Random choices don’t really add variety, the only thing they add is even more randomness. So, this AI is generally less rational. Still stupid though. I understand developers try to give an illusion of powerful AI because developing true rational good AI is extremely costly. But really, there is no point, there are very few to be fooled so easily here.


#8

No…it is reality and I knew about the console players “smarter AI”, but experiencing it now by myself on PC, it is more then a bumpy ride. You face one and the same opponent twice in a row and AI crushes you in very few moves, the third match in this row you easily win against the same opponent…so you ask yourself, what was “smart” in this behavior. Feels like flipping the coin for result, no matter which effort or strategy you bring into action…


#9

Inflammatory titles and accusations aren’t constructive. You have many good points to make, but accusing them of deliberately manipulating the board to cause players to lose really undermines everything you say.

It’s clearly a case of shit console AI that got ported over with Unity and needs to go. To the extent that message gets muddled with outlandish “scripted” and “AI cheats” claims, it does the message a disservice.


#10

Well, actually it’s just accurate. I’ve seen posts from the devs talking about how they have designed the algorithm to produce more 4-matches and such. They openly admit and talk about manipulating the board and drops. That part isn’t really a mystery, it’s something they say they do. And because of that, the algorithm can therefore decide how and when to make that happen, as I said.

Perhaps (because it’s certainly not 100% sure) the algorithm artificially creates more 4-matches and such for both the player and AI, and we just get ticked off when the AI gets it and conveniently forget when we do. But that’s not a solution - all that does is bias the win to whichever side happens to get the “good run” first. And yes, I’ve certainly been on the positive side of that as well - frankly most of my battles these days are very short. Either I decimate the defense quickly, or it decimates me, typically decided by which side charges up first.

The evolution of the game will only get worse in this regard because of increasing troop variety. There are basically two problems here:

  1. The more the algorithm manipulates the board and drops to produce cascades and other low-probability outcomes for either side, the more you move towards a coin-flip - i.e. the first side that gets into position and charges, wins. At the extreme, you could imagine an algorithm that aggressively feeds cascades and 4-matches every turn. With such a board, the first side to charge would win every game assuming they had a team that could exploit that. We’re not quite there yet, but the closer the algorithm gets to that, the closer it gets to first-one-to-charge wins, which is basically back to the coin-flip
  2. Troop variety. As more troops become available, more synergies and teams that can exploit those algorithms appear. Again taken to the extreme, if you had infinite troops with every possible ability and trait, you could easily create an unbeatable team that could exploit a cascade-friendly algorithm to the fullest and wipe out any other team almost instantly. Again, we’re not there yet, but each new troop released increases the likelihood of being able to create “killer” teams that can ride cascade storms to victory every time.

If anything, the devs should be manipulating the algorithm to reduce the numbers of cascades and 4-matches, to balance out the growing ability of teams to be able to fully exploit those kinds of loops. Instead, they are feeding into the problem by creating more cascade opportunities in an environment where cascades just become more and more deadly (the best example would be the recent release of Wisp). As more “wisp”-like troops appear that can fully exploit cascades, the more the problem will grow and we’ll just be more and more in an environment where the first team to charge wins. And given the algorithm decides board layout and drops, that essentially means the algorithm can decide whether it wants to win or not, at least in those battles.


#11

Agree with what is being said. Intelligent AI? It passed up a 4 match to take a 3 of the same colour, initially I thought it was being dumb but of course the off-board cascade that follows… Suspicious would be an understatement.

No prizes for figuring out when the update arrived;

Never failed to win at least 1 battle in GW before but now just watching my team get squad wiped first loop, I’m lucky if I even get enough mana for a spell, and I’m using mana drainers to help prevent the AI casting, for all the good that does.


#12

I went 29 and 1 in guild wars this week, lost one bc of my mistake. The ai is tough but certainly beatable.


#13

The issue is that it’s beatable when it decides to be. If you got 29/1, it means the AI decided not to destroy you as it did others, which is great for you, and it makes sense that some players would lie on that side of the “bell curve”. But from what I’ve heard and seen, it’s more common for the AI to decide to wipe you out more than once in 30 battles. You could also have been playing crappy defense teams that the AI couldn’t use to exploit its cascades as well as others. The bottom line is you are a single data point and while interesting, it doesn’t really alter the overall trend or situation. We’d have to look at how things are going generally. In my own guild, it’s pretty clear the update has caused overall GW scores and PvP success rates to drop significantly.

And that’s true of the guilds we’re fighting as well. All the guilds in our tier (Tier 1) are collecting significantly smaller scores than in the past.


#14

I’m on PS4 and bracket 1, so I played it safe and used my go to killers on questionable matches. I lost 6 last week so I was on a mission to get 30 and 0, I will only use a all mono team if I really think I’ll win. So about 20 were all mono. 38 k for me.


#15

Oh, well, that changes things significantly. In our tier on PC the guild can’t compete without using Mono-color teams, so that’s all we do (at least all I do, and those I know about). I would imagine that if you went up against Wisp/Wisp/Kryst/Mab 30 times using a red-only team that didn’t have Leshy or Mab, it would be difficult to win 29 times. That’s the team that I watched loop over and over today and wipe me out twice in a row…

Perhaps after this week we’ll have to abandon mono-color teams on days when it’s just too punishing to stay on a single color, I don’t know…


#16

You make a good point, we a still waiting for the new kingdom. That will change even more.

We don’t force all mono because it’s nice to just get points instead of losing, plus the top 5 on PS4 has been the same for about 8 weeks now so I’m happy with our placement.


#17

The comments about scripted wins and the AI choosing to let you win is obviously wrong. But I agree about the game feeling far too random now. When investigating the console AI I mentioned that it’s hard to be strategic when you can’t predict how the AI will behave, or even narrow it down to 2-3 moves to react to. Combined with the increased mana generation and the changes to the combo breaker, the games really do come down to which side gets lucky first and starts their “engine”. So while the AI is not being favoured, the game is feeling more like a long coin flip rather than a tactical battle and it isn’t as enjoyable. Feels like a bit too much RnG now…


#18

I don’t think it’s obviously wrong at all. The algorithm has demonstrated to me many times that if it “wants” to, it can win easily. Since it controls the board layout and the drops, and I’ve watched it feed multiple skull matches in a row to its own Psion many times, for instance, it’s absolutely capable of “deciding” if it will simply feed its team what it needs to win - which isn’t really that hard, it just has to keep feeding it 4-matches, which I’ve seen it do many times, including today. While not necessarily “malicoius”… I don’t (yet) have the image of the devs literally chuckling and wringing their hands as they happily destroy players - it’s pretty clear that the algorithm has the capability to hand itself a win, and I’ve seen it do so many times.

I mean, imagine if the situation were reversed, and you got to decide how the board would start, and you got to arrange the gems that were about to fall from the top. It would give you absolute control over the outcome of the game. That is by definition what the devs have obviously - the question is simply to what extent they exploit that power. It’s clearly not zero - they’ve said as much. I think it’s just gone too far.

And that is my main point: because the algorithm can do such a thing, when it does not do such a thing, and I win, I feel like I was just handed the victory, and didn’t really earn it, and that’s lame.


#19

I always thought it’d be cool if you could see above the board a few rows so u could plan better and then you would know the sky falls didn’t just change depending on what u chose.


#20

That would be a great idea! And I’ve played other games where that’s exactly the case, and you can see a couple of rows up. That would really be nice.