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Simplifying Explore is Not So Hard

A few weeks ago, on her Gems of War stream, @Saltypatra was talking about the much-maligned Explore interface, and how it might be streamlined.

I was quite disappointed to hear that the devs had apparently tried a few different fixes and decided that any changes would lead to a significant increase in the number of support tickets, as novice players accidentally entered battles they didn’t intend to.

My disappointment is because I feel like I long ago described a way to both streamline Explore and avoid these kinds of support issues!

Consequently, I feel I need to both repeat my proposal, and describe a false assumption about the current system.

How to Streamline Explore without More Support Tickets

Introduce a new gameplay Setting that allows the player to choose from one of three levels of Explore assistance: Guided Explore (the current system), Advanced Explore, and Express Explore.

I described this idea in the midst of a detailed analysis of the “new” Explore system, here: Gems of War GUI Pain Points

The difficulty setting is specifically in summary points 2, 5, 9, 10, 13, 16, and in the “Giving the Player an Option” and “Difficulty Selector” sections.

Dynamic Assistance

I’d like to add a bit of extra detail on points 14, 15, 16.

The game should always default to Guided Explore, however, Luther could pop up after, say, 5 Mythic Boss battles, suggesting a switch to Advanced Explore, and describing how Advanced and Express Explore differ from Guided Explore.

Of course, some players might forget how this works. I reckon there needs to be some kind of metric for suggesting the player switch back to Guided Explore. This should correspond with the point at which players contact support, specifically to prevent them doing so. A reasonable trigger might be if the player loses 3 out of 5 Mini Boss battles or 3 out of 5 Mythic Boss battles, since this might be a good indication that they’re forgetting to switch to a stronger team (for example). Hopefully, the support personnel would have a better idea of an appropriate trigger for Luther to reappear.

A False Assumption

There is an assumption built in to the current Explore system surrounding the various warnings that doesn’t quite hold up. Tacet actually pointed this out on his very first live stream after the system was introduced.

Currently, a dialog box pops up to warn the player that they’re moving into a Mini Boss battle or a Mythic Boss battle. One can argue that this is redundant, because they’ve just seen the distinctive progress card in the rewards from the previous battle. But disregarding that, there is still a big problem:

If the player decides to defer the Boss battle (either type), exiting the Explore interface, then returning to it later (perhaps with an upgraded troop); or if they edit their team and then return to the battle… In both cases, there is NO warning that they are about to enter a more difficult battle!

Essentially, because of the way Explore is structured, for a novice player there needs to be a warning when entering a Mini Boss battle, when spending Mythstones AND just before they start either kind of Boss battle. The latter is completely missing.

Luckily, there’s a really easy fix. The centre of the screen that shows the two teams about to go To Battle is pretty much blank in Explore. In other game modes, this space may be occupied by details of team restrictions (by colour, Type or Kingdom), but this doesn’t apply to Explore. So, all that’s needed is a bright red reminder that a Boss battle is about to begin! I’ll leave the actual aesthetics to a graphical designer, but you get the idea: something you can’t miss.

Developer Effort

Implementing all of this could be surprisingly efficient. That’s because the existing system is entirely retained as Guided Explore. The other modes require checks to show or not show certain parts of the Guided process flow, based on the selected Explore setting. So nothing new actually needs to be added. Well, not quite nothing…

Here’s a rough list of development tasks, as I see them:

  1. Add the Explore Setting to the appropriate Settings tab.
  2. Add a number of low-level checks that will skip parts of the Explore process if Advanced or Express Explore have been selected.
  3. Add a Luther tutorial sequence, triggered when a certain number of Mythic Boss battles have been won, OR when the player attempts to adjust the Explore setting the first time.
  4. Add a tracker for the Explore Boss loss rate – or whatever metric is most appropriate to indicate player confusion about Advanced or Express explore.
  5. Add a Luther tutorial sequence intended to trigger before a confused player contacts support, suggesting a return to Guided Explore.
  6. Create eye-catching graphics for the Mini Boss and Mythic Boss battle screens, so the player cannot possibly miss the fact they’ll be facing a more difficult battle as soon as they click To Battle!
  7. Create a support article describing the differences between the three Explore modes.

That is a LOT less work, to my mind, than completely overhauling Explore!

And best of all, it recognises that one size simply does not fit all. But trimming a few bits and pieces, when appropriate, will do the job nicely. :smile:

17 Likes

I love you, Starlite.

This is another situation where simply putting it back the way it was would be a major improvement. Simply allow us to do one battle after another and have a difficulty setting we can adjust. Give random rewards based on the difficulty.

explore

Yes, Starlite. I agree with your suggestion, if the devs are able to implement it.

At the VERY least, the pop up warnings for “miniboss” and “boss” battles should happen ONCE, like other tutorials. I don’t know why they continue to appear when we’ve done Explore before, muchless after the 100th time. At least give us the option to turn it off?

I don’t need to know that I’ve unlocked a boss level because:

A - It is the only option available.
B - It was my intended goal.

I can see support tickets if the devs changed it so you can run the lesser battles while the bosses are unlocked but right now the only options are to battle the boss or leave the interface.

Tutorials that overstay their welcome is something I hate in mobile games, only second to energy systems.

2 Likes

This is a great break down Starlite, and I am LOVING how succinct and easy to parse you’ve made it.

I have passed some points along to the team. However, these changes are unlikely to be made, and if any changes are made to Explore it won’t be for some time. It seems like a simple solution, but implementing any of your ideas would take significant developer time, and we are already working on our next major update. There isn’t that kind of wiggle room in our schedule, and our updates are planned until the end of this year. Also, we are very reluctant to introduce more UI screens, as Gems of War already has a number.

This may seem like less work, but it’s about the same amount of work as overhauling explore when looking at it in terms of dev hours. There’s coding here, design, art, etc. It’s a huge process, even if it SEEMS simple. Also, just because there is a prompt from Luther telling players they can go back to guided explore, doesn’t solve the ticket issue. Players contact us when they feel like they have lost rewards, and a prompt won’t fix that feeling or perceived issue, unfortunately.

I hope this explanation has helped explain our position, and how much work this would truly be if we chose to do so. If we re-work explore it will be something we discuss, and will likely have our own solutions for (that will fingers crossed require a lot less work so we can focus on upcoming updates).

4 Likes

Thanks, Salty.

Even if it is the same amount of work as a larger overhaul, I feel giving people options would make it worthwhile. I doubt it’s more work than another kind of overhaul.

As for support tickets, I guess it’s a psychological game. The Luther mechanic at least gives you options.

Anyway, I guess I just hope some of this is useful…

I would love to see a streamlined Explore.
I’d also love to see more time in the schedule assigned to tweaking things after release of each new feature.

PS: All my suggestions for tweaking 4.7 Explore have tried to minimise the amount of work for you guys. If you want to hear ideas about completely overhauling it, to make it work much better (eg: dropping the Wizard-like interface) – well, that’s a whole other essay! :smile:

2 Likes