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.
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.
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:
- Add the Explore Setting to the appropriate Settings tab.
- Add a number of low-level checks that will skip parts of the Explore process if Advanced or Express Explore have been selected.
- 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.
- Add a tracker for the Explore Boss loss rate – or whatever metric is most appropriate to indicate player confusion about Advanced or Express explore.
- Add a Luther tutorial sequence intended to trigger before a confused player contacts support, suggesting a return to Guided Explore.
- 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!
- 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.