Why Explore is So Boring and How to Fix It

Executive Summary

Explore is boring. There’s five main aspects:

  1. Rewards are too low.

  2. We use the same team, over and over.

  3. It demands too much attention, too often.

  4. Earning XP, Class XP and finding Gnomes has been nerfed.

  5. Too many pain points.

Basically, the psychology of Explore is badly unbalanced.

How to fix it without changing the balance of the game?

a) Increase the apparent rewards.

b) Emphasise Traitstone rewards.

c) Change the frequency of Mythic battles (maybe).

d) Rebalance Vault Event weekends.

e) Rebalance certain rewards at higher Difficulties.

f) Remove the pain points (at least give us the option to, with a Setting).

I’ll explain all of this, below.

Background

Even Tacet finds the new Explore dull and repetitive. In fact, watching his Explore streams is really indicative of just how boring it is (to watch or play).

I’ve played Explore with two accounts: an end-game account and a level 150-200 account. On the latter, I’ve so far earned just one Badge (not even a Medal). On the former, I’ve still not earned more than a single Badge of Nysha. I just can’t bring myself to play Explore more often.

Rewards are Too Low

On my low-level account, at D2 it was taking me more than a dozen runs – 70 battles! – to get a single Token. That feels incredibly unrewarding. I can now manage D4, which is still 7 runs, or 35 battles. And the result is nearly always just a single Token.

On my main account, I’m getting 2 Tokens most of the time, with a Mythic Battle every 4 runs out of 5. That’s better, but still frustrating. Truly, any time I don’t get an upgrade of some kind from a Boss Chest, I feel disappointed.

Any grind in a computer game requires the rewards to feel substantial. Being ADHD, I am particularly sensitive to and aware of the level of reward. This is a purely psychological issue, and is exploited by many games makers. But even when it’s not exploited, it does need to be present.

Increasing the Apparent Rewards

In order not to upset the economy of the game, we can’t just increase the rewards from Explore. Instead, we need to change the reward psychology. Let’s look at some possible approaches.

There are three main reward points in the current Explore system: reaching the Mythic Boss, getting an Arcane Traitstone, and getting Tokens (especially when they upgrade).

More Tokens

First, Tokens: there’s just too few of them. My actual suggestion is to introduce another upgrade tier between Tokens and Medals, and triple the number of Tokens dropped. Possible names for the new item: marker, emblem, insignia, disc, coin, brooch, cockade, escutcheon. Let’s go with Disc, for now.

Obviously, we can’t have Discs behave identically to Tokens. My suggestion is that they give the same boost as a Badge, but there’s some restrictions on how they can be equipped. For example, perhaps you can only equip one Disc at a time, or perhaps only one Disc of each type; perhaps they can’t match an equipped Medal or Badge, either.

So that fixes the sense of reward when opening a Boss Chest.

More Mythic Boss Battles

There’s also an argument to increase the frequency of Mythic Boss battles, especially for early game players. This would need to be balanced by a reduction in Tokens (which is easier to do, if we’re getting triple the number). However, there’s also arguments against this. First, Mythic battles are harder, especially for early-game players. Second, there’s a better option for early-game players. So I’ll leave this as a possibility, to help balance the psychology overall, but I won’t encourage it.

Arcane Traitstone Rewards

For early and mid-game players, Explore is really about earning Arcane Traitstones. Yet the current structure of Explore emphasises just the earning of Mythstones and Tokens. So when you don’t get them, you feel bad. You don’t even notice the Traitstones you’re getting!

The solution is both simple in concept, and tricky to implement. Basically, we need to emphasise the earning of Arcane Traitstones, so players see that as an equal part of Explore to Mythstones/Tokens. And then they’ll feel more rewarded.

There’s lots of ways to do this, and I have no idea of the best option, so I’ll just mention a few.

  • Some kind of up-front message about earning Arcanes.

  • A message on the Mythic battle panel noting, “One guaranteed Arcane Traitstone.”

  • A message on the Explore panel on the Kingdom screen, “Earn Traitstones and Tokens.”

  • A special card backing when you earn an Arcane Traitstone from the Mythic battle.

I want to emphasise that, while this may seem minor and unnecessary, it really does need to be done. Done properly, it will have a big impact on the satisfaction level of players, and will retain some that will otherwise be lost. This is true even for end-game players, since it will cement the idea that Explore does have more than one goal, one of which they simply happen to have moved beyond.

Lack of Team Variety

This is a hard one. I definitely do not advocate nerfing Urskaya. In a sense, the speed of particular teams in Urskaya is a way of giving us a choice. Basically, we are choosing to forgo the 20% bonus in order to farm faster in Urskaya. Choice is a good thing.

I actually don’t think team variety for D12 Explore can be improved much. It’s enough that there are three or four possible teams, each with a variation or two.

That said, it would be good if some kingdoms could have targeted, equally effective teams. The most obvious examples would be teams that prevent summons, and teams that attack troops with Immunity to Stun (in particular). I think this needs to be considered with the design and release of future Mythics and Legendaries. I suspect the best players could suggest what sort of troops would work best as substitutes in existing D12 teams, specialised to specific kingdoms.

Beyond that, it would be good to have some clear team variety between the farming of different Difficulties. This is partly addressed elsewhere in this post.

Too Much Attention

Farming Explore used to be pretty mindless. The rewards were low, there were really only two team options, and we would do the same thing over and over for hours. But the reason it wasn’t boring was primarily that the amount of attention required to play these teams was so low, we could turn off our brains or multitask (watching TV or YouTube, for example). Again, this is all about psychology. A grind feels a lot less painful when we’re not really paying attention to it. And even better if we feel like we’re multi-tasking.

There’s actually two aspects to paying attention: how often and how much. “How often” is approximated by the number of taps/clicks. Obviously, all the extra clicks are a big pain-point that exacerbates this. “How much” is about how well the team operates without us having to think, and is best summed up by how carefully we need to look for matches or conversion alignment. So casting Mountain Crusher requires a lot less attention than finding alignment for Apothecary.

Obviously, having a D12-capable team that works as brainlessly as a good Rowanne team is too much to expect. However, I would like to see troops added down the line that reduce the amount of thinking required when using some of the existing D12 teams (Harpies, Tesla, Shield of Urskaya, Zuul’Goth, etc).

Beyond that, reducing the number of taps/clicks would make a huge difference to the amount of attention required, and hence our willingness to grind.

The Great Resource Nerf of 4.6

Yep, it really is bad enough to deserve such a grandiose title.

For end-gamers, the necessity of farming Tokens (primarily for high-bracket Guild Wars) makes it psychologically very difficult to switch to a lower difficulty.

Essentially, I think we need some changes that encourage people to farm Gnomes without feeling that they’re missing out on other resources, thus maintaining the specialness of Vault weekends.

Vault Events

The need to switch down and miss out on Tokens is especially keen on a Vault weekend. As a result, we get far fewer Vault keys, and feel very deprived. For example, the last three Vault Events, I found 28 Vault Keys (intense farming before the patch), 7 Vault Keys (heavy farming at D2 after the patch) and 2 Vault Keys (minimal Vault farming, because Diablo III started a new season). That feels pretty awful.

In order to solve this, we need to be clear on the Rewards that are valued by end-gamers from a Vault Event. I think it’s fair to say we’re looking mainly for direct Glory and Key drops, and from Vault Keys, Orbs of Ascension/Clans and copies of Gnome troops. Anything else is pretty much worthless (eventually).

The hardest fix would be to rebalance the Token and Mythstone rewards so there’s a profitable way to farm Mythstones at a low level, then do the Mythic battle at a high difficulty. The first problem is that the speed difference between Rowanne at D2 and Harpies at D12 is only a factor of 4, at most. Yet the difference in Mythstones is a factor of 10. Secondly, D12 actually earns too many Mythstones to mix difficulties like this. Essentially, mixing D2 and D12 results in a balance of about 7 runs at D12 to 3 runs at D2. That’s not a good ratio for getting more wins. There probably is a better balanced pair of difficulties, but the current rewards don’t encourage this style of play.

The easiest fix would be to increase the number of Vault Keys earned at higher Explore difficulties.

Other things that would help: allowing Tokens to drop from Gnomes during a Vault weekend (encouraging people to farm at low Explore difficulty); allowing us to target rewards from Vault Keys, so we can focus on Orbs and/or Gnome troops; or just increasing the rate of Gnomes or the size of their drops on D12. Some of these do address the Vault issue, but not the XP issues.

Hero XP and Class XP

Vault Weekends used to be the perfect time to earn Class XP in Explore. That’s because you’d get Class XP (and Hero XP) quickly, and simultaneously get lots of resources from Gnomes. This is no longer the case.

Class XP can actually be earned more quickly in Casual PvP than in Explore, even before v4.6. But it requires a particular team and a particular approach. And it was still better to farm the old Explore on a Vault weekend, for the extra wins.

The rate of Class XP on PC now looks roughly like this:

  • D12 Explore: 0.7 XP per minute

  • D2 Explore: 2 XP per minute

  • Casual PvP: 5 XP per minute (fully optimised)

  • Old Explore: 3 XP per minute

The Explore rates are about 30% faster on touch device than PC.

Obviously, the earning of Class XP has been severely nerfed in Explore.

I’m afraid I don’t have an answer to this problem, but I hope clarifying the problem itself will help you come up with a solution.

I would start by looking at increasing the amount of Hero and Class XP at higher Difficulties (perhaps even more so in Boss battles). There might be additional Class XP bonuses during Vault weekends, to encourage people to actually hunt those Gnomes in Explore, too.

And also remove some of the pain points in Explore…

Pain Points in Explore

I’ve already spent a lot of time identifying pain points in the new Explore in this thread: Gems of War GUI Pain Points

Unfortunately, it very much feels like all of that analysis is going to be ignored by the developers. I think that would be a tragic mistake.

I don’t want to revisit the whole topic, so I’ll just make two points I haven’t made before:

  1. I think it would make a lot of sense to increase the speed of low-D Explore wins back to a level similar to that prior to v4.6. The bullet points in the previous section indicate that a 50% speed increase is needed.

  2. All the extra reminders that you’re about to enter a special battle are both unnecessary and misplaced. The Victory-screen card really is sufficient warning for most players (arguing strongly for a setting to turn off the pop-ups). Furthermore, the correct place for the warning is on the battle screen itself, where you can see your opponents. That’s because, if you come back to a kingdom straight into a Mini Boss battle, you’re going to miss 2 of the 3 current indicators! Much better to emblazon the fact it’s a special battle prominently across the bottom of the Fight screen.

Note that the latter conflicts slightly with the Mythic Boss, because I suspect we want to keep the spending of Mythstones where it is in the state machine. I recommend prominent text both on the Mythic Boss panel (differing, if you’ve spent the Mythstones or not) and on the Fight screen.

Final Word

As before, there are many possible solutions to the problems I’ve described. I’ve tried to highlight those that seem to have the least impact on other parts of the game and its economy.

Regardless what you think of my solutions, I strongly urge you, the developers, to take the problems themselves seriously, and prioritise solving them over brand new features.

Thank you for listening.

26 Likes

You put a lot of effort into your post, but as posted in your pain points thread, the devs really don’t like these really long feedback requests. :zipper_mouth_face:

Makes me sad.

The things that bothers me the most about Explore are the (lack of) frequency of mythic battles, the amount of tokens given out, and complete lack of incentive to use hero classes (lack of XP or benefits) … it just shows how weak many of the hero classes are.

Doing a full cycle without being rewarded a Mythic battle on the max difficulty just feels obnoxious. Congrats, you beat the mini-boss and earned nothing! … go again.

Congrats, you repeated that cycle and beat the Mythic battle! Enjoy 2 tokens of a lower rarity. 1/9. Yay.

Remind yourself over and over you’re playing explore because you have to choose a difficulty each and every time you want to start a cycle, then have to be reminded you’ve unlocked a mini-boss and a mythic boss… for the 1500th time. Yay. Oh, and enjoy having to open the boss chest after beating a mythic boss just to waste more of my time, instead of just giving it directly after a mythic boss.

Also, 1xp for beating a bunch of supersized enemies. so worth it. Even 2xp wouldn’t feel worth using any fragile hero classes. (so most of them).

This entire token process is obnoxious and I have to be reminded constantly I have an extreme lack of Token of Anu or Token of Nysha to show for my efforts in explore.

I think Mini-bosses should start giving tokens too, even if its just half of the Mythic Bosses.

18 Likes

Or the mythic boss fight is always available after a mini boss fight, but rewards are increased when you start it with 100 mythstones.

I agree with the above lengthy commentary:

(1) there are too many clicks in a clunky explore interface
(2) it stinks to win a mini boss battle and not get to proceed to the mythic boss
(3) exploring at D12 is not mindless, at all, which severely limits time available to do it
(4) the difficulty of D12 is substantially harder than most challenges in the game, but we only get 1 class XP per fight

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There goes my hope of 4.7 increasing Explore hero XP. :pleading_face:

Reading. :wink:

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I didn’t participate in the beta this time, due to real-life constraints. So I don’t really know what’s coming.

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Absolutely! Perhaps we could:

  1. Remove the mini-boss battle
  2. Earn Mythstones from each Explore battle, with no 4-battle cycle
  3. Spend Mythstones when we want by clicking on the ultra-exciting MYTHIC BOSS BATTLE button that gives better rewards – e.g. 3-4 tokens and 4 class xp(!!) at D12.

Even more on the Boss Battles – maybe:

  • Introduce different types of bosses – Traitstone bosses, Token bosses, XP bosses, etc., allowing people autonomy/choice (:scream:) in how they use their hard-earned Mythstones and allowing them to target (:scream:!!) the resources they most want out of Explore, kinda making it like a hunt, as well!
    • Atm, the resources are all jumbled together, so no one gets quite enough of what they want :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:.
5 Likes

So you would keep the five-panel layout for the most part, but have the panels read

  • Explore
  • Mini-boss
  • Token Boss
  • (class?) XP Boss
  • Traitstone Boss

The “difficulty” graphic across the bottom could be transformed into a button itself, with a warning that changing difficulty will end the current run. The “Boss Chest” button would also disappear, since its function could be tacked on to the end of the boss battle screen (this may not be feasible, if every victory screen is now coded to return you back to the menu from which you launched the battle).

I can dig it.

3 Likes

Can we just trade (Arcane) traitstones for (random) tokens?
Endgames get more tokens but have more troops to upgrade - still an infinate goal but feels like a bit more progress is being made
Early and mid-game players highly unlikely to take the option - but it’s still there for say key PvP troop or a specific delve troop
Economy is still OK, gem value unaffected = win?

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I’m an Endgame Player (Level 1200+) and, for me, Level 12 Explores are pretty mindless because I use:

Mountain Crusher (usually with a class that gives Barrier on Brown and 50% mana)
Ethereal Sentry
High King Irongut
Vash Dagon

Eagle Banner (Brown++ Yelllow+ Purple-)

Match Brown to charge MC, fire it a couple of times to get ES powered up. Use ES to boost HKI’s attack to around the 100 mark, then Devour the enemy.

If, somehow, they manage to kill the Hero and ES, then HKI is sitting there ready to finish them off.

Vash is just there to Curse any enemy that usually can’t be Devoured.

I do four basic battles, Mini Boss, Mythic Boss and repeat.

About every 5th or 6th round I don’t get the Mythic because the Mini Boss doesn’t give 100 Mythstones each time.

2 Likes

I liked the sound of new Explore on paper, but agree with all of the above. It’s SO clunky and pays out SO slowly I haven’t even completed a single set of medals. I’d rather grind out 50 PvP matches and get 100 class XP or spend some sigils in an event.

If I got 2 class XP, or heaven forbid, bonus class XP from the bosses, I’d consider it over PvP. But as-is it feels just as worthless to me as old Explore. I get that epic levels or whatever are eventually going to gate kingdom power, but I simply don’t care about things that require such a long time investment to give me +1 to a single stat.

The rewards in this game have become completely disproportionate to the costs. It’s like getting paid minimum wage per day instead of per hour.

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I generally don’t explore anywhere without the 20% bonus, so my personal pain point is that the damn thing makes me jump through so many hoops between kingdoms. If it somehow just presented me with a little screen of the four current +20% kingdoms or something … I don’t know.

This is on top of all of the other obvious issues, i.e. the fact that the whole process is faaaaar too slow.

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I have to say I agree with most, if not all the above. I am toward endgame right now (lvl 1237) and only do explore when I got that 150 color troops task and I am running outt of time

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Hmmm, perhaps this is just a beta-test for now, while they’re already planning on improving?

With the currently poor Mythic and Legendary tokens drop rates it’s a truly depressing mode IMO. I do a few now and then, but ran out of fuel doing them for hours, due to the lack of being rewarding.

6 Likes

This. This is the problem with explore and it’s the same problem as with all the other endgame ‘challenge’ content.
It would be great if the rewards and other aspects were improved, but what they really, really need is a major rebalance so that more teams and troops are viable. You can only do so many irongut/scorpius/gobtruffle cheese games before you find yourself wanting to not play the game again (but you do).

4 Likes

If you expect monotonous mind numbing grind to pay (very occasional) dividends then this is the game for you. If you really want to test ur mettle then pick gears or another shooter. I guarantee its more fun. Of course gems is boring. Lvl 12 explore needs niche teams. Events are tedious, pvp is tedious…etc…it’s all tedious. But it fills the day right for whatever reason you switched off from the real world in the 1st place.

I have to disagree with some things here…

As a mid-gamer, I think the new explore is a significant improvement. I hated the randomness and mindlessness of the old explore with a passion, and appreciate the sense of progression, and the guaranteed arcane reward.

I do think the new explore has problems due to it being yoked with the new token/elite level system, and that most people (rightfully) are disappointed with the implementation of this new time/resource sink.

To improve explore, I agree with:

  • shortening the cycle; 4 battles before getting to the good stuff is just excess content padding, it should really be half as long before getting to a mini-boss. It’s also dumb to see the computer pick essentially the same troops in each explore round, make them choose different teams.

  • give more ways of receiving tokens (enter epic tasks): it was expressed that while it wouldn’t be reasonable for players to expect to epic level their entire collection, upgrading your favorite and most-used troops was supposed to be a reasonable goal. That’s laughable, under current conditions. Most players’ favorite troops are of legendary rarity or higher, and it could be months before they get a single medal of Anu (forget about Nysha), let alone six. If this is an attempt to encourage gambling with lower-rarity medals, it’s a failure - the soul costs are too high.

  • increasing gnome rate to compensate for players playing less games

disagree with:

  • muddying the system with any further upgrade tiers: three tiers is too convoluted as it is, they should have just released it with badges and medals, and made the cost for medals higher

  • forcing players to choose between rewards: this would require non-endgamers to increase their explore-grinding time, as they will want both arcanes and tokens (unless you double the rewards for each path, in which case, sure that works).

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I didn’t bother reading most of the OP’s essay.

The devs definitely won’t, as they have expressed previously in regards to such long posts.

The end.

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Making you change teams slows it down even more, so rewards would have to be adjusted upwards even more to compensate. It’s a vicious cycle.

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