Community and Developer Relations: Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day

Hey everyone!

So for those of you potentially unaware, today sparked a great discussion on the development of FanZ and the connection between The Dev Team and The FanZ Community at large who still support this game that we all love.

In the spirit of community, I’ve decided that today’s article is going to be dedicated to the thoughts presented in Frank DeLuca’s post on the subject by several members of the community. This post will be my views on the matter when dealing with the delicate balance of who should have say in the direction that the game follows and how much player input should or shouldn’t be taken into consideration when developing sets, errata and the general health of the current meta.

With that, let’s dive into the subject at hand!

“I have every faith in it… as I have faith in relations between people.”

As always when discussing these sorts of topics, I want to state first and foremost that this is not an attack on the current Dev Team by any means, but rather a healthy discussion on the longevity of the game and what can be taken into consideration when moving forward.

I think The Dev Team puts in a great amount of effort to try and support this game, and I am personally thankful that they are doing everything they can with no benefit to their hard work other than the thanks we give them (which you really should) and the knowledge that they are continuing to support a great community. Without the efforts of this team, we would barely be a community to begin with at this point and would have nothing of real relevance to discuss in the first place.

So thank you for your hard work!

The remainder of this article is presented with the hope that communication between the rest of us and The Dev Team can grow stronger, and issues presented within the current game can be assessed and dealt with in an appropriate manner.

“I’m Spartacus! I’m Spartacus! I’m Spartacus!”

One of the biggest factors when dealing with player input within the game, is the fear that everyone wants to play the role of designer at some level. This is always a potential factor, but truthfully, this is not something to feel ashamed of as a player. These sorts of feelings show that you care deeply about the game you wish to design for, and show that you have (at least to some extent) an understanding for the game as a whole.

The issue clearly lies with how much knowledge you actually possess about the game and its intentions, as well as the ability to assess when a card you have designed may have negative impacts on both the game and the meta. Clearly a healthy game is constantly changing and being pulled towards different strategies, allowing different play-styles to sit atop the “best deck” throne for some amount of time. Without this rotation of power, certain styles of decks will never do well and will be looked down on by players or completely ignored entirely. This is not something that should be allowed in a healthy game environment. What benefit is there to designing these specific styles of decks, if they will never be able to be at the top of the meta?

David Meckler and Jason Toro, while sitting on opposite sides of the Retro discussion today, both make very interesting points regarding player input for the game.

David pointed out that players given the opportunity to design or influence design will likely have a bias towards their particular play-style or MP/Style choices. And this is very likely the case for many inexperienced designers. The thought of being able to help their particular “pet deck” to reach the same competitive point as others will always be appealing to any player.

As Jason points out however, having player input on what is disrupting the game or hindering certain options from being competitive is also very important to the life-expectancy of the game. If certain unhealthy aspects are allowed to thrive within a meta for too long, they will often turn people away or lead them to feel as though the choices they have made in the game are inferior and will remain inferior. This is not something to present to a potential player, as they will be left feeling off-put and likely turn away from that sort of design towards a game that feels as though the choices they make have the potential of doing well, if their deck is designed properly and piloted well.

Given the meta that seems to be developing as of right now in FanZ, even the best deck designers and pilots are slowly “turning to the dark side” when it comes to giving up on their own play-styles and deck choices in order to survive within a meta that contains decks which feel overpowered, highly consistent, and which leave little room for your opponent to interact with or derail your strategy at all.

These sorts of decks are the big culprit in deterring players from finding answers or feeling as though there are no answers, and so are forced to play with the degenerate decks rather than ones which speaks to them more as a player.

This is where community driven discussion is needed the most.

“No one man can carry this burden, I tell you. It is far too heavy.”

To leave a game to be balanced by a small handful of people is a very daunting task. These people need to be connected to the pulse of the game, and constantly be aware of potential threats to the safety and well-being of the planned meta environment. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible for a small number of people to have this sort of intel at the ready whenever needed, simply because there is just not enough time in the day to gather all that sort of information alone.

This is where the community can step in. Being open to hearing the qualms of the populous can lead to incredible insight as to what may be harming the intent of the current play space of the game. Typically, the meta of the game is kept in mind when designing sets. Often you will find cards and strategies within new sets that can off-balance the current meta and take power away from the top decks and re-distribute it to the lesser ones. However, sometimes sets introduce cards or strategies that, while in the vacuum of testing  can seem reasonable, have led the meta down a dark path not intended by that set’s design.

You will often times hear designers of games stating that particular combinations of cards were not on their radar during testing. This is not a bad thing, as there is only so much time that can be dedicated to testing before a set must be released, and not all of these hiccups will be found before they become the new meta of the game. But, a powerful tool at any games disposal is the ability to errata and ban (or “Freeze” in our situation) cards which did not interact as intended with the general card pool.

The best way for finding these cards that need updating or removal are the outcries of the player base. If you find people gravitating towards the discussion of certain cards or deck choices currently dominating a meta, then it is likely time to pull out the fine comb and magnifying glass and sift through these discussions to find what really is the problem at hand.

Sometimes it can be the lack of desire by players to find the answer within the meta themselves. If this is the case, having an open discussion with players on viable answers already present in the card pool is a good way to get people to reassess how they are building their decks and may help them determine the best way to try and solve the issue of the meta themselves. Likely creating a deck profile article that shows the players some possible answers can do wonders for this type of problem.

Other times, however, it is not the lack of trying on the players’ part, but rather a certain linchpin that is holding a deck’s engine together. In these cases, you really need to consider changing or removing this catalyst in favor of more open and thought-provoking game play. And in this sense, without the communication from the players themselves, this may have gone unnoticed by design entirely.

“Are you not Entertained? Is this not why you are here?”

We have to understand that the primary goal with design and development for the game should always be to create an enjoyable experience for everyone that plays the game. The issue with this lies in the fact that what is considered enjoyable will always be up for debate.

I myself, enjoy a more controlling space when it comes to the decks I like to play. A more slow-paced and drawn out game tends to find itself in my favor, as I am able to stunt my opponent’s progression while slowly capitalizing on my own. Other players may enjoy an exploitable loop or a burst of raw power within a select turn rather than a long and drawn out game. Trying to press their advantage as early and often as they can to try and overwhelm their opponent before they really have their feet about them.

Which of those opinions is more correct?

The obvious answer, is that neither is more correct than the other. But, the problem extends from the fact that if these two extremes are not correctly defined, they each can lead to uninteresting game states for the opponent. And while I’m certainly not saying that it is your responsibility as a player to make sure your opponent is having as much fun as you are at any particular moment in a game, what is important is the fact that that unhappy player needs to be able to remedy the situation at some cost (low or high), in order to try and tip the balance back in their favor.

A lot of the issues that I have seen within the community rest on certain cards or deck design choices that leave your opponent with very little room to interact efficiently and are left feeling completely out of options very early in the game. This feeling of helplessness should never befall any player. They should always feel as though they can turn the momentum back around, through cunning game play or finding that one answer they need to fix the current situation.

Cards (both MPs or otherwise) should not be designed in such a way as to promote the helpless feeling of your opponent. Any card that leaves your opponent feeling drowned by the advantage you have created, should be under the constant surveillance of players and developers alike, and should be the topic of discussion when it comes to finding balances that need to occur within the game to promote that positive feeling again.

Cards such as Orange Meditation and the “Drawku” Awakening Goku MP Stack are such cards that should be held in consideration in matters such as these.  These cards have very polarizing effects on the game.

One of Orange’s biggest downsides was the lack of anger control within the Style. Suddenly a single card is created that not only helps with one of the Style’s biggest weak points, but also has an upside should you be playing against an opponent that is not anger focused. This can feel very unfair to many players, as other Styles do not receive such benefits for their meta-game choices, and really shouldn’t, as this sort of design leaves every Style feeling very similar and without character. No longer are you interested in figuring out how to do well with a Style despite it’s short-comings, or because of how its flavor speaks to you, but instead you are likely left to feel herded towards whichever Style has the strictly more powerful and consistent card pool.

As stated in other articles and discussions, Styles like Black, Red and Blue have been pushed in many different directions over the space of the game, while Styles like Orange and Namekian have had a rather consistent and interactive card design space. Because of this factor, if every Style is given the same tools, people will always flock towards the latter choices rather than the former, as they will be rewarded by cards that have strictly better interaction with themselves.

Moving to the topic of “Drawku”, the biggest concern with his design is that he actively goes against everything we have been told about this game up to this point.

Hand advantage and action economy are the big driving factors for decks that do well in the meta. As the game has progressed in design, the choice to limit hand advantage has slowly gone the way of the dodo it seems. In the beginning, cards that created hand advantage were very limited and had a cost associated to some degree. Cards like Black Smoothness Drill create hand advantage, but are able to be interacted with by your opponent and come with the cost that leveling  your MP will remove this advantage. Another example of this are cards like Blue Terror or Red Heel Kick. These cards generate more hand advantage, but come at a cost. Blue Terror requires stages and is susceptible to cards which deny searching your deck, like Master Roshi – Scouted. Similarly, Red Heel Kick requires the cost of anger to return a card from your discard to your hand, and so is completely dependent on having that anger to use.

Goku is the exact opposite of this sort of design space. The faster you level with Goku, the more hand advantage you are able to capitalize on. There is no cost, as each level guarantees some amount of card advantage just for playing him. And while options exist in the meta (A17 and Future Gohan for example), they just aren’t enough to derail the engine presented by him as a character.

The other major issue of Goku, is that his damage modifier negates nearly every card able to restrict him as a character. If you are playing against Master Roshi – Scouted , Wall Breaker or Android Arm Breaker, criting your opponent removes their hold on the game and you are free once again to do whatever degenerate thing you were trying to accomplish. Likewise, in a Dragon Ball based Goku build, having bonus damage on your MP while having access to negative modifiers on your opponent’s attacks at certain levels means that you will very rarely lose your DBs while your opponent will rarely be able to stop you from gaining them back.

I understand the design concept, but the fact that Goku does basically everything an MP should do to succeed at the game, with no cost other than having to play Goku over any other MP choice is just unacceptable! He simply does too much, has no real downside, and leaves your opponent scavenging for answers while you are left to reap the benefits over time.

“I… live!”

I hope this article has helped to grow the discussion in a positive light. As with all things in life, some people may agree with my thoughts here, and others may not. Ultimately, it is the balance of these two forces that keep the community in a vibrant and healthy state. The well-being of the game cannot be handled from one side or the other, but must rest somewhere in the middle ground; having player input processed and acknowledged, but not taken without a grain of salt.

At the end of the day, we all want to see the game in the healthiest state it can be, and with genuine communication lines between players and developers, I think that is something that is well within the capacity of us all; as long as we understand that not everything we see as an issue for the game truly is one. Like anyone trying to self-diagnose their symptoms, often times we can be lead to the worst possible result, rather than completely understanding the slight variations between one issue and the next, due to lack of knowledge and experience in the field.

We have to put our faith in those that devote their time to preventing things from getting out of hand. The best way to fix our ailments will always be to be upfront with them to those able to remedy it. Any hidden concerns will never be addressed and will be doomed to fester in our minds until we look upon the thing we once admired with disgust instead of elation.

That’s it for today, everyone! I hope this sheds some light on how things may develop for the game in the future.

Until next time, FanZ Warriors!

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About DArtagnanMF

Your Friendly Neighborhood Kreitzman
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