How I Feel About #iwantmygems

How I Feel About #iwantmygems

As one half of The Duel Assessment Podcast, it would be remiss for me to not address important things happening in the game and in the community. Given I had complete control of all topics discussed on Episode 70, I was negligent in not knowing about #iwantmygems before I recorded that episode. As these opinions do not reflect that of the podcast as a whole, I am writing about it on my personal site here.

How #iwantmygems started

The Duel Island – Gladiator Beast event kicked off in Duel Links late last week. The event, which was fairly well-received the first time around, has a lottery bag reward system. Your duel assessment translates into coins, and every 30 coins will yield one reward. Rewards range from cards (UR to N), keys, jewels (UR to R), gems, gold, and keys. All prior lottery bag events had a gem reward range from 1 to 15. This event inexplicably just offers a gem reward of 1 gem.

People were outraged by this gem nerf, and duelists primarily from Brazil started the #iwantmygems movement. The demands were to give Duel Links a 1-star review on the App Store or Play Store, and basically be angry about the gem nerf, and include a hashtag (like any “movement” nowadays).

Any of the drama surrounding this event involves Brazilian streamer, Renan Sparrow, and American streamer, DKayed. They basically asked DKayed to be part of #iwantmygems, DKayed did not side with them, and said there are bigger issues to be had in Duel Links, and things escalated from there. I won’t speak much more about this particular drama as to not stoke the flames, but things got to the point that the original poster on Reddit for #iwantmygems even apologized in behalf of the Brazilian Duel Links community that was being toxic. That is pretty telling which side took things too far here.

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Another questionable decision by Konami

It seems every time Konami does something good in the name of Duel Links, they do a few things back to reverse it. This gem nerf for Duel Island – Gladiator Beast seemingly makes no sense at all. We are currently about 3 weeks from the release of the next MiniBOX, assuming something were to drop with the conclusion of the World Championships. The recent Burning Nova BOX was strife with mediocrity, and possibly did not sell as well as other boxes. Did Konami make this gem nerf in response to people only using gems to buy the box? Or is this a long-term change for all lottery bags moving forward? In any case, Konami is making plenty of money thanks to Duel Links, and such a move just looks greedy, without any potential benefit for the company. There could have at least been some sort of PR explanation, or patch note documentation for it.

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Thousands of f2p dead

Gems at stake

The average gem gains from a previous lottery bag of 10 draws was probably around 5 gems. 15 and 10 gem rewards were very rare, and you got some 5s and 1s. The average gem gains from a lottery bag of 10 draws now is probably less than 1, with the dilution of gem reward quantities. So losing out on about roughly 4 gems per 10 draws (300 coins) definitely adds up.

My question is how many people actually took advantage of past lottery bag events. There is a set number of Duel Island duels you can do at one sitting, with potions to replenish this number. Do people literally spend all day on the phone/computer to grind out these events? I know I am not the only person who doesn’t do this thanks to other life commitments, like work or school. Even someone with unlimited free time likely has an opportunity cost in getting other things like Ranked rewards in Duel Links, or even spending time playing other games. It seems extremely strenuous to just grind The Duel Island event endlessly for extra gems.

This leads to the question of PvE cheats. Are the main angry people mining PvE events, while they are inactive or sleeping? It seems like the amount of gems missed out on isn’t that big for anyone who isn’t using a PvE cheat. To really lose out on a ton of gems, you have to be doing some kind of mining of the event for gems.

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Movements, politics, gaming communities

I personally hate social media movements and their inherent ties to politics. I actively put on a lot of Twitter modifications (e.g. changing trending tweets to Norway, muting words, muting accounts) to actively avoid politics, given my disgust of current politics from both American political parties. There was a time when Twitter was your own personal space that was not muddled by frankly, crap. I still can get behind a movement, like Net Neutrality, but I am definitely wary of any misinformation from those on “my side.”

My own opinions are largely shaped by my living in Baltimore for 10 years. The riots resulting from the death of Freddie Gray and post-response by the Baltimore government changed me. The riots themselves were mostly of a mob mentality, which the Baltimore news media and government claims were started by “outside instigators.” It was a boiling over of bad tensions from Baltimore Police and the community. Despite the honest need for an outcry regarding social justice, a lot of negative externalities happen when a city experiences wanton destruction. Not only were innocent people hurt just for being around, but there were likely bigger negative impacts for businesses and economy. Post-riot, a lot of band-aids were put on, and nothing really changed that much. A lot of stuff was done to shake up the Baltimore Police Department, and then the city experienced all-time highs in homicides in the following years. So that is why I don’t care much for movements.

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Back to Duel Links! I’m sure the organizers of #iwantmygems wanted to provoke something to get the attention of Konami. Hurting the reviews of the game and getting attention of content creators/streamers work towards that. But in the way of the mob mentality come a lot of trolls who just want to see the world burn. I personally have been around long enough in the Hearthstone Reddit community to know that many gamers can literally complain about anything. When I played Hearthstone every day, I did complain a lot about Arena. I complained with many concerns the ArenaHS Reddit community had, which most of the playerbase won’t even take a second to think about. After a while, I stopped caring, and my Hearthstone-related complaints are all but gone.

The #iwantmygems movement cares about Duel Links, too much maybe. I can see truly f2p players feeling shafted, losing their biggest funnel for gems. But at the same time, when you band under a hashtag movement, everyone starts pushing their own agenda, it becomes a muddled mess. Throw in the mob mentality of people just wanting to fuck stuff up, and you have the added toxicity that the world can do without.

Gems would be nice… but

As pointed out by many, the #iwantgems movement is a bit mislead in staking this as the biggest problem in Duel Links. It is a short-term solution that ultimately is a drop in the ocean of gem-spending demand. Just a little fix that can get you high for a couple hours in a multi-year span of drug addiction. Here are some known problems with Duel Links.

Extremely expensive

Truly f2p players have to be very selective in what they buy in order to be competitive. I was able to play Fur Hires by spending 6400 gems and $1.99. And that was being lucky with the $1.99 SR to get a 3rd Beat! That is almost a maximum supply of gems spent for a f2p deck. To play any deck with 3 of BOX UR is extremely expensive.

Useless economy

Keys and gold are useful resources up to a certain point. I remember being out of certain keys when farming gate duelists, and even being low on gold at one point. Once you hit a critical mass though, they become almost useless. To the loyal fanbase that has logged in for hundreds of days straight, the fact that these comprise a good percentage of duel or lottery rewards feels bad.

Lack of options

As suggested by Timmy Chiew on our latest podcast, there isn’t another game mode once you have hit King of Games on Ranked. Fighting standard duelist is basically a slow mining operation, and any events are basically the same but for new cards. There isn’t another game mode to invest time in.

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Harmless suggestions to fix Duel Links

Gambling system

Almost every digital card game today has a secondary resource for crafting cards. You can disenchant cards you don’t want or extras, to add towards building any card of your choice. Yu-Gi-Oh! seemingly has never had this system. And frankly, I am okay with them not having a crafting system, just to be different. I would like something to get closer to that, without being that though.

In the earliest datamines for this game, there was a D.D. Trader who was hinted to function in this regard. That idea was scrapped, but something can still be done. If there could be a system where you trade in a SR or UR from a box, throw in some resources, and get a random other SR or UR from the same box, it would be like a gambling system to work towards the card you want. While RNG will definitely screw people over, it is something to work towards. It is a way to make useless cards have some value. Also, it is a way to encourage people to buy a box to obtain those SRs/URs for transmuting.

More dream tickets

Dream tickets should be more available, at least once a month. They should be tacked on as a Ranked reward at 150 wins, which would encourage people to actually play Ranked duels. These are probably the one resource in the game that saves people most gems, without being too backbreaking to the company making money.

Draft mode akin to Hearthstone Arena

Draft mode is always difficult to balance, and it would be very difficult to do so in a Yu-Gi-Oh! game, given the gazillion archetypes and network synergies involved. Still, a useless spell/trap still has value in being set as a decoy, and a monster still has stars/attribute/type/attack/defense to be considered a monster on the board. So it could work!

As mentioned, I was really into Hearthstone Arena. In fact, I played so much Hearthstone Arena that I have too much dust. So I made enough resources for Hearthstone, just by being a little above average as an Arena player. In Hearthstone, you pay 150 gold or $1.99 to play Arena, and you roughly break even at a 3-3 run, where 0-2 wins would be a net loss. Anything 4-12 wins will net some profit. Duel Links could charge a similar fee, by doing draft mode at the cost of 100 gems, guaranteeing just a pack (50 gem value) at a 0-3 run. This would not only provide a challenge new game mode for draft fans, but also reward better players with some gem economy.

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Stream of Consciousness: Hearthstone HCT Disconnects

Stream of Consciousness: Hearthstone HCT Disconnects

I’ve always been a skeptic regarding the sustainability and success of esports. It sounded really cool for a while, and I often joked that I should “drop everything and play games for a living.” Reality sank in, and continues to when you see esports teams disbanding all the time, or dropping their teams. Esports teams remind me of old automakers. Did you know there used to be hundreds of automakers? Now you can mostly name them in minutes. They don’t make Mercury and Oldsmobiles anymore!

A couple days ago, I went to an ASUS Republic of Gamers event to try to win free stuff. Notable esports host Rachel “Seltzer” Quirico was there, playing Overwatch and announcing the raffle. It was cool, I got to play Overwatch on a really fancy gaming rig. I got to sit on a gaming chair. I won a pillow. But in the middle of a busy electronics store, not a lot of people stopped by. Even the raffle itself was like 10 people vying for the grand prize. Which makes my not winning it feel worse… But even the ASUS employee asked if I was going to the ESL at Barclays Center, and my response was, “what game are they playing?” Is esports here in New York? Not sure.

In the realm of Hearthstone esports, my views have always been colored by RNG, not other problems. Once Yogg-Saron decided a game, all bets were off. The “anything can happen” aspect of Hearthstone isn’t the best vehicle for something important. It could be fun and spectacular, but fairly back-breaking to those who ultimately work for nothing.

The focus of this weekend, the 2017 Americas Summer Playoffs were mainly disconnects. This one is a doozie.

Here is something from Twitter:

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Here is something from Reddit:

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Blizzard at least acknowledged the problems:

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If the internet gets everyone riled up enough, this seems like a big disaster. There could be some fixes down the line, but what if it isn’t enough.

Some practical ideas on how to fix it:

  • In-game tournament mode.

I’m just being a troll by mentioning this, and I don’t know if it will come. I don’t know if the game is built for it. I don’t know if it is worth the money to develop. I’m just going to assume this isn’t coming, and look for other solutions.

  • Scrap the current Innkeeper system and hold them at bigger venues.

The Innkeeper makes the tournament experience seem grassroots and is definitely very flavorful. It helps build human relationships in a digital game. But in the end, is it worth it? The problems associated with this weekend in Hearthstone esports could likely have been avoided. I mentioned the Barclays Center earlier, where they are playing CS:GO at ESL. They have concerts there. It will definitely have the capacity for an esports tournament. Internet problems seem to be an issue of 1) not having strong enough wireless fidelity and capacity (sorry I don’t know the tech words), 2) not having enough manpower to build/strategize/create better, 3) not having enough money to build something better.

Remember when Buffalo Wild Wings was a bit of a meme? That actually turned out quite decently, and people at those venues didn’t have disconnection issues. I don’t think it was luck that Buffalo Wild Wings had good enough internet. They have standards for quality, and can afford it.

  • Force everyone to play on a wired connection.

Earlier in the year when I had a job, I had college student interns. Once when trying to connect a printer, I asked her where the ethernet port was on the printer. She didn’t know what it was, responding, “I’ve had WiFi all my life.” I was shocked and the moment will likely remain with me forever.

I don’t trust WiFi. I’m not sure if it is because I literally can’t see it or what, but I just don’t believe in it. Not only are your speeds slower, but interference can come from anywhere. Background applications and programs can hog bandwidth. A train could be passing outside and cause a disturbance. I just had to install a WiFi extender, since my room can’t get connect right.

A trusty ethernet cord will eliminate most disconnect problems. Sure, you could have issues with the router/modem. Sure, you could mess up with ethernet in other ways. But having a tenable connection is better than something floating in the air.

The dark truth (NA Internet)

It’s also possible that the problems can never be resolved. Not unlike our healthcare system, the internet in America sucks. Anyone who has paid for internet here knows they aren’t getting a good deal. You have to pay an arm and a leg for internet (and no, I don’t want phone in this day and age), and have to pay a lot after the contract year. Disconnections happen, and they may not resolve for a while. Internet companies are greedy and can do whatever they want. They aren’t regulated too much by the FCC, and the consumer has very little say at all.

Innkeepers may never have the capability to have decent internet, given the poor built environment for it. No matter what upgrades you can make, it will always be shaky footing. While a big venue like the Barclays Center can shoulder the load, costs are costs. I don’t think it is in the cards to borrow a big venue for these Hearthstone esports events.

 

Stream of Consciousness: Hype Should Not Be Fixing Something Broken

It’s 12:30pm here in East Coast, USA, and big news is coming shortly in the world of Hearthstone.

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To those unaware, or not currently playing Hearthstone, there has been a big Druid problem (and Jade Druid, and Aggro Druid). This probably refers to what Ben Brode teased recently:

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The news will break some time in the next few hours, and something will be announced. Something regarding Druid, and perhaps more. Let’s state some things are mostly true:

  1. Druid is busted in it’s current state, for many different reasons.
  2. There are other problems in Hearthstone, with other classes.
  3. The Arena synergy draft system is a disaster.

There’s no denying Druid is a problem in Ranked, and other problems exist. Let’s get to point 2, I think Ice Block is an example of a card that has existed far too long, as it reneges on the “fun and interactive” promise of the game. Some Arena players don’t think 3 is much of an issue, but most are on the train that it sucks. Nobody has to draft Blubber Baron. There’s no reason Frost Lich Jaina appears in 10% of Arenas.

Let me state some other things that are mostly true:

  1. Hearthstone is an amazing game that has kept a lot of players playing it for years.
  2. Hearthstone hype is hyped very well.

Here’s my thought, one that may not be all that original:

Hype should not be invested on things that shouldn’t have been broken to begin with.

I’m really excited about these upcoming announcements today (or announcements of announcements). Even if I have no interest in playing Ranked right now, the news excites me as a Hearthstone player. I want lots of change in a game mode I don’t really play.

But these things shouldn’t be hyped about it. These Druid cards shouldn’t have been allowed to hit the factory floor like they are now. The Arena synergy system shouldn’t have been put in live in it’s current state, without more thought or testing.

I don’t want to be excited about these changes. But there is, for a lack of a better phrase, a hypnotic attraction that Hearthstone has on me that built the hype automatically.

Hype in this game should be spent on announcing new things and content. If this announcement bundles Druid patch changes with a new Ranked laddering system, I take some of it back.

I’m not happy that I will be routinely checking Twitter and Reddit to get on the news today. But I will!

 

Stream of Consciousness: You Play to Win the Game

Stream of Consciousness: You Play to Win the Game

Card game expansions are supposed to be about trying out new decks and theorycrafting new stuff. Maybe. If that’s fun for you.

In the past, I would do seemingly only do this in Ranked Hearthstone games. I’m not sure if I didn’t care about winning back then. I remember a lot of Reno Rogue games, where I was greedy with fitting in legendaries like Anub’arak. I remember playing a Miracle Mill Rogue. I remember playing a lot of Mech Rogue for Voltron.

Today, a couple weeks after the release of Knights of the Frozen Throne, I found myself playing Pirate Warrior. A Pirate Warrior who never plays the deck, and trades a little more than he ought to. Thanks to hsreplay.net, below is a graphic of my last Ranked Warrior games. I basically started the playing the deck for the first time in 4 months, and seem to take month-long intervals. Yes, I play very little Ranked, and only play Rogue.

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I guess a switch went off and I decided to hustle some wins. Here were my Ranked games prior to today.

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Besides the meta Evolve Shaman that eats it to Druid, my Rogue games consisted of offbeat stuff like Burgle Rogue, C’Thun Rogue, etc. Besides the low volume and low wins, I just wasn’t digging the “explore fun decks” process. I wasn’t going to keep playing unless I won some games. Prior to touching Pirate Warrior, my Ranked win rate this month was less than 50%. I deleted the Burgle Rogue list I made myself.

I’m not here to complain about Druids. I’m just noting that at some point, I stopped caring about exploring fun decks. The expansion is still young, heck the adventure still has Week 3 to go. Just saying that at some point the concentration of winning took over, and nothing else mattered. And I’m not much of a Ranked player to begin with.

I’ll keep playing Pirate Warrior in Ranked for now. Maybe I’ll be content when I get to Ranked 10. I’m not really enjoying it I would a Rogue deck, but I’ll take the wins.

I can blame the “Information Meta” we can’t leave, and how everyone has access to every single decklist. I can blame pro players from being too good and figuring it out so fast. I can blame my own inability to keep composure after losing. It’s probably some recipe of all of it, and it is loosening my already tepid desire to play Ranked Hearthstone at all.