To the community of Star Conflict,
First off, I will clarify my controversial topic title. I am NOT an official representative of Gaijin or in any way associated with the company. I am just a player addressing fellow players. This should be considered an apology (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apologetics).
When I use the popular phrase “Working As Intended” I am of course referring to the familiar statement of CCP Games that when scamming, theft or espionage occurs in EVE Online and a petititon is filed by the injured party, CCP merely replies “Game working as intended.”
As far as I am concerned, Star Conflict is working as intended and I intend to clarify and prove my statement.
Free To Play Model
I want to challenge two perceptions here, first that a game in Beta should not have a microtransactions model already active, and second that the game encourages people to “pay to win” in order to get ahead. As far as I am concerned, neither statement holds water.
It is true that in the past, video games in Beta (either closed or open) exist purely for testing - be it stress testing, mechanics testing, exploit and bug checking, whatever. Every game on the shelf has had a period like that. Examining online games, however, we can start with World of Warcraft, whose Beta was invite only and did not require a subscription, additionally players were reset at the end. As far as the playerbase was concerned, it was a traditional beta. However, there has been a new trend of online games started by games companies who do not have the same financial or manpower level as say Blizzard in 2004, who was riding the success of Starcraft, Warcraft and Diablo. Such online games need financial support and if they cannot source the majority of this from private backers, then it has to be gained through a playerbase, whose attention they have to attract in the design, alpha and beta phases - such that when they “release” a finished product, player are already invested and levelled inside such a game.
A good case in point I would like to use as an example is Planetside 2 (PS2). While certainly it inherits the history of a subscription game in Planetside 1, PS2 took a different route and went Free To Play while offering a microtransactions model. PS2 is without a shadow of the doubt popular and increasingly popular. However, examining game mechanics PS2 has a “grind-based” system. The vast majority of good gear costs 1000 Certification Points, each Cert Point is worth 200xp or basically two kills. Faced with such a mountain of grinding in order to gain all the good equipment a player wants, a majority chooses to purchase Station Cash to acquire virtual weapons and skins of coolness. Whether the equipment was a straight up upgrade is open to debate and I will address this in another paragraph. Could you grind Certs in PS2 to get the stuff you want. Certainly.
Could you grind in Star Conflict to get the stuff you want. Certainly.
Credit Price Hikes
Before I nail the primary issue of grinding, there have been a number of price hikes in credits very recently; starting with ship prices (in accordance to ships being prefitted), reimplantation and storage prices. At the same time; loot value and loyalty/reputation gains have been reduced (repair costs also have been reduced). All this is on the dev’s part, is a delicate balancing of income versus expenditure. Relax, they are playing with their economy, adjustments will be made here and there.
My disagreements come here. Primarily, increases to expenditure are to slow down progression as most of the time its credits while preventing players from rising up the tech level too quickly(and also note, that there is no sailing of sheep). That ratio of time played to game progression has increased beyond player tolerance threshold and has to be brought back down.
Ships should come prefitted but also have the option for them to come based without any fit. (with two prices of course)
Loot value should be reincreased to half previous levels.
The sale value of modules should be increased (I never fit my ships Mk1, thus spend a significant amount of money on waste)
Price hikes should be well documented
On the fourth point, transparency has been neglected and I expect the devs to learn a valuable lesson from this (maybe someone fell asleep on the job?)
Before I face down accusations of being a power-leveller or power gamer who seeks nothing but to min-max everything and gain an unfair advantage, let me just assert that I believe in playing F2P games for fun but at the same time, progression should not come before fun.
The question is, is this game pay-to-win? Ie, can I take my real money, put it into the game and gain a significant advantage over other players.
In short, no.
The correlation I draw is to another internet spaceships game, EVE Online. You can transfer real money to PLEX (30 day subscription time) to ISK (ingame currency), thus created a kind-of microtransaction model. Will it make you better in the game- not necessarily. There is a curve of real money investment to translatable ingame advantage, it drops off pretty quickly. Sure, starting the game with 500mil (roughly equivalent to £15) helps a great deal but its not necessarily a good thing - the money can be wasted on bad modules, bad flying, poor choices and so on.
With Galactic Standards (aka gold) in Star Conflict, you can purchase special premium ships, premium modules and licences (the good boosters are credit based not gold). First, premium ships are not the top of their class, while they have noticeable advantages (an extra passive slot on T3, or a bit more base speed), they also have base faction abilities without subfaction specialisation (eg, Raid/Tech). As such, premium ships are all very well and shiny but actually wont make you instant pop other players, and they certainly will not make you fly better.
Premium modules are the equivalent of Mk3. This should inform you to the dev’s intentions. Mk3 modules are gained by progression via loyalty in a subfaction - basically a grind. Let’s look at some stats for the T2 Shield Booster for the fighter.
Shield Booster M Mk2, repairs shield by 1377 points
Military Shield Booster M, repairs shield by 1467 points
Shield Booster M Mk3, repairs shield by 1503 (same as premium)
Experimental Shield Booster M, repairs shield by 1547
Rounding down, the Mk3 has the grand total advantage of 130 points of shield repair over the Mk2 you can just buy. To put that into perspective, the time to damage 130 points of shield (with no resist) using T2 Rapid Fire Plasma Cannons Mk2, would be under a second. Let’s just say for argument sake, it keeps you alive one second longer. To pay for this one second repair, you either spend 70k credits more (with the time invested in grinding) or roughly £1.
Great, isn’t it.
So what is the most efficient method of gaining the advantage through technological means?
Efficient speed runs of scenarios (particularly T2). Scenarios not only give you lovely credits, they also give Military loot as a guarantee (from the purple loot) or even Experimental. Do enough scenarios and you will gain free gear to gain a tech edge in your current tech-tier but also some gear to save you money in the next tech level.
I mentioned earlier that sometimes a little real money investment translates into a noticeable in-game advantage, be it one PLEX in EVE or a bit of Station Cash in Planetside 2. In Star Conflict, this advantage comes from a licence. A licence doesn’t actually cost very much and in my opinion is optimised around a one week licence. Just remember to spend that time well and efficiently by playing a bit more and running a few scenarios more.
A final point on grinding, Star Conflict’s microtransaction model does not mean pay-to-win. Pay to grind less! But bottom line, you still have to fight battles to gain reputation to gain rank in a faction. Stop sitting in the hangar ship-spinning talking about bacon, get fighting.
EDIT: Battles now give gold. What are you waiting for?
On the Issue of Matchmaking
Up till recently, matchmaking put you in games of the same tech level. It seemed fair, or at least prevented glaring tech advantages a Tech Two has over a Tech One. I will examine both mixed and single tier systems.
Mixed Tech-tier Matchmaking:
Mixed tier matchmaking can be defended for increasing game density in the Tech Three and Tech Four bracket but failing to protect those with lower tech ships. As the community and game is right now, Tech Two is working as intended. If I queue with three T2 ships I will find a T2 game with maybe one or two guys with T3s and nearly always these T3s are basic Rank 7 T3 ships. Look such people up and examine their stats. Their ships are crutches not tools, not extensions of fiery death. Then you understand why they’re playing with T2s.
The bracket that is problematic is the T1-T2 where teams are composed of 50% T2, 50% T1. The result is, unsurprisingly, that T2 players with a bit more experience and the technological advantage can gain superiority over T1s. I admit, I voted Yes to Mixed Tier matchmaking in the poll purely because I wanted to enhance the T3-T4 game density, not to ruin a newbie’s day.
Tech Ones should be with Tech Ones, at this level the game is incredibly simple and players of poor skill or little experience should be left here.
Tech Twos more or less is fine, with the removal of the T1-T2 50/50 team composition mechanic, T2 will resume as normal. The ocassional guy with a Rank 7 T3 is fine. I usually call him primary just so he has to pay the repair bill for his foolishness.
Single Tech-tier Matchmaking:
On the surface this appears to be a simple system that prevents abuse, but there is still gameplay that will disadvantage players. Players who invest time and effort (sometimes money) into the game will have better equipment and have that edge, I can min-max tech tier by tech tier to gain the best advantage, my time investment allows me to be the biggest bully in that particular yard. Can this be mitigated or removed, no. This is just how game progression works and brings me onto my next point.
Personal Skill: Flying and Fitting
Personal skill comes down to two things. One, how well you fly your ship. If you fly your ship in a straight line and complain when I come up behind you with my Epic Plasma Cannon and kill you and you QQ that Epic guns are OP and should be nerfed, you just deserve to die. No one can really teach you to be observant, have spatial awareness and understand game mechanics. That’s just an open mind and experience playing the game.
Two, fitting your ship is an important personal skill and I feel prefitted ships, while useful, detracts from player progression. Basically prefitted ships dumbs down player learning, if at all players should have to learn to fit their ships properly. There are so many ways of fitting your ship, some are “failfits” and some are strong. If you insist on leaving an EM resist hole, I will exploit it. Period.
No guide can make you a good pilot, knowledge is only half the battle. You have to get a feel of the game, if it doesn’t click then maybe this isn’t your strongpoint?
"Teamwork is OP, nerf teamwork."
This saying is a joke in my corp and we have been using this saying since we all started out in T1s rampaging on randoms with impunity. This is my final and most important point. Get a good corp or gaming community. The particular corp I am with, I originally met in EVE a while ago (funnily enough I am not part of their corp in EVE), and therefore they share my EVE tough-pilot mindset. I have also brought all my friends into Star Conflict, upon discovering the game I messaged everyone on my Steam’s friends list to try out Star Conflict with me. While corps in this game, for the moment, tend to be outside game communities or corps from EVE, I do expect to see pure Star Conflict corps take charge of the scene.
With a little help from my friends, fighting T2s in a T2/T1 battle is doable in T1s. With a little help from my friends, some forward thinking and strategy, Detonation game mode in T1s is doable. Get organised.
Likewise with the grinding, my corp sits down to figure out how to speed run scenarios. They are problems to be solved, like a crossword in the newspaper. To us it’s a question of understanding and “beating the game”. No mechanic is going to push us down, no ship too strong to be countered. This game has been designed to allow pilots of a problem solving mentality get ahead with a bit of tenacity and time investment.
As a last word, the dev’s did nerf teamwork in the end. As squads get larger, the matchmaking chooses to place us with harder foes. We relish the challenge.
Khorne25 (Ezek Price)