file Open letter to Black Chantry Productions

16 May 2020 13:31 - 16 May 2020 13:36 #99847 by Khormag
First of all, I want to thank you Black Chantry Productions, the people behind the project, for making such a wonderful job in breathing life to V:TES. You’ve done fantastic job on the new releases and on most of the changes to the game so far. I love the new cards, and all the releases have been relevant and made playing the game easier, for new and old players alike. The new 5th edition boxed set looks amazing and greatly supplements the already existing Sabbat starters. I can’t wait to get my hands on the new cards!

But complimenting you is not the only point of this letter. As things are, the community of V:TES is in chaos right now. This is caused by the announcement of open play test for new, completely overhauled crypt contest rules. Even I was shocked by the announcement, as I am a fan of the current rules. I personally feel like the contest rules add to the uniqueness of the game, which was one of the game’s appeals to me. Obviously the proposed changes are not going to trash the rule completely, it will just adjust the most overwhelming part of it, the contesting of Vampires. I can see the idea behind the rule in testing, and I understand that it is meant for the good of the game. Having fun is the most important factor in games, and having to contest vampires is not fun, and it’s even worse if the vampire you contest is your so called “star vampire”.

Now to the concerns I have for the future of the game, and the worrying things about the contest rule changes. Something that I think many of us have on their minds at the moment. I try to be as objective as I can with all this, but my own opinion is what it is, and affects my thoughts.

The first problem that popped into my mind when I heard about the tested rule was the impact of it to the balance of the game and the internal balance of the tables where the rule would occur. V:TES has been designed around the current rules for over 20 years. Some of the strongest cards and vampires in the game are “balanced” because of the risk of contest. You always have to make the decision whether you want to risk the contest or play it safe when building and choosing a deck for a tournament. This helps the tournament meta from going stale, as whenever it looks like there is a so called “deck to beat” emerging, people start playing something else, as it becomes too common to contest the “best” deck. This makes the meta to cycle on its own, without any outside help from the development, and removes the need for power creep on new cards or constant banning of problematic cards. Even if some of the better decks are always part of the meta, you still have competitive choices outside of them, as you can somewhat count on not facing the “best” decks on all rounds of tournament, which allows you to play something a bit more experimental and under the radar, and doesn’t make the game feel too rock paper scissors. Playing something innovative is punished really heavily in the case that you have to play against a field of really tuned top tier decks. An effect that can be seen on games like Magic the Gathering and Hearthstone. In those games there is no room for innovation in the tournament environment, you just play the “best” deck all the time. In those games the way for the developers to combat this issue, is multitude of formats, some that are rotating, and constant new releases to keep the game fresh. But this also introduces a new issue to those games; constant power creep. Something that I would not like to see in V:TES.

This brings us to the second issue I have with the testing, the information gathering and what is relevant to the change. In the VEKN forums I can see that you are pursuing for information about the occurrence of contests in games that the rules is tested. There is a huge flaw in this thought. First of all, the amount of contests in normal games, is not at all relevant to the rule. You can’t change core rule of the game, just because “it doesn’t even happen that much”. The idea of play test is to test the rule, so it should be tested. You have to generate the situations for the rule to be tested, so basically force the testers to knowingly contest vampires. This way you get real picture of the way the rule impacts gameplay. Now that you have that information, you can make assumptions on how it would impact the meta game. Not the other way around. You can’t take occurrence share of contest in play tested games and apply it as a general rule of occurrence. If the rule impacts the gameplay heavily, the meta will change, its naive to think otherwise. This is something you can’t see in play testing phase, the effects only appear after maybe a year of the rule being used in tournament play. So the only relevant factor should be the balance and impact to the games where contests happen. Which is why these kind of changes should not be tested in open test in the first place. Obviously if you allow the rule to be tested in tournaments and keep it in play test phase for maybe year and a half, you might have more reliable data on the occurrence, but I don’t thing that is really possible, or something that you want?

Which brings us to the next problem. What do you want? We have no idea on what is going on behind the scenes really, there is no road map for new releases or changes coming to the game.There is no information on how you feel like the game should be, the philosophy of your design for the game. This all is something I feel like everyone would love to hear more about. I feel like it could be very beneficial for the game, to have a small update on the development process, and maybe your ideas for the game in each monthly newsletter. Like where you would like to see the game be in like 2 years etc. This would probably give more confidence in you to players, and they would not freak out about every change you make or propose, as the general direction would be more clear. What issues are on your mind, and when are you going to address them?

Lastly, I would like to know, why are you testing these changes to the core mechanics of the game right now? I feel like the first issues to be fixed should be with the rules inconsistencies that are in the game already, overall rewriting of the rules and getting rulings more available. This is one of the main problems with the game at the moment. As the game is really complex, even for the card game category, I feel like this should be one of the first problems to fix and it would affect the play experience positively, even more than changes to contesting, which brings even more confusion and exceptions to rules; i.e. more work for you. After the baseline rules and rulings are on solid footing, its easier to see the real issues in the game and make changes accordingly. Changing a rule so that it generates even more inconsistencies and problems, is something that I feel should be avoided at this point. When the current problems are addressed, the situation is completely different.

The point of this letter is not to get the rule tests to be finished and the proposed idea to be trashed completely. My main idea behind this letter is to get some healthy conversation going, and to take note on some potential danger behind these changes, if not tested properly and on some potential flaws in the testing process and priority of changes. I will help in testing out of the rule by organizing games to test it, as I am interested in the results myself. I am not too worried that it would ruin the game completely, as being a multiplayer game V:TES is so completely different in nature from 1v1 games mentioned above, but this kind of large, impactful changes to the core mechanics and even core philosophy of the game always come with risks, and unforeseen outcomes. There is the possibility that the impact is much greater than expected in the long run. But even if the change happens to go through, it won’t stop me from playing and enjoying the game.



Sincerely,
Aapo “Khormag” Järvelin

Prince of Joensuu, Finland
Last edit: 16 May 2020 13:36 by Khormag.
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17 May 2020 19:31 #99863 by Orpheus
Yes to all this.

On the testing topic, the current Lackey league offers absolutely no valid data because :
- Lackey has never been representative of the live meta
- Some do play decks on purpose to see if they get contested, some play random stuff that you never see in a proper tournament
- As Aapo said, the cases where nucontest happens are so rare that the impact on games can't be analysed.

So, as I said : no relevant data. 0 interest in doing that.

The only thing missing from Aapo's excellent summary is :
Admitting you wanted to test an alternative rule, and knowing that a while ago we were asked which ones we would consider, why the hell choose this one, that I never saw proposed anywhere and that completely breaks the thing ? One more question to which I saw no satisfactory answer...
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17 May 2020 22:57 #99864 by Ke.
So far when testing the net effect of the rule change has been positive. In one game it meant that two players had a game even though their star was contested. In another a support vamp was contested with no negative impact to the game.

The pool damage per turn combined with vampires that can act also speeds up the game. This along with allowing all 5 players to play is just better overall.

I hope that eventually this becomes the standard rule.
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18 May 2020 06:51 #99865 by Palamedes

Ke. wrote: ...the rule change has been positive.


Most of the players playing two same star vampires without problems on the same table do not see it as "positive". Therefore, so far when testing the net effect of the rule change has been totally negative.
I hope that this will never ever become a rule, more precisely, I hope that the rule will remain exactly as it has been so far.
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18 May 2020 07:08 #99866 by Mårten
What about all the vampries with special abilities?

One that came up is Hardestadt.

If you read the card text as is my interpretation is that whoever brings him up first will be the one who has to yield. So while both get to play whoever is 2nd comes up on top. I'm guessing there are more examples like this. Do we just go through them all and create a rule for each contest?

I'm gonna make a big generalization, correct me if I'm wrong.
It seems that people that are positive to this new rule are generally people who play on Lackey. The people who are pushing this are the people playing the on-going tournaments on Lackey where each round you can choose a new deck. For casual games I think it's fine if you wanna use a contest rule like this, I just don't think the penalty is big enough and it will push decks that can mitigate the 1 pool loss per turn.

On the other side are the tournament people who care about how this can effect the tournament scene. People will no longer have to worry about contesting their big vamp which can end up stifling the scene (like Khormag explained).

I think downplaying this change and saying, "it doesn't happen that often" is just plain wrong. It can have huge effect on the table, especially with star vamps like Enkidu.

Another thing is simply the aspect of uniqueness (each vamp that is) that makes VTES very different from many games.

I really hope this change won't happen based on data from solely from Lackey games.

A question, why was this change the one to be tested? What about other proposed rules to "fix" contesting?

With all that said, it's still important to note that BCP is doing a great job and I hope a sensible discussion can be had on this topic.
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18 May 2020 08:31 - 18 May 2020 08:34 #99867 by Tadori
Agree with moast of your post expet this:

"The first problem that popped into my mind when I heard about the tested rule was the impact of it to the balance of the game and the internal balance of the tables where the rule would occur. V:TES has been designed around the current rules for over 20 years. Some of the strongest cards and vampires in the game are “balanced” because of the risk of contest. You always have to make the decision whether you want to risk the contest or play it safe when building and choosing a deck for a tournament. This helps the tournament meta from going stale, as whenever it looks like there is a so called “deck to beat” emerging, people start playing something else, as it becomes too common to contest the “best” deck. This makes the meta to cycle on its own, without any outside help from the development, and removes the need for power creep on new cards or constant banning of problematic cards. Even if some of the better decks are always part of the meta, you still have competitive choices outside of them, as you can somewhat count on not facing the “best” decks on all rounds of tournament, which allows you to play something a bit more experimental and under the radar, and doesn’t make the game feel too rock paper scissors. Playing something innovative is punished really heavily in the case that you have to play against a field of really tuned top tier decks. An effect that can be seen on games like Magic the Gathering and Hearthstone. In those games there is no room for innovation in the tournament environment, you just play the “best” deck all the time. In those games the way for the developers to combat this issue, is multitude of formats, some that are rotating, and constant new releases to keep the game fresh. But this also introduces a new issue to those games; constant power creep. Something that I would not like to see in V:TES."


IIf you look TWD: most of a winning decks are rotating, there is no shift in meta. The same concept the same cards,the same playstyle, with a little deviation on caln variant. But the same core. Look how many star decks are a winning decks on TWDA Stanislawa is a good example, if your reasoning would be true there would be a lot less this decks.

Contest doesn't prevent from playing the "best" decks look what happened when legionners were released. TWDA is flooded with this deck in this time period.

There is no power creep because there are no new card, not because of meta rotation, You play the strongest card already and because there are no new ones, there is nothing to replace them with to create power creep.

Competitive choices you have are not impacted by contest rules, but by power level and amount of cards. You would see how faulty this rules is if you would have for example two set to play like new players have right now. This limited option actually create negative player experience because you can't play what you like.

The best example is a first blood introduction for new players we made in our community, we had to remove contest rule to be even able to show the game to new players. People tend to forget that new players have a very limited resource to play with.

This game is design as rock,paper, scissors and telling me that it doesn't feel like that because of multiple options doesn't convince me at all. As I sad at the beginning look at TWDA the same archetypes, playstyles, same cores of decks same feel. This games is design around rock,paper, scissors that's why sitting is so important. VTES will always be like this and it's not a bed thing.

Because of this nature you can't compare it to MTG or Hearthstone at all.


I feel that VTES players will always say that changes are bad and catastrophic, look on parity shift, pentex reactions. Old players don't what changes. Its is our nautre.

I agree that getting data from casual games is wrong. Because first question of day in my community is "what do you play" when we sit. We want to avoid stupid contest rule. That show have bad this rules is and why you shouldn't use casual games for this statistic.


Will the new contest rule shift the meta - Yes
Will its create a huge negative consequences - I dont thing so.
Will it help new players - Yes
Will it break immersion - Yes
Will it improve player experience - Yes
Is it good frorm mechanical point of view- Yes
Is it good for VTES "rpg" feel - No


Of course there is an issue with vamps abilities but as I understand this will have to be handled before any changes.
Last edit: 18 May 2020 08:34 by Tadori.
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