Penguinqwert's State of the Battledome: June 2013
This article was written on June 14th, 2013. The Battledome may be subject to change after the date of publication.
Hey there readers, I am back this month after Max (Benladesh) wrote last month's State of the Battledome article. It has been a quiet month as no new news regarding the Battledome has been released - other than a Neopian Times editorial release stating that the Neopets Team still considers the new Battledome to be in the beta stage. Although it is good to know that the Battledome is still being tabbed as unfinished, battlers continue to grow restless as their favorite Neopian hobby lies in a barebones-state.
The Battledome community is nothing without a Battledome; this concept should come as no surprise. Make no mistake - the Battledome is up and running of course, but daily prize collecting is all that it has offered since its opening. The new Battledome still makes hobby battling nearly impossible. Nearly impossible. One of the Battledome Chat's few remaining active figures, user Neoskulltula has taken on the task of revitalizing competitive 2-Player battling. Neoskulltula has created a never-seen-before format that allows only the 97/20/35 League 5 build; I will go further in depth later in this article.
Small but Not Forgotten
After expressing my major concerns regarding the Battledome over and over again, I can say that I am a little bit worn out. I am sure many other vocal players, both at the Battlepedia and elsewhere can relate. Nothing about the Battledome has changed recently, and there are only so many ways to dissect the current problems. That is why I have chosen to focus on the "little things" this month and to examine the small components that made the Battledome great. Sometimes, in a case like the full Battledome revamp, the little things get ignored in favor of focusing on the critical issues at hand. This does not make the little things moot points, however. Many of the small components to Battledome could be more easily tweaked than some of the major problems, and these small tweaks could help hold over a restless Battledome community while the larger issues are being handled. Below are a few of the "little things" that I enjoyed about the old Battledome and would enjoy seeing implemented in the new Battledome.
The "Wall of Icons"
Perhaps the most noticeable small change in the new Battledome is the removal of the "wall of icons". For those who do not know, in the old Battledome icons were not represented by an icon type image and a numerical quantity but instead were represented by numerous icon type images, one for every icon inflicted. This wall of icons provided an appealing visual representation of the power of a weapon.
Although the new icon images better reflect the artistic style of the new Battledome, it would seem that many experienced battlers still miss the quantity of icons that would appear in the combat log. A strong weapon like Ghostkerbomb or Faerie Slingshot is not done justice by having its icons compacted to one of each type followed by a number; there was something special about marveling over a crushing blow from one of these weapons. Although Punchbag Sid has yet to appear in the new Battledome, his infamous Ultimate Chive of Death would not feel the same as it once did if represented by two "x80"s.
Furthermore, there is no real benefit to removing this simple pleasure from the Battledome. The numbers following icons are all integers; fractional icons are rounded up, just like when attacks were represented entirely with icon images. If the numbers listed after an icon type reflected the actual icons inflicted this change would be more understandable, but as it is it offers no more information than before and still has removed a simple spot of visual appeal.
Hopefully the Neopets Team could re-implement the wall of icons into the new Battledome; making icon displays a preferential option either way could ensure all players get what they desire in this scenario.
In-battle HP Display
Of the many changes to the in-battle interface, the display of hitpoints is one of the more easily noticeable alterations. In the new Battledome, pets' and challengers' hitpoints are now displayed as a vertical bar along the left and right sides of the interface as opposed to appearing solely numerically underneath pet names in the old dome. Like the wall of icons, this is not a major change, but it still has its drawbacks. Currently, only current HP is being displayed; there is no sign of maximum HP anywhere. The lack of visible max hitpoints lessens the value of an impressive screenshot, since a screenshot will be unable to tell the starting hitpoints of an opponent unless taken before any moves are made.
Also, copying and pasting the results of a battle do not carry over as well as before. The lack of the maximum HP means that battlers must either manually type it in, or leave it off altogether. Again, this is a very miniscule change, but adding the maximum HP to the interface would be another small, simple addition that could please battlers.
Post-battle HP Recharge
Compared to the ways that icons and hitpoints are displayed, post-battle healing in 1-Player fights is a larger concern. Still, I would consider it to be another small issue, as the need to heal up after every battle is a nuisance at worst. This nuisance can become quite aggravating when fighting many battles in one sitting, particularly for battlers with obsolete healers. Players with obsolete healers tend to rely on the post-victory recharge in 1-Player to heal their pets for subsequent 1-Player and 2-Player fights. Although there are a multitude of ways to finish a 1-Player fight with full or nearly-full hitpoints remaining, players are now forced to alter their strategies to avoid having to repeatedly heal up outside of the Battledome.
Besides the annoyance of having to frequently heal outside of the Battledome, consumable healing potions have spiked upwards in price as a result of this change. The increased need for healing potions may have the motivating factor behind this change, but it seems quite contradictory to the Neopets Team's ultimate goal of limiting the extent of inflation. The Neopets Team combatted this by re-implementing post-victory healing during the Obelisk War, but it seems silly to not have this healing take place all the time. The reality is that no battler truly likes using healing potions more frequently, even if that battler did not mind the change too much. Forcing players to spend more time preparing between fights slows down their ability to battle, which seems to oppose the primary goal of the new Battledome - encourage battlers to fight more.
"Free" Withdraws from 1-Player Fights
The last small change to the Battledome that I would like to discuss in this article will undoubtedly be the most controversial, but hear me out here. For starters, I should explain what I consider to be a "free" withdraw.
In the old Battledome, players were free to leave 1-Player battles midway through without taking a loss. If a battle did not go according to plan, the player could leave the battle, heal up, and take another shot at bringing down the challenger. In the new Battledome, players cannot simply exit a 1-Player fight; a 1-Player battle that has been started must be finished, just like 2-Player battles. If a player does not wish to finish out a 1-Player fight, they must now press the scary withdraw button, which will count the same as a loss. This change means that players might as well just finish out every battle and hope for the best, even if their plan went horribly wrong.
Is this change one for the worse? Not necessarily. I personally do not enjoy this change, which is why I bring it up here, but I do understand that some battlers approve of this change.
Supporters of this change believe that this change forces battlers to fight to the end with honor; there is no running away in the new Battledome. Supporters of this change might also say that battlers who obsess over win percentage can no longer back out when a loss is probable.
I am one of those battlers that obsess over win percentage. Although I may be biased here, let me explain from my perspective. This change may make 1-Player more like 2-Player, but in no way is 1-Player anything like 2-Player. 1-Player is highly based on luck. Challengers pick moves randomly; challengers completely ignore reason. Jade Scorchstone on the first turn? Seems like a good idea, says the 1-Player challenger.
I ran out of snowballs. I better just do nothing.
1-Player challengers lack intelligence. Because of this fact, 1-Player fights are based largely on luck. (And the fact challengers can spam Lens Flare endlessly, but that is an entirely different discussion in itself.) Sometimes challengers will string together a set of great moves; other times they will make fools of themselves. There is no real predictability in 1-Player.
If every 1-Player battle must be finished, battling challengers forces the player to rely on luck just as much as the challenger. The higher the player's stats, the less luck plays a role, but theoretically any challenger with Lens Flare could use the ability a hundred turns in a row.
In the old Battledome, withdrawing was actually the biggest strategic component available against totally random challengers. Knowing when to back out was a skill in the old Battledome; strategic withdraws required more than just a basic understanding of the Battledome. The educated battler would be aware of how much damage he or she could sustain in any given scenario and would know how risky it would be to continue at any given turn.
The thing to know about 1-Player battling and myself is that I absolutely hate losing to a mindless opponent. The same is not true about 2-Player and myself; I can live with the fact that a real person outplayed me. 1-Player challengers, however, lack any sense. I do not want to lose to this kind of an opponent. My support for free withdraws spawns from the days when I started tackling the Defenders of Neopia missions. I had a lackluster pet as well as a fairly low budget. In order to defeat the Defenders opponents, I had to devise crazy strategies and utilize unconventional weaponry. This of course came with the fact that I would have to withdraw and reenter many times to finally get the outcome(s) I wanted, but I persevered and to this day a few of my Defenders victories stand out to me as some of my biggest Battledome accomplishments.
My other options would have been to fling myself at the challengers, hoping for the best and ultimately sustaining tens if not hundreds of losses in the process. Alternatively, I could have waited until my pet was much stronger. Either of these options seems to be much less ambitious than the way I went about beating Defenders opponents. I wanted to be smarter than the randomized challenger. Free withdraws in 1-Player allowed this desire to be possible.
The four changes I listed above are all minute in comparison to the other issues facing the new Battledome today. Still, I felt that these issues deserved some attention too. Although these issues may seem somewhat silly to bring up when speaking of such an incomplete product, remember that great games get both the big picture and the little things right.
A New Style of 2-Player Battling
I mentioned at the beginning of this article how an avid battler has taken on the challenge of attempting to revive organized 2-Player. Although a few players sought out opponents to test out the new Battledome at the beginning of beta, the level of enthusiasm for 2-Player battling has slowly declined since. In addition, no player-organized 2-Player event had taken place on the Battledome Chat in the months since the closing of the old Battledome.
The unfortunate reality is that the new Battledome is currently inhospitable to competitive 2-Player battles due to many glitches. With many game mechanics malfunctioning, freezing and abilities in particular, successfully completing a glitch-free 2-Player fight can be a lot to ask for.
Despite the widespread glitches, Battledome Chat regular Neoskulltula, also known as Greg, would not be deterred. Greg had an idea for a new style of 2-Player battling long before the old Battledome closed, but his idea became optimized in the messy state of the new Battledome. In the middle of May his tournament finally took place, and participants including myself were pleased at how the event turned out.
Greg's format is unique - it is less restrictive than the popular 500k set cap fights, but the format still places a number of restrictions on weapons based on their power. Additionally, the tournament was limited to only one stat build: 97HP/20STR/35DEF. For those that do not know, 97/20/35 is a common League 5 build; battlers without a pet conforming to this build could easily train a pet up to these stats in about a month. Greg chose to limit his event to only one League because this would ensure that participants would have plenty of opponents to battle; he chose this particular build because of its high hitpoints in comparison to its fairly weak strength boost.
The goal of this format is to encourage longer battles; the hitpoints to strength boost ratio helps enable this. To further make lengthy battles a possibility, weapons are limited to 12 offensive icons; dual duty weapons may not exceed 15 total icons. Dual duty weapons that fully block an icon type, like Hanso Charisma Charm, are banned as well. These restrictions create a scene much different from the Anagram Sword-based slugfests that are the norm today. In this format, defense is king, and unusual weapon choices like Starry Battle Dung suddenly become more viable.
To limit the chances for glitches to interfere with the fights, stealing and freezing are banned, and level 50 and higher abilities are also banned. (No Lens Flare! Hooray!) The level 25 and lower abilities are still somewhat quirky, but these quirks are small in comparison to the higher level ability issues. After all, level 25 abilities seem to be a good cut off point since a pet trained from scratch only needs to hit level 32 for Codestone training when training for this format.
The only serious glitch that could jeopardize this format is the major glitch that threatens 2-Player battling in all forms. I am not completely aware of when and how this glitch occurs, I am not sure anyone has figured that out yet, but sometimes the player that submits their move first may have their move shown to their opponent. Obviously, if this happens even once in a battle, there is a chance that the opponent may change their move in accordance to their newfound knowledge, changing the course of the battle. This glitch could easily make the difference between wins and losses. Over the course of the nineteen battles I fought in the inaugural 97/20/35 tournament, I had this glitch happen in my favor twice: once in a loss, another in a blowout victory. Although the glitch did not determine the outcome of either battle, the possibility still remains that this glitch could change the course of a battle or even an entire tournament. The worst part about this glitch is that it is undetectable; all 2-Player battles rely on honesty at this point. The best way to avoid the glitch at this point is to avoid refreshing the battle page, but that is not an absolute way of avoiding the glitch.
Despite this glitch, my overall impression of this first tournament was very positive. Anything the helps breathe some life back into the Battledome I will endorse. This format is casually competitive, and welcoming to battlers with modest budgets. Greg has two more events planned using this format, the next one to take place in mid-July. I encourage anyone interested to head over to the tournament board on the Battledome Chat.
- It would seem that we are overdue for a new weapon in the Hidden Tower or at the Smugglers Cove. So far this year only one such weapon has been released - Dr. Sloths Personal Bath Buddy. In 2012, five Hidden Tower items and two Smugglers Cove items were released. In 2011, eight Hidden Tower items and one Smugglers Cove item were released, although five of them were the Anagram Swords. Shield of Faerieland, Skarls Hasty Mace, and Face Mace all came out during the summer months last year; perhaps it will not be long before we see another high-end weapon debuting.
- Props to the Neopets Team for releasing Jar of Rejuvenating Brains. Thanks to this well-placed 60HP healer, we will hopefully never again experience extreme healer inflation during war time. Greater Healing Scroll went from 100k to 700k during the war hype!
- In addition to Jar of Rejuvenating Brains, not one, but two Obelisk War prizes sport 5 icons of Fire defense. How uncommon is it to find 5 icons of Fire defense? For Shop Wizard options, the only choice is Flaming Oven Gloves. After that, the only other serious options are Faerie Tabard, Shield of Faerieland, and the uber-rare Skarls Amulet. Fancy Dress Armour and Wand of Lameness may not be spectacular weapons by any means, but they are still part of an exclusive group.
- It appears that the ability Shade is not blocking Dark icons, even if Dark icons are pictured in the combat log. There are many, many things glitchy about the new faerie abilities, but I noticed this particular glitch while participating in the inaugural 97/20/35 tourney. No one seems to be discussing this particular issue, but the lack of discussion most likely stems from the greater issues at hand.
This article was written by: Penguinqwert