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The New Battledome - For Better or Worse

A comprehensive critic review of the new Battledome

This article is written on March 4th, 2013. The battledome may be subject to change after the date of publication.

Introduction/My Purpose

The new Battledome has been in the beta phase for several months at this point in time, and we are still unsure of when the Battledome will be deemed fully operational. At this point, many of the intended features such as faerie abilities have been reactivated, but other features such as HP increase desired by battlers are yet to be seen. Although it is important to remember that the Battledome is unfinished, and that nothing can be considered final, I have decided to take on the task of comprehensively reviewing the new Battledome to date. Many discussions have arisen on the Neoboards and in the Jellyneo community about various topics related to the new Battledome, but I have yet to see a full-length review written on the new Battledome as a whole. This is why I have chosen to write the review you are about to read, not only to make my own opinion visible, but also to represent the vast majority of veteran battlers with countless hours of old Battledome experience.

About Me

Before I dive into topics of the new Battledome, I must first introduce myself and where I come from as a Neopets player. Any player that attempts to review the new Battledome will have some sort of bias; therefore I find it important to describe who I am in order to make this review more meaningful. I go by penguinqwert both on the Neopets site and on the JN forums, although most players refer to me as Penguin or Steven. I have been playing Neopets for almost ten years now, and my entire time spent on Neopets I have been dedicated to battling. Without the Battledome, I cannot imagine that I would have spent much more than a year on Neopets. The Battledome, with its highly competitive nature in both 1-Player and 2-Player, made Neopets my game of choice and after many years of experience in the 'dome I chose to become a member of the in-Depth Battlepedia staff this past year. I believe that I am qualified to write such a lengthy critic review of the Battledome as I have spent much more time than the average Neopets player in the Battledome and therefore can provide meaningful feedback to what the site's heaviest Battledome users desire to see in a Battledome update. It is my hope that when all is said and done the new Battledome is able to please the hardcore Battledome community as well as help welcome in a new generation of avid battlers.

Out-Of-Battle Interface

I believe that the navigational parts of the new Battledome are an appropriate place to begin this review as these parts will be the first to be seen by any player that ventures into the new Battledome. The interface very well might have been the biggest need for a Battledome update. The old Battledome's homepage was, for lack of a nicer word, a disaster. The set-up of the homepage looked to be a decade behind the times and many of its links led to outdated pages or pages that simply no longer existed. I would not be surprised if more than just a few new players were so overwhelmed by the old Battledome's interface that they simply ran away and never came back.

On the other hand, if the new Battledome improved anything, it would have to be the interface. The new interface is exceptionally easy to navigate for new and old players alike. All of the outdated links are now a thing of the past, and with the exception of the still mysterious "featured challenger" button, all links contain vital content. (As an iDB rater I have to say that our Battlepedia is much better though) Perhaps the most notable improvement besides the cleaning up of loose links would be the addition of the faerie ability panel and the ability to equip weapons inside the Battledome. Putting equipment and ability sections in the new Battledome helps with organization and also makes it more apparent to new battlers that faerie abilities and equipment are vital to success in the Battledome.

Some veteran battlers may complain that the new interface has a comic style to it, but ultimately the cleaner navigation should outweigh any artistic complaints. The updated and easily visible tutorial page along with the already easy navigation of the new Battledome will help allow newcomers to settle in smoothly.

Inside The Battle

Compared to the out-of-battle interface, quite a bit of trouble has been caused by the fight page. The most eye-catching addition of the new fight screen would be the inclusion of a background for the two opponents and animation corresponding to each turn. Although flashy at first sight, this new artwork and animation quickly gets repetitive and old, if not mildly aggravating. The new design of the fight screen leads to slower operation than the old Battledome, especially for those with slower internet speeds or older computers. The Neopets Team also announced that players with older versions of Internet Explorer would be unable to use the new Battledome.

This new design appears to be alienating some battlers and prospective battlers, which seems contrary to the goal of a new Battledome. When looking at the new art and animation, it appears that Neopets is having some sort of identity crisis with the new Battledome. The goal was likely to appeal to a wider audience through interesting fight graphics, but it appears that this is not an appropriate goal for the Neopets site. Neopets is not a site that will ever compete with console gaming and pay-to-play PC games in terms of graphics, simply due to resources and browser limitations. In other words, it is not an achievable goal to strive for top notch graphics and animations in the new Battledome. Even for users who initially enjoyed the new design, it does get old quickly and will not be the component of the Battledome that retains players. Simply put, the new design is not a worthwhile trade-off for the increased potential for lag. It was certainly true that some things needed to be redrawn, but the new fight page seems a bit overdone and unnecessary. A solid compromise to the above issue would be to provide a "disable animation" option to the new Battledome. This option would allow players on slower connections or older computers, as well as anyone who is not particularly interested in the animations to disable them in order to mitigate Battledome lag slightly.

Besides the graphics and animation, there are several other changes to the fight screen. The most instantaneously obvious change a veteran battler would notice would be the new icon type images and the removal of the "wall of icons" from the combat log. The Neopets Team's rationale for the elimination of the wall of icons was to clean things up a bit, but it is questionable as to whether this change really helped anything. In the old Battledome the walls of icons were to the far left and far right sides of the combat log, meaning they were out of the way and not difficult to decipher. The new Battledome now lumps all icons of the same type on the same weapon together into one whole number sum. This change is not a huge deal, but it is not a helpful one either. The whole number sums still do not account for fractional icons at all, making it just as difficult to know the true power of a weapon as before. Ultimately, veteran battlers would just prefer to have the wall of icons back for the sake of nostalgia; there is just something special about seeing every single icon landed by a crushing hit. As for the icon images themselves, this change is more of a minor adjustment than anything. The new icon images are neither better nor worse; they simply reflect the new Battledome.

A more notable concern of the fight screen regards the visibility of a freeze. In the old Battledome, a giant snowflake would appear underneath the pet/challenger's image to signify that they are frozen the next turn. In the new Battledome, the equivalent of the giant snowflake appears in the animation, and does not remain on the screen. Although a player can replay the animations or read the text in the combat log, both of these are inconveniences of the new system. It would be much easier to have a giant snowflake equivalent remain visible for the whole duration of the turn to signify a successful freeze.

The last notable change to the fight screen would be the weapon boxes. The weapon boxes make it very obvious to the player that weapons ought to be selected; it amazed me how often a new player in the old Battledome would fail to realize that two weapons needed to be clicked on. The new set up makes it slightly clearer. Multiple-use weaponry selected in this new system also stays selected the following turn, making "grinding" faster, a much welcomed addition.

Overall, the fight screen could use a couple of improvements as stated above. The ultimate goal here should be to make the fight screen more efficient and quicker. If there is one thing that online gamers hate, it is lag. An option for reducing the graphics or animations would go a long way in improving battlers' morale.

Premium And Neocash Content

The new Battledome, like any recent release or update on the Neopets site features the inclusion of Neocash content. In my opinion, the Neopets team did things the right way when it came to adding premium and Neocash content. Both areas of extra content are completely optional and do not put free play users at any severe disadvantage.

Premium users now get access to the Cosmic Arena, where they can fight challengers not available to the rest of the Neopian public. As long as the prize drops for this arena are not disproportionately better than prize drops in the other arenas, I would find extra challengers to be a nice, fair perk to premium users, especially if HP increase is re-implemented. Still, getting a couple of extra challengers to fight would not be a big enough draw to premium membership for many players. Alternatively, the NC Mall could start selling "Unlock Tokens" that could permanently grant access to extra challengers, offering a way to get the challengers without a full premium subscription.

Fans of Neocash wearables can now obtain special edition prizes through using Battledome claws and unlocking casks. For all of the worries that the Battledome faithful had while speculating how Neocash would be implemented, it appears that the Neopets team took a very tame route, to the BD community's relief. Overall, the Neopets team took an excellent approach to adding premium and Neocash content. The new pay-to-play content in no way damages the integrity of the Battledome.

Battledome Loot (Prizes)

For many players, the biggest allure of the new Battledome is the abundance of rewards. With the exception of the Faeries' Ruin plot, the old Battledome did not offer any sort of post-battle monetary rewards. The new Battledome now offers the ability to earn up to 1,500NP a day and up to 15 item prizes. Prizes vary by challenger, and at this point it is clear that not all challengers are equal when it comes to their generosity. As of now, the Koi Warrior is a notorious Codestone farm, while other challengers seldom drop any loot at all.

It is fairly obvious that prizes encourage more people to battle. Since challengers do not increase HP at the moment, if a player can beat a challenger once, he or she will be able to slaughter that opponent countless times to yield their daily loot. The prizes do not take much time to obtain with loot-friendly challengers like the Koi Warrior, and many prizes are valuable commodities such as Dubloons, Bottled Faeries, and Codestones. The ability to quickly gain large amounts of Neopoints makes Battledome prizes unquestionably popular.

Although the prizes are popular, it is dangerous to correlate that statement as "the new Battledome is popular". There is a big difference between enjoying the prizes and enjoying the battling itself. Many players will only fight until they have hit the prize limit for the day, which would suggest that the prizes are desirable, but the desire to battle is no greater now than in the old Battledome. It is not far-fetched to suggest that if prizes had been added into the old Battledome similar to the way they were enabled in the Faeries' Ruin plot, the old Battledome would be as popular as the new Battledome is currently.

A possible reason for why some players enjoy the difficulty system currently in place is that it offers unlimited access to a reservoir of daily prizes. If a battler can defeat a challenger, they will be able to continually beat down that challenger without ever having to reinvest their prize earnings into better weapons or training. Casual battlers who use the prize earnings for their other Neopets hobbies likely do not want to lose access to such easy income now that they have been given a taste.

Prizes are a nice motivation to battle, but it is important to differentiate between enjoying prizes and enjoying battling. The increase in Battledome participation can be largely attributed to players simply going through the motions to earn their prizes. Without HP increase, as I will describe later in this review, there are very few battlers actively enjoying the Battledome simply for the love of the game.

Faerie Abilities

One of the most anticipated updates in the new Battledome had been the release of the new faerie ability school. In the old Battledome, most faerie abilities were utterly useless, and all useful abilities could be acquired once a pet hit level 30. However, the abilities that were useful fit nicely into the grand scheme of the Battledome, and although powerful, they did not feel as though they were unreasonably strong.

The new Battledome's faerie abilities are now organized into ten tiers, with each tier containing three ability choices. The Neopets team, upon release of the faerie school, did mention that the abilities are subject to change, but in their initial state the ability tiers appear to have been hastily strewn together. In most tiers, there is one ability that is supremely better than the other two. In the current tiers, this makes the other two abilities a complete waste of effort as any reasonable player would take the best ability. In order to make the new Battledome more strategic and interesting, the Neopets team ought to tweak the abilities as they said they might, or rearrange the abilities to create some difficult choices in each tier. After all, the goal of a choice of three should be to present the player with a predicament of which one to choose. As of now educated players have a rather easy decision in front of them.

In addition to the poor construction of the tiers, some faerie abilities seem to have powers that are quite out of hand, especially considering that pets no longer have a limited power bar. Abilities such as Lens Flare, which disables an opponent's weapons, Rejuvenation, which can fully heal the user, and Throw Pillows, which has a 100% chance of freeze, are absurdly powerful. Abilities like these can be compared to unleashing a new species to an isolated island; they change everything as the environment was not meant to tolerate them. Against the current 1-Player challengers, these new abilities make it exceptionally easy to take down tough opponents. This is because these new abilities are far too powerful compared to the old load-outs of these challengers. With weapons included, pets can now potentially have two full heals or two 100% freezers. Along with this, battlers can have two turns of disabling their opponent's weapons with Lens Flare and Warlock's Rage. As they stand now, some of the new faerie abilities are ridiculously overpowered. One solution would be to toughen up the existing challengers, but a simpler solution would be simply to tweak the abilities before the Battledome exits beta.

Some abilities also carry a rather peculiar usability limitation to them: Once per Day. This is a rather unusual way of limiting how often an ability can be used, and this limitation drastically cuts down the worth of such abilities since most battlers typically fight more than once a day. The best way to explain why Once per Day is a bad idea is that the Neopets Battledome does not function in real time, it just functions in turns. The Battledome is a strategy game at heart; participants can take great lengths of time figuring out their moves. Because there is no timer involved in the Battledome, it seems silly that some abilities would have a timer on them limiting their use. On the other hand, ability cooldowns that some new abilities are sporting seem much more appropriate, as the cooldowns are based on number of turns.

One last point of note regarding the new faerie abilities would be the increased level requirements. In the old Battledome, a pet could obtain any abilities desired before they even obtained Berserk Attack at level 50. The new faerie school now has level requirements that go as far level 500 for tier 10. This is quite a step up from the previous level requirements, and at the higher tiers there is a gap of 100 levels between abilities. Players with exceptionally high leveled pets argue that this finally gives increased incentive to train level, but on the other side of the argument it is important to note that this alienates new battlers. In the old Battledome, weapons classified players' wealth, but abilities were available to everyone at a very modest level. The new Battledome now makes many abilities only available to the high level battlers, and the gaps between abilities pose a very daunting task to a battler just starting out. It is reasonable to make the ability requirements steeper than in the old Battledome, but the scale of requirements should be sized down a bit. Going from less than 50 in the old Battledome, and then all the way to 500 in the new Battledome is a massive jump, and few players were ready for such a transition. With Red Codestones dropping in price, is it so wrong for the main point of the level statistic to just be for training purposes?

The Missing Stances And The Attributes Of Species

With the topic of faerie abilities fresh in mind, now is a good time to bring up the stances and species attributes, or the lack thereof. Recently discovered images point towards the basic stances such as "Defend" and "Berserk Attack" returning, but there has still been no mention of species attacks and resistances.

In the old Battledome, species attacks and resistances along with species weapons helped add a species culture to the Battledome. Not all pets were created equal, with some having better attacks, some with better resistances, some with better weapons, and some just had nothing special at all. Some pets, such as Scorchios and Pteris gained immense popularity thanks to strong resistances, making the Battledome less diverse. Nonetheless, species factors added an extra element of strategy that would be a shame to lose. The diversity of species traits helped make battles more interesting when weapon sets were similar, and choosing the right species was also important for building a play style. Although largely unnoticed by the casual battler community, species attributes are missed by hardcore battlers. Veteran battlers would be receptive to a revamp of the species attack and resistance values to balance out the different species more, but they would also appreciate to see the species attributes return in their original form.

Difficulties System vs. HP Increase

This section I purposely saved for the end, and it is by far the most controversial element of the new Battledome. In the old Battledome 1-Player challengers became stronger with every win. Each challenger would gain a set amount of HP with each win, and would also increase in strength and defense boosts when certain benchmarks were reached. The new Battledome now features a difficulty system, where each challenger has three difficulty modes: Average, Strong, and Mighty. A challenger on Strong mode is tougher than on Average mode, and that opponent on Mighty mode is tougher than on Strong mode, but regardless of difficulty the challengers will always remain at their same originally set statistics, win after win. There is an argument for both the difficulty system and the HP increase system, so I will attempt to describe both:

Players that like the new difficulty system claim that the system is better for newcomers, and that grinding wins against a growing opponent is boring. The crowd that enjoys the difficulty system is mostly composed of casual battlers, which is also the majority group on the site. It is questionable as to whether this system is that much easier on newcomers, as there will always be difficult challengers and easy challengers, and even in HP increase mode, the easier challengers grow stronger at very tame rates. The fact is that newcomers will still have to spend at least a little bit of time training and at least a small amount of Neopoints to get any wins at all in either system. As for the claim that grinding wins against a growing opponent is boring, this is puzzling as grinding wins against an opponent that doesn't change cannot be any more exciting. If anything it would have to be considered even more boring as the challenger will never become any more challenging. Very few players, casual or hardcore, actually want to fight an unchanging opponent over and over again. It simply is not any fun; it gets very repetitive. The likely culprit is the new Battledome's prizes. The majority of players supporting the difficulty system likely mean to say that they enjoy the endless supply of daily prizes that remain available so long as the challengers don't get any tougher. If challengers did become tougher after being beaten, this would force players to reinvest some of their winnings into training and improving their battle sets in order to still be able to beat the challengers. If prizes were taken out of the equation, it would be interesting to see how many players would want to endlessly beat up static opponents.

Players that like the HP increase system are typically more experienced battlers, and are players that battle for the love of being challenged. Although these players enjoy prizes, they were willing to spend countless hours before prizes were even implemented because they enjoyed pure battling. Players that like the HP increase system know that after beating even the weakest of challengers many times, sooner or later that challenger will pose a legitimate threat to them. At this point, battles become more interesting as a player must figure out how to take down their opponent, as opposed to mindlessly clicking away. The feeling of achievement that comes from piling up large numbers of wins against ever-growing opponents is the real prize for players that are fans of the HP increase system.

It should be obvious that I am a fan of the HP increase system. The problem with the difficulty system is that it is an all or nothing system. If a pet can defeat a challenger once in the difficulty system, it will be able to defeat that challenger an endless amount of times. If a challenger is too tough, however, a pet will not be able to beat that challenger at all. This leads to fewer divisions between players and longer gaps between being able to beat opponents. This system is simply not fun after the first few battles. The only perk to this system is for the ability to gain prizes, but this is not the true meaning of the Battledome.

With the HP increase system, a player can effectively reach a stopping point on every challenger they can defeat. Eventually, the challenger becomes so strong that the pet can no longer defeat it without first training and/or improving its equipment. This allows players to set individual benchmarks, and encourages them to strive to set the bar higher.

Despite my clear preference for the HP increase system, I do feel that it is ridiculous that there are so many arguments demanding only one system or the other. I firmly believe that both systems can coexist, appealing to the widest array of players. I end this segment with my proposal for a system that utilizes both the difficulty system and the HP increase system. I posted this idea on the Battle Closed Beta Neoboard, and I have received a very positive reception for this idea. I would be ecstatic to see this idea implemented. It goes as follows:

This system can benefit both casual and hardcore battlers alike. The difficulty system would not record wins and losses as multiple wins against static opponents would be rather silly to log. Instead, a completion system seems more rewarding as wins against a variety of opponents here would be more meaningful than a lot of wins against a 10HP Chia Clown. This would also be a useful practice field for all battlers, as wins and losses would not count. Since there is no more withdrawing and reentering in the new Battledome, this would provide a safe ground for players to try out new strategies without risking their records. Also, the difficulty system would still enable players to farm prizes again static opponents. The HP increase system would log wins and losses and offer a high score table, just like in the original Battledome, appeasing passionate veteran battlers. Ultimately, I believe this prospective system is most fair for everyone.

The Spirit Of The Battledome

In closing, I would like to share what I believe to be the spirit of the Battledome. During these trying times of the new Battledome, it is important to remember what the Battledome is really about. The Battledome is one of the most competitive aspects of the Neopets site, if not the most competitive. It is not about prizes and Neopoints, but about trophies, large win counts, and the respect of the Battledome community. Dedicated battlers have spent far more on training their pets and building up a weapon set than they will ever receive from daily prizes and war plot rewards. This is because the Battledome is the primary hobby for hardcore battlers. It is not a source of wealth, but rather where the wealth is spent.

The Battledome is not unlike Avatar collecting or painting pets or building a gallery. These are all endgame goals. They do not generate Neopoints, but rather these are the various goals that players enjoy spending their Neopoints on. This is because the ultimate rewards on this site are not the Neopoints themselves, but rather the feel-good accomplishments that can be achieved with the help of some Neopoints. The Battledome is not for everyone, and that is OK. But that does not mean that the Battledome can just become a watered down version of the original thing to allow all players to profit off it for their other goals. Asking to make the Battledome easier for everyone would be like requesting that all Avatars become clickables, or that everyone get free paintbrushes simply because they do not want to invest the time in reaching these achievements. It is simply wrong. That is disrespectful to the players that have invested great amounts of time and effort to achieve their goals.

That is not to say that the Battledome is inhospitable to newcomers. With some of the updates of the new Battledome mentioned earlier, combined with the fact that good beginner weaponry and training costs are now cheaper than ever, it is easy to jump into the action. It won't always be easy, but for those that enjoy a challenge, come join the ranks.

If the Battledome was deemed complete today, its future would be grim. But let's not think about that. Instead let's believe that the voices of many cannot go unheard. Be vocal about your opinions, and be constructive as you build them. The new Battledome, if done correctly, could go a long way towards reviving the Neopets site back to the way it was in the "good old days". I truly believe that it is not too late for the beloved Battledome to turn things around and become loved by players new and old. The ultimate goal of this new Battledome should be to appeal to as many players as possible. When evaluating the new Battledome, think not just about yourself, but the entire Battledome community as a whole. The Battledome community and its potential to either grow or decline, does hinge on the Battledome, after all.

This article was written by: Penguinqwert