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The Battledome, Community, Wars and the Future

Introduction

Before you read this article. I believe it is important for you to understand why I am writing this article and where I am coming from. I have been playing Neopets for over 13 years now. That is more than 50% of my life. The majority of this time has been spent working at iDB. I have spend countless sleepless nights organizing tournaments, creating content, rating, testing, and performing any other task that the Battlepedia needs me to do. The Battlepedia has become more than a hobby and the people I've met along the way have become family. I've grown to care about the Battlepedia and about Neopets as a whole. Some may say that it's excessive - and I don't necessarily disagree - but without this excessiveness, iDB wouldn't be what it is. We wouldn't have seen many of the great tournaments in the "good ol' days". I don't get paid to do this either, so why do I do it? I care. It's that simple. I want to see Neopets succeed, I want to see the battledome regain its former glory. I want to see the community enjoy events and be united like it used to be. This is why I am writing this, because I want us to move forward and lately we haven't been doing that.

The community

Recently the battledome community has been less than happy. We have seen long time players quit and old players come back just to leave immediately, disappointed. Who's to blame for all this? The community seems to be pointing their finger at TNT, but are they really 100% to blame here? Shouldn't we look at ourselves before we start blaming others? The battledome community used to be happy, excitable, have a sense of competition and loved to just have fun. How's the community today? We are bitter, unhappy, complaining, unwilling to help, sour and...old. This turn around has been brought, in my opinion, by a lot of disappointment, by lack of competition and by greed. Its no secret that TNT has been disappointing the crowd lately. The new battledome showed a lot of promise and although users were initially excited it feels like the whole project was just given up on. There has been a clear lack of updates, communication and bug fixes. The battledome community is giving up as well, a lot of users don't seem to be having much fun at all any more, myself included.

What can we do? What can TNT do? The problem lies with both parties. It feels as though TNT has decided to "snuff" the battledome community, taking the negative comments to heart and giving up on the community as a whole. The reverse is true; the community appears to have given up on TNT. This cycle must be broken in order for anything to happen. Change cannot happen if both parties turn their backs on each other.

The community needs to understand that in order to change plans, a lot of time and effort must go into these changes. Time is a resource that TNT doesn't necessarily have at its disposal. They are a company with paid employees. Time is money, money is limited. Additionally, they are owned by a company who has a responsibility to shareholders. Neopets has other features that need to be worked on. On the flip side, TNT need to express more transparency; being left in the dark only causes speculation, and speculation has been very negative lately. They need to tell the community that they are heard and that they will do their best to come up with a solution. Admitting to a mistake isn't a step backwards, it's a step forwards. It's easy to apologize, explain what went wrong and how it will be remedied. Such actions show consumers (ultimately we are consumers) that they are cared about and that their opinions matter. Let's face it: without consumers, products and services just don't exist. Once something like this happens, the community needs to understand, think logically and critically about the situation. Outbursts and anger only have a negative effect on both parties. No one wants to make something nice for the person who always complains.

How do we fix it?

There is no doubt in any battler's mind that the battledome does need to be fixed. In its current state it is broken, uncompetitive, and pretty boring. It's not a feature I would want to spend time using. That being said, it isn't beyond fixing, - to be honest, it's pretty close to being good. TNT has done an exquisite job creating the foundations for a solid product. What needs to be done now is tweaking, detailing, functionality, and adding features here and there. Catering the battledome to its users, while also making it friendly to newer players. These tweaks are not necessarily complex, but need to encourage growth and competitiveness. Users must have something to strive towards, and users who have worked hard need to be rewarded for their efforts. These rewards create incentive for newer players to really try and have better pets, understand the game. The battledome can be newbie friendly while remaining great for veteran battlers.

Below is a small concept I've made. Please note that I am NOT an artist. As you can see in the first image below. I've merely added an extra mode, the extra mode would be a "hardcore/ladder/HP" mode. Name it what you want really, the general idea is that the opponents HP increases only in that mode. This leaves the pre-set difficulties as an option, while adding a mode that is more competitive. Battlers love trying to get the most wins against opponents, adding a degree of difficulty sets limits on how far individuals can go and thus requires them to work a little towards achieving high scores (Most wins). This gives the stronger battlers a sense of pride and accomplishment while giving the newer battlers something to aim for. The difficulty levels give newer battlers a chance to practice battling at a constant level, to develop strategies and participate in the battledome without fear of opponents becoming too powerful.

The battledome records need to reflect what someone is doing. I don't only want to know who I've battled, I want to know what difficulty I've battled them at. The image below displays a simple tweak to the records page that would allow users to see how they are doing in the battledome more clearly. Being able to see at what difficulties you have beaten an opponent at can help you gauge what you should strive to do next. It also helps returning players understand where they are in terms of battling at a quick glance. Statistics are good, the more complex they are the better. Adding losses and ties with different difficulties is also something that may be beneficial. This format was used during the Obelisk event, therefore the system is already able to track these statistics; it shouldn't be much harder to implement it on a battledome wide level.

Battling as a Hobby

The new battledome has really turned the focus away from battling as a hobby, and towards using the battledome as a daily. This drastically diminishes the amount of engaging activity that can happen around the battledome. No one wants to host events based around a daily. What really brought the battledome community together, what created interest for wars and, one of the determining factors in the success of iDB was the fact that many users shared the same hobby. Users were interested in the battledome because it offered a wide range of competitiveness, from 1-player high scores to 2-player battles. A common interest is what creates a community. With the battledome becoming a mere daily event, the interest is lost because it cannot be a hobby. Once the interest is lost, the community follows, and the websites that support the battledome cannot function without a strong community.

Theycurrent prize system offer no incentive for users to battle more difficult opponents. It is a well known fact that the Koi Warrior offers the best prizes for non-premium users, while Jetsam Ace offers the best prizes for premium users. Battling the 37,700 difficulty Snowager doesn't reward the user with a prize that is better than beating the much easier Koi Warrior. What incentive do users have to beat such a strong opponent using the current system?

Wars

Let's talk wars. The first war I participated in was Meridell V. Darigan. I had no idea what was going on at first, my pet was weak, and I didn't get very many wins. One thing that I know is that I had a lot of fun. How did I have fun without being able to participate much? The answer lies in the transparency of the event and the participation of the community. The war was very transparent - users knew how many points they were contributing to their teams, point totals per team were displayed, and we even had charts with the top battlers on each team. This created excitement, the community strived to recruit newbies, and helped them in order to gain just a few points for their team. The teams were united and users worked together to try to help their team out. Additionally, the clear point system made it easy for fan sites to run their own contests, they could keep track of how users were doing and make their own little events where they could keep track of additional things like guild scores. The later introduction of leagues has made these events even more exciting.

Over the years, wars have become increasingly complex, trying to cater to users who complain and making more and more users complain along the way. We have gotten so far from the core concept that we have forgotten that the initial simple concept, although slightly flawed, was pretty good. A lot of users had fun and the sense of community was at one of its strong points. It wasn't an overly complex system, it was just plain fun. Complexity doesn't always make things more fun - in fact it can make things harder to understand, and that can make more users complain.

My War Concept

My personal concept for a war tries to take the best of both worlds; catering to both the newer battlers and the veterans. The concept is not very complex and I believe that additional transparency makes it much easier to understand. Transparency allows users to gauge how much they want to battle, how many points they get, and then when prizes come out they know what to expect, and what they deserve because they were able to follow their scores during the entire process of the event. It also encourages competitiveness among friends and on the Neoboards. As mentioned before, if users know how they are doing and how their team is doing, it encourages recruitment, and helping newer players in order to boost their teams score.

The images below represent what I believe scoring should be like. A war with two sides (good v. evil is classic), each wave comes with one opponent. For the sake of this example and my lack of artistic skills, I used the obelisk war template and Kanrik as an example. Initially there are 3 difficulties available - Average, Strong and Mighty. Much like the obelisk war, a certain number of wins in each difficulty will get you points. So 1 win in Mighty will get you 5 points (Points are arbitrary, just examples). These are reflected in all of the difficulty tallies. Once you reach 50 points, "doing your part" is filled and additional wins in those difficulties do not count towards points.

Once you have done your part, HP increase mode is unlocked. The HP increase mode is worth half of what the easiest difficulty is worth. The challenger would start with the same HP as Average mode, but their HP would increase with every win. Since the opponents are worth so few points per win (half of average mode wins), it would take a lot of wins to make the same amount of points as the initial battles take. This encourages veteran battlers to try to get a lot of wins, as it requires commitment and a lot of work to really get a significant amount of points. The battlers who are really dedicated and work hard towards the event will have earned their extra prize points whereas users who have "done their part" will still earn a generous amount of points relative to the more dedicated battlers. This creates a law of diminishing returns that isn't so steep that users do not want to keep battling, but that is steep enough that it takes quite a bit extra effort and work to really gain a big advantage.

Going Forward

The battledome still has some ground to cover. Defenders of Neopia doesn't work, 2-player battles have issues with moves (sometimes I'll get 2 moves in while the other player only gets 1), abilities can still be used while frozen, 1-player opponents can use 1-use abilities multiple times, reflection still seems pretty "borked, etc." Once these issues have been remedied and the above suggestions have been implemented, I believe that the battledome can become a staple part of Neopets and really allow the community to grow. Going forward, I believe that we not only need more transparency from TNT, but that we, as a community, need to be more receptive and understanding of how a business works. That doesn't mean we should let low quality and neglect fly by, but we need to think logically about situations, not emotionally. The battledome needs to cater to both the newer players and the older players. It needs to be inviting to the newer players and give them the opportunity to either keep playing at their own rate or decide to grow at a battledomer and strive towards an endgame. An HP increase mode creates an endgame that follows the players progress and always gives them a difficulty increase relative to their pet and how much time they want to spend playing.

This article was written by: Benladesh