Author Topic: The Achievement Based Levelling System and why it really needs to be changed  (Read 8630 times)

Offline Velvet

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The achievement based levelling system in GOIO right now is unique. That's nice. It's also however a huge problem and in my opinion one of the reasons that despite brilliant gameplay Guns has yet to fulfil its potential as a brilliant game.

I know that Adventure mode is slated to have something different, but I think changes are necessary for PvP - and far more important where a quick, accurate indication of a player's ability or at least experience level is really helpful - and I hope for at least some steps to be made in the right direction long before Adventure mode is released.

I would argue that a more conventional system where XP is rewarded based on a crude assessment of a player's contribution to a match would be far more fit for purpose. And yes, in such a complex game as GOIO such an assessment would have be very crude (less crude than the end of match player score.. hopefully). But... well. Does assessing players, to take a few examples, based on how many crews they've subjected to a munker to farm mine kills, how many gunners they've persuaded to bring lochnagar shot and how many times they've flown a hwacha/harpoon galleon to farm disables on harpooned ships seem better to you?

What I perceive as wrong with the current system:
  • A core problem: completing achievements, which people are welcome to enjoy but many really don't - a fact recognised in nearly all other games, where achievements exist but are not pushed on you as the only progression system - is forced on all players as the only way to gain general acknowledgement as an experienced player, and is in other ways highly unsatisfying as a progression system.
  • The other important problem - that level is generally used as a way of gauging a player's experience at a glance, but is presently has significant inaccuracy due to varying levels of willingness to chase achievements.
  • It often encourages captains to fly builds that are not enjoyable for their crew
  • Encourages crew to bring inappropriate equipment instead of trying to maximise their contribution to their team
  • Often results in a choice, particularly for captains, between flying something fun and flying something that will maximise achievement gain
  • A similar choice arises when choosing which map to play on; play on a fun map or grind CP maps for that 200th point cap.
  • Some "achievement bottlenecks" can impede progress due to ridiculously difficult requirements (eg. 25 1200m kills), ridiculously grindy requirements (cap 200 points), overdependence on skill of other players (eg. gunner kills achievement, certain pilot achievements involving lochnagar, lumberjacks) or relation to the rarely seen 3v3 and 4v4 CP maps.
  • Doesn't act as an incentive to play in the same way as conventional levelling. I predict a clear cut system where you can see progression and an XP bar filling every time you play even if you, say, flew a sensible build, will be a lot better at getting people to keep playing the game obsessively. And people can say what they like but for such a fun game, GOIO has conversion rate issues from "interested newb" to "committed player".
  • Achievement levelling is less intuitive than a nice XP bar.
  • The achievement tracks don't scale or adjust nicely. For example, when adding a new map, ship or gun it's normal to expect that new achievements will be added alongside that new content or you'll end up with a strange scenario where progression only involves half of the loadout possibilities. However, adding achievements to progression requires either reshuffling a track in a way that breaks the linear progression through the track in a confusing way (or maybe leads to doing an achievement twice, not sure) or sticking the achievements on the end of a category, where they may as well not exist because the vast majority of players will never see them.

And for the sake of balance, what advantages I can see in the current system:
  • It is unique
  • It encourages players to try new things

I know some of you won't agree but I feel this is something that needs fixing.

So what does a good levelling system actually do?
  • Gives a general indication of how experienced a player is
  • Encourages players to play the game regularly by giving them a sense of progression towards in-game rewards or respect from other players

Guns does admittedly fulfil those requirements. But in a really, really awkward way. As we all know, achievement-levels aren't a great experience indicator - but because they are simple and prominently displayed they are what a majority of players are going to notice first and base their assumptions on. Matches played is a better indicator: a fixed amount of XP rewarded per match would probably give a more useful level than what we have now. Of course, that solution is less good at fulfilling what is probably the more important priority; using progression to make the game enjoyable, which is of course what progression systems were invented for and why they are so widely used.

Progression systems are compelling because people like rewards and respect. People also like tangible progress - an activity, even an unsuccessful activity, is much more satisfying if you know you still got some progress towards your arbitrary goal out of it. Which is why even in a skill based game it's almost impossible to finish a match with no XP gain - although quite rightly it's normal to gain significantly more XP if your team was successful and you were a major contributor. Yes, such systems do encourage a certain amount of grinding. Just like GOIO encourages an enormous amount of grinding, normally doing things that you don't enjoy while giving your crew a terrible time with a stupid build or by bringing the wrong equipment for the job. An effective progression system consistently gives tangible results, sometimes in a trickle but never will you finish a game without that tiny, motivating trickle of XP there to keep you going. Guns has a much less appealing progression system because you have to go out of your way, do things that often aren't fun, to get the flow of achievement progress. Giving a consistent feel of progress is important - which means you progress every time you play a match.
Well executed, progression is in itself enjoyable and a strong motivator to play a game. In Guns right now, progression is a chore which drags the game down - fortunately the rest of the game is good enough to compensate. In any other game the progression system is a core, positively contributing element - and they all use the standard XP system.

Offline Omniraptor

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I generally gauge players' skill by number of matches played and then by what loadout they run. Seing their number of commendations would be nice too, or maybe just number of commendations from more experienced players.

I agree that the achievements are not very fun. The popups (you just repaired an engine! Repair 467 more to get a level!) are really annoying and uncalled for. I'd rather get rewarded for doing something awesome after I do it, when I'm grinding towards a goal it feels like a job.

http://youarenotsosmart.com/2011/12/14/the-overjustification-effect/

http://blog.ihobo.com/2012/07/does-overjustification-hurt-games.html
« Last Edit: January 24, 2014, 03:06:15 pm by Omniraptor »

Offline Byron Cavendish

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A few of the high level achievements are, quite simply, sadistic. I have personally been level 14 for about 4 months; that isn't for a lack of trying. One achievement for example, asks for 250 capture points. Tedious before the anglean change, and now after, impossibly frustrating. In my year of piloting in this game, I have a lifetime 650 captures. That's including my current 133 towards this achievement. That means that I need to nearly do half of my lifetime captures for ONE achievement.

Another example, capture 10 points in flayed hills with a junker, win 10 flayed hills game. This achievement comes before a paritan and a dunes achievement, both of which I could achieve in a day. This achievement has taken me two months. I am now resorting to farming it. It shows a real disconnect from developer to player. Flayed hills never comes up regularly enough, and takes far too long to get this achievement done in any reasonably amount of time. And why a junker, what logic?

Offline Frazzledragon

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Additionally some achievments encourage people to join completely unbalanced matches.

How do you win a match with 5 more kills than deaths? By playing against noobs of course.
You need perfect victories on some map? Play against somebody who has no clue.

I think the achievments should teach you something instead of giving you tedious, neverending tasks.

Additionally, I'm currently stuck on the achievment for engineer, which requires me to personally get the last hit on enemy ships at over 1000 meters.
Using that as an example, I don't think it's fair that I as engineer should have to do an achievment that is almost as hard as a high tier gunner achievment, though that has 200 meters more to it.
I'm supposed to keep the ship alive and functional. It's completely off track to force the repairman to sit on the gun and grind for a kill that can only be achieved with three guns anyway. The artemis, the lumberjack and the heavy flak. All the other guns don't have enough damage (the mercury for instance) against hull to make it a reasonable effort or, much more simply, don't have the range to do so.

I would like to rate other people's performance to allow them to progress further through the game, or at least influence their XP-gain or whatever would be a good substitute for a leveling system.
That said, it'd be an alternative for the useless commendation system, but I guess that is a completely different topic.

Offline Omniraptor

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You're expected to win crazy king games with a junker? What madness is this..

Offline Crafeksterty

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I was level 8 for 4 months. Because i didnt chase achievements.

Before i got level 8, at lvl 7. I still had the first set of pilot achivements on maps. Now i am in the second achievement of the MAP set.



I really dont wanna do them. I in a very lucky time of day got a crew that were willing to give me those 2 harpoon achivements. Which got me to 9.
Chasing for achivements sure does help, but it is actually not a fun thing most of the time.


HOWEVER!
A TO DO LIST is actually fun to have. Choosing to chase them makes a new game out of the game. Sort of.

Offline Imagine

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I was level 8 for 4 months. Because i didnt chase achievements.

Before i got level 8, at lvl 7. I still had the first set of pilot achivements on maps. Now i am in the second achievement of the MAP set.



I really dont wanna do them. I in a very lucky time of day got a crew that were willing to give me those 2 harpoon achivements. Which got me to 9.
Chasing for achivements sure does help, but it is actually not a fun thing most of the time.


HOWEVER!
A TO DO LIST is actually fun to have. Choosing to chase them makes a new game out of the game. Sort of.
I think I've been at the levels I'm at for like the past two months. The numbers means pretty much nothing to anyone who doesn't chase them.

Offline Captain Smollett

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Sounds like the achievements still need a bit of refining.

There are a lot of achievements I really enjoyed getting, but there still are some that are just silly or way to grindy.

As for determining someones experience at a glance, I usually check matches played as well, something I'll do very frequently when paired with very high or very low ranked player so I have an idea how to organize the team.

Offline Baron Saturday

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I feel that a good system to have would be a combination of both.  Have a direct win/loss exp gain.  It's difficult to show how a pilot contributed to a match as we act vicariously through our gunners and engineers needs.  However, with that in mind, these 3 classes should be handled differently.

Gunners should gain exp based on accuracy, range, fires set, balloons popped, engines destroyed, guns destroyed, what gun was used, was it used in such a way that was conducive to a successful outcome.  Things of that nature.

Engineers should gain exp for what, how effectively, and how much they repaired or buffed.

Pilots MUST be handled differently.  Our job is complex and we must move in such a way that is good for our crew.  We really on our crews and our crews should be responsible for our experience.  Here's why.

A pilot must know more about their ship, their allies ship/s, and their enemy's ship/s than any other crew member.  We must effectively relay all information to our crews and allies pilot while making sure that our own crew's guns are on point and we are in an advantageous position.  The game cannot, nor should it, provide that information for us.  How effective our crew is will tell us how effective we are as pilots.

I run a brawling junker with gat mort on either side.  Depending on the map and ships I'm flying i take an art, merc, or barker on the front.  Certain maps will better use my front gun.  A merc is nearly useless in Paritan rumble and it's senseless to take a barker on dunes against two pyras.

Also, let achievements give exp as well.  I think it's good to take a junker out with two right side barkers, a harpoon on the front and gat/flak on port sometimes, but only if you know it's not ideal.  This game is practically telling me that crap builds are correct because it only rewards those builds.

So leave the achievement based leveling, but give me a system that rewards a proper build.

Offline Squidslinger Gilder

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Another example, capture 10 points in flayed hills with a junker, win 10 flayed hills game. This achievement comes before a paritan and a dunes achievement, both of which I could achieve in a day. This achievement has taken me two months. I am now resorting to farming it. It shows a real disconnect from developer to player. Flayed hills never comes up regularly enough, and takes far too long to get this achievement done in any reasonably amount of time. And why a junker, what logic?

I take it, you never got the achievement back before it was patched? If you did, you could apply to have it reinstated like I did. But back then, it was much worse. You had to defend 30 with a Junker along with winning. Yes it takes months to get it done and you will sit for hours in empty lobbies till people take pity on you and help you form it up.

Offline Dresdom

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I like the achievement leveling. It doesn't show how experienced are you, but how broad is your experience (as the achievement system discourages the stick-to-one-strategy player).

I know in other games level is important, as it unlocks new weapons/skills/stuff. In GoI level is just an aesthetic matter, so what's the problem about getting stuck in one level?

However maybe a match count / hours of flight should be displayed, too.

Offline Richard LeMoon

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If you watch the devcasts, you will see that the new matchmaking system will basically eliminate the current 'lobbies of Icarus' and go to straight up matchmaking based on skill algorithms that have nothing to do with achievements. Even the match list will vanish. I have a feeling that when they do this, the 'levels' will no longer be so prominently displayed.

Offline Thomas

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Overall I think it's not a bad system. It certainly doesn't show skill level, and they know this. But it does a pretty average job at reducing elitism, and encourages players to try out new things and play with different people. It probably wouldn't change much either. The experience you need to reach the max level under a system that uses wins/games played for experience would probably be made to be about the same time. We've all been on those games where that last level is just a nightmare grind. And it would promote players not to experiment a little.


However, some of the achievements are pretty ridiculous. 25 kills over 1300 meters comes to mind. Most of the guns that can hit at that range aren't for killing or very difficult to shoot with. The artemis has just the tiniest bit of breathing room if you're not using lesmok. And if you are, you're hurting your damage potential. The flak has a bit more breathing room, but is crazy difficult to aim with for most players. Then you have your lumber jack, but that's difficult and needs to be paired with something else for kills, and finally the field gun, which is pretty easy, but not a finisher. Not to mention that ships like to close the distance to a reasonable level, while you're stuck trying to back away through layers of clouds. Eventually you hit the map edge and sigh, because now you'll never reach the distance you need before you, your ally, or the enemy drops.


The CP are another sore spot with me. The upcoming changes to CP's (they talked about them during the fireside chat) might help a smidgeon, but in a lot of games you're not likely to capture a lot of points. Of course crazy kings are different, but the time they take is pretty intense. Most people end up with king of the hill, and it's very rare to have a back and forth match; and those also take obscenely long.




Then of course you have the players achievement farming, which most of us do to some level or another. Normally I wouldn't play a sniping ship and keep my gunners as far as possible and expect my gunners to take out targets if it wasn't for that achievement. But some players take it to the extreme, trying to complete achievements to the exclusion of all else. These are the guys that join and match and do nothing but break the balloon, or buff the engines even while you're in combat, or refuse to leave a certain gun because -that's- the one they need for the achievement.

Having a different leveling system wouldn't prevent level grinders, but it would make matches a lot more competitive. Whether that's a good thing or not I can't say.

Offline Omniraptor

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Matchmaking? In my GoI? Blasphemy!

Offline Richard LeMoon

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I recently had an engineer join my mobula crew with a buff kit and the wrong ammo. I asked him to change, and he got mad and said to just start the game because he needs the stuff for chieves. I told him straight up that I am the type of captain that will moonshine the ship into the nearest building to keep a belligerent crew member from getting a single chieve. He still refused to change or go to a more appropriate ship (others could have used the buff engie). So, I spent the entire CP match moonshining into buildings, destroying the balloon, and keeping his gun out of arc. The other captain was laughing pretty hard because any time the other team would come in, I would stop long enough to help destroy the ships, then go right back to moonshining into the nearest thing. It was a pretty fun match for me after all. That guy left as soon as the match ended. I don't think he finished a buff on a single part. 8)