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September 23rd
Dev Blog: Year 3 Events 
Posted in Idle Champions.

This week we'll be releasing the Highharvestide event for the third time, marking a new milestone in Idle Champions history. It's an exciting time for us, but also a challenging one, as we start to run into many issues that did not exist in earlier versions of our events. In this blog I will briefly outline our plan for year three and future events, and then take a step back to touch on the challenges with (and our goals for) events in years 3, 4, 5, and beyond.

Notice: This structure was changed dramatically in the second event of the year: Liars' Night. This blog no longer represents the final implementation of year 3 events.

The System

  • The new Year 3 Champion will be available to unlock just like previous years' Champions have been (you have immediate access to their recruit adventure, variants, and free play).
  • You can choose one of the previous years to also unlock like normal (you will then able able to access that year's Champion recruit adventure, variants, and free play).
  • Additional years of the event will cost 6 Time Gate Pieces to unlock (as above).
You may have some questions about why we choose to implement a system like this. I will address a number of player concerns that we've read since we announced this on our weekly stream last Thursday, however, first I want to talk about the challenges and things we had to consider with year 3+ events.

The Challenges

Each time we repeat an event we add a new Champion to that event. For example, year one of Highharvestide only had Stoki. In year two we added Farideh. In year three we will add yet another Champion. This is very important for us as it gives us an opportunity to shake up the meta and potentially introduce some new lore or bring a popular content creator's Champion to life. These are all exciting things, and we want the newest Champion to always be the star of each repeated event. One possible solution was to lock the newer years' Champion behind earlier years' completion (as we have in Crusaders of the Lost Idols), but for the aforementioned reasons this was not something that would work well in Idle Champions. The new Champion always needs to be available right away.

With all of these new Champions becoming available, this excess of event content presents a challenge, as the available time to do it in remains constant (12 days per event). Imagine a sixth year event with six Champions to unlock, gear up, and experiment with. We can easily see new players being incredibly overwhelmed with the extremely tight timelines required to complete 24 adventures/variants and a similar number of free plays. It could make Idle Champions start to feel more like a full-time job than a fun game you can play in your spare time. This is something we desperately want to avoid, so any solution we came up with needed to be able to scale in future event years and keep the amount of content players will have available to play relatively consistent.

Other Goals

One of the things we balance our events around is how much equipment players' have for their new Champions upon completion. Generally this is a full set of blues and at least one epic item. We would like this to continue to be the case moving forward, as recruiting a new Champion without any gear isn't terribly compelling and often times means that new Champion will simply be ignored in favor of their more geared compatriots. With three, four, five, or more Champions available to recruit from an event, the time and token pressures would quickly lead to most, if not all, of those Champions emerging from an event under-geared. We would rather players focus on gearing up one or two Champions per event as opposed to feeling like they need to spread themselves thin in order to try to gear up all of them. While this may be a minor problem in year 3 of an event, it compounds itself moving forward.

With that said, we did want to give our more hardcore players the option to spend more time and currency (Time Gate Pieces/event tokens) on an event if that's their desire. Time Gate Pieces seemed to make sense in this regard, as they can already be used outside of events to unlock what are essentially two event free plays with a guaranteed gold chest in each. Instead of two gold chests, we could let people access an entire years' worth of event content, with the base adventure to unlock the Champion, three variants, and unlimited free plays for as long as their event tokens held out. Many players already used bounty contracts to get additional tokens in an event and do more free plays than the basic token drops would allow.

Side Benefits

This system has a couple other indirect benefits. As mentioned above, it increases the value of Time Gate Pieces. Instead of getting two gold chests for six Time Gate Pieces, you could potentially get eight or nine chests (with most likely 3+ being gold). That's twice the value for something you already had and were already going to use to get event chests anyway. Additionally, in some analysis earlier this year, a large percentage of active players had more than one Time Gate worth of Time Gate Pieces (6+) saved up, with a non-trivial percentage having at least a dozen pieces just sitting around. This new system allows players to derive some additional value out of those extra pieces, if they so desire. It also allows players who have a hard time finding time to open manual gates to get predictable, arguable more powerful use out of their Time Gate Pieces that they may otherwise struggle to use. This has an overall effect of increasing the value of Time Gate Pieces, making them a higher priority item for players to obtain and giving us a better excuse to include them as rewards in future game systems.

Secondly, one of the main things we rely on to tell how we're doing is community feedback, and another small benefit of this change will likely be an increase in community chatter around the start of each event about which of the previous years' Champions are the highest priority to recruit and gear up. We gain a similar benefit each time a natural time gate weekend begins and we get to see what people are suggesting on the reddit thread, steam forums, and discord discussion. These discussions and debates give us insight into what the community thinks about each Champion, and informs our balancing decisions in the future.

Player Concerns

We've been reading a lot of reddit, discord, and forum discussion since we initially talked about this system last week during our weekly stream and we've seen a lot of good feedback and concerns. I'd like to take a few minutes to address some of those comments directly, so hopefully you can all understand where we're coming from a little better. These aren't direct quotes from any particular player, but rather generalizations of feedback we've seen across the board.

"I can't get as much stuff from year 3 events as I could from earlier years"

We've designed this system to actually keep the amount of content you can easily get from events exactly the same -- that's one of the core goals! You get two potentially new Champions and exactly as much gear for them as you could from year 2 events. We consider content beyond those two Champions to be a bonus; more content than you have been able to unlock in previous years.

"But I want to unlock and gear up all the available Champions"

That's a fair point, and that's why we provided an option to unlock additional years instead of just locking them out entirely. What we want to avoid is players feeling like they have to unlock and gear up all the available Champions in order to keep up with the meta. Gearing up all available Champions from scratch will require a significant investment, including additional bounty contracts to get the tokens you need for additional free plays. We want that to be a choice that is not made lightly.

We also don't think that, in practice, most players will be too concerned with unlocking and gearing up all event Champions right away. From both our impression and analysis, players tend to focus on only one "meta" Champion per event and mainly gear that one up, doing only a token amount of work (pun intended) on the other, less desirable Champion. With three (or more) available Champions, events where more than two of them will be actively considered "OP requirements of the meta" are unlikely.

"You're locking me out of content behind a rare item or paywall"

While this is true, players do have the means to eventually make the Time Gate Piece cost fairly negligible through Patron shop purchases and the normal drops. Some players have made the point that new players may not have access to Patrons, and this is absolutely fair, but I would also argue that since they don't yet have access to Patrons (a large chunk of content in the game), is it actually unreasonable that they also don't yet have access to additional content in events? There will always be a progression curve from a new player to a veteran player, and these additional costs will inevitably become negligible at some point on that progression curve. We will also likely be adding more ways to get Time Gate Pieces in the future.

"I can't complete the event achievements and am missing out on those bonuses"

This is a fair comment. However, four out of the five "event" achievements can actually be completed outside of their events. Only the achievement for completing event variants can not be completed by recruiting the Champion (say through a time gate) and gearing them up/using them outside of events. For those concerned about the difficulty of gearing up event Champions outside of their events, we have actively been taking steps to make it easier with weekend promo chests (sign up for the newsletter to get a free one each week), time gates (which will be receiving some more love in the future), and more recently Patron chests (which can drop gear for a wide variety of Champions). Future Time Gate tweaks should also help in this regard.

"Just increase the event tokens drops and leave everything like it was. Problem solved."

It's true that this may have been a workable solution for year 3 events (and we did consider it), but as we move forward into years 4, 5, and 6+, the other challenges and design goals described above would have eventually overcome any additional token drops we provided. For the vast majority of our players there simply isn't enough time over the course of a 12 day event to recruit, gear up, and learn to use so many new Champions.

"This is unfair to veteran players."
"This is unfair to new players."
"This is unfair to middle-of-the-road players."

We've seen a lot of comments like this, and while no system is perfect, we believe our solution strikes the right balance between new, mid-range, and veteran players. New players may indeed struggle to obtain enough Time Gate Pieces to unlock three Champions every event, but this will allow them to be more strategic about their unlock choices and let them spend more time exploring the Champions they do unlock. Likewise for mid-range and veteran players who may already have one or both of the Champions from previous years, this will let you make real decisions about which Champions you truly value, or whether you'd like to spread out your effort to gear up more than two Champions per event.

"I'll never be able to catch up now"

It is true that this change will slow down the ability of new players to "catch up" to veteran players in terms of having all the Champions unlocked and having them all geared up. It may surprise you to hear that we don't necessarily view that as a bad thing. Spacing out content and new Champion unlocks may actually be more fun than unlocking them in masse. Additionally, since you always get immediate access to at least two Champions each event every year, you will eventually be able to unlock all of that event's Champions without spending any Time Gate Pieces. For players who start now, that will be after playing all the events twice. Considering "day-one" players may have been playing for four years by then, it doesn't seem too unreasonable to have done it in basically half the time.

With That Said...

With all of that said, we always pay attention to how these types of changes are received by the community and will not hesitate to make changes in future year 3 events if our solution isn't doing what it was intended to do. We appreciate all of your feedback and encourage you to keep it coming. We are interested in hearing what you all think after the Highharvestide event has ended and we've all experienced the system in practice as opposed to just in theory.

An Apology and a Gift

I'd like to close off with an apology. One of the other big concerns we saw from players is that we've announced this new system too late and they don't have time to save enough Time Gate Pieces for the Highharvestide event. That is fair, and it's our fault that we didn't say anything until now, so we're sorry for that. With that in mind, we'll be gifting everyone six Time Gate Pieces when the event starts. You can use these to unlock all three Champions from Highharvestide, or save them for a manual Time Gate or future event unlock. They won't expire or disappear if you choose not to use them right away. Our goal here isn't necessarily to eliminate the unlock cost for this event, but rather to let everyone enter the event as if they'd been saving up Time Gate Pieces for a couple of weeks in anticipation.

Update: Wed Sept 25, 2019

Spending 6 Time Gate pieces to unlock the last Champion also comes with an extra 5000 event tokens to spend on the event. Thank you for your feedback on these changes.
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