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Playtesting, Leaks, Outrage, and the #HumbleBrag

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Well X-wing isn't the only game to be in "shambles" Armada had more OP cards in terms of over representation in the top cut of worlds and Netrunner is losing its player base.

But again changes like these seem more like acts of desperation when desperation wasn't really needed, no matter what people said. Sure Jumpmasters needs a nerf, it was the arc dodger alpha striker PWT ship that was master of everything weakness of nothing. But these changes, this shred the card and make everyone play off an FAQ virtual block cards is not the way. Say what you want, jumpmasters were not as bad as Armada's Commander Reiken. This would be just an overreaction to an ever growing hostility in the X-wing community and it will just going to encourage more hostility among the players

Edited by Marinealver

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The problem with making playtesting open is that people don't know what they want or what's good for the game. Every other day I hear people complain and crave a fix for the Tie Interceptor. The Tie Interceptor! Soontir F*****ng Fel! 

Now, the playtesters are in no means perfect but I'd say the problem lies more in FFGs dreadful internal testing, which has way more say over the direction of products than the playtesters do.

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3 hours ago, AlexiLux said:

The problem with making playtesting open is that people don't know what they want or what's good for the game. Every other day I hear people complain and crave a fix for the Tie Interceptor. The Tie Interceptor! Soontir F*****ng Fel! 

Now, the playtesters are in no means perfect but I'd say the problem lies more in FFGs dreadful internal testing, which has way more say over the direction of products than the playtesters do.

Hence the ever growing hostility of the community.

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3 hours ago, Stay On The Leader said:

Oh dear, he's underlining and bolding things again for emphasis.  At least nothing got underlined AND bolded for even more emphasis this time, I got off lightly.

Some things are just not worth engaging :/

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Good playtesting is critical but can be flawed even when done right.  Imbalance is inevitable in a game that won't stop releasing expansions.

So while doing the best testing possible it is just as important for a company to have a way to adjust quickly to problems post release as they arise.

that's why it is silly to swear off something like 'no card packs' forever...or an app, etc.  The reason doesn't matter.  Changes only coming through $80 epic ship cards at glacial speed only ensures that post release problems linger for maximum aggravation.

Edited by KelRiever

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10 hours ago, sozin said:

Hey,  boss, can I borrow some of that cred? 

@Velvetelvis none of the current Scum and Villainy cast is a playtester. We all have been in the past though (Wave 6 was my last wave).

>80% of my content on these forums is not podcast related. 

 

Technically not true, I was never a playtester. I looked into it, but I red-lined their IP clauses so they couldn't potentially have permanent and exclusive IP ownership of every single thing I ever said in a public forum, including previous MathWing posts. Alex Davy lobbied my case but FFG legal wouldn't budge and neither did I, so I never became a playtester. I'm quite happy to talk about this now especially in the context of the overall playtesting and balance environment.

 

10 hours ago, phild0 said:

Slightly off topic, but I do want to again point out, just because something is strong/good/hard to beat, doesn't mean it is bad for a game. A new challenge is just another way for a game to progress.

Wave 11 sure gave us that new challenge with Nym, strong Lowhhrick/Selflessness/Biggs combos, and Cruise Missile potential.

Until we get some more time into them, it really is unfair to call them "mistakes" without also stating "In my opinion" beforehand. Otherwise it is misleading and inadvertently convinces players to not even bother to use skill or tech choices to overcome the new hotness. I know my first impressions when facing both Nym and Biggs+Lowhhrick were "wow this is strong, but at least it is easier to overcome than Attani and Jumpmasters".

 

In this case it is a mistake. Unfortunately I didn't quantify how bad it would be before release, because I didn't go back to the drawing board and do the pre-requisite math until after the tournament results had started coming in. Eyebrow raising tournament results or strong playtesting results are always a good motivator to go back and look at the fundamentals. I wrote up some show notes for the S&V episode #56 that I unfortunately wasn't able to be on, and the notes didn't make it into the audio, but I address the squad directly in the show notes. Here's the pertinent snippet:

 

Speaking of Biggs, the combination of Biggs' ability, Selflessness / Draw Their Fire, Lowhrick free evade, and Rex debuff has created a monster. Jess is a perfect fit to add as the DtF carrier with very solid jousting value. I wanted to actually be on the podcast to talk this point myself, but here’s the cliff notes anyway. This squad's ability to spread damage around fundamentally breaks the focus fire assumptions that apply to all other ships and squads, which gives it a huge advantage. [Warning: some sort-of-complex math to derive exactly how big that advantage is. We’re skipping that part here!] The individual pieces already have good jousting value, so spreading around incoming fire makes the squad worth around 115 - 120 points of total jousting value. The previous record holder was pre-nerf Parattanni at around 115 points, and we all know what that did to the game. To be fair, Parattanni has some other things going for it: PS9 arc dodger, stress control, and turret / auxiliary arc. But no squad should be worth well in excess of 100 points of jousting value unless it’s all shuttles with terrible dials. This new Biggs squad is so ruthlessly efficient that it's quantifiable power creep, and extraordinarily difficult for most lists to fight.

 

Note that the sort of analysis that I had to do for the biggs squad is fundamentally impossible for anyone at FFG to do [edit: at least until they prove they can pass some particular graduate courses at the Naval Postgraduate school and/or can re-derive the stuff in my non-public MathWing 3.0], so without this insight they probably thought like you did, and erred on the side of powercreep to make the expansion interesting. This leads to my next point...

 

8 hours ago, Stay On The Leader said:

When I played [Game A] I got the distinct impression that R&D/playtesting was a shambles.  A short while after that [Game B] offered me the chance to join a playtesting group and because it would let me peek past the curtain I accepted... what I found behind that curtain was worse than I had ever thought possible.  Now I play [Game C] and keep an eye on [Game D] and they share many of the same issues from [Game A].  I also understand that [Game E] and [Game F] have experienced similar things.

The same things go wrong across so many products that I believe the utter shambles I saw when I worked on [Game B] was not an isolated thing to a particular designer or playtest community but endemic to FFGs company identity and overarching design ethos.

It won't be any different on future.  Accepting their standards of design, organisation and communication as a reality is something you have to do when you decide to invest in an FFG game.

 

The playtesting process is less than half of the equation though. Getting a competitive game out the door involves three stages:

  1. Initial design and architecture (industry job title: Game Designer)
  2. Later development and additions (industry job title: Game Developer)
  3. Competitive technical balance (industry job title: ... there is none)

FFG is really good at #1.

They are pretty good at #2.

They are not very good at #3 for competitive miniature games.

 

Each of these requires a different set of skills. The problem is that few (if any) companies in the industry even have a job role for #3. Technical balance for a miniatures wargame requires a very particular set of analytical and mathematical skills. This becomes a business problem because those skills command higher pay. Generally speaking, companies aren't going to want to want to pay a Technical Balance Director more (and maybe a lot more) than the pair of developers working on the game. This is compounded by the fact that, at least according to glassdoor.com, FFG underpays its employees even relative to industry standards.

Edited by MajorJuggler

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13 minutes ago, MajorJuggler said:

Speaking of Biggs, the combination of Biggs' ability, Selflessness / Draw Their Fire, Lowhrick free evade, and Rex debuff has created a monster. Jess is a perfect fit to add as the DtF carrier with very solid jousting value. I wanted to actually be on the podcast to talk this point myself, but here’s the cliff notes anyway. This squad's ability to spread damage around fundamentally breaks the focus fire assumptions that apply to all other ships and squads, which gives it a huge advantage. [Warning: some sort-of-complex math to derive exactly how big that advantage is. We’re skipping that part here!] The individual pieces already have good jousting value, so spreading around incoming fire makes the squad worth around 115 - 120 points of total jousting value. The previous record holder was pre-nerf Parattanni at around 115 points, and we all know what that did to the game. To be fair, Parattanni has some other things going for it: PS9 arc dodger, stress control, and turret / auxiliary arc. But no squad should be worth well in excess of 100 points of jousting value unless it’s all shuttles with terrible dials. This new Biggs squad is so ruthlessly efficient that it's quantifiable power creep, and extraordinarily difficult for most lists to fight.

This.

it needs a new thread, so I'm quoting you @MajorJuggler; thanks!

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I think the other driver people maybe missing out on, in terms of games design, is that it's also a 'product'.

FFG need to make sales, and the best way to do that is either with ships that appeal to the core IP (Star Wars classic ships and pilots) or with ships that appeal to the competitive player. The latter means they basically have to be better than the previous ship they purchased a few months ago. 

FFG have got stock to sell, and that means 'balance' is a relative term. 

The very best combination of ships / upgrades and pilots should be spread across releases to encourage players to buy as much stock as possible. Alternatively packaged in higher margin 'big box' products (e.g. palpatine) or a combination of both strategies.

Playtesting is done to ensure the above sales goals are true; not to ensure balance. If the play testers come back and say all the *best* cards are in the iconic Star Wars ship then something's gone awry because the rest of the release would sell poorly.

FFG will always continue to allow extremely strong lists to persist without FAQs until they feel the competitive game is being too vocal and detracting from sales. And only then will they act if they feel they have realised a decent sales volume.

Theres no point crying about this, it's just the business element of the game industry. 

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58 minutes ago, Tam Palso said:

The latter means they basically have to be better than the previous ship they purchased a few months ago. 

No no no. They do not have to be better. They simply have to be as good. Or, alternatively,  interesting enough to appeal to the Johnnys (the players who get a thrill out of making wonky combos and trying to make less efficient cards work through efficient synergies).

 

In fact, the ship itself doesn't even need to be as good as long as the upgrades included are efficient.

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FAQ-type changes to existing, released content I absolutely think should be playtested in public. We're all kicking around those fixes; might as well provide a formal feedback mechanism.

New unreleased material ... I'm not convinced, and in fact I kind of think should be more restricted than it currently is.

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15 hours ago, Kdubb said:

@Kelvan , @blairbunke and @sozin are all frequent or semi frequent contributors, often with very strong content. @Starslinger72 I'm not sure if he has been active frequently, but has always had worthwhile content to share. He might be more active on Reddit if I'm recalling correctly. And now with @MajorJuggler playing a part, if he chooses to continue to do so, they might be the most active podcast on the forums. Surpassed by maybe only Shuttle Tydirium or maybe Krayts as well (I don't know who's who with them).

Yah the shuttle tydirium guys (at least heychadwick and babaganoosh, not sure about the others) are very active on the forums

13 hours ago, Kdubb said:

Stop Phild0! We all hate wave 11, it is ruining the game, and the game is dying.

But on a serious note, Phil is right. As far as wave 11 is concerned, let's give it at least some time to sink in before we decide everything is busted. Lowrrick, Nym, more TLTs, and a 5 attack 3 point munition that lets you keep your lock are all pretty nuts. But we are also in the "ooh new stuff!" phase. Now the counter play phase begins.

5 die missile for 3 points definitely SOUNDS potentially ridiculous. The speed requirement definitely helps balance it. We'll see if it's still too good or ends up falling to the wayside because of said requirement. I Do expect to see it on the kihraxz with the new title

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You missed another possible options:


Playtesters are isolated from each other by NDA, thus there might be a underground network of people in the know, because a few things spread by word of mouth, but there is no large pool of discussion to properly pool testing resources together to find all the OP combos. You can not develop and thus test the meta of a new wave if those test players can not play in tournaments with each other, but are limited to play in small circles with each other because the NDA does not allow them to talk in "public" with each other nor to start a league or tournament series. 
If that would be the case for testing, you would heavily reduce the efficiency of your testing. 


 

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5 minutes ago, SEApocalypse said:

You missed another possible options:


Playtesters are isolated from each other by NDA, thus there might be a underground network of people in the know, because a few things spread by word of mouth, but there is no large pool of discussion to properly pool testing resources together to find all the OP combos. You can not develop and thus test the meta of a new wave if those test players can not play in tournaments with each other, but are limited to play in small circles with each other because the NDA does not allow them to talk in "public" with each other nor to start a league or tournament series. 
If that would be the case for testing, you would heavily reduce the efficiency of your testing. 


 

I doubt that's the case. Every time I heard/read discussions about the playtest forum, it seemed to me people were talking about a single forum.

 

A NDA that lets people talk to each other (on that single forum) but not play with each other would be quite weird IMO.

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1 minute ago, LordBlades said:

I doubt that's the case. Every time I heard/read discussions about the playtest forum, it seemed to me people were talking about a single forum.

 

A NDA that lets people talk to each other (on that single forum) but not play with each other would be quite weird IMO.

I have yet to hear about a vassal league or tournament series of play testers, which I find indeed weird. The best reason I could come up for that seems to be the NDA preventing tournaments between testers. Now, it could be just that testers don't leak any informations about those events or that I just missed hearing about them, but as there are so many other leaks AND testing seems to be rather unproductive … *shrugs* It would explain a lot without introducing malice. 

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4 hours ago, SEApocalypse said:

I have yet to hear about a vassal league or tournament series of play testers, which I find indeed weird. The best reason I could come up for that seems to be the NDA preventing tournaments between testers. Now, it could be just that testers don't leak any informations about those events or that I just missed hearing about them, but as there are so many other leaks AND testing seems to be rather unproductive … *shrugs* It would explain a lot without introducing malice. 

There are people who playtest on locked vassal games.

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17 hours ago, AlexiLux said:

The problem with making playtesting open is that people don't know what they want or what's good for the game. Every other day I hear people complain and crave a fix for the Tie Interceptor. The Tie Interceptor! Soontir F*****ng Fel! 

Now, the playtesters are in no means perfect but I'd say the problem lies more in FFGs dreadful internal testing, which has way more say over the direction of products than the playtesters do.

What makes you think that problem gets worse with more people?

What about closed play testing solves that? They're not paid, they have no incentive to balance the game.

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8 hours ago, SEApocalypse said:

You missed another possible options:


Playtesters are isolated from each other by NDA, thus there might be a underground network of people in the know, because a few things spread by word of mouth, but there is no large pool of discussion to properly pool testing resources together to find all the OP combos. You can not develop and thus test the meta of a new wave if those test players can not play in tournaments with each other, but are limited to play in small circles with each other because the NDA does not allow them to talk in "public" with each other nor to start a league or tournament series. 
If that would be the case for testing, you would heavily reduce the efficiency of your testing. 


 

It can be difficult to predict the meta a year in advance. Even assuming the playtesters have the final text of product that is going to release before what they are testing, but not yet public, that can be a difficult feat at times. Not to mention errata that the developers may be planning to test as tourny results come in. 

But the most important thing that must be said is that blaming the playtesters is wrong. They have no power. They can only provide data, which the designers much interpret correctly. You can claim that the U-boats were completely obvious, but be honest. When was the last time you had actually ever thought about Deadeye? It ranks up there with Expose in terms of usefulness. So yes, things can get overlooked, but that blame does not belong on playtesters. It belongs on the designers. 

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6 hours ago, Sithborg said:

But the most important thing that must be said is that blaming the playtesters is wrong. They have no power. They can only provide data, which the designers much interpret correctly. You can claim that the U-boats were completely obvious, but be honest. When was the last time you had actually ever thought about Deadeye? It ranks up there with Expose in terms of usefulness. So yes, things can get overlooked, but that blame does not belong on playtesters. It belongs on the designers. 

The game is not yet at the point where it's impossible to analyse every combination of cards for a given ship. For the JM5K, a natural analytical path might be:

1. This ship has 2 torpedo slots, and Extra Munitions and guidance chips now exist.
2. This ship has the durability to make munitions a safe bet.
3. Munitions are good on this ship [contracted scout], because I can fit three in the list, but it's difficult to get target lock.
4. Hey, wait a minute... Deadeye!

Sure, it might make some time, but the fact that the JM5K got nearly every good thing in the game, at a price point cheaper than worse things is just astounding.

I can understand the need for discreet play testing, but at that point you've accepted responsibility for anything they, as developers, miss.

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1 hour ago, Astech said:

The game is not yet at the point where it's impossible to analyse every combination of cards for a given ship. For the JM5K, a natural analytical path might be:

1. This ship has 2 torpedo slots, and Extra Munitions and guidance chips now exist.
2. This ship has the durability to make munitions a safe bet.
3. Munitions are good on this ship [contracted scout], because I can fit three in the list, but it's difficult to get target lock.
4. Hey, wait a minute... Deadeye!

Sure, it might make some time, but the fact that the JM5K got nearly every good thing in the game, at a price point cheaper than worse things is just astounding.

I can understand the need for discreet play testing, but at that point you've accepted responsibility for anything they, as developers, miss.

To be fair,  there are a lot of accounts of playtesters sounding the alarm on various points about he Jumpmaster as well as stories of last minute changes.  I think even at some point Alex Davy talked in an interview about adjusting the points because the outer rim smuggler was in the same class of ships but wasn't seeing play.

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As somebody who has FFG playtested I would be very wary of pointing fingers at them, they can be as baffled by design decision as the rest of us.

The game I worked on had a card for playtest that AS A SIDE EFFECT of its intended use just broke a whole aspect of the game.  Like the x-wing equivalent of making a ship that you just picked up and put down where you want it on the table facing whichever way you wanted.

Playtester feedback was that this was just stupid, and anyway even if the card didn't do this the intended effect was probably too good anyway.  Playtester feedback was ignored until it got that some of the teams simply stopped playing with the card because it was getting in the way of finding out about any of the other cards as the best way to play was to try and get thus card into play ASAP and win with it.

Finally the developers relented and took the card out of the pool while they reworked it.

When it was reintroduced into playtesting later in the process it wasn't fixed, it was MORE powerful at its intended use, and still broke the game exactly the way it always had - that mechanic was unchanged.

I believe the card was eventually cut so you could say playtesting ultimately worked but it was a proper, like, just... what the **** are they thinking???  How poor is their understanding of this game if they think this was a nerf not a buff?

 

Edited by Stay On The Leader

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On 7/28/2017 at 9:43 AM, Crit Happens said:

Yeah, this issue has popped up a few times, like when they dropped the deadeye nerf FAQ a couple weeks before worlds. Brutal timing for those not in the know, and had been practicing with/against deadeye scouts for months. For the playtesters... how long did they know that they didn't have to worry about it? That's a huge disadvantage for people that are spending a ton of money in travel, hotel, and vacation days to go play in an event that should be an equal playing field.

Are playtesters allowed to participate in events? That would be silly, every company putting on contests forbids employees and their family from participating.

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12 hours ago, Sithborg said:

When was the last time you had actually ever thought about Deadeye? It ranks up there with Expose in terms of usefulness. So yes, things can get overlooked, but that blame does not belong on playtesters. It belongs on the designers. 

Deadeye? The second I saw the scouts, it really one of those obvious combos. And it was discussed pre-release already. Ok, technical the last time I thought about deadeye was when new bomber builds and unguided missiles was a thing. It still one of the tools of choice to bring ordinance onto your target on ships with not enough PS to target lock in advance. This and LRS, and target synchroniser. 
Either way, I did not blame the playtesters in the slightest.

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