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Star Realms» Forums » General

Subject: Why Don't People Criticize These Devs More? rss

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Alistar Gamer
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The Star Realms game and app are intriguing save for the one obvious and overwhelming criticism: campaign-stopping scenario design in the app. Every campaign has at least one mission that takes teeth-grinding repetition to defeat. Beating it once doesn't guarantee the ability to do it again, either.

People seem to let the devs off the hook for this pretty easily, as if winning after restarting to get the perfect early draw was something to celebrate...an indication of superior play or a great level. I could probably toss a golf ball into a teacup from 50 yards away 1 time in 500 if the wind was right. That doesn't make the challenge well-designed or indicative of anything in particular.

Granted, scenario balance is one of the hardest arts in game design right after game balance itself (something that Star Realms gets right) but this is one of the more egregious examples of sadistic scenarios ruining an otherwise good game I've encountered. It's relatively easy to doom players by stacking the deck against them in any game. Give one player half the starting money in Monopoly or make them skip every third turn in Yahtzee and you'll make the challenge harder too. That's hardly compelling scenario building though.

Granted, at least most of the teeth-grinders happen at the "hard" level, but still...
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I think most people "eh" it not because it's not bad (it is) but because the campaign isn't really the focus of the app for most of us. It's a tutorial and sorta fun thing to do if you don't have the time for a real game. I agree many of the challenges are silly, more of the challenge is in getting good luck than having good tactics (though you often need both tactics and luck - extra frustrating for those who can't figure out the tactics, since they never know if they're failing due to bad tactics or bad luck!).
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David Low
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I'm one of the weird ones, I stop playing random match-up games until I finish each newly-released campaign. To the level on every Mission at both Difficulties whistle It's just the Hard-Boss on the Heroes campaign that I'm left grinding out...sigh. I am mad. It's not like all those stars actually count for anything zombie

But as greylag alludes to above, there is a tutorial aspect to these puzzles. I've written elsewhere that I think I've learned a lot from the campaigns, in terms of "how to set yourself up to be lucky, when all looks lost".

Fundamentally, if you don't like them, and you don't feel that you get anything out of them, you should probably ignore them, and go do something that you enjoy. Life's too short to get frustrated over a crazy-silly in-app campaign mission yuk

What I cry over is when the developer tells us that they have a 30% win-rate on a scenario that I can't crack cry Although maybe they were just referring to Normal rather than Hard...!!

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Scott Heise
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The game was designed for PvP multiplayer, and it's designed extremely well for that. That's what we're here for. The single player campaign is a digital-only part of the game (not part of the actual physical card game), and was an afterthought. Frankly, I'm amazed at how well the single-player campaign works out given that the game wasn't designed with it in mind.

So I don't think most folks care about the failings of the single player campaign at all because we understand that's not what Star Realms is meant to be. Rather, we're thankful that the developers even went through the trouble of putting it together at all, cause they really didn't have to.
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I'll also add that the single-player got a LOT better with some of the later missions. From the Bases & Battleships stuff onward, it's much more fun, and the boss fights are fairer. Pirates & Nemesis Beast were the two most rushed, very early on in the game's design. Boss fights like the Machine Cult one where you get to scrap out of your opponent's discard pile are really fun and feel a LOT more strategic.
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Alistar Gamer
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I agree with that, greylag. Some of the more recent missions are intricate and interesting.

I can't get over the feeling that just when I think they've reformed, we get something ridiculous like Colossus. At least THAT one is at the end of the chapter and not blocking the player from progressing to more missions.

Make no mistake, the frustration comes from wanting to like the game, not disliking it. Also I have no problem with games that frustrate you when you lose. That's part of the challenge. Some of these missions cross the line from that into "basically pointless even if you win" because who'd want to spend another 500 tries to get that golf ball into the teacup again? (Hat tip and nod of respect to Mr. Low and all the three-star obsession folks.) Making losses feel like they matter is great. Making wins feel pointless (beyond a brief feeling of, "Thank GOD!") is a curious and counterproductive design choice in my opinion.
 
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Alistar Gamer
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@David Low I hesitate to interpret the dev's words but that 30% win rate seems like it has to be against normal. At any rate, it appears the "best strategy" amounted to accumulating purchasing power while doing maximum damage as quickly as possible which...yeah, that's the best strategy alright. Does anybody not take that approach if it's available?

Also I've seen plenty of variations of "I won because I got a Command Ship or Machine Base early". I agree with greylag's assertion that some of the missions are puzzles that teach you how to play, but missions that require an early uber card to defeat aren't among them. Basically the assertion is, "My strategy is to have the ideal super-card come up after I've accumulated enough purchasing power to get it. I plan to have those purchasing cards dealt to me in a single, early hand at the exact right time and I plan for my opponent not to buy it first. After my plan comes to fruition, I'll smash him." Again, who WOULDN'T take that opportunity if it's available? Either way, that's not teaching any strategy but hoping for the lucky draw.

Also in my experience the early lucky draw has never happened in Colossus Hard. I've seen the uber-cards come up but even if I ended up getting them, it was always too late because the opponent ramps up so quickly. You have to get VERY lucky to get 8 gold plus sufficient defense and/or bases in the 5-6 turns you have to make a difference against Colossus, especially since getting those income cards and enough defense or regeneration to stay alive means you're probably not accumulating scrap cards. Even if you have the 8 gold, getting it together amid the dross is difficult in that time span. Even if you get the uber card, there's no guarantee it'll see the light of day in time. This doesn't seem like a strategy/teaching scenario or a 30% win rate opportunity. It's closer to tapping buttons ad infinitum until the pretty cards line up just so.

I'll admit I'm not in the top 1% of Star Realms players and I certainly didn't design the game or scenario myself, but I've done well enough to get through all the other missions at both levels and that's how Colossus seems from my perspective.
 
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Alistar Gamer
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I know I'm spamming the thread but I did some test playing on Colossus Hard to make sure I'm not just imagining things.

It's not at all unusual for the AI on this scenario to win on Turn 12, meaning the player has 6 chances to play cards. This can be extended...I've been past Turn 20 a couple times, but most of the runs end quickly.

The first hand is 3 cards, meaning a max buy of 3.
The second hand is 5 cards, but all will be starters, max buy of 5.
(Those max buys are assuming no vipers show up in the deal.)
The third hand contains the 2 starter cards that didn't come out in Hands 1 and 2, meaning you're guaranteed it'll be minimum 40% starter cards.

That leaves 3.6 hands before death (or close enough to it) to make use of purchased cards. And keep in mind that most of those 3.6 hands still will be stuffed with recycled starter cards. Unless you spend gold buying red heroes you won't have a chance to scrap before Hand 3 and you can only scrap cards that have already been played. Ergo those critical hands will be pocked with bricks.

While you're buying cards to try desperately to keep afloat, damage the enemy, and generate gold (all at once) keep in mind that the opponent's pre-existing bases will shelter certain other bases--hello Blob Wheel--preventing you from being able to damage them at all. If you let the AI pick up any of them, you're dead. So you'd better keep defensive buying as a priority while you're simultaneously building up purchase power, attack, and defense. Oh, and scrap too, if you don't want to die in Deck 3. And don't forget to generate synergy between cards in your three hands containing mostly scouts and vipers.

Unless I'm missing something, this scenario cannot be described as anything but repeated insta-death while waiting for a one-in-a-million draw.
 
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Yeah, it's frustrating!

My advice is the same as the poster's above. Play Star Realms and you'll be in plenty of games where your opponent's 3rd buy is an Ark which they proceed to play every turn from then on.

Generally you've lost 99% of those games. If you play right, you can win 1%. If you play wrong, you'll lose 100%. If that 1 game is an important final or knockout match... you've not just saved your tournament/league position but to the people who saw the game, you're a legend.

"Play to your outs" is an important lesson even if you lose repeatedly. Once you're already doing that, I agree, it's pretty darn frustrating. But y'know, you only have to win it once! The AI has to win it every time...
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Alistar Gamer
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I agree with what you've said. I think it also serves to highlight my point and I'd like to move that point beyond just a matter of personal frustration.

I hear what you and others are wanting to claim about the game: that it teaches tactics, that it encourages players to look for novel solutions, that it requires perseverance. I agree that it can do all these things and does during the best scenarios. I very much understand people advocating for them and I support those claims.

This is exactly my point about why scenarios like Colossus Hard, et al, should elicit more negative feedback from the people most deeply invested in the game, its community, and evangelizing same. The reality is, Colossus Hard does not teach any tactics. The player is likely to lose even with perfect play of the cards presented. The vast majority of the time novel solutions will not change that story. No amount of perseverance will change it either...the lack of winning opportunity makes sticking to it likely to feel foolish. After the 100th straight defeat, 57 of them on Turn 12, how many people out of 100 will still be saying, "Oh yeah, I'm totally up for Try 101"?

On the one hand we have a community of people invested in making positive claims for a game...claims that can be true in properly-designed scenarios. On the other hand we get scenarios within multiple campaigns that make a mockery of those same claims in favor of beating down expert players mercilessly, let alone neophytes.

Imagine being among a community of bike-racing enthusiasts who sang the praises of the sport to all who would listen. Then the governing body designs a race on a track made of broken glass and thumbtacks wherein all but a few riders have their bikes mangled and can't finish. Sure, it's challenging, but is it the right challenge and is it good for the sport?

We can certainly say that the riders who finished needed skill, endurance, and all the qualities of good riders to even have a chance--we can make all the claims we did previously--but realistically the race wasn't determined by those qualities nearly as much as luckily avoiding the shards of tire-popping material strewn over the course.

That's essentially the situation we have with these killer scenarios. If people would complain to the racing board for that intentionally glass-infested raceway, my argument is that people in the Star Realms universe should be more strident about the killer scenario being problematic. It has nothing to do with downing the game as a whole, any more than a bad bike course means bike riding is a bad sport. It has to do with giving the positive claims about the game the best chance to shine instead of making them nearly immaterial.
 
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corum irsei
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greylag wrote:
I think most people "eh" it not because it's not bad (it is) but because the campaign isn't really the focus of the app for most of us.
This. The campaign and even more so the various achievements are just a nice change of pace, but they don't say anything about the game (or app) itself. The game is very solid (okay, it's good!) and the app is a slick implementation of the game.

If there's anything I'd criticize the devs for, it's that it took them so long to acknowledge that they used a faulty pseudo-random number generator. That was really _bad_. It also caused me to distrust them to a certain degree, i.e. I'm still not 100% convinced, there aren't any remaining issues, e.g. with the player/AI deck shuffling.
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