IntroI’m going to just throw a ton of comments out here without much filtering or research. I know a lot of these things have been discussed in the forums already - that’s fine - I’ll mention them anyway in case it’s useful to hear yet another vote for something.
I realize this feedback is a lot of mixed positive and negative. I offer all this in the hope that it’s useful in one way or another. I’m confident from seeing Jay’s comments in the forums that he’s happy to get all feedback, and will take it for what it’s worth.
tl;drThis game is awesome, but desperately needs **notifications** and **queued actions**.
BackgroundI played two 4-player games with my regular gaming group. I got a premium account so I could set up a private custom game. The four of us are full-time game developers. Three of us live in the same area and we work together. The other lives 8 time zones away.
I skipped the single-player tutorial games (didn’t notice them, honestly - I’m not sure why). A couple of people in my group ended up playing the tutorials, and that helped. So, anything I didn’t (or still don’t) understand might be explained by not having played a tutorial.
I’ve played one game of Neptune’s Pride before, and other long-form games over the years, but it’s not something I have a lot of experience with.
CompulsionI enjoyed the game a lot. Too much. It became a damaging habit for me. By the middle of my second multiplayer game, I was obsessively checking on it and making adjustments throughout the day, at work and at home. I spent several hours a day on the game at one point, and was checking on it morning and night. If we hadn’t paused the game one particular night, I would have set an alarm to take some actions at 3am.
So, the good part of that is that the game is compelling and fun. I sincerely enjoyed the experience in a lot of ways, and I have a lot of good to say about it.
The bad part is that I can’t afford to sustain that level of involvement in a game, so I had to quit entirely after my second game. The other players in my group had the same reaction - too intense, gotta stop.
Things I Love* Very compelling and interesting overall, as I mentioned. I definitely care about this epic struggle I’m in with my friends vs. the evil forces of the undead. * I love co-op games, and was very happy to play this with my friends! I cared a lot about what they were doing and how we might plan together. * Very nice art - nicely done, nicely presented. Consistent, clear, intriguing… The heroes feel like they have real character and background, from the art alone. * Good writing, good card descriptions and scenario introductions. * Hero and race abilities are interesting and cool, and very fun to play in combination. * Good general feeling of growing, building armies, building/claiming/defending an empire. * Lots of fun to engage with a game long-term like this and become familiar with each scenario’s details over time. * The game is shockingly well behaved on mobile browsers. Very playable on a phone. * Very nice browser behavior, too. Good handling of funny shaped monitors (I mostly played on a narrow tall portrait monitor). Good performance. Easy to pop in and out of the game on any machine I was using. * I really enjoyed buying a random trio of cards to select from. Very exciting, and I didn’t mind spending coins on this at all! I loved being able to use them right away. * The valour mechanics are cool - gotta FIGHT to get anywhere in this game.
Control IssuesThese are the two things I think are more critically needed than any other thing:
Action QueuingI need to queue actions. As one example, this simple scenario really has to be fixed:
I can see a tough army coming toward my elf holt. I can scare it away with my dryad, but I can’t even trigger that action until the instant the undead step into the forest, which is 11 hours from now, AKA 3am. Not cool. Even with pausing, it requires play at a very specific time, and that’s lame.
I realize this is really complicated and difficult to build and balance and test. But I can’t get over it - it’s a big problem.
If I could truly control the game by only checking in every 12 hours, I would play again.
NotificationsThere needs to be a notification system: I ended up having to build and maintain my own detailed timed task list for the game.
9:00pm: trigger dryad defense at location X.
9:15pm: turn enchantress at location Y around.
11:30pm: Blind justice strike at location Z.
12:15am: start another dwarf army training at V.
12:35am: See which direction the undead army at W decided to move, and react.
Much of the game is timers (cooldowns and movement). Many of them need to be restarted immediately for optimal effectiveness (e.g. dark forest witch and gnostic mages). Another player in my group started setting phone alarms for each event. It’s crazy that we have to manage all this manually when the timers are already in the game and it already has our email addresses.
If I could manage my army by responding to notifications as needed, I would play again.
Clarity / UnderstandingThere was a LOT of stuff I didn’t understand until partway through my second game, and again that can probably mostly be chalked up to not having played the tutorials. I also only read help text occasionally. And I know a lot of this is explained in the newbie FAQ in the forums, but I didn’t even find that until late in my experience.
Some key stuff I didn’t get at first:
- Playing heroes pulls souls out of a city. And the total soul cap is big deal - you don’t get more souls ever.
- Master of Coin - holy crap where did my money go?
- We didn’t realize how critical Hero cards are. It took a while to realize that normal units drafted from cities are just the fodder used by much more powerful heroes to wage war.
- Ranged attack math is different.
- You can review battle results if you find the right place in the UI
CustomizationI was surprised at the lack of customization options. I would like to be able to:
- Configure turn/step times and adjust game speed
- Set up a regular pause on/off schedule (e.g. pause automatically at night, pause over weekends, with careful consideration of people in different time zones)
- Skip forward at different increments (my only option is 6 hours?)
As has been already discussed, I want more control over autokicking players as well.
On a related note, I recently noticed players are kicked after a game is over, too, which is weird. The game’s over - why am I being kicked? What if I want to check back later on how I did? In fact, I think I’m not allowed back in at all, which sucks and is probably a bug on its own - I can’t do the post-game analysis I’d like to do. I can reach the “Welcome” screen using my password, but selecting my “open player position” doesn’t really seem to let me back in the game.
Bosses* I like the bosses in general. Scary, interesting, each requiring slightly different tactics to take out. * Master of Coin is ridiculous. Why does he get to affect the entire world instantly? Neither humans nor other AI bosses have universal abilities like this. Could his effect be regional, or otherwise staged, instead of 100% loss instantaneously? * I ended up seeing undead Ent hordes as a sort of slow boss on their own - an Ent horde that’s been left alone for a while becomes pretty scary. Giant hordes could also get scary and boss-like, especially as I gathered many defensive units.
Heroes and UnitsI like the way different races have similar but not identical units, like Wizard vs. Tree Whisperer, and Dryad vs. Houndmaster. In general, the different races are each really interesting and clearly have their own strengths and weaknesses - this was well conceived, for sure.
I felt a little overwhelmed by so many races. I really only cared about the human, dwarf, and elf races, in the end.
An observation: Since humans have more populous towns, there’s a subtle lower expense to playing human hero cards. A single-soul elf hero is more expensive than a single-soul human hero because I have fewer elf souls to work with.
I enjoy the push/pull mechanics - it’s fun to attract, repel, and freeze enemy units for my tactical advantage. Dragonhelm is great.
Ranged attacks are fun and rewarding. Blind Justice is fun, and probably will be even if she’s nerfed. I chimed in on another thread on balance issues with Blind Justice and Cowardly Noble.
I shouldn’t be allowed to pick cards for a scenario that can’t be deployed in that scenario.
I spent a lot of hero coins, and was happy to do so. I spawned a lot of units in sequence on a single city. I know you’re changing this. I’m worried about this change - I’m afraid it will make notifications or action queueing even more desperately needed, for one thing.
I can’t understand why gold and mana generation is on a 24-hour timer. Is there any reason why this can’t be something like a 3-hour (or 6-hour or whatever) timer per city/pool? It’s a pain to need money and have nothing, and then 20 hours later suddenly have more than you need. And it makes Master of Coin more painful, and he’s already inconsistently painful.
ChatI like the ability to call out another player in chat, and I love being able to mark the map. Very cool. It might be nice also to point out units even if they move, and refer to battles in the battle history.
I love that the recent chat log is quoted in daily reminder emails. Very convenient!
I’d like even more flexibility in communicating with other players - a shared strategy plan, a shared living document for planning our next steps as a team… I can do this with a google doc, of course, but I wish I could do it in-game where I have the ability to point at map locations.
The Dancing Hero GameI know you tried to address this, but it’s still to my advantage to pull heroes out of a battle at the last minute. In general, I might have a pile of heroes walking around together for tactical reasons, but right before a battle I’m pretty motivated to pull out heroes like Enchantress, Wizard, Dryad, Beacon of Life, etc. Any single-soul unit. Because the chance that a bad die roll will kill them far outweighs the 200-whatever points they add to the battle numbers. One bad roll, and I lose the entire Tree Whisperer and his awesome ability.
So we play this dancing hero game where the key heroes run from a battle right before it, and then run back right after it. This is tedious micromanagement. Sometimes I just left them in the battle and hoped they didn’t die, not because it mattered tactically, but because I was tired of micromanaging.
I don’t have a good solution for this. My friends and I discussed this at length, but I’m not thrilled with our solutions.
Battle SummariesThe battle summaries are … good, but seem like the bare minimum.
For starters, I didn’t even know where to look at first. My units are simply gone when I come back, and I have to go digging for information to piece together what happened while I was away, especially if there were several battles. There’s this strange feeling of defaulting to no information, and I have to try really hard to understand what happened. I’m not sure exactly what I was hoping for here, but maybe:
- Let me click on a battlefield for a long time post-battle to get info
- Let me click on a unit after a battle to get info about how they were hurt
- Let me see at a global level what units have died recently, and find out why
- Let me scrub time backward and forward
- Let me see a more visual presentation of battles
- Let me know how impactful certain units are: How important was it that I had The Twins in a battle? How useful were my Healers? Did they heal anybody before they died? How can I find out?
In general, I want the game to tell me “Holy crap, you just got your butt handed to you by some immortal hydras!” but instead there are only some summary numbers afterward, if I remember to dig for them.
I might not be conveying this well - I just feel like I’m missing a LOT of info and impact from battles.
Seems like other players have had similar experiences.
Why can’t I see the battles of other players? We’re working together, and their battles are important to me! And in the case of some units (Storm Friar, for example), their actions can actually kill my units with no way of me seeing a report of this. (This hurt, by the way - my elf princess got killed by a teammate, though I can see how this is just the way that unit works, and not a design flaw.)
Lost UnitAt one point, I felt like one of my units (a Dryad) was deleted, with no explanation. I’m still not sure what happened. I had a Dryad, and a few hours later, she was gone. I have to guess at what happened. (And since I paid hero coins for her, this is pretty lame!) Did I not buy her like I thought I did? No, I have two in my collection but only one in the game. I clearly bought her. Did I forget to play the card? No, she’s not in my hand. Did she die in battle? Hard to tell, but I reviewed my recent battles and I don’t see her in any of them. Is it a bug? Did she get deleted accidentally? I’m sure there’s some logical explanation, but it sucks having no understanding of what happened. Maybe she got fried by a teammate’s Storm Friar attack? I have no way of finding that out for myself.
Battle Results PredictionPre-Battle projected results are really helpful and nice. But they’re also… weirdly not definitive. Depending on which units I click on and how close they are to each other, I see different groupings and different outcomes, so what I’m being shown isn’t necessarily what will happen. I still have to do my own predictions and math, which is not fun. Especially when the enemy is far enough away that it will be hours before they arrive - I need to know estimated results before I go to bed, but they’re not near enough for the game to do the estimating for me, so I have to run my own math. And does the game’s predictive math factor in abilities like The Twins and Healers? I can’t tell.
Maneuvering and Unit Status
Visualizing MovementIt’s tedious to have to click on units one at a time to see their movement paths. I’d love a way to toggle display of movement paths for a set of units, for all my units, for all allied units, and for all enemy units. I often want a global sense of where everyone’s headed, and right now I have to piece this together in my head by clicking on one unit at a time. This is particularly painful on a mobile device.
Visualizing Ability TimersSimilarly, it’s a pain having to click on each unit one at a time to see when it can use its abilities again. It’s nice to see an icon indicating that an ability is available, but if there’s no icon, it could mean I need to come back in 3 minutes or 20 hours, or anything in between.
A big part of the game, mechnically speaking, is managing timers: Timed movement, triggering timed actions like drafting units, watching timed buffs on friend and foe, and waiting for action cooldown timers.
So, it’s difficult and tedious to get an overall strategic sense of when I can act.
I’d like to see little action cooldown fillbars and times shown in more top-level lists, e.g. a list of units in an army or my master list of armies.
Distinguishing UnitsI wish there were a way to distinguish units in a list (like naming them ahead of time or something). When I’m using a gnostic mage and I have two targetable units in a stack that are visually the same, but one of them has a 20-hour cooldown remaining and the other has a 1-hour cooldown, it’s really important I pick the right one to restore! But I’m never quite sure if I’m seeing things in a set order, and it gets confusing with groups and stacks of groups.
And I want to name units and towns anyway, for the multiplayer fun of it.
Cooperative MechanicsIn both sessions, I eventually felt left out of the experience at the end just because I was far away from the action. The final battles are happening elsewhere and I have no chance of being a part of that. I understand why that makes sense logically and thematically in the game world, but mechanically it’s not fun for an individual player to be useless for a day. (Side note: The map layout of Sanctuary is better in this way than other layouts - at least we have a shared central core to pass through and support each other through.)
This lack of mobility also hurt the cooperative element of the game quite a bit, which is not ideal. As much as I cared about other players, our practical interaction was almost entirely limited to sharing resources instantly through the UI. Some of the time, it seemed like we were playing related single-player games in parallel, and chatting with each other about how it was going.
And in fact the only units that did help with other players’ battles were the long-range units like Blind Justice. I don’t have good ideas for addressing this. I actually suspect you don’t want to address it - being slow to move is part of playing a 2-week game, and if it means less team interaction, then you’re probably OK with it. That said, could you consider having heroes with the ability to teleport units, at some tremendous cost? Or some other means of getting across the map quickly with magic? I would pay considerable resources to be able to contribute a unit or two to another player’s battle. I used Beacon of Life and Cyclops Standard to try to get around some of this, but my options there are limited, too.
So, just to get these notes out there, I’d like:
- Ability for a unit to teleport itself to a friend to help out
- Ability for a unit or city to teleport other units
- Warp gates that connect key cities on the map
- Ability to buff/heal/affect a friend’s units
- Ability to remotely debuff enemies my friend is about to face
- More spells that affect my whole team, like we all get 20% more gold for a day or something.
- Card gifting in-game to a teammate
- Unit gifting, hand control of a unit over to a teammate
- Temporary ability to control all of a teammate’s units if they’re away for a while
- Wrap-around map edges
- Affect travel time: Spend Mana/Valour to speed up a unit temporarily
The more I think about this as I’m writing it up, the more sad I am about the relative lack of really cooperative opportunities we have in the game.
Ending and ScoringThe ending cleanup mode was a little tedious, though not too bad. It took us maybe 1.5 days to clean up after the game had obviously been won. Would be nice to ease up the tedium here somehow. I like some of the ideas in the forums for more discrete win conditions.
At the same time, I wanted more resolution after the game was won. After living in this world with these heroes for 2 weeks, I wanted more closure. I want to send my soldiers home, let gryphons return to their nest, and repopulate villages. I gave my units long-term destinations and made up stories in my head about how this army of humans is headed back to their home, that combined group of elves and dwarves has become close friends and is going home together, this cowardly noble is taking a well-deserved retirement in the nearest mana pool, etc. And some heroes have simply seen too much carnage to forget - they are traveling alone to the empty frontier towns, to stand a silent lonely vigil until their time on earth is over… or the blight returns.
I would like to see less individual scoring and more group scoring. Why are individual players rewarded for their performance? This was a group effort. I’d love to see unique group milestones like “save this town for bonus hero coins” or rewards for number of towns saved from blight.
In a way, the current scoring encourages people to do more unnecessary battle at the end. A higher team score is not rewarded, so if you don’t care about leaderboards, you might be motivated to lose another village to the blight and then destroy those zombies and burn their bodies for a higher individual score with potential hero coin rewards.
Once a town has been drained of its souls (by drafting or playing hero cards) there seems to be no tactical or score advantage to protecting it from the blight. This is very sad. We’ve sucked that town dry and have left it to rot? We’re as bad as the undead! In the story in my head, this is a thousand-year-old beautiful elf village, worthy of respect and effort. In our second game, I actively defended empty towns just out of principle. It feels like that ought to be rewarded, since it aligns with the game’s setting and theme.
I’d pay resources to clean the blight from a town, even with no tactical advantage. I can clean pools - why not towns?
The EndMy sincere gratitude and respect for such a deep interesting compelling co-op game.