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Intertwining of ITS and the Infinity narrative - constructive criticism

Discussion in 'ITS' started by ZlaKhon, Apr 5, 2018.

  1. ZlaKhon

    ZlaKhon New scale enthusiast

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    Hey guys,

    in the last weeks the changes in Uprising as well as in the Backdoor Challenge have caused some turmoil in the community.
    I have the feeling that there is an underlying conflict between CB and parts of the community, which should be discussed more directly and in a more constructive fashion.
    In this thread I'd like to discuss how correlation between ITS as a competitive game format and the Infinity narrative can be implemented without one disturbing the other.

    From my point of view the people working at CB are very story driven.
    Things like the Comic, the Pen&Paper game, BoW campaigns, Aristea! and the story surrounding the Alive Crew are all moves to get the player base more involved with Infinity as a Universe rather than just a gaming system.
    It is not only CB's good right to develop their product however they want, it is also a great way to get more people excited about Infinity and grow local player communities.
    In the long run, I hope that these efforts will create a more "balanced" Infinity community, in which you find people excited about the game, the narrative and the miniatures alike.

    However, it should be noted that a considerable portion of the community is primarily into Infinity because of it being the best Skirmish Tabletop for competitive play.
    When I started Infinity in N2, I was motivated by nothing else. I wasn't really sold on the "manga" look of the miniatures and simply didn't know anything about the story. With time I started to love the miniatures (ok, here the post Icestorm minis also really help) and I got interested in the narrative. But the main thing will always be playing a well balanced game.

    I don't believe that the results of ITS are very telling, I think for that we'd all need to play a lot more and tournaments would probably need to have way more rounds than we have time for. E.g. if you win a Swiss System 32 Player tournament, which lasted for 10 rounds, you are probably the best player in there. After a mere 3 rounds, this doesn't mean all that much. This is in parts due to the Swiss System and in parts due to more missions, tables and opponents varying quite much (if you are up against a very good player in game one it is hard to get a 10-0 victory, but if you are up against a beginner its quite easily done and already accounts for a third of your games). I am completely fine with that and I'd never suggest that we should all take a week of vacation for a 10 round tournament. But it should be noted, that a lot of people deeply enjoy the perceived(!) balance of playing a single ITS game.
    This means that all measures, which make games feel(!) less balanced will cause discontent amongst many players. An example would be an Onyx player complaining about Rescue or an Ariadna player complaining about Highly Classified. As a seasoned Tournament player I'd tell them that there might be some inconveniences in those missions for them, but they can be mitigated by proper list building quite a bit and both factions certainly have advantages in other missions.
    So whenever even slight changes are made to the perceived(!) balance of the game, it will piss some people off. This is inevitable and I don't think CB should shy away from making such decisions to not upset a small, but vocal minority.

    To me the point is how changes to ITS can be implemented in a way that gets the vast majority of players on board.
    When I look back at ITS8 with the Alive Crew I remember this to be a very successful example on how to advance the narrative, change things in ITS and keep all players happy. Certainly some factions gained less than others, but most people had something fun and new to work with and it was clear that this is a temporary one season thing, which made buying / converting models projectable.

    So what went wrong with Uprising and backdoor?

    Uprising was supposed to hit unexpectedly and with a certain degree of hype. I was not a fan of the constant teasing with pictures on FB, but it is a legit business concern for CB to create a hype prior to a product launch. From a customer perspective this lack of predictability is not cool, as some of us spend quite a large amount of our income and/or time in buying and painting armies and we usually do so in the assumption that we will be able to play them in a certain way. But I see that a different communication strategy wouldn't have changed things for long time YJ players, who'd still be in the same spot. So maybe we can put this aside as change always inflicts a certain amount of pain. In other aspects, CB has really improved its predictability. I am very glad that we usually have a decent idea of what kind of new sculpts to expect in the next couple of months due to seeing some renders ahead of time, I really appreciate that.
    To me the most striking point about Uprising is that Vanilla YJ lost a lot in terms of perceived power level without gaining something new. I can still come up with highly competitive builds, but they are definitely fewer than before. Compensating this loss by some closed battle lists for the next campaign feels like too little too late. As some instant feedback on this: I personally didn't think the PanO closed battle lists we have seen are very intriguing or competitive. Maybe we'll be positively surprised by the next ones though.

    For the backdoor event I have to say that myself and many others were only aware of the event when it was over. I learned about characters being removed from ITS before understanding how the challenge actually worked. I follow "Infinity" on FB, am an active member in about 8 Infinity specific FB groups, active in the German forums and on here, yet I didn't know about this. Maybe I scrolled through a post and thought that the "challenge" was just a raffle for winning some miniature or something, but it was completely lost on me what was going on. I don't mean to blame CB for this, but since I am by far not the only one, this changes a lot about the perception of the event. Again, here predictability would have helped. Releasing the information, who the suspects from each faction are and how long the ban is exactly, would maybe have taken the edge of things.
    Here I think the larger question is how rapidly do we want changes to affect ITS? I personally wouldn't feel comfortable with changes happening faster than ITS seasons. It just isn't a cool feeling to be absorbed in your professional work for some time, then come back to the hobby world realizing you can't play something you intended to do months ago. Infinity is enough of a high involvement as it is.

    If CB wants to continue to closely connect the narrative and organized play, I'd suggest to split ITS and a narrative mode. Then the campaigns and challenges can even strongly affect each other and ITS remains "frozen" for the season and is updated in a predictable fashion once a year. This would help not only the competitive tournament players, but also the low involvement casuals, who just want to meet up for a game every few month and don't want to spend hours on the internet researching what the hell is going on.
    Maybe this could be realized by a simple checkbox in Army?

    That all being said, I'd like to say that I think in general CB is on a great way. I think with the Army app and data analysis CB is setting itself up to get exactly the right input needed to even further improve the game. For example the design of StarCo clearly shows that CB is capable of adding very well-balanced (both internally and externally) factions to the game. So I am confident that in the long run, YJ profit strongly from the redesign of removing JSA and adding IA and White Banner.

    I hope this helps to put some of the players concerns in a larger perspective and enables a better conversation.

    @HellLois

    TLDR: Infinity is a high involvement game with a considerable part of the player base liking it for the perceived balance. Messing with the balance for story reasons will upset these players (often in a disproportionate way) and hurts the community. I hope CB finds a way to publicly continue the story without affecting the competitive play aspect too much and think that splitting the two aspects might be a way for the future.
     
  2. macfergusson

    macfergusson Van Zant is my spirit animal.

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    If you watch the video of the seminar Carlos put on recently, you'll find that this evolving narrative that impacts gameplay is a core part of CB's stated plan and goal.
     
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  3. ZlaKhon

    ZlaKhon New scale enthusiast

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    Which is why I am trying to provide feedback on why this worked great with the Alive Crew in ITS 8 and isn't working out right as well right now.
     
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  4. Cry of the Wind

    Cry of the Wind Well-Known Member

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    Positive feedback: Alive Crew were added profiles with no models that encouraged conversions (and buying models needed for those conversions). Usable for the event with no hint that they would be permanent features. This encourages creativity on the model side as well as gaming side as you incorporate those profiles into your list.

    Negative feedback: Backdoor took away profiles/models with no real reason given for each one (as far as I can tell, if I missed something like why each one was a suspect somewhere fill me in!). Poor communication from CB on the removals/bonus and why. Sure it wont matter in the grand scheme of things but you get more flies with honey than vinegar or however that saying goes.

    If you are going to do something narrative and effect the tourny scene it should be clear from the get go. Make rewards clear and make negatives have some meaning beyond "just because". I would be much more in favour of this event if each removed character had a blurb going along with why they are a suspect and how the faction feels about it. Right now it is just a profile removal for no reason and that is just lame.

    I want these events to matter and have an impact on the story and the table. Removing an option for any list no matter how minor is not an impact. Adding a new profile is. That is something tangible that I can see on the table that has an effect on my games while also telling a story. Removing a character I may never have used or never seen used against me has no impact on my game. I don't feel like part of a story or event because some randomly selected character (as far as I can tell) is not on the table. Putting an O-12 investigator or bounty hunter on the board looking for clues is more valuable than any removal would be from both a story telling and gaming perspective.

    CB even set themselves up for releasing more things like the Outrage crew given the new proxy rules as well as the NA2 lists. We are in the best times for creativity for Infinity and yet the last event only took away from the table instead of take advantage of this new freedom to buy whatever we like and use it how we will.

    Edit: I have nothing against narrative effecting tournament play. What I want to see are the reasons why I should care presented more clearly. If you are going to do anything with tourny lists in ITS make it an addition like Alive Crew not a loss like Backdoor.
     
    #4 Cry of the Wind, Apr 6, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2018
  5. Leviathan

    Leviathan Hungry Caliban

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    tldr; people prefer carrots to sticks, and they prefer to know things in advance and not after the fact.

    (although i hasten to add that i did read all of it, and agree with most of it ;) )
     
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  6. cazboab

    cazboab Member (phrasing)

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    I think ITS could do with treating the narrative challenges as a module the same way limited insertion, spec ops, soldiers of fortune etc are, and provide a few more guidelines on how to use modules like the xp values for spec ops to prevent things that tip the ballance for or against certain armies. As an example limited insertion at 200 points is doable for practically every faction and sectorial, 300 is more challenging for some than others but not too much, 400 is genuinely impossible to achieve for some.

    But back to the topic at hand, making narrative play a module, with specific reporting constraints for missions using the narrative restrictions would mean that only the people whose input affected the results will be affected by the restrictions, rather than counting points on a handful of missions and then rolling out the changes to everyone, and anyone not playing with the restrictions won't be influencing the next set.
     
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  7. Leviathan

    Leviathan Hungry Caliban

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    Alternatively, making the season long narrative last a whole season, with a clear idea of how each mission ties back to the narrative (maybe a bunch of the missions include a paragraph saying how this battle will connect back to it) might also be good, especially if there are clear goals and outcomes for each faction.
     
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  8. HellLois

    HellLois What the Hell...Lois?
    CB Staff

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    Thank you @ZlaKhon for your time to write your feedback!
    Im reading all the comments, feedback and post about this to learn for the next challange.
     
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  9. Andre82

    Andre82 Well-Known Member

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    When it comes to competitive play you undermine trust in the game if you changing the game in significant to gameplay ways based as prizes.
    When you add a more powerful designated target to a faction the only acceptable reason is that the faction that got it needed a minor buff from a gameplay and balance perspective. Never because of something like "it was a prize".
    The exception to this would be a less competitive form of playing. A game mode that it was understood that things are going to get played around with just a bit. Personally I really liked things like Wotan or Operation Flamestrike. They are a wonderful place to play with this form of narrative and experimental play.
     
  10. HarlequinOfDeath

    HarlequinOfDeath Tha Taskmastaaa
    Warcor

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    To be honest, I like the way it is. CB listens so much to the community last year that it is hard to believe: First Fat Yuan Yuan, then Outrage profiles, NA2 Mercs...

    I really hope for the next campaign that they go on that way and fix spamming reports. Maybe ITS Pin required and hidden ELO rating for the campaign so that games between just two players get different ratings if spammed.

    And while I share @ZlaKhon 's opinion that Infinity is the best competitive tabletop at the moment I don't think splitting ITS and narrative would be a good decision since it would create two separate gaming styles and I would bet the narrative would not gain much interest by the community as it is now. The changes so far are small (1 character per faction) and not that frequent and harsh like in games like League of Legends and you can still play all the things you like in casual matches.

    And let's be serious. CB didn't destroy anything so far. Ok, one character died per season: Ko Dali, Tony, Asuka... but that is what creates a good story and involvement by the community. If you don't want to have this fluff you can play chess. It is not like CB destroys the "Old World", they just do something to make the players feel that the world of Infinity is alive.

    In my opinion, CB thinks more about the fluff and the community than other companies. So what about us simply enjoying the narrative? One of the biggest mistakes from GW to me, for example, was destroying good fluff (Fantasy) or not going on with fluff (40K) although they have the ressources to do so.

    About communication: CB does it great apart from one thing. (By the way I don't understand how you could miss the challenge since it was announced on almost every FB channel (plus the official) and even the Nomads group.) The only thing I missed during the event were more story driven explanations... what is happening so far, why are the characters banned, what happens to them after arresting them and so on. If you do a story, don't just throw in some Shadowrun style quotes. ;) And maybe less teasing... two weeks of teasing are a bit annoying. One teaser and a week later the release would be nice. This time three posts per picture (blurred, clear, with text) was a bit straining.
     
    #10 HarlequinOfDeath, Apr 6, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2018
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  11. paraelix

    paraelix Well-Known Member

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    Ko Dali defs isn't dead and Asuka is likely just scooting around in a cat helmet...
     
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  12. HarlequinOfDeath

    HarlequinOfDeath Tha Taskmastaaa
    Warcor

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    True, but still there characters are considered "dead", sepsitorized and switched to another faction is the same. Asuka is dead and profile changed. I think you know what I mean. I am speaking about the fluff and they are "lost".
     
  13. paraelix

    paraelix Well-Known Member

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    The fact that they clearly still exist in the fluff seems you're arguing it completely the wrong way. In game terms, the Ko Dali that once existed is dead. In Fluff terms it's the same Dali. Likewise Asuka's profile is gone. There is no "Asuka Kisaragi". But the fluff points at the Durarara biker as a vengeful spirit and leans into it being her pretty heavily - so again, in Game terms she is gone but in Fluff terms she's very much still here.