[Jagged Alliance Online] Game changes and refunds - an open letter to the developers

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After reading _Sieradzanin_’s comment in the “testers wanted” thread, i decided to make a whole new thread out of the concern expressed there, since it’s bothering me too.

Even with my limited experience with this game, i could tell that it’s being changed every once in a while: the maps, mission conditions, weapons, armor, ammo – all these things are not carved in stone in any way. I even had to abandon my initial account to start anew since at point the strategy i used to follow stopped being good for me, and changing it would never be completely possible with the current game mechanics (retraining the main merc doesn’t allow you to choose a different archetype). And now i see that some things that were too frustrating for me and caused me to just dump like two weeks of gameplay are now altered, which might have allowed me to deal with them with my initial account.

My point is that the game doesn’t feel either stable or predictable. In fact, it feels like it’s an open beta, and we are all the testers of the game. The guinea pigs helping the developers polish the game mechanics that they didn’t do properly in the first place. It’s probably the reason why this game is not advertised on Kong which leads to its almost complete stagnation when there are just a few dozen of regular players with a few newbies coming and going.

I do enjoy the game, and i’ve put some pretty serious time and effort into it to make sure i get good results from it. But ever since having found out that you, the Cliffhanger team, are gonna tweak everything around once again, and now in a very serious manner (AP cost changes, AP bonus changes, skill influence changes, HP changes, weapon/armor changes, merc changes etc), i can’t stop thinking that these changes might be serious enough to render my personal playing scheme ineffective. And that would be very, very bad and unpleasant for me, and also not very nice of you guys.

Right now, there is no official guide to this game (or maybe there is one?) with a thorough explanation of the leveling system and what consequences it poses to the player. You do not even state anywhere that the merc levels are capped at level 50, so people build up their mercs’ stats in a way that could later be found bad for them, for example, by putting all their weapon skill points into the primary weapon and then being unable to wear the contemporary secondary weapons.
There also is no complete guide on the weapons/armor, so by putting the merc’s points into some or other stat or weapon, we have to guess what profit those points would bring us. I mean, right now it’s hard to even tell what difference is gonna be between 70 and 100 weapon points, and those 30 points going into a different weapon might change a lot for you at the later stages when the modern weapons really matter a lot and you might just not be able to equip them since the weapon skill would be too low.

You see, you left us out there blind and unknowing, and all we can rely on right now is the experience of those who have followed this path before us. A lot of discussion in the game chat is dedicated just to the questions like “what are the weapons/armor on level X and what are their requirements?”.

Yet what options you leave us if someone finds out that he’s been leveling up his mercs all wrong? Well, you graciously allow us to retrain them… for gold. And for some astronomical amounts of gold i must say, so big that i doubt anyone would be able to collect enough gold to retrain some high level merc without paying the hard earned cash.

Well, i admit that this game is no charity and you have to earn money on it too. Plus, if retraining was too cheap or even free at all, the players would be abusing this option to adapt their mercs better to the conditions of the missions they were about to play.
But this is only fair until the choices people make are the only thing that is important. Which isn’t very true if the game constantly changes by itself. Today the choices we made yesterday bring us one kind of result, and tomorrow everything gets changed and, while some of us would feel better with the changes since they would be meeting their needs, the others might be left very disappointed.

This all was being said from a regular player’s point of view. But let’s not forget that there are the people who were paying you for the premium stuff, and then you just follow the other people’s demands and lower the stats of the items that were once pretty strong, thus making them much more regular – and much less worth the price they were sold for.
I personally am not gonna pay you a penny for this game – and i apologize if that’s gonna upset you =) – but i do think that your main priority is to save the loyalty of those who did or would do. And, along with it, the loyalty of those who make this game a living breathing thing, not the lifeless ruins your warzones looks like =). I mean the other regular players.

We were there while your game was in its infancy, we helped you finding the flaws in the schemes that you had implemented, and with our help this game has only gotten better. Now, when you think you’re done with tweaking it and are ready to set some rules in stone, it would be nice if you expressed some sort of appreciation to us.

In the following paragraph i will try to compile a list of things that would be nice to do by you guys when you think this game is ready to hit production, if you want to keep the players’ loyalty and not make yourself an image of a company who only cares about ripping off their customers. I would appreciate the other players’ comments, fixes and additions to it.

So, the Mighty To-Do List of Justice:

1. Everyone who bought gold from you and didn’t spend it must be given an option to request refund.
2. Everyone who bought gold from you and spent it must be given an option to revert any actions bought with gold and get the gold back, and for that gold, the rule from this list (later on, just “rule”) #1 must apply.
Exceptions are the special ammo that has been bought with gold and already spent. For the remaining part of the special ammo, the rule #2 must apply proportionally to the amount of gold the full ammo pack was bought for and the amount of ammo remaining.
3. Everyone must be given a single-time option to retrain all the mercs in his or her possession. Retraining must include an option to choose another merc from a merc roster, with leveling him up to the level the previous merc was having, with an option to distribute all the points from the level difference according to the player’s wishes.
This includes the mercs the player has been owning permanently. In this case, the player must be given an option to either retrain the previously owned merc or choose a new one, who would be owned permanently too.
The retrain given under these circumstances, and all the other variants of retrain, must return the selected merc into the state he or she initially was in the merc roster. Retraining from the level 1 must apply to the main merc only.
4. Everyone must be given an option to refund all the building upgrades he or she used to have and get back the cash and the special items spent on it.
5. Everyone must be given an option to refund all the weapons/armor/ammo bought from the store and get back the cash spent on it. Cash refund for ammo applies only to the ammo that hadn’t been used yet, with the calculation proportions the same as stated in the rule #2.

This is what i found rather easy to formalize. There are a few more topic though that need to be covered. I’ll try to overview them briefly to start the discussion, can’t really think of them in depth now.

1) The gold and cash used in crafting. Especially if you change the crafting success chances. Especially if you change the properties of the crafted items.
2) The items you remove from the game (in case there are any). If there’s a clear alternative to those items, the players should be given that alternative in a corresponding quantity. If there is none – like, if you decide that some uncommon/epic weapons should just be removed – there should be some sort of a compensation for it.
3) How much money to refund for the weapons if the price scale has been changed. I assume enough to buy any type of weapon of the same level, or some proportionate value if there are no weapons of such level in any class.

A note to the player readers

This is in no way a complete list. And i do not even claim it to be perfectly thought of, it’s more like a work in progress. So if you feel interested in what i am writing about here, and would like to contribute to this list, you’re welcome to do it.

A note to the devs

Don’t take this personal, i personally appreciate the effort you’ve put into this game. But this is a serious matter and i believe it should be dealt with accordingly.
If you find some of my propositions impossible to implement, i would appreciate some sort of feedback to discuss the possible solutions to such problems.

Thanks for your attention,
Dmitry aka Valar Morghulis

 
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I agree to a large extent.. Especially about the max level or the mercs..

I hope you get some reply and feedback soon

 
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Hi!

Forgive me for not being able to reply in the same extent of your post.
Also, I´m not a cliffhanger representative, but just a guy who tested the game for a while and agreed to the changes that made it into the new version.

As the most active players may have noticed, the game was not able to keep most of the players until level 50.
This had a few reasons and we did our homework to find out about them with extensive research, testers and interviews.

The version you have now is the result of almost 2 months work by the JAO team.
We made the game more accessible and took out parts that have been unfair or frustrating for the vast majority of players.
On the other hand we added some further complexity, more options how to play, new tactics, a better PvP experience, lots of detail improvements and also additional content.
This patch will be followed by smaller patches with balancing and fine tuning.
We continue to work on performance, stability and bugfixes.

There was a huge step in the direction of letting people get almost everything without spending money.
Almost all items are available for ingame cash now. Premium ammo and consumables can be farmed even though they are not necessary in normal missions.
Earlier we introduced a few ways the gain the gold for more merc slots.

To suggest that we change this game in a direction where we only want to get as much money from every player as possible is not fair in my personal opinion.
Of course there are some possibilities the invest money. Of course we need to sell gold to be able to keep the game running.
But if you take one small step back and look at the bigger picture you may realize that this patch wants to create a better game.
A game that is less frustrating to newcomers and still interesting for veterans.

Since many of the changes were too big to test internally only, we provided the opportunity for the community to take part.
And some of Kongregates JAO players did and we are very thankful for the feedback you provided during the two testing rounds we did over the last few weeks.
Both times the feedback was positive towards the changes, but there was also some scepticism and complete opposition from a few individual testers.
We listened to that feedback and iterated this version a few times until we believed that the game is ready to be presented to the whole community.
Many of the included ideas actually came from testers and therefor I want to thank them once again! It was awesome to work together with you guys! Thanks!!

Regardless it is sad that a few are unhappy with the changes, which is understandable when the old version worked well enough for you and you have perfected your tactics already.
But I am absolutely convinced that the new version has much more potential to enable satisfying endgame and an awesome experience through PvE progression.
I´m sure you can still have a good time if you only give it a chance and get over the first shock. I was also irritated when I tested the first version, but I began to adapt my tactics and am very happy with the new challenges it provides now.

To conclude, I want to state that I think what we did to compensate for the changes is fair.
Every merc got a free reskill. Everybody got cash to hire three mercs of his reputation level for 14 days.
All cash and gold spent is not wasted. The hospital upgrades will be provided with very useful functionality in the future.
Your items are still as useful as before. There is only one thing I can think about, that may be not solved perfectly since it is not possible to do so automatically:
If you have perma hired a bunch of commandos, because they had most AP before the patch and were widely regarded as the most versatile archetype, you may want the swap them for other classes now. If you have this issue, we are happy to provide help via our support: jao_support@cliffhanger-productions.com .

I hope all of you can enjoy the new version and the advantages it includes.
Have fun!

Best Regards,
Cliffhanger QA

 
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I spent a good amount of money to purchase premium armor and weapons on all my mercs before they were nerfed. After much back and forth with dev’s they offered to swap one my premium items for a different type since the ones i had purchased were no longer even the best premium items. This was an obvious slap in the face for all I have invested in not only time and effort but cold hard cash.

Nothing feels stable in the game and there is no competition because of this and nerfing premium items (after 2 weeks playing I was regarded as the strongest player and couldnt get anyone to pvp me). I feel getting to level 50 isnt the issue but keeping level 50’s around more so the issue.

I left because of this and wanted to see what had changed since ive been gone but it appears nothing has. I wasted a lot of breath with the dev’s it seems and I fear you are as well Oaken but i do applaud your effort. Best of luck.

 
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Originally posted by nossboss907:

I spent a good amount of money to purchase premium armor and weapons on all my mercs before they were nerfed. After much back and forth with dev’s they offered to swap one my premium items for a different type since the ones i had purchased were no longer even the best premium items. This was an obvious slap in the face for all I have invested in not only time and effort but cold hard cash.

Nothing feels stable in the game and there is no competition because of this and nerfing premium items (after 2 weeks playing I was regarded as the strongest player and couldnt get anyone to pvp me). I feel getting to level 50 isnt the issue but keeping level 50’s around more so the issue.

I left because of this and wanted to see what had changed since ive been gone but it appears nothing has. I wasted a lot of breath with the dev’s it seems and I fear you are as well Oaken but i do applaud your effort. Best of luck.

None of the non-premium vets would pvp you because even if we play well and catch you first, the best premium gear meant you would win. I tried to play with you and to set up more even matches over the course of several pvp games but you clearly didn’t want to give up your edge, which is of course your prerogative.

Even now the best premium gear (which I don’t have) is a big advantage but I guess it’s not enough for you. If you look at the gamigo forum, a lot of premium players there were asking for the gap in gear quality to be reduced to encourage non-premium players to pvp. This is what instigated the change.

 
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I’m curious, is there someone who likes the changes?
And why he likes them?
I’m casual with rep lvl 46, mercs around lvl 47.
Today i tried first time after the changes, picked lvl 12 rep map, went in with 2 snipers and failed.
WTH ? Obviously that map isn’t ideal for sniper , but still its a lvl 12 map. Sniper seems pretty useless now ,couldn’t kill 1 enemy with 2 shots do to their high HP, and obviously do to new AP rules in next round they were on me, nullifying sniper range.
And even if i win the drops are damn low.
Tried a lvl 19 map, which i was farming previously with the main merc alone, with luck i survived (went in with one merc), but the drops were in the range of 150-200 cash, just not worth.
I can only imagine what would happen on a lvl 45-50 map.

And even though hospital/workshop was frustrating, did give a certain depth to the game.
Or let just take a look at the weapons, right now all looks the same, with the same AP for everything
Skills seem simplified to, very easy decision to not put anything on reflexes, and maybe minimal on strength.

Enjoyed the game before, but right now i pretty much feel will never come back.

 
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Originally posted by Kobor:

I’m curious, is there someone who likes the changes?
And why he likes them?
I’m casual with rep lvl 46, mercs around lvl 47.
Today i tried first time after the changes, picked lvl 12 rep map, went in with 2 snipers and failed.
WTH ? Obviously that map isn’t ideal for sniper , but still its a lvl 12 map. Sniper seems pretty useless now ,couldn’t kill 1 enemy with 2 shots do to their high HP, and obviously do to new AP rules in next round they were on me, nullifying sniper range.
And even if i win the drops are damn low.
Tried a lvl 19 map, which i was farming previously with the main merc alone, with luck i survived (went in with one merc), but the drops were in the range of 150-200 cash, just not worth.
I can only imagine what would happen on a lvl 45-50 map.

And even though hospital/workshop was frustrating, did give a certain depth to the game.
Or let just take a look at the weapons, right now all looks the same, with the same AP for everything
Skills seem simplified to, very easy decision to not put anything on reflexes, and maybe minimal on strength.

Enjoyed the game before, but right now i pretty much feel will never come back.

I think that the devs have achieved a better balance but at the cost of greater diversity.

It is handy not having to use up fuel to do repairs and heals and it also saves time doing repetitive clicks. However, I think I might have made more money under the old system as missions were easier and I could take minimal damage (if any).

 
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" I wasted a lot of breath with the dev’s it seems"

that does seem pretty clear. What’s also clear is that they have specific users they listen to, ONLY, and the rest of us can go stew. It’s been like that since the beginning, so don’t take it personally.

I came back after a LONG absence to find none of the changes I requested (after being here from the very beginning, and pumping some serious cash into it) had been implemented.

I see all of my characters have been reset, and I now have NO idea what stats to give them based on the changes made.

sigh

 
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“It is handy not having to use up fuel to do repairs and heals and it also saves time doing repetitive clicks”

Fuel usage was the absolute EASIEST thing to manage in the old system. Of all the things to modify, this was the one thing that actually didn’t need to be changed.

whatev.

edit:

having now gone back in, reset all my mercs and main, and took a couple of my level 40s on a level 15 special map mission…. My guys don’t have enough APs to line up shots correctly, do almost no damage, can’t hit for shit, and the enemies took me apart. Sorry, the changes made have RUINED this game. I can’t believe I spent 30 bucks on this thing now. so tired of being a damn beta tester for games that just aren’t ready for prime time yet. LAST time I ever spend money on an online game that hasn’t proved itself for at least 6 months first.

/angry rant.

done and done.

 
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Originally posted by Sir_Toejam:

“It is handy not having to use up fuel to do repairs and heals and it also saves time doing repetitive clicks”

Fuel usage was the absolute EASIEST thing to manage in the old system. Of all the things to modify, this was the one thing that actually didn’t need to be changed.

whatev.

edit:

having now gone back in, reset all my mercs and main, and took a couple of my level 40s on a level 15 special map mission…. My guys don’t have enough APs to line up shots correctly, do almost no damage, can’t hit for shit, and the enemies took me apart. Sorry, the changes made have RUINED this game. I can’t believe I spent 30 bucks on this thing now. so tired of being a damn beta tester for games that just aren’t ready for prime time yet. LAST time I ever spend money on an online game that hasn’t proved itself for at least 6 months first.

/angry rant.

done and done.

Actually fuel usage was not easy to manage once you got to level 50. Prior to that you got a refill every reputation level you gained, so fuel didn’t seem to be an issue. But at the higher levels when you were taking more damage and having mercs die then you had to choose to either mend them on the cheap and use more fuel or pay for more materials and conserve fuel.

Also while I’m not a fan of all the changes, basing your views of the changes on a new mission which you don’t know, in a game system you are not familiar with, doesn’t seem to be smart way to get a representative view of the game in it’s entirety.

I agree that the level 15 prestige mission is harder than the level suggests but a lot of that has to do with the surprise attacks that happen. Once you know that they happen you can compensate. Also another factor is that the devs have tried to make the power jump in levels less steep so that pvp is more balanced. This might have had an effect on how difficult you found the mission.

I’m surprised you found that you didn’t have enough APs to line up shots correctly. We’ve never had so much mobility in the game.