Passions are high right now regarding boosts and the arena in general, so let’s just start off by saying everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I’m not going to talk about the speed exploit because that’s an outlying circumstance that obviously needs to be addressed in some way.
Boosts are not the problem. They revealed the problem.
Most of us are trying to navigate the upside down, inside out arena now that boosts have arrived. For me and many others, this involves facing insanely boosted teams that easily outclass my own. It’s been getting better, but it seems the longer a streak of fair games goes, the more disheartening it is when a game comes along that I never had a chance in. So what can be done?
Well, before we start looking at solutions, let’s identify the problem. It’s very easy to point at boosts and say they’re the problem. They’re the thing that changed and after that change there was a bad experience. I get it. But let’s come at this from a different angle. I’m going to construct an analogy for how I see the game specifically with regards to how boosts got us to this point. It probably won’t be perfect, but I hope it can at least convey my views.
Think of the game like a table. We’ll call one set of legs the Arena and the other Exploration. Considering those are the two areas Ludia has broken Weekly Alliance Missions into, I think it’s safe to say they see it that way as well. As you can see, I’ve drawn the Arena leg much thinner than Exploration. That’s because I consider matchmaking to be the biggest weak point currently in the game.
Before 1.7, it wasn’t really an issue because there weren’t many factors to stress matchmaking. The merits of Exploration meant that your team’s overall power increased at a pace the Trophy based matchmaking could keep up with just fine.
Then St. Patrick’s Day came.
The sudden influx of Uniques rocked the arena. Lots of people experienced a huge increase in team power without a Trophy increase to match. The hard limitation of Trophy gain meant that it took a considerable amount of time for matchmaking to catch up.
This is where the shortcomings of the Trophy based matchmaking become apparent, but nothing was changed. Yet.
When boosts took the stage in 1.7 (as well as the rollout issues), our table pretty much broke. The stress of the boost system was more than the matchmaking formulas could handle, and the arena took a massive hit. Taking into account the change in the drone as well (slowing down drone pace and slowing our exploration efforts significantly) it made the game on the whole feel very frustrating for many players.
Ludia did start taking power into account to some degree in 1.7 (which was great), but obviously they didn’t weigh boosts and trophy counts enough. Even disregarding the initial connection problems that plagued 1.7’s initial release, matchups were, and still can be, wildly disproportionate in terms of power. But just because boosts broke the table, does that make them the culprit? We don’t think so. Let’s talk solutions.
Boosts are unfair and should be removed completely.
I disagree with this solution wholeheartedly even though I do agree with the frustration it stems from. Yes, getting matched up against an opponent who is clearly out of your league is definitely unfair and removing boosts would take us back to a system where that didn’t happen (at least to this extent). But this solution leaves us with the same matchmaking system that was so easily broken in the first place. It means Ludia can’t do anything to seriously shake up the game without creating a huge negative arena experience for the majority of players. It’s why a single Tenontorex attempt was taken away at the last minute.
Look at it this way: Levels are a method to increase power that has always been in the game. A higher level dino is inherently better than the same dino of a lower level. Does that make levels unfair? Of course not. Would it be unfair if you faced a team that was universally higher level than you? Absolutely. I see boosts (even speed) the same way. A more flexible leveling system that runs parallel to DNA levels. Two dinos that are identically boosted have the exact same relative power level as the same dinos completely unboosted. To compare a boosted dino to an unboosted one is disingenuous the same way as comparing a level 25 dino against a level 15 dino. The real problem is the current matchmaking system treats unfair matchups as if they were fair.
So what’s your solution, Smarty Pants?
Well I can’t say this is my idea as it’s something I’ve seen mentioned by many others. Remove Trophy Count from matchmaking completely and only base it on power level. Trophies should still exist and be used for ranking/arena progression, but there’s no reason to match people up using them. In my hypothetical power-only system, sudden boost applications would be invisible because the newly boosted player would go directly to matches with similarly boosted players. There would be no bulldozing over people who refuse to spend Hard Cash or simply haven’t fully decided how to apply their boosts.
A fortunate side effect of this system is that Trophies become even more representative of skill than they are currently. Raw power will always be a leading factor in win rates, but in this system, Trophies show how well you strategize and use that power. Low Trophy wins against high Trophy opponents should of course result in a higher Trophy gain than the inverse just like they do now. Let’s look at an example using some made up numbers:
A newish player with 1000 Trophies and 1000 Power (whatever that means) decides to go on a spending spree and boost their way up to 3000 Power. In a Trophy based matchmaking system, they’re still getting matched up against the other poor souls in Arcadia until they’ve dream crushed their way to whatever the “proper” arena for their new power level is. I’d call that a boring time for the boosted player and an abysmal time for their opponents.
However, if matchmaking were independent of Trophies, that player would go directly to fighting the other 3000ish Power players. Then to actually progress through the arenas, they’d have to learn how to properly use their newfound power against the, likely, more skilled players.
Why is this better than just going back to the system that worked before?
Because the old system only worked in the specific way it was originally built for. The system that I am describing here handles sudden changes far more gracefully. Not just with boosts, but any changes in power. Events like St Patrick’s Day wouldn’t cause chaos because the sudden influx of Uniques would merely match players up with those that likely already had those Uniques. Those would still have to be earned. In this system, we could have gotten our 1 Tenontorex attempt without any fear of “unbalancing the arena.”
The biggest problem I see with this system is developing it. Ludia would need to define “Power” in the hard mathematical terms that algorithms need and that’s pretty complex. I won’t pretend this is easy or that I know how it can be done. Should boosts be removed until (and if) we get a matchmaking system like I described? Maybe. I’d like to hope the current system can correct itself eventually, but I’m prepared for a rough ride until it does. The arena corrects itself downward quickly before things slowly move back up to “normal”.
There are plenty of other aspects to boosts that are worth discussing like if speed boosts should exist at all or if the resource costs are balanced, but that could be a complete article in itself and I’ve already gone long. All I wanted to do here was say don’t let your feelings on a game breaking mechanic distract you from the fact that the game was easy to break in the first place. Let’s give Ludia the feedback that will lead to a better overall game. Keep up the discussion and keep things civil.