TL;DR- Stat boosts good, make harder to get, not as powerful, only two per dino, speed boost is capped, effects decay over time, gone upon leveling-up the dino, and you can buy only baby stat boosts, while the full-power boosts are an achievement to unlock.
I’ll establish what I think is the most important thing: the “why” element. Overall, I think stat boosts are a great addition. Why are they good? You increase engagement, excitement, and fun by introducing new challenges to all players; you give hope to underdogs, where they no longer feel like their skills are completely held back by their dinos/levels, allowing them to feel like they have a decent shot at an upset victory; simultaneously, you give top dogs a new challenge in battling that breaks a predictable outcome cycle, and with high stakes. Both of those things are good factors, especially for underdogs; underdogs don’t feel constantly outclassed when “playing-up,” and/or for players whose teams have that one dino that lags 1-2 levels below team average because the player seems to NEVER get the DNA they need, that dino won’t feel as much like an anchor. All of this makes the game better.
Stat boosts should be/should have:
1. Precious: Boosts should be rare or super-rare items, pure and simple.
2. Difficult to Get: Boosts given freely should be unlocked through achievements (e.g. series of strike events; other quests)
3. Limited in Power: The result of each boost is equal to the effects of level-ups (5% per level); would be compounded just like level-ups, i.e. two boosts on a L25 would get you to the L27 stat (except, however, with speed).
4. Speed Limits: Speed boosts should add specified number of points, rather than 5% compounded. Perhaps not to exceed 4 points? 6 points?
5. Per-Dinosaur Limits: Two-boost limit per dino; two boosts on one stat, or one boost on two different stats.
6. Limited Time Only: Boosts would decay based on time, or use. Depending on the difficulty of unlocking those boosts in #2, boosts would either a) have a time/use limit, like two weeks, or 10 battles where the dino is actually used; or b) would decay steadily over a certain period of time.
7. Retired on Level-Ups of the Dinosaur: If you level-up your dinosaur, you lose one stat boost per stat on leveling-up the dino, If you have two HP boosts, one goes away on one level-up. If you don’t apply any more boosts, it’s fully gone on the second level-up. If you apply just one boost each to two stats, they both go away. Speed included.
6. Available for Purchase, with Limits: Purchased boosts would be one-time use, or limited-time use, and with a cap on quantity. To use, perhaps you’d apply to the respective dino before the battle starts; or, you’d get the option to apply boosts before selecting your dino in battle.*
I think a framework like the above works better than what we have today, as it achieves the goals of why, while also not dealing a death blow to the balance of the game overall (as it has; coupled with the poorly-calculated trophy count revision, it’s a one-two punch that destroys the battling element of the game). Then numbers can be rethought, but directionally, this is right. Furthermore, imposing reasonable limits on boosts also gets around the unintended consequence of depreciating the value of grinding and DNA; ironically, stat boosts not only lower time-in-app overall because of a crappy experience in the arenas, but also not grinding as much/as often, because, hey, why bother hunting for that Kentro or Anky you never see when you can just spend your way to 10 level-ups as soon as you can get more boosts? And you’re definitely not going to bother buying incubators all of a sudden, since that DNA is exponentially more expensive than stat boosts. The speed boost is still problematic, but by putting a numerical cap on it, the disruption is somewhat mitigated.
Related, but not the focus of the original post
My thoughts on our war-weary ol’ Ludia, our sticking with the game or not, and what should be done: without question, this was a catastrophic implementation of a bunch of good ideas, executed mostly horribly, and compounded by the (honestly, troubling) continued issues around the two big exploits (AI in the tourney; unlimited boost purchases).
Setting aside the need to rebuild trust thing caused by the latter, fixing the gameplay at this point will require bold moves… but it’s not that Ludia hasn’t done that in the past.
- 1.3 disrupted the raptor meta and introduced the tank meta;
- 1.4 busted the tank meta by buffing DoT.
Both were significant rebalancings, sorely needed, and were at once well-designed and well-implemented. I’ve always admired the balance and the math in this game, so to make such sweeping changes, repeatedly, I have much respect. v1.5 brought more great rebalancing, specifically around stun lock, superiority strike removing DoT, and the nerfing of that gross miscalculation, Ubermonominus. And, along the way, they did a TON of things to make the game WAY better, including strike events, alliances, missions and rewards, new dinos, etc., to say nothing of QoL things like increased encounter radius for supply drops, etc. All of the latter elements made the game much more fun to play, since they significantly expanded rewards, increasing the avenues to get resources in a way that was enough to make players feel like some of the otherwise impossible achievements/goals were now actually achievable with daily play/grinding, not just P2W… and without making the whole thing OP.
There were missteps along the way, the biggest in my mind being the thoroughly idiotic addition of Dracoceratops (doubling-down on the stupidity of DG2). But that’s just my opinion (seriously, though… a terrible little parasite family). The overall point is that Ludia is capable of fixing this, and has shown the boldness in the past. Again, setting aside the cheating stuff, they can absolutely fix this mess if the Ludia of yore shows up to the table. I’m sticking around to see the response… but only just.
What should they do?
Complete reversion of the app to 1.6, for the features causing the most damage. I don’t say that casually or ignorantly (as a co-founder of a tech business, I get it). Broadly speaking, the changes were so disruptive overall that I don’t know how you can patch them… especially speed boosts. But, with the volume of cancellation/quit posts, and even my own finger on the trigger with three VIP accounts in the house, I think we’ve moved beyond the friction related to change, and are instead seeing a negative trend that won’t stop without a heavy lift by Ludia.
I think Ludia needs to game theory this thing out. And I think the conclusion is this: the cost of reversion of the 1.7 features, including removing already applied speed boosts on our teams, and refund of real and in-game cash, is less than the cost of half-measures on patching the status quo. Because in the former, you’ve got a given economic outcome based on a reasonably good chance of the game surviving if you take the costly step, vs. the latter, with a reasonably good chance that you’ve broken your game permanently, leading to a major shrinking of the player base and a much smaller economic outcome (possibly <$0).**
[EDIT] I was thinking after I posted this that I should have mentioned, @Ludia_Developers (and _product, and _strategy): I know you get it, and I know you’re talented/capable/smart about design, mechanics, etc. And I know you care, despite what the pitchfork gang expresses. NO dev writes such enthusiastic release notes unless they truly care about the product and experience, especially notes as straightforward and honest as yours have been (“gross miscalculation,” designer’s note on “rend.” I like that stuff, and I think it reinforces trust). I’m sure I’m not proposing something that wasn’t already discussed on your side. I bet there are three versions of this still siting on a whiteboard somewhere, and unused-but-complete components that you pulled 30H straight to finish, only to have them buried in a Git repo when the decision was made. I’m sure some of you protested the final decisions for production. But, the thing’s done broke now. Be bold, mes amis, and fix it.
*Yes, yes, it’s a numerated list, not bullet points. I tricked ya.
**From an app design standpoint, stat boosts are a good idea for JWA/Ludia too, because they increase engagement by providing incentives for gameplay, driving time-in-app, overall interactions, and microtransactions. The variable reward element still stays intact, which will reinforce the gambling effect in a net positive way. And, by making boosts a real consumable, one that’s hard to obtain in its full-power form, but purchasable in a weaker form, you encourage microtransactions while reducing - but not eliminating - the P2W element.