Splinterlands League Paywall - Post Season Thoughts

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I survived the first full season with the Splinterlands Power restrictions and while I'm not selling all my cards I am mildly frustrated. It was an unrewarding season overall, both in terms of satisfaction and literal rewards. They did make some significant improvements as the season went on, but silver was really just a low level bot party. I do not think league based rewards will actually improve the system, without drastic changes those will all go to bots.

Battle Rewards

Through battling, not counting quest rewards, I earned 929 DEC. As the community, and the game itself tells us, this should be spend on leveling up summoners so you can advance in the leagues.

SummonerSetEst MarketEst Dec
Delwyn DragonscalePromo17c325
Vera SalaciaDice21c390
Qid YuffDice23c~460
PyreUntamed29c543
Mother KhalaUntamed32c~640
Brighton BloomDice32c~640
Kretch TallevorReward33c~660
Wizard of EastwoodUntamed36c~720
Drake of ArnakUntamed36c~720
Owster RotwellDice39c~780
BortusUntamed39c~780
Mylor CrowlingDice43c~860
Lrna ShineDice43c~860
Contessa L'amentUntmaed49c~980
Zintar MortalisBeta72c~1440

Estimated Market prices were recorded the day after the season ended. Appoximate DEC costs are based on 1c = 20 DEC

At a glance these numbers seem reasonable, but that's leaving out an important fact. For most of those summoners need 5 copies to level from 1* to 2*. That means there is no tangible gain from "normal" play.

Quest Rewards

One would expect that daily quests would help mitigate that. They did make a small difference, but nothing which feels like it is helping me advance. I earned a total of 122 DEC from completing my 14 quests, a little more than a third of the rewards were useless potions, and a little less than a third were actually cards. Those cards added a grand total of 210 power and were all cards I already had.

DayAlchemy
Potion
Legendary
Potion
DECCommon
Card
Rare
Card
111001
220500
3002400
4102600
501020
601020
7101310
800520
9001420
10011401
1101501
1211010
13101600
1430000
Total10612293

Season Rewards

This season's tier based rewards are not an accurate reflection of the power tiered system. Anyone who played on the morning of the first day , before the update went out, would be in their old tier as opposed to the new one. That means I received Gold rewards for what is likely the last time. While these rewards weren't exciting, they weren't terrible either.

  • Common Cards: 7
  • Rare Cards: 4
  • Epic Cards: 1
  • Legendary Cards: 1
  • Alchemy Potion: 6
  • Legendary Potion: 5
  • DEC: 45 (6 chests)

None of the cards I received were new to me, but still, I'm not complaining about them. Getting a legendary was a nice surprise. The DEC was underwhelming and the potions are completely useless. I'm just glad I logged in before the change was implemented, otherwise I would have gotten half as many rewards.

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Gameplay and Competition

The two reasons we were given for this change were to stop bots from inflating the upper leagues and to bring players in line with their correct divisions based on power. This does curb the bot power increase, but it does so at the expense of new players.

  • At least 75% of my opponents were bots or farming accounts.
  • Most of my opponents were not silver league level summoners. It was rare for me to face anyone with 2* or better units.
  • The majority of my fights resulted in either +10 or -3 rating. I was not matched with similar rated opponents.
  • The first half of the season was simplified rules. Originally we only had one ruleset per match and the majority of matches had low mana levels. Fortunately that was fixed which made things much more interesting.

Leaderboards

While having division specific leaderboards is good, I don't think it will actually fix things. In fact I worry it will make things worse. Looking at bronze about 12 hours into the season I see several accounts I expect are bots based on the number of games played. I'm likely to play 10 games day one, more if my luck is poor or if I'm trying to raise in to a higher division. That being said, it is the first day, it wouldn't be unheard of for people to rush the leaderboard.

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The silver leaderboard is interesting. Our top player looks to be someone who chose to drop down a division. I'm not sure how I feel about that, its like having champion players playing in a novice tournament. The remaining top 5 players all played a lot of games, meaning they are very dedicated or bots.

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At a glance it looks like gold likely has real players and gives the impression it will be properly competitive. The development team may have really fixed things for the upper tiers. I'd need someone currently playing in gold to share their impressions though.

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Final Thoughts

I admit, this is a poorly written post. Its largely stream of thought and doesn't delve too deeply into things. If you've somehow made it to the end, here are the key takeaways.

The anti bot solution is definitely harming new players. I've been playing since the beginning of the year, and this was by far the least satisfying season to play. Lots of bots and little feeling of progress. I started the season needing about 12,000 power to advance to the next division. I gained about 2000. At this rate it will be 6 seasons before I advance from silver 2 to silver 1. Three months is a long time to wait to advance, especially since its purely money invested (or earned) holding me back. If I felt skill played a roll that would be another story, but every battle last season drilled it into my head that money was the sole reason I wasn't advancing. This harm may get even worse if the bots end up dominating the leaderboards as I expect they will.

We all know one of the biggest problems is the reward bloat. Locking bots out of the higher tiers does help with this, but honestly is a halfhearted solution. The game needs bots so players can find opponents, but the bots don't need rewards. The developers should be spending time creating their own bots with predefined collections of the appropriate power level who only play when players cannot find an opponent. These bots should not receive any rewards. They should probably always adjust their opponents ratings by a constant plus or minus 10. If you cannot beat the bot configured for your division at least half the time, you really shouldn't be advancing to the next division.

I feel the exponential reward increase as you increase in divisions is the real problem. The rewards for completing daily quests should be the same regardless of division. There already is a DEC per battle bonus as you advance in the divisions. There is an end season bonus as well. We don't need to have better quest rewards in addition to that. Better rewards should be tied to better skills, not bigger investment.

I'm going to play through this upcoming season, though I fear this change is turning a well made game from something you do for fun to something you do as work. I am VERY pleased that the devs listened and made the lower leagues more interesting, but I have a hard time imagining new players staying around after their initial purchase. I'm hoping I'm wrong about the bots dominating the leaderboards, but if I'm not there will be very little sense of accomplishment to keep newbies playing...

Thanks for taking the time to read my rant!

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