2,000+ people online and I can't find a game - the State of Wargame: Red Lobbysim

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raventhefuhrer
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2,000+ people online and I can't find a game - the State of Wargame: Red Lobbysim

Postby raventhefuhrer » Tue 24 May 2016 01:37

Settle in for a long read folks, but I spent an hour typing it so I hope you can be assed to spend 10 minutes reading it. This stuff is important. I want to address why it can be so difficult to find a good, reasonably balanced match in Wargame: Red Dragon.
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As I browse the multiplayer sessions this sunny May afternoon I begin to decide what game I'd like to join. Time to take stock of the nonsense.

We can disregard the 4v4 Apocalypse Imminent lobbies out of hand for reasons that should be obvious. I join the one conquest game being hosted, a 4v4 on Operation Chromite - but I'm expelled by host, probably because my winrate is 20% higher than his. To be sure, there are other options - a 4v4 on Atoll Inbound, and a 4v4 on Straight to the Point (mixed) but I know better than that. There's a 4v4 Destruction on Gunboat Diplomacy that I know won't be an artillery-snipe-grindfest but something tells me to stay away. Where are all the Conquest games? Even the Destruction lobbies are nearly all being hosted on bad maps, or on good maps with inappropriate numbers of players/starting points/whatever.

Now scroll down. There are twenty-six, that is 26, 10v10 games at the moment. Many are in progress, some are lobbies in various states of fill. At twenty players each they will soak up roughly 500 players over the course of an hour. This has a 'sponge effect' that pulls hundreds of players from smaller matches. While I generally support player choice, I'm not sure this is a desirable outcome. Sure, 10v10's can be fun, but do we really want 10v10's to be mainstream or the 'most common' type of game? This afternoon the ratio was approximately 4:1 between 10v10 lobbies and everything else. This is problematic for several reasons that I'll get into in a moment.

Setting the story of my afternoon quest to find a game aside there are several areas where things are dramatically wrong with how players find and get into matches in Wargame: Red Dragon. Among veteran players the term for this is 'Lobbysim' (Lobby Simulator) where you spend as much time trying to actually find a match as you do actually playing that match. There are three key points that I feel need to be addressed in time for Wargame 4 and I will describe each in detail.
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1. There's too many 10v10's - I'm personally not a fan of 10v10's. I find them to be low quality, 'junkfood' matches that can sometimes be fun but overall should be avoided and rarely played. My experience this afternoon has taught me that the opposite is true, with a large majority of active lobbies being 10v10 matches rather than smaller games. This is problematic for several reasons, but balance is the chief concern.

  • Balance: the game isn't balanced around 10v10's and yet the majority of players apparently prefer to play them. You may absolutely love 10v10's and play them all the time, but even so you must admit that it's odd that the game isn't balanced around the mode that's apparently being played the most, isn't it? The fact that 10v10's aren't balanced or factored into balancing decisions contributes to the 'low quality' gameplay I described.

    Of course, this is because by it's very nature you can't properly balance around 10v10. They're too complex, players leave all the time and add availability to the allies they leave behind. It's a free-for-all crapshoot and while that may be why some people like it, it's not something you can balance a game around.

  • Soaks up Players: There's also the 'sponge effect' I alluded to earlier, where 10v10's soak up players that should be going to smaller, high quality games. A full 10v10 lobby holds enough players that could easily be distributed into three or four smaller, better balanced matches but instead everyone goes to the 10v10's. It's a self fulfilling prophecy - I joined a 10v10 myself this afternoon because I couldn't find a better match. Twenty-six 10v10 lobbies will contain somewhere around 500 players - a large pool that should be going to smaller lobbies to enjoy better balanced, less crazy matches.

  • Teaches Bad Habits: Lastly, I'd also say that 10v10's do not teach good gameplay. It's almost an automatic response in this community to tell new players 'go join 10v10's they're a good, low pressure way to get into the game'. And they're right, but 10v10's are apparently where those new players are staying. Games where you rarely see good play or have an opportunity to play against another person 1v1 - so there the new players stay in their safe environments, never learning much or venturing out into the really challenging games. How can you be taught to properly safeguard your units when you get a boost of availability whenever someone leaves? How can you learn to use planes or conduct an offensive when five players-worth of airforce comes after you whenever you make a move?

2. People are Hosting Terrible Lobbies - This point is nearly as strong as the first one. That is, most people just apparently don't know how to host a lobby properly. They'll try to do a 4v4 on a super constricted map like Apocalypse Imminent, or Wonson Harbor. Lately I've been seeing people host Conquest games with 2,000 victory points (wtf?). Other people host games with either far too many or far too few starting points for the amount of players on the field. Poor lobby settings lead to poor quality games and this too drives people back into 10v10's where at least they can mess around in a sandbox military game.

3. 'View Profile' is toxic - I know there are a lot of people who will see this point and say 'Thank goodness for View Profile, it prevents people like you from pubstomping me!' Well, no, what it actually does is prevent people like you and me from ever finding a match in reasonable time. The 'View Profile' button is toxic. I chose that word, toxic carefully because I mean it and I want the community to internalize it.

  • It Hurts New Players: Nobody wants to play with newbies. Especially when you know the other team is full of people who know what they're doing. Wargame is such a complex games that newbies are even more useless than in most multiplayer games. Ergo you kick new players from your lobby. You leave lobbies where a new player shows up on your team. The 'View Profile' button is a scarlet letter on every new player's chest that reads 'avoid me at all costs'. Is it any wonder why new players flock to 10v10's and never leave? At least no one is banning them there. Example: https://www.reddit.com/r/wargame/commen ... community/ Someone getting banned from lobbies and ridiculed because he has a 14% win ratio.

  • It Hurts Veteran Players: Point of fact, I consider myself a great Wargame player. I've invested more hours than I care to count in the franchise, and I can probably also claim to have spent more time than anyone else trying to teach new players the game through providing tutorials, offering assistance in threads, and even running the new defunct Wargame Learning Program. And if you played against me, chances are you'd learn a lot. If we played a match and you lost to me, I'd be happy to answer any questions you had for me and give advice. But instead, you see my 80% win ratio and my 1,000+ games played and kick me. Nope.exe! Now I'm using myself as an example, but I'm representative of a larger problem - mediocre players aren't learning from better players, they're just kicking them from their lobbies.

    The result is that after an hour of being chased from other people's games I'm tired, I'm annoyed, and finally I just host my own lobby. I don't care about balancing teams anymore, or being nice, I just want to get a flipping game before I have to go to bed and get up for work tomorrow morning so I'll take anyone and I'll probably stomp them. And then after a couple nights I get bored and leave Wargame alone for a couple of months. I'm not the only one, it gets multiplied across hundreds of good players who rarely if ever play the game anymore and Wargame is poorer for it. Rather than being lauded or respected for their success at the game, good players are frequently treated as 'the enemy' and 'interlopers' by less experienced players. And you wonder why we all hang out in our own lobbies with a team of equally skilled players?

  • Win Ratios are Useless Anyways: When people join games they frantically click view profile buttons, taking a snap-averaging of the win ratios on both teams. If the numbers in your favor, you stay, and if not you switch teams or leave. No one has said a word, or spawned a unit, but you've convinced yourself that you know exactly how the game will go and how skilled each player is.

    Yet I've met plenty of people with 80% win ratios who are total scrubs. Pubstompers who never learn to be truly good at the game, boogeymen that you should relish tearing apart rather than hiding from. It cuts both ways - I've met fellows with 30% win ratios worthy of 60% but because they don't play with friends they dutifully join pubstomps and get bashed into the ground, yet because of it have managed to obtain a workable Wargame skill level.
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TL;DR Time: Finding a match in Wargame is a frustrating experience for three reasons: There are too many 10v10 lobbies, people choose to host games with shitty settings, and the 'view profile' button is a problem. Scroll up and read my well organized points on each one for an overview. Please do not quote the entirety of this post when you reply to me. It's too long.

So what's the solution? I don't know. I don't pretend to be such an authority that I can dictate the community what we should do about all of this. I'm just here to bring people's attention to the sorry state of finding matches to play in Wargame: Red Dragon while explaining why it is. Only by raising awareness of this issue, and helping people understand the problems can we then have a discussion.

Do we need to remove the view profile button? Remove 10v10's? Create a Matchmaker and auto-matchfinder system for Wargame 4? I have my opinions obviously but I'm more interested in discussing the root causes. Please add your own thoughts, tell me where I'm right and where you think I'm wrong, and hopefully :roll: we can have a productive discussion about it.
Last edited by raventhefuhrer on Wed 25 May 2016 17:49, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 2,000+ people online and I can't find a game - the State of Wargame: Red Lobbysim

Postby throwaway » Tue 24 May 2016 01:41

If there was only one properly sized conquest game, host a lobby yourself..

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Re: 2,000+ people online and I can't find a game - the State of Wargame: Red Lobbysim

Postby Frencho » Tue 24 May 2016 02:13

A matchmaking overhaul is necessary.

Fuck lobbies. They promote stacked games, unbalanced settings, cheese and long waits. On top of being kicked by hosts for either being too bad or too good 50% of the time.

I want to single click "Launch" and play ranked like I do in CoH 2 not sit in a lobby waiting and knowing I'm going against terrible odds because I can check everyone's profile. What else to do to kill time productively while waiting for the lobby to fill up.

I'd bet most players spend just as much time waiting for an unfair match as playing a match.

What Ranked automatch needs:
- Inclusion of 3 vs 3 (AT/AM) and 4 vs 4 (AT/AM) game types.
- Battlefield (map) veto.
- Extension of the ranked automatch system to the other game modes. So there is a ranked leaderboard for economy and destruction.
- Extension of the ranked automatch system to eras. So there is a ranked ladder for Cat A, Cat B and Cat C.
- Single account policy (linked with Steam?) and no stats resets to prevent smurfing and spotting cheaters easier.

On a side note, I personally feel that just 1000 starting points per player is a bit harsh/slow. I'd rather prefer 1500 starting points per player. But I'm a noob so I might be wrong and it's up to the Devs to decide which rules fit their intended Multiplayer vision best.

Thing is there just about 4 smuchks playing Ranked at any given time and they tend to be the Wargame Red Dragon 24/7 shitbucket types, so they wreck me easely. Because ELO can't work with only 5 people searching Ranked.

I would play this game a lot more if not for the hassle to find a decent game...

This is what has been hurting this game the most a barebones automatch.
Last edited by Frencho on Tue 24 May 2016 02:44, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: 2,000+ people online and I can't find a game - the State of Wargame: Red Lobbysim

Postby frostypooky » Tue 24 May 2016 02:20

i think you answer your own question: because it's a casual community in a broadly casually balanced game, and i don't mean these in outright negative ways. yes i know there are steps to alleviate certain meta issues and i know i will get the "but semi-tactical mechanics mean this isnt casual game, 200 page steam guide etc" response but i think the main draw for most people when they saw ALB or RD on the steam store was "xx amount nations with xxxx units, with epic xx player battles". i know that is why i pulled the trigger on ALB without knowing a damn thing about it other than that it seemed like World in Conflict with More Stuff. i knew i wasn't getting Starcraft.

up until 2016 i played exclusively 4v4. i enjoyed playing with 2-3 people i know, having real responsibility and ability to flex the entirety of your deck instead of 9 other ppl to cover your mistakes, etc. now, i rarely touch anything besides 10v10. its just more relaxing and that is the only way i stay on for more than one match a night.

i have to agree that matchmaking, with premade parties being biased to be matched up against other premade parties, is really the only solution to keep 4v4 interesting. also, naturally agree with view profile. i never use it, if i go into a lobby i generally dont leave or switch teams, but people definitely still whine about stats and shit.
Last edited by frostypooky on Tue 24 May 2016 02:26, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: 2,000+ people online and I can't find a game - the State of Wargame: Red Lobbysim

Postby Bullfrog » Tue 24 May 2016 02:21

I haven't read threw what you wrote just yet, but just scanning it I imagine I'm going to be right there with you. What is killing this game for me has nothing to do with the core game. The core game is pretty great. It's the shit you have to crawl threw just to get a good game. So much work and so much down time for something that is unreliable at best.

It's going to just be a toxic player raging in all chat about something not even that bad, it's stack sides, it's lag, it's quitters, afk host, etc. I don't mind 10v10s, but they're all dominated by 10v10 "tactical" or straight to the point garbage.

It's not worth the trouble, and the only honest reason I've gotten back into Wargames is to get me back in the RTS mood for when Warhammer drops tomorrow.
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Re: 2,000+ people online and I can't find a game - the State of Wargame: Red Lobbysim

Postby Firefly » Tue 24 May 2016 02:30

Thank you Raven. This post perfectly summarises a lot of the issues that I've been discussing recently with my Wargame friends.

The major problem I've identified so far is the fact that a lot of effort has been put into balancing units and maps towards Destruction rather than Conquest. In the former having stand-off capability with long range weaponry allows for a relatively safe way for new guys to score points and therefore win games. This is compounded by map design, which encourages Great War style trench warfare with very little movement actually happening, which makes the game easier for newcomers but draws focus away from tactically oriented objectives and a truly dynamic battlefront. Perhaps that's why Destruction is so much more popular than Conquest (it's been that way since the ALB days). I'm actually saying this against my own feelings - I've often been overwhelmed by the pace of events going on in my sector, let alone the whole bloody map (I simply lack the brain capacity to comprehend the scale of events even in a small game, but I digress). Then again, this is what makes Wargame so exciting and unpredictable - the multitude of units, nations, bonuses and unique advantages that you may have over your opponent is exactly what makes this game special. Taking that away by creating a massive arty party is the antithesis of all the hard work Eugen's put into developing this variety, however many reservations we might have about some decisions they've taken.

In addition to what you've mentioned, 10v10s have another bonus over smaller games, and that's visual impact. Seeing hundreds of missiles and artillery shells being lobbed on dozens of units in an action-packed environment with units streaming in from everywhere is something that's almost guaranteed to set a new player's heart racing. Given the direction video games have taken of late I wouldn't be surprised to hear if that was a major factor behind them staying in 10v10s.

There are plenty of things that could be done to make Conquest a more attractive game mode than what it is now, and most of these have already been elaborated on on these forums. Allow me to add a few more to the mix (although admittedly I've picked most of these up from other threads)...

- Fordable rivers (just a few spots would do wonders on some maps);
- different maps and/or zone placement for Conquest;
- fewer choke points and natural obstacles preventing your units from attacking from a different direction;
- multiple avenues of advance;
- different availability levels and deck bonuses for Conquest and Destruction;
- rearrangement of specialised deck types;
- no aircraft or artillery in the first minute of the game;
- no silly unicorn units that can single-handedly change the course of a game (muh asymmetric balance, hurr durr);
- rollback to ALBs system of national decks with no mixed decks to ensure variety (some people are gonna hate me for this, but whatever);
- etc., etc.

I can imagine what a newer player must feel when he takes off in a race to get to the best possible position at the beginning of a Conquest game, only to have his entire column obliterated by a bomber or set on fire and scattered in all directions... I've been there myself, and it can be very painful, especially after you've waited for bloody half an hour just to get in a good lobby. Tackling such issues would require a different perspective from the devs, and would almost certainly alienate some of the more articulate critics here on the forums. Then again, if that works for the benefit of the Wargame faithful then why not try it? I'm quite sure these changes would effectively create two games in one, and having a whole new level of variety could potentially bring new players into Conquest out of sheer curiosity. Not all of them would stay, but having fresh blood come in is always nice, especially if they're good-intentioned enthusiasts and not whiners and toxic people mentioned above...

I really like Frencho's matchmaker suggestion. The only trouble is that it'd require a metric butt tonne of work to implement into the current game, I'd imagine it'd be something planned for Wargame 4 instead (if there ever is one).

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Re: 2,000+ people online and I can't find a game - the State of Wargame: Red Lobbysim

Postby captaincarnage » Tue 24 May 2016 02:36

Thankfully its still possible to reset your stats.
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Re: 2,000+ people online and I can't find a game - the State of Wargame: Red Lobbysim

Postby Forimar » Tue 24 May 2016 02:49

Unless Eugen implements a way to limit games by skill level, view profile is a necessary evil. I don't have all day to sift through a bunch of shitty unbalanced matches, and I'll gladly spend an extra 5-10 min in lobby if it gives me a quality game. In addition, I doubt noobs want to get stomped by pro players that they can't distinguish. Despite your remarks on teaching noobs, it's still not fun to just get trashed by people with skill, and not every good player has learning in mind when beating on noobs.

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Re: 2,000+ people online and I can't find a game - the State of Wargame: Red Lobbysim

Postby delor » Tue 24 May 2016 02:51

So what's the solution? I don't know.


In short, better matchmaking, more prominently featured in the UI.

To paraphrase myself from the last dozen times I've participated in this conversation:

When you hit "Multiplayer", that big section of the screen where the custom lobbies displays needs to have a big red button that reads "Play" on it, front and center. Below it, whatever matchmaking setting that are offered are presented.*

Custom lobbies can stick around but they're not what you see first- you see matchmaking first and most prominently, then there's a little "Custom Lobbies" button in the menu bar on the left if you want to dig around and find something else.

That's basically it, minus some under-the-hood tweaks to how people are paired up, and it's the #1 thing Wargame 4 needs to have a better multiplayer environment than it has at present.

* Currently 1v1 or 2v2, but obviously 3v3 & 4v4, a big batch of map veto checkboxes, and ranked versus casual would be highly desirable.

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Re: 2,000+ people online and I can't find a game - the State of Wargame: Red Lobbysim

Postby Bullfrog » Tue 24 May 2016 03:25

The game would gain a lot by just removing the stats.
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