Why ESL is still delusional and destructive
All the quotes in here are copypasted straight from the AMA, so feel free to ctrl+f them if you want. Recently ESL VP Ulrich Schulze opened up an AMA on this subreddit.
In the field of video games, and in this day and age, AMA's are the ultimate PR move. They're basically a consumer venting session that encourages you to be more polite and to sugarcoat your complaints. I can't blame ESL for finally busting out a real PR move, but a quick look at some of the content and answers of that AMA will show that Ulrich and ESL are maintaining their disrespectful and delusional attitude.
Let's begin with Ulrich's introduction. He claims to be apologizing for not "hitting the right tone", explaining that the last two days were a "frustrating situation" for him and ESL. Some tweets have been deleted and some people have been unblocked--and I don't want to conflate the abusive and disrespectful tweets by other Dota personalities with Ulrich--but any tweets about the poor quality of the stream or streaming platform were an invitation to be flamed and blocked, or met with a condescending remark about how the "real world" works (gamers love hearing that, by the way). Some residual effects of this can be seen on Ulrich's Twitter
, notably the desperate attempt to clean up the aftermath of this.
Frankly, if you're a grown adult who's supposedly been working in esports for "15 years", it is unacceptable to be handling your frustrations by throwing a tantrum on Twitter.
You're Senior VP of an important player in the esports ecosystem, and your response to a business decision not working out how you like is to insult, belittle, and demean your fans? (More on that in a second). Far from "hitting the right tone", you willingly increased the toxicity of the discourse surrounding your own event because...why? Because you made a bad product? Unacceptable response, unacceptable apology. Plain and simple.
But the real meat of this lies in the AMA responses, so let's move on from what we already knew was a huge mistake by ESL.
First, the delusion. In response to a question about why ESL made a deal with Facebook over any other platform, Ulrich answers: "We believe in the long term value of this because Facebook is a platform which reaches more users than any other platform."
To be clear, this is referring to users that are not already engaged in esports, AKA the other hundreds of millions of users that use Facebook for all sorts of random stuff. Here, the delusion becomes pretty clear. What was ESL's plan to engage any of those other users who do not care about esports? If, by Ulrich's own admittance, Facebook is not prepared to stream esports events, how could streaming there be any more accessible than a quick redirect to Twitch or YouTube? Why was there literally ZERO intuitive ways to find the stream via Facebook if that's the audience you're trying to engage?
ESL allegedly believes Facebook's huge userbase provides an opportunity for increased viewership, yet they did nothing
to engage Facebook users who are not yet fans, and actively discouraged
pre-existing fans from visiting Facebook to watch the stream. It is also worth mentioning that the literal barriers to watching the Facebook stream are monumental compared to Twitch or YouTube. Mobile options are broken or nonexistent. Secondary language streams were nonexistent. Having to have a Facebook account to chat or sometimes even view the stream is yet another barrier to entry. If ESL truly believes Facebook and their actions in promoting this event could ever possibly lead to increased viewership, they are simply delusional
Secondly, Ulrich promptly began lying and backtracking within his own AMA. In response to one question, he clearly states: "Facebook numbers are not in yet (the number you see does not count users who are not logged in) so have to wait for that"
. However, when another user asks: "Can you confirm that the number shown on Stream is not the actual viewer number, as it doesn't account for users that aren't logged in and viewers from embedded streams?", Ulrich replies: "I don't know exactly, will find out."
So which is it? Does the display viewership number match the actual viewership number or not? This isn't too important of a point, but it continues the trend of ESL making unclear, intentionally vague, or flat-out incorrect statements about their Facebook broadcast agreement.
Oh, remember when I said that the only way Facebook could reach more users than Twitch and YouTube would be if Ulrich was including people who don't already engage in esports
? Apparently that isn't ESL's goal. Ulrich states: "I don't think we should ever aim to convert people who have never played Dota or don't know esports exist."
Now, this seems like a pretty horrible mindset for someone who has "always had [esport's] further growth and success in mind"
, but it also leaves me wondering WHO exactly ESL thinks they are reaching by streaming on Facebook. It's not Dota and esports fans, but it's not people who aren't Dota and esports fans? Huh? Ulrich goes on mention that 4.5 million people "like" Dota 2 on Facebook, and that he believes they could all be potential watchers of a stream. I agree, but then I look at ESL's unique Twitch channel views
. This one ESL channel has amassed over 36 MILLION unique viewers--a bit more than 4.5 million. I won't even bother accounting for like bots, dead Facebook accounts, the fact that clicking a like button is an entirely different statement than being a "fan" of something, etc. etc. The fact of the matter is that there was never a specific viewership population ESL genuinely thought would watch on Facebook over Twitch or YouTube.
If you want any further proof of that, just look at how Ulrich repeatedly handles criticism of the terrible Facebook streaming platform and ESL's complete lack of consideration of their fanbase. I'll provide an image this time, since I think the exchange speaks for itself, and you can find a dozen variations on this awful response throughout the thread: IMAGE
Now, I could continue ragging on ESL's delusions and total lack of foresight (intentional or unintentional) all day, but the real meat of the matter is their total disrespect to their fans and the community that allows them to exist.
The aforementioned Twitter tantrums by Ulrich and other Dota personalities are really evidence enough that those who have "achieved the esports dream" don't give a damn about the community's opinions, and that any criticism of them or their actions will be met with childish whining (ironic, isn't it?). However, what really matters is the supremely anti-consumer, pro-corporate attitude ESL and others have demonstrated throughout this fiasco.
Here's the most damning quote from Ulrich himself: "You are a consumer, but at the same time there is not a direct revenue stream to us from you as a viewer. That means we look at sponsorship potential, broadcast revenue, tickets etc. and based on that make a decision. That means it is not necessarily always the easiest for the viewer, i.e. platforms might change or formats. Unfortunately, that is just the reality of esports right now."
To translate: we have no plans to consider the fact that behind a broadcast contract or viewership number, there exist REAL PEOPLE who have the power to make decisions about the content they consume. ESL's expectation is that we consume whatever they produce and then kiss their boots after.
The raw numbers of sponsorship and broadcast contracts are the only things that mean anything to ESL and the only things that ever will. ESL does not care about your counterargument that those sponsorship only exist because you tune in to watch
. ESL assumes and demands that you will tune in, regardless of how they wrong or offend you. That's the "reality of esports" they have in mind. One where the fans are mindless consumers that amount to nothing but view numbers that can be manipulated according to their business projections and profit margins.
One where the failures of a product are not the fault of the producers for not producing well, but of the consumers for not consuming what was laid out before them.
If you are a hollow shell that exists only to please your corporate master, maybe that kind of reality appeals to you. But I believe most of us value the ability to express our opinions to the organizations we support, and expect that a producer's number one goal will always be to make a product that consumers are willing to consume.
They key word here is willing
, not forced. The absurd DMCA strikes against numerous Twitch accounts (including in languages ESL was not offering) just go to show that ESL wishes for a world where we are forced to consume whatever they produce. We as consumers have been undervalued, disrespected, and taken for granted.
There are endless more contradictions (in some responses Ulrich claims the have specific agreements with Valve, in others he claims they have just been interpreting Valve's "vague" blog post) and lies, but I believe I've made my point. If you don't care about the way ESL has treated its fans, and do not care about your options or rights as a consumer, I guess you can go on supporting ESL. But if you want the ability to choose what you watch
or expect professionalism and decency
from the companies YOU allow to exist, then do not forget the lies, disrespect, and arrogance
of ESL in this situation.
EDIT: Replaced some words in the penultimate paragraph for the sake of my BDSM buddies.
submitted by ScottLarouxWrites
My Feedback - Part 1 - General Feedback (Long Post)
I have often heard the game needs a lot more polish. It needs a lot more than polish. Polish implies a surface treatment, just to bring out the beauty that already exists. The beauty right now doesn’t exist. Core mechanics have been demonstrated in a promising manner but that is it. Pretty much every aspect of the game needs lots of work. Naturally some of this is due to the beta nature of the game, but polish alone will not get this game to an acceptable state. I think this was a mistake made with 1.0 and I can see happening in 2.0 as well. The confidence and focus in the core gameplay allowed everything else to be a complete failure in 1.0.
Pre & Post Game Experience
What am I expected to do before or after a match in Artifact? What is the expected work flow from the very moment the game is started? In 1.0, players were expected to just mash the queue button over and over again. You couldn't craft cards, there was no PVE, there was no rank, no ladder, no way to socially interact, no cosmetics to covet...nothing. Just que like a trained animal. 2.0 is definitely seeing some improvement in this respect, but I still think it is seriously lacking and I don't see the vision for how the pre and post game experience will be developed.
I think throwing a few standard features like a virtually meaningless experience system will not be enough to engage users. I'm sure the data supports positive sentiment towards these experience systems since they have been implemented in CS and Dota, however those games have a lot more going on in the main menu interface to keep players engaged.
There needs to be things to do outside of the main ques. The ability to watch live games from tournaments or the main que (with the ability to opt out of your games being broadcast), cosmetic feature inventory, a monthly reward for the rank you achieve to be received on game open, a demo mode like in Dota, an integrated puzzle feature, and many other things could be added to make playing Artifact a satisfying whole experience. These things need to be added as part of a full release. If these things are not in the full release, then you just released a beta which demonstrates core concepts.
The Feels / Gaming Psychology
The game needs a coherent and consistent feel from opening the game to closing the game.
The role of psychology is important yet easily overlooked when trying to analyze a subject, particularly when lots of machine data is generated. When you look at the numbers (playrate/win rate/etc) what is more important? Playrate or win rate? Playrate is arguably more important which is counter-intuitive if you are trying to balance or design by the stats. As an example, people often associate win rate as the reason people play decks. But, how do you explain a deck with more playrate than is expected given the deck's win rate? This is player psychology influencing decisions and stats.
With the accessibility of video content of games these days, often the first exposure a new player will have to a game is by watching some video content. How those initial viewings feel is a critical part of the new player experience.
Gaining rank would be a lot more fun if you got some cosmetics (cards are currently awarded with level, not rank), hit some rank floors, or got rank based profile icons as an option. Seasons resetting rank and awarding cosmetics would give players positive feels and something to work towards.
In general, post-game feels need to be better, in HS they give you a star if you win. Blowing up all the enemy cards at the end of the game so the show board option has no meaning is also quite disappointing. Currently ties blow up all cards. Replacing all the dead cards with ghost copies so you can see the final boardstate would allow you the satisfaction of taking in the victory.
This goes hand in hand with the feels. Any video producer will tell you good audio is more important than good video.
Make it easier or automatic for card lore to be read in the collection tab. Make the heroes use their voice lines a lot more or give us the option to toggle excessive voice lines with a smack talk mode. Maybe winning the game could have more satisfying sounds than a bag of rocks falling over. At least add something to the deaths of heroes so they don't make a cha ching sound like you just goomba stomped them.
Please consult a professional sound engineer to develop a cohesive soundscape.
Hero draft is amazing and fantastic. Devs did a great job conceptualizing and executing this idea.
Suggestion for Hero draft, when you mouse over and/or double click heroes in draft phase, the cards that would have been added to your deck proportionally by color are displayed (perhaps along with 2 items).
This would give people the feeling of drafting their whole deck. I think this would significantly shift sentiment away from hero draft being some sort of newbie mode not worthy of serious play. Even though you could/would end up with the same cards, the information gained from what could be in your enemy's deck or your own would influence picks. This increases the skill cap. It could reduce the pick frequency of certain strong heroes as perhaps the card offering to which it is suboptimal or better cards are offered on another hero.
Side Suggestion: the draft vs bots should have a tutorial option where the various implications of each stage of the draft are explained all the way through the end of flop deployment. I don't think people are appreciating the head-to-head nature of hero draft.
The custom lobby feature, if comprehensively developed, is where the competitive scene should be mostly experimenting with to find the exact right settings. The main queue servers in CSGO are not 128 tick and thus unfit for competitive play. There is no reason why Artifact can’t also push a format that has more widespread appeal as its main ques, while allowing the space for more complexity in custom lobbies to foster a competitive environment.
Cheap and Tower Cast Blockers
Tower cast cheap blockers are probably the worst simple thing to change I can think of in this game right now. It goes completely counter to the core mechanics of heroes and colors, have too much impact as a blocker, and are too available with two options in the shop, one of which can spawn multiple blockers.
My worst feels post game is losing to some after thought blocker buy in the shop. Is having neutral greevils and the revtel merc a good thing? I thought the whole idea of heroes and colors is the importance of keeping them on the field and potentially locking people out of plays. Due to the importance a single blocker can have, I feel like getting a RNG creep draw in the shop determining the outcome of a game is really disappointing. I spent 50 minutes to battle it out to the end game, but my opponent got a revtel merc in the shop and now even though he has no mana, no heroes on board and only the 1 courier charge, he wins.
Furthermore, cheap blockers are boring to play around. The insane value you can get from playing an early game card in the late game to counter a threat developed over many turns does not seem fair or competitive.
My suggestion would be to completely remove tower cast cards completely.
Many Cards and Mechanics are Uninspired and Boring
In general, many cards center around stats or violating core game mechanics. One strength of DCGs is being able to do what you can't do on paper. Stat changes is something you can do on paper. Constantly altering stats will get boring. What will the next set of heroes look like?
Violating core game mechanics is confusing and devalues the core system of rules. Why learn the rules if at every turn they are being broken. Why even have initiative if you can have multiple blue heros that can stagger their hero abilities and signature cards to steal initiative multiple times every turn for one mana?
I offer Annihilation as an example of a boring card. Is Annihilation the best, most interesting board clear that is possible? Is it possible for another board clear to be made that is as strong as Annihilation but is somehow more interesting than Annihilation? Or is Annihilation the perfect card which no other board clear could replace? Their skill in playing and playing against Annihilation. But, there would also be skill in playing an alternative and equitable board clear. The simplicity of Annihilation is a strength, but the tradeoff is any sort of flavor and gameplay with lots of dead time.
Annihilation gameplay is centered around initiative which often results in passing with no actions. Furthermore it discourages actions or development from your opponent. The effect on both players is that playing nothing is often the right choice. This is skill testing, who is this really interesting for. At Any Cost is similar to Annihilation in effect but provides a condition to make it more engaging. I imagine a world where Remote Detonation does 10 piercing damage and hits the tower if unblocked.
A suggestion to allow for more design space in hero cards would be to make hero signature cards only castable by that hero. By removing potential interconnections, the signature cards can be much stronger without being game breaking or singularly meta defining. This would have many other implications for the game, but I think they could be worked around if the design priority is focused on hero power level/fantasy.
Too Many Cards Are Built Around Cheating Game Mechanics
Quickcast is an example of this. Managing initiative is a huge part of the skill in this game. Too many quickcast abilities and cards cheapen the importance of your core mechanics. Why bother learning how to play with initiative if when you are facing a meta blue deck and they can practically steal initiative at will. This destroys the initiative dynamic for that game and instead just creates a huge advantage for the quickcast player with few efficient means of counterplay. Desperately not doing anything to secure initiative being the correct play contributes to deadtime in the game. More on dead time later.
I think the concept of “I go first this turn and you go first next turn” is almost sacred. Having that denied from you will be a frustrating experience that goes against most expectations.
A suggestion for quickcast is to split the current cards with quickcast into two keywords. One would give you an extra action without shifting initiative, while the other would do both or perhaps just shift initiative at the start of the next time. Performing multiple actions quickly can be exciting and splitting this kind of combo mechanic to not include initiative will give players more opportunities to perform combos while not completely destroying the significance of initiative in the game.
The current speed timer where you start to rope immediately is good. I think this should be made the standard timer used in constructed and draft mode. This will keep the pacing quick and smooth, keeping game times down.
A reserve/bank time system just sounds like unnecessary complication for the main format or ques. It absolutely should, however, be added as an option for custom lobbies/game modes. It is a much more competitive timer and almost eliminates the issue of dead time (explained more later). If this is added into the beta and people find the reserve timer to be more enjoyable by evidence of data analysis, I think there would be merit to making the reserve timer the main timer in ques.
I think maybe a longer, competitive timer should be added as a test option. More time to think is definitely advantageous. More time to anticipate deployments, item purchases, mana usage, possible draws, possible cards in opponent's hand, study the enemy deck, do some income/shop upgrade calculations, etc. This could add to tension in high stakes matches but would make low or no stakes matches boring. I don't know if longer turn time will result in a better, or even good viewing experience. I think this is something that should be tested in the beta.
A reserve time bank should be included in draft mode for the drafting phase, along with an overall reduction in the amount of time available to draft. I don't think players need more time to draft in Artifact from four choices than in Dota where you have a 100 or something, with bans. If you run out of time in draft, you should lose your starting gold, not just get a random pick.
Furthermore, on the topic of timing and pacing, I find there to be a lot of "dead time" in the game, where nothing seems to be happening. There is just a lot of thinking going on. I don't know how exciting this is to watch or even experience as a player.
One painful example of dead time is during the shopping & deployment phase when you have no no option but to take gold and you have no heroes to deploy. With the longer draft mode timer, you could be in a situation where you have no choices to make at all, yet you have to wait through two full decision making periods where your opponent considers shop and deployment options. It certainly feels like a long time to wait with no interaction if they rope both phases, something with no consequence to the roper right now.
I think the amount of dead time in the game should be analyzed to look for ways to reduce it, but I personally am not sure at this moment where to most effectively cut out dead time. I don’t think players will like waiting for someone else to shop. I conclude this from real life experience.
Running Out of Cards
When you run out of cards, something should happen. Crazy things should happen like when a Dota game goes too long. Meteors could fall from the sky; cats living with dogs.
How much value do keywords like regen and decay bring to the table. They are essentially delayed healing and damage. Sure, it adds depth, but in a game as complex as Artifact, maybe these keywords and mechanics are best added in later? In particular, Sand King's Sand Storm and Winter Wyvern Arctic Burn feel really weak as decay but would be stronger and immediately satisfying if they just did damage directly. If decay and regen are removed, heroes that would currently have those keywords can be changed to have these keywords in the future along with the appropriate stat changes. I find the concept of regeneration to be particularly strange when Legion Commander and Selfish Cleric heal after combat, rather just having regeneration. I understand there is a difference, but why?
Development Cycle & Expectation
I think it is fair to ask of the development team some sort of vision in the form of a design devblog, a podcast, or a roadmap. For a beta that is expected to last for at least a year, it would be nice to know if it worth keeping up with the beta or just come back in a year.
I would guess, not being in the software development industry, beta development probably needs to take longer than was initially announced. A "full" release should be made as an open beta at that point. Then polish for another 6 -12 months along with a proportionally sized competitive esports scene launch to go with full release. Regardless, some sort of schedule should be made to manage expectations. I know they have considered this from their previous blog posts and it is a good thing. I think we could use more though.
Feedback on Feedback
Making feedback public also holds the devs accountable to a degree. From my understanding, some people, including pros, pointed out the deep flaws in 1.0. However, I heard their concerns were summarily dismissed. If the development team wants to create a perception of being receptive to feedback and that matters to us as the playerbase, we also need to perform our role as beta testers in a manner of equal level with the developer’s. Our feedback has to fit in the context of professional software development. It is the least we can do if we expect the same from the devs.
As someone trying to give feedback, my imagination can run wild and I can spend countless hours theorizing about this change or that change. The problem is I don’t know if these ideas can be integrated into the larger development picture without knowing what the thought process or plans of the development team are. This discourages thinking about large changes and instead focuses on fine details. The problem with this is if the game has a fundamental flaw, feedback users right now are not empowered to identify and help develop a solution. This could be the same downfall 1.0 suffered from.
I think Reddit might be a better format for feedback discussion than Discord as it is longer form, more permanent in record, and has some way to filter out chaf through the voting system. If the users of the Artifact Reddit consider carefully how they can curate the feedback conversation with the power to vote, it could become a useful tool to make community sentiment and ideas more clear.
Perhaps an ideal form of feedback would be a collaboratively written document.
The devs on Artifact clearly are trying very hard. I literally had a question answered by a dev within one hour at midnight his local time. Patches are released every few days with hotfixes and some unannounced changes happening in between. Does this sound like dev team that doesn’t care? Or a team who would not enact good feedback if it was possible? I don’t know what constraints the devs are under, but surely there are some. I can’t imagine a reason why in particular the devs in Discord would put themselves out there to public criticism except that they really do care and want the game to succeed.
I think the devs stepped up to make some hard choices when redesigning Artifact. It seemed like in 1.0 there were certain high-minded design concepts the devs bent over backwards to preserve and mash together without consideration to a holistic product. In contrast, 2.0 feels better by reevaluating those concepts and making compromises to make a product that is greater than the sum of its parts rather than less. I wonder now if the shopping phase might be the last vestige of both 1.0 design and philosophy.
submitted by mkbit