The Inside Scoop: Leagues And Championships

Last month we hinted at a followup to our exclusive first interview with Joshua. Today, we can finally announce that the rumor is true: We’ve got solid answers on some of the most pressing questions of the day.

(Much like the first Inside Scoop, the following has been condensed from a lengthy email chain. Just imagine we’re all in a comfy studio with nice cups of tea and a plate of those shortbread cookies you can only get at this time of the year, hanging out and chilling. -Editor)

Hi! I’m Gnerphk and this is Talespin. (Pretend you can see him wave. He’s waving now.) Once again, we’ve tracked down the enigmatic Joshua to ask him a few questions about Planets Nu: particularly what we’re likely to see happen with League play and the new style of Emperor War, scheduled to begin with the new year.

One of the biggest problems with the original War setup is player attrition.  The Wars are high-pressure games, and over the years we’ve lost a couple of our top players as a result.  In the new League Championship format you’ve dealt with this by making each position a team endeavour rather than a solo contest. Do you think this will help players stand the pressure?

This is definitely one of the outcomes we are hoping for. We want to make the experience fun — not painful.

First off, we’re hoping that having a team supporting you will help brace people up. Inevitably, 10 out of 11 people are going to lose the game. Sometimes, no matter how well you play, you can’t win. When your team can see that unfold, you can hope to have their support and understanding, which should ease the pain a bit.

However, this isn’t the only way we’re going to improve things. The new championship matches will be capped at less than a year long. We’ll be starting them up right at Jan 1 and they will end at the latest around the first week of December. We are still defining the exact rule set on how that ending will come about. They will include an accelerating FoF — we would like to avoid a hard end turn. The Top Advance games in League so far this year have gone quite well, though we feel the settings are not yet optimized.

Before we talk about that: A player drop really messes with the Wars themselves. Can you tell us how the new format will help with this?

Obviously we hope this will help significantly as there will be three players for each race already “playing” the game. Plus the slot will be owned by the team — so anyone on the team can jump in if those three players are unable to go. However, the rules going in will be simple: If a team drops and no-one on that team wants to take over then we won’t seek a further replacement. The game will not pause; the team must keep their spot going. These aren’t going to be the impossible multi-year battles they’ve been in the past.

Do you foresee any problems?  People angrily storming out of Leagues, battles over the Commander position, that sort of thing?  What do we do about it if, for example, a League team entirely collapses, or just collectively resigns?

One area I am worried about is how each team will choose their commanders for the championship games. I can see it creating a bit of tension on some teams; however, I’m optimistic that teams will find their own way. If we find that it’s creating too much trouble we may introduce a “neutral” mechanic that teams can turn on – like giving first dibs to the player on a team who scores the most points for their team that season. That sort of thing. But I don’t think it will be necessary. 

As far as a team entirely collapsing… As I said earlier, we won’t be doing replacements in that scenario. The game will just carry on.

So a neutral mechanic, like a ranked-choice secret voting system?  Or did you have something random in mind, or performance-based?

We haven’t really thought through all the possibilities. We aren’t going to implement anything unless it proves to be a problem.

I have to ask: Are you secretly planning to sneak in the Horwasp as potential random race selections?

No. The Horwasp will not be in the Championship match. We have plans for the Horwasp, but we don’t foresee them in competitive play any time soon.

Thank God. Now, going back to an earlier point: You mentioned Top Advance as something that’s going to be tweaked.

Yes. In League games, Top Advance 6 is too many — even for these games, which were intended to run very quickly.

Are you concerned that this empowers massive alliances, encouraging exactly that sort of behavior we don’t want to see in a War?

Massive alliances do seem to be a trend that is taking place in quite a few games. However, when players are truly playing for the win, as we’d hope in a championship game, diplomatic complexity goes up significantly. We believe the end game mechanic will have a greater influence on game length than on diplomatic partnerships. One thing that Top Advance games do seem to do is lead to swifter elimination of defeated players — as this is needed to move games toward conclusion.

While we’re at it:  Why do blitz games award so many points — potentially the same number as a long-game first place finish?  What about blitz proficiency qualifies a player for a War?

Blitz games are great fun and they don’t take much time. The league formats are mostly chosen to create a reasonable play-time expectation from players over the course of one season. The best teams will rise to the top, regardless of the format.

Can you give us any hints about the setup for the first League Championship?  (I’m guessing it’ll use the New Nu Queue, but it’s just a guess.)

Details haven’t been fully defined yet.

Fair enough. Speaking of the New Nu Queue: Any feedback on our “Breaking The New Nu Queue” article?

Every global queue system creates opportunities to affect your opponents — since this is a shared resource with your enemies. Maximizing your gains and exploiting opportunities through real resource allocation (such as building many starbases) or risking your ship slots (by a mass recycle for example) is one element that makes this a unique and fun game mechanic.

With the Planetary Production Queue we feel we’ve created a mechanism that rewards the behaviours we’d like to see (aggressively seeking planets), minimizes tedious activities (like trying to stuff the queue with big ships), gives players strategic control (rbX), and rewards players fairly (much less random). Finding ways to use this system for your own benefit is now up to the players. This article seems like a good start in identifying ways to be successful!

One of the first games using this system is Cave World. Have you considered writing an analysis once it’s done?

I will be happy to contribute to a Cave World retrospective. I’ve never built so many DW’s and swept so many webs and still lost. Kudos to our enemies in that one.

One thing we can see from the outside is the mass recycle.  Did you plan on the massive PBP bump?  Was that designed deliberately into the system?

We knew the PP bump was possible if we managed to recycle more ships than the entire number of queued ships. This was possible in the old system too; just less likely because everyone spends so much energy loading the queue. This worked in our favour because we had a large SB count lead.

I don’t see any problem with this mechanism. This type of advanced play is something top level players may need to defend against in some games.

We’re very excited to see what happens with this new queue system, and with the Wars, going forward.

Thanks for doing the interview, Joshua!

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