Clash of Clans Part II

by kaminazo

I have a few things to say about Clash of Clans. About 6 months ago, I had completely stopped playing it. It wasn’t due to the rant about in-app purchases I had in my last editorial. I actually had a change-of-heart about a lot of the things I said last time. As a designer trying to get a job in the game industry, I now see the benefits of GET games and in-app purchases. No, I quit playing Clash of Clans because, at Town Hall Level 8, the game got tedious and frustrating.

A student of mine got me back into it. He was about to lap me on Town Hall Level 9, and I couldn’t let that happen. Now I have a Clan with some of my old friends from college. We just started a couple of weeks ago, so it’s been fun teaching them how to play. I can also donate them ridiculously overpowered troops to defend their tiny level 3 bases. The social aspect of the game has rekindled my interest.

On in-app purchases, I read quite a few articles that have highlighted the temporary nature of game design jobs. Usually a designer works on a project and then the studio shuts down or works on another game. So companies downsize and job retention is low. In-app purchases keep studios open, keep designers employed, and keep updates rolling out to improve gameplay. There are quite a few benefits to this system. For gamers, it means that we continue to get new content and improved functionality. Before, games were just one-shots or sequels. Now games are becoming an eternal format. We don’t need Clash of Clans II: The Remix when Supercell can keep grinding out improvements for the original. For some games that cost upwards of $80, this means we don’t have to ever buy it again…maybe.

There are still some drawbacks to this system, but the idea of eternally valid programs and perpetual web updates is very new. I am still getting used to paying a monthly fee for Adobe Creative Suite, for example. But, I’m so glad I don’t have to buy the full version of Adobe Photoshop all at once again. And the program only gets better and more intuitive with every update.

Where was I? Oh yes, Clash of Clans. I just started playing the game again right in the midst of the first Clash of Clans convention and a giant, ominous content update–one of those awesome things that are keeping games eternally valid. This one is called The Town Hall 11 Update.

It’s been particularly interesting for me to follow as a level designer. I’m very interested in the decision-making process behind all the new roll-outs. All the articles and videos and interviews I’ve watched are pretty convoluted, vague, and potentially difficult to understand as a simple gamer. Or at least, they’re very high on methodology and very confusing as to how we will have to adapt when the game changes.

The Problems

As the game is now, Town Hall levels 1-6 are pretty straightforward. They’re well-balanced, fun, and great at teaching the mechanics of play and how to exist and adapt in the game environment. It’s also pretty easy to disconnect, or play for hours depending on your mood.

Once you get to Town Hall 7, it gets more tedious and slow and repetitive. The game seems less fair, more strict, and more time-consuming. The build times on everything are crazy long. You can’t just play the game anymore. Something as simple as a wall upgrades instantly (as long as you have a free builder) but costs half a million gold or more. Multiply this by 100 walls and it can take an eternity. Then there’s building and troop upgrades. Building an X-Bow took a week. Then it took a second week to upgrade it. So I had to wait 2 weeks before I could even use it. The build times are something you get used to, even the costs. It’s a time-based game.

But, the biggest problem is cost. Everything gets exponentially more expensive at higher levels. That’s natural. But, to upgrade (for example) a level 5 archer to a level 6 archer in your Laboratory is 6,000,000 elixir. Over the last week, I have been attacking to my base’s maximum potential and regularly. I’m able to get about 300,000 elixir per attack, maximum. Which means I need to complete 20 successful attacks to raise the funds. But the training cost of troops to achieve these rewards is about 150,000 elixir per attack (not including spells). That means I have to complete twice as many (about 40) successful attacks to raise enough funds. Without the aid of green gems (which cost money, but boost building times), it can take an hour to train the required troops.

Here’s the real problem. Say I’ve got 2 hours of play time after work. That means I can attack and train my troops about 3 times. If I’m perfect every attack, I’ll clear close to 1,000,000 elixir gross. Minus my troop costs, it’s only about 550,000 net. I log off for the night with my shield expired. I get attacked immediately after that (usually within 5min) by a level 10 player who absolutely decimates my base, yielding her 350,000 of my hard-earned elixir. Then 12 hours later, while I’m at work, I get attacked again by another ridiculously strong opponent who nabs 300,000 elixir. My shield is now active for another 12 hours, but I have actually lost 100,000 elixir more than I started with the night before. That’s a crappy situation to get off work to.

That’s a usual day in my Clash of Clans experience. In fact, I even spent 60 green gems to boost my barracks and barbarian & archer queen for two hours last night. I still only managed to clear 1.5 million elixir and lost 1 million of it overnight. It basically makes the game impossible to progress at unless I play it once every 12 hours for at least 2 hours non-stop (as soon as you log off, you’ll get attacked). That’s why I quit.

This is an obvious design flaw. It’s not very balanced for the mid-level players and discourages replay. I still like the game, but I’m not motivated to try and level my base and troops anymore, nor am I excited about attacking other bases. The only way to avoid these crushing losses is to put your Town Hall in plain sight, unprotected for a trophy farmer to pick up. They’ll only drop a few troops, steal a few trophies, and leave you with your loot intact and an 8-hour shield.

The Solutions

Thank the makers for the massive Town Hall 11 update. They have done some ingenious planning to give us a more balanced experience, while adding replay value and new elements to strive for. The game has such a massive following that no matter how good the update is, there will be a lot of bitching in the forums. I’ll list the changes in the update and how we will actually play the game after it.

Attack Through Shield

What’s that?

You can attack while your shield is active without (completely) removing it.

So how will this affect gameplay?

Now your shield clock is a resource. You have to spend it in bits to attack (3 hours for one). I have to be attacked in order to get it back. Or buy it with green gems.

What’s this gonna do to me?

For those of us playing the game now, it means we don’t have to worry about turning off our device in between the first couple of attacks. As long as there’s some time left, you can log back in and attack again. It also means that there will be roughly 3x more people attacking at any time because they’re not afraid of losing their shields, and 3x fewer people to attack because their shields are still up.

Automatic Logoff “Personal Break”

What’s that?

The game will kick you out if you’ve been playing too long.

So how will this affect gameplay?

You can’t play longer than a few hours, and you can’t have an infinite shield by never shutting off your device.

What’s this gonna do to me?

You just gotta take a 6 minute break every once in a while. But, finally all those people who have avoided getting attacked by cheating will feel the PAIN.

Village Guard

What’s that?

You get a little extra time, based on your league rank (trophies) as a shield “safety net” that kicks in when you activate it (even while logged out).

So how will this affect gameplay?

You’ll be tweaking the timing of your attacks and your village guard to maximize the time you’re protected from others and minimize the time you’re vulnerable.

What’s this gonna do to me?

You can stop playing long enough to eat dinner and talk to your family/take a pee break without getting attacked. (depending on your rank or wallet)

Town Hall Loot

What’s changed?

There’s more gold, elixir, and dark elixir stored in your Town Hall.

So how will this affect gameplay?

There’s now 20x more loot inside your Town Hall. It’s still not a lot for higher level players to spend. But anyone who doesn’t protect it better can guarantee they will get attacked more.

What’s this gonna do to me?

If you see a base with an exposed Town Hall, attack it! You’ll probably get some decent loot, even if you don’t get trophies or a high damage percentage. Oh, and be sure to hide your own very well.

No more Trophy Farming/Shield Farming

What’s that?

In the past, you could find a vulnerable Town Hall, destroy it with a single archer, and get one star, a handful of trophies, 1,000 elixir and gold, and your full league bonus rewards. Likewise, people would intentionally put their base in an easy place to promote this kind of an attack. The defender only loses 1,000 gold and elixir, but gets an 8-hour shield.

So how will this affect gameplay?

You can still do this, but now there’s 20x more loot to be gained/lost in your Town Hall. The attacker gets no trophies or bonus. The defender gets no shield. More bases will reflect this change visually and be harder to attack.

What’s this gonna do to me?

Your new goal is to hit 70% damage on every base you attack. You get the maximum bonus reward (which has doubled), two stars,  and trophies…well those are dependent on your opponent’s rank compared to your own. Rank is no longer about quantity, but quality of attacks/opponents.

New Stuff!

What’s new?

Town Hall Level 11.

Grand Warden Hero.

Wizard Tower Level 9.

Storages Level 12.

Witch Level 3.

Minion Level 7.

Freeze Spell.

Eagle Artillery.

Larger Village Space.

Spell Donation.

So how will this affect gameplay?

For lower level players, not much. If you’ve maxed out the game, this will give you more to do and hopefully make the game stretch a bit longer.

What’s this gonna do to me?

You’ll see lots of cool new stuff. Hopefully you’ll get to use some of it. I personally like that a lot of the new stuff has a “lighter” motif than the current black and spikes and lava. The biggest changes will probably be in Clan Wars. Basically, it’ll be harder to cheat and more difficult to succeed at attack and defense. It remains to be seen what the best ways to earn the most loot will be.