In this article, we’d like to take a look back at what’s happened in the six months since Shadowverse was released on June 17, 2016. We especially want to focus on issues in the ranked match game environment and how we’ve tried to remedy them in updates. This should also double as an explanation of why we’re not changing any cards in our second expansion, Rise of Bahamut, scheduled for December 29.
When we mention the game environment, we have two things in mind:
• Win rates and use rates of individual deck types
• Non-deck elements that influence game outcomes, including first-player or second-player advantage
Our biggest goal is to make sure everyone can play Shadowverse in a great game environment. We keep that goal in the forefront of our minds when we design the game; we also analyze match data daily and work to resolve any issues we uncover as a result.
So what makes for great game environment?
Win rates and use rates aren’t any higher than they should be.
• When things are working well, there is a variety of viable decks. Different decks become popular as tastes shift or new expansions are released.
• When things aren’t working well, the same decks stay popular over time. One of the common solutions here is to change the cost or ability of key cards in decks that have high win rates and play rates.
The effects of first-player or second-player advantage are minimized.
• When things are working well, the results of a match depend on the decks that players have chosen and how the cards were played.
• When things aren’t working well, luck or other randomness (“RNG”) determines the outcome of matches. Common solutions here include rules changes and changes to the abilities of key cards.
Based on these points, we’ll take a look back at each period of the game’s operation from release to the present day.
Official Release (June 17, 2016–)
Prior to the official release of Shadowverse, we released the game in a beta state. During the beta state the first player was winning significantly more matches, so we decided to change the 70 key cards that were helping to generate that advantage. But that change alone wouldn’t have fixed the situation, so we also altered a handful of other rules.
After the official release, a much larger number of people began playing our game. An analysis of their match results showed that the first-player advantage was still too high, which led us to change another rule.
The first player was winning an excessive number of matches.
Rules were changed so that the second player draws two cards on their first turn.
We anticipated that this solution could boost the win rate of the then-popular Path to Purgatory Forestcraft (“PtP Forest”) deck. To prevent this from happening, we needed to change a key card in the PtP Forest deck; in particular, we decided to change the cost of Harvest Festival, which had an ability that was too strong for its cost.
The win rate of the PtP Forest deck was expected to rise.
The cost of Harvest Festival was changed from 2 play points to 4 play points.
“Major Update (Aug 14)”
Major Update (August 15, 2016–)
We’ll now take a look at a couple of effects that this update had on the game environment.
The second player drawing on their second turn
This change went a long way toward reducing the first player’s advantage. As of September, the win rate for first players in all ranked matches was about 50%; in the higher ranks, the second player had just a slightly higher win rate. We consider this to be a successful solution.
The changed cost of Harvest Festival
PtP Forest remained a popular deck even after this change. But while other decks had a win rate that was consistent across ranks, PtP Forest deck win rates grew progressively higher in higher ranks. This was a sign that wins with the deck were dependent on player skill.
Our data showed that the PtP Forest deck that was popular at this time had a particularly high win rate against other specific decks and classes. We expected that the PtP Forest deck’s win rate in upper ranks and competitive tournament play would lower the play rate of decks that were weaker against it. Here our concern was that this would greatly restrict players’ freedom to choose from a variety of decks.
We ultimately determined that the cause of this issue was Homecoming. The cost of this card was too low for its ability, which returns all followers to the players’ hands. Its ability was very effective against strategies based on playing and strengthening multiple followers, particularly those that included high-cost followers. Homecoming made players reluctant to use classes and decks that incorporated those strategies.
If the PtP Forest deck were to continue existing in a similar state, it would have kept on negatively affecting the game environment even after the release of the next expansion. That’s why we decided to change Homecoming’s cost.
The version of the PtP Forest deck that included Homecoming was restricting players’ freedom to choose from a variety of decks.
The cost of Homecoming was changed from 5 play points to 7 play points.
“Card Cost Adjustment in the September Update”
In retrospect we made a poor choice of words when we said that Homecoming was extremely stressful to deal with. That phrase seems to have taken on a life of its own since then, and has been partially responsible for the feeling that other cards should be changed because they’re tough to play against.
Above we stated that Homecoming’s cost was changed because it was too low for its power—power that was particularly high when facing up against certain other strategies. We’d like to supplement this by explaining that we used the word “stressful” in order to explain our policy of ensuring that abilities can’t easily interfere with a player’s hand or cards. At the same time, we would like to offer our apologies for the misunderstanding we caused, and we retract the phrases “extremely stressful” and “uniquely frustrating.”
We understand that different players find different cards frustrating. While one player might love playing a certain card, another might hate having to deal with it. Even cards that many people would like to see changed have their passionate users. In the future, we plan to better explain the connection between players’ feelings and our reason for changing cards.
Darkness Evolved (September 30, 2016–)
In this update the cost of Homecoming was changed, and the first expansion, Darkness Evolved, was released. We’d like to take a look at how this affected the game environment.
PtP Forest decks remained popular Tier 1 decks during this time. Although the win rate still gets progressively higher in higher ranks, it’s at a level that doesn’t present any problems. In the past three months no deck types have had excessively high win rates or use rates. We’ve therefore decided not to make any changes to cards in the December 29, 2016 update.
When the Darkness Evolved expansion was released, new deck types came into being, and the use rate rose for classes that had been unpopular until then. After the second expansion, Rise of Bahamut, is released, we expect more positive changes like the creation of new deck types and shifts in the popularity of classes.
In the Shadowverse Team, we are aware that there are many different opinions about the strengths and weaknesses of cards, decks, and classes. We’d like to close out this article by explaining our policy on balancing the game environment and making changes to cards.
Policy on Game Environment Balancing and Changes to Cards
We’re aware that many people feel strongly about the power of PtP Forest or Dimension Shift (“D-Shift”) Runecraft decks. In a card game it’s only natural that there are different opinions about the usefulness of specific cards. That’s why we believe any balancing or changes to cards should be done based on match data. We record all ranked matches and analyze them from many different of angles.
At the same time, we predict that when Shadowverse’s second expansion, Rise of Bahamut, is released, we’ll be able to offer an even greater game environment. We will continue to analyze match data and if we uncover any problems with the new game environment, we will make necessary changes to card costs or abilities.
As always, we thank you for understanding and continued support!