The announcement of a community voting feature regarding balancing in the horizon of 2024 has generated many reactions, some of excitement and some of fear as well as many questions and suggestions over how such a feature would work.
Today, let’s explore our current design for this feature as well as the reasoning behind it. Please do keep in mind that while we feel good about this design, things can still change at this point in particular any number you might see is susceptible to being tweaked.
The voting feature will be integrated into the game and will be available to eligible players for about a week before a patch rolls out. The eligibility condition is still to be determined, but our intention is mostly to protect the voting process from being manipulated by bot accounts and to ensure voters are active players. When entered, the feature will look like a kind of modified deckbuilder where players can make and submit their vote.
To vote players will have to elect 3 cards in each of the 4 groups: Provision buff, Provision nerfs, Power buff & Power nerf. The Provision groups accept Units, Artifacts, Specials & Leader Abilities while the Power groups only accept Units. Only cards available in the deckbuilder can be voted for, not tokens.
The same card cannot be put in two different groups and players cannot submit an incomplete vote, so one player always ends up voting for 12 cards at the same time. Inside of a group, cards are ranked with the first card being worth more points than the second which is worth more than the 3rd.
Before the patch, the system will gather the votes of all players and create one ranking per group. If a card appears in multiple rankings, only the entry with the most points will be kept while the others are discarded. The system will take the top 15 cards of each ranking, giving us a total of maximum 60 changes per patch, and will change power and provisions by 1 accordingly. The balance changes and the players' votes will then automatically be made public via an article on playgwent.com.
To keep changes relevant and prevent manipulation if the game's population changes, the system will also include a point threshold under which any card is discarded. This means that as the population becomes smaller, the total amount of changes might diminish. To prevent it going too low, we will also guarantee a minimum of changes making it into patches regardless of the point threshold. The exact value of those is to be figured out and will depend on observations on the first months of the feature being live.
With the design out of the way, let’s now delve into the reasoning behind these choices. First of all let’s talk about our goals. With developer support for Gwent ending after 2023, our desire was to keep providing players one way or another with stuff to look up to and prevent Gwent from just becoming a still environment.
For that to happen, we believe that Gwent and more particularly the way it is played, its metagame, must keep evolving and changing. As this cannot be done by us, we want to empower you, our playerbase by letting you directly influence and decide on these changes so that Gwent can keep evolving and keep offering new grounds to be explored.
Limitations & Reasoning
The main issue we face when it comes to opening up the possibility for the community to change the game is who should be making the changes and how? Assembling a select group of individuals that decide and implement the changes in our stead could be done, but leaves the question of these persons are selected and held accountable.
More importantly, the tools we use to work on cards were made for internal use and would require a lot more resources and time than we have available to be made safe and accessible to use. In general, opening a game to be modded can require a lot of development time, especially when it wasn't developed with that perspective in mind. In Gwent we face particular troubles due to the way the game is operated with central servers running the game logic rather than player's clients.
As such, we have to turn to more automated solutions, as well as a more democratic process. By doing so however, we now face the issue of representativeness of the changes and of building consensus. It is one thing for people to agree on what must change, for instance which card should be nerfed.
But if we can't get them to agree on what exactly this change should be (for instance an ability tweak, a variable change, removing 2 power, increasing provisions by 1, etc…) then we have a problem. And even if we can get them to agree on the exact solution, one change isn’t enough for the game to feel different, we need a multitude of them. And to ensure these changes are valid, we need enough votes to ensure they are representative.
Multiple solutions and processes exist when it comes to voting, but commonly solutions that attempt at being more representative and precise also end up being more complex and importantly introducing more overhead. The more things are asked of you and the more complicated it seems, the less likely you are to bother. We've all been through surveys that were way too long and just dropped them when they started asking to write an actual sentence instead of just ticking boxes.
The proposition for the voting system aims to maximise this compromise between overhead and number of changes. Restricting what can be changed allows us to more easily build consensus and limit overhead.
While we understand that the limitations in regards to what can be changed can be disappointing, we believe that these restrictions are necessary to limit the divergence of opinions and keep as many players as possible involved in the process. Furthermore, while the idea of creating a perfectly balanced game may be enticing, to keep being interesting a game needs to be fresh and to keep changing.
Obviously a more balanced state is more pleasant and lasts longer due to its variety, but in card games it’s only a matter of time before it ends up feeling stale. As such, the feature focuses on enabling a continuous organic evolution.
In that regard, having people submit 3 cards for each group rather than 12 cards where they get to specify the exact change they want allows us to heavily limit overhead and has the added benefits of having a more even spread.
You might have some pretty strong feelings about 3 cards you want to see nerfed, but casting your vote also requires you to fill the other spots. It's not so overwhelming that you might quit, but it still gets you to sit back and think a bit more, leading us to receive more votes about buffs notably than we'd get if we just let people vote freely. More generally, these restrictions also allow us to make the development time way more manageable, especially in terms of UX.
The reason we're building this feature inside of the game is that it allows us to touch a far greater portion of the playerbase than we'd get elsewhere, leading to more representativity. We also believe that it can serve as a great engagement feature. Having your opinion be asked feels good and we hope that getting to see it have a direct impact on the game will feel motivating.
We believe that this process of iteration with a medium number of changes every patch, even if they are 1 point at a time, has the unique property of letting an organic evolution take place that could make Gwent into an environment people would be intrigued to come back to.
The last question to answer is the frequency of the changes which plays into the much larger topic of balancing what very active players might desire as they consume new content faster against what is reasonable for more occasional players so that they don’t end up feeling overwhelmed.
Our default frequency will still be the monthly balance patches we currently have, but this is not a resolved question and it is one on which we are open to experiment. While we definitely won't go for changes happening every week, we might test 2 or 3 weeks, especially in the first months of the feature.
We hope this answers your question and makes our reasoning as well as the particular restrictions we are working with clearer. More importantly, we hope it allows you to look toward the future with brighter eyes. We are excited in the ways Gwent will keep evolving under the influence of this community voting feature!