I don't have a lot to say; I kinda want to finish writing up this post and then get back to some homework and group assignments I have to finish up.
But either way, the last post didn't feel complete which is why, of course, I've broken it up into more than one section. If you haven't read the last section, you can check it out here. You don't need to read it to read this section though, since this part, of course, will be more specific.
Anyways, getting started.
The Players, The MoneyWe've talked before in our last post about how VC as a game might be either dying or not and I said that it's neither dying nor not dying. Feel free to disagree with me on that, but I'm just offering my perspective.
However, VC relies on its players to sustain itself. Just like every game on the market that actually gets any attention. Valkyrie Crusade as a particular case study doesn't get much different from if I wrote about Fantasica or AGG save for a few momentous differences. They're all card collection games, and they all have a gameplay system along with a very extensive pachinko summon that costs lots of money for quite little return.
In this case, for Valkyrie Crusade, Valkyrie Crusade relies mainly on the revenue of this pachinko summon system because as said before in my last blog post, people want powerful and cute girl cards.
Let's make this point clear for now, and then I'll continue.
Nubee Tokyo... wants to make money.
They want YOUR money.
That's the basic premise for many games of this design. Heck, that's the premise for most games on the market, but there are other aspects that go into a game than just collecting stuff. VC wasn't designed to have an intriguing combat system that tested your wit or addictive like a game about a certain dyslexic bird going through tiny fucking hoops is. The fun thing is the "beautiful maidens" and collecting them, and the rest of the game's features are just subroutines of that.
Valkyrie Crusade, much like all the other CCGs that exist on the market save for maybe a very few I don't know about, is all about making money. Dat money.
I wouldn't blame them. If I were designing a game that revolved around the premise of collecting "beautiful maidens", of course that'd be one of the only things that'd keep this game I'm designing on its own two feet. There ARE games out there with cute girls that you can play too, but VC is attractive because of its "beautiful maidens" alone.
Terra Battle, for one example, has some cute girls (like Samantha, hell yeah), but it primarily focuses on it's fantasy aesthetic, combat system, and minimalist cash shop to keep it afloat, and it is getting damn popular. Much faster than VC is. Nearly 1 million downloads in two weeks. No wonder it's featured so damn often this month. It's Mistwalker's first full-fledged game, after all. Any marketer will tell you that's damn good.
Compared to, well, Valkyrie Crusade's more than 1 and a half year with just reaching 5 million downloads. This isn't nubee's first game either, although even nubee isn't that popular.
But we're comparing apples to oranges here, and it's easy to see how much passion and thought goes into one game's design compared to others.
One thing to remember is that games like these, despite their design flaws, are popular, especially in Japan, China, and Singapore. There is large potential revenue hidden in these kinds of games that eventually have some sort of reward those who are willing to spend a lot of money.
It's a cultural fad. The emphasis on mobile gaming is stronger than before in these places because there are people that want all this, and they're willing to cash out big bucks for fantasy 2D characters that have a considerable edge compared to those who don't. And oftentimes, the cash-only girls are cuter.
So the rest of the world outside of those three places isn't their "big" market to focus on, because we don't spend absurd amounts like they do. Not very many of us.
What's Attractive (And Maybe Not So Attractive)Let's just do a quick rundown of what we know about what attracts us to this game.
There's maybe some unique art style, a unique flavor in VC in that it has a LOT of anime-style card art compared to other CCGs. It's easy to admire for anyone who has a good understanding of the "moe" culture in japan, including "moe" art, "moe" media, and even "moe" dialogue.
It might not sound so different, but it is. The art's easily accessible to people that know what moe is, and even to people that don't know what moe is. Moe art is easy to like. And it's popular. And it's cute. And it's not real life. And it's cute. Did I forget to mention it's cute?
Moe is a fad. And for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, its the word that can come to mean or represent many things that usually all have one thing in common: a love of fantasy (in this sense meaning not real life) characters or representations of them. 2D characters, specifically. Big eyes, cute hair, all that snazz.
Moe is part of the reason why the memetic fad "Mai Waifu" that spawned off from Azumanga Daioh is actually a thing, why all your anime watching friends have heard of and maybe even watched "K-On!" back in 2009, and why crying 2d girls look adorable even though when real people cry their faces are supposed to get all creasy and mangled up with emotion and shit.
Either way, people like it. Show a cute girl in Valkyrie Crusade to someone without any context and they might ask you if that came from some anime art gallery or something. Chances are if they're the right person they'll like it. And Nubee Tokyo has made it a practice to continue churning out recyclable character designs and push them to commisioned artists so they can slave off on it and get some money.
But there's a huge distinction too. This focus on moe with that Nubee Tokyo has imposed on Valkyrie Crusade could quickly make the game dry. I could say that 90% or more of the card art in Valkyrie Crusade consists of just cute girls smiling at the viewer, possibly revealing some skin and stuff. Most of the time it's that generic smile.
You won't see striking art on the same level as Kimihiko Fujiko's character designs or LM7's art in a game like Valkyrie Crusade. They already have their playerbase hooked on "moe", not other prominent, fantastic art styles that invoke some sense of mysticism.
It's supposed to be this way. Nubee Tokyo probably doesn't want to risk losing some of their already existing playerbase when they already have a design aesthetic that just works. It's like Americans and their loud turbocharged front-mounted engine muscle cars. Why change what works? People like that stuff.
But It Gets OldMuch like how anyone gets sick of the same old. Heck, my favorite food is meatball spaghetti (BBQ pork buns as a close second), but even I'd eventually get sick of having it if I had it twice everyday.
However, what can ya do. Nubee is getting a steady influx of players that have just seen the game and already kind of like what they see and what they want to get. Changing anything now might incur more comments and feedback akin to people that liked previous designs compared to new ones.
That's where we quit. When we drop the ball and say "Screw it, I am done with this game and there are none of these girls that I want because either they don't interest me or it's too much effort to get them."
And that's fine. That's the lifespan of a game for a player. People who don't know, learn. People who had the full experience leave.
The Artists Get Bored Too
One of my friends is an artist who has sold her fair share of books and large prints at convention tables in the artist alley and we actually had the luck of meeting each other through some coincidences while I was playing this game.
She said that most of these artists abhor having to draw nearly the same things over and over again. She told me a story about how she knew an illustrator for a small japanese CCG much like this one hated his job because all he'd do is basically draw what he felt like the same stuff over and over and over again.
Fact is, the company who publishes the game is the one who most imposes it. Again, why change? Changing involves risk, and for a game like VC that might be potentially damaging to sales and revenue. Artists, when they get a little too ambitious with their drawings and designs, have their illustrations rejected by the people in charge because it was too deviant from the norm.
Nubee Tokyo is limited in that way.
The only possibly outlawing presence is AkkeyJin, who has had a strong leading presence over the game aesthetic since the service began. Fenrir (girl up there) turned out to be very popular because of her pouty expression and super risque design. Loki also turned out a fair number because she looked sexy and domineering.
And I admire that girl lots. Her blog is fun to follow, although most of all of us out there who are reading this probably don't understand much Japanese. I'm... learning sporadically.
The Kingdom?"Decorate your kingdom." Yeah, most of us don't do that. The select some of us do, but really, there's no point to it. It's just an accessory.
We kinda just leave it looking like some organized mess.
Still a mess.
Just... you know... organized.
As long as you know which buildings you have to upgrade and keep all your resources in one place where you can gather them easily, it works.
Thing is though, nobody cares enough to do more than that. The player doesn't value decorating their kingdom because there's almost really no point to it. The internally generated value of the kingdom within the game isn't worth much to the player who's playing the game, almost nil, even though that's one of the 'fun' aspects of VC touted as one of the goals in the game. There's no reward for if you decorate and design your kingdom extensively other than a sense of self gratification and the praises from random people visiting or your friends and alliance mates.
So we're going to ignore that point, because how many clock towers have you ever seen in anyone's kingdoms? Including the rankers.
That tells a story all on its own. People save up their jewels for other things, like summons or buying stuff that actually benefits them, like Magic Schools and Yggdrasils. For a non-IAP player, that's infinitely more important than showing off all your cherry blossom tree ornaments.
If VC was a more social game, maybe there'd be some worth in making a good looking kingdom and getting it praised. But really, people just build the buildings they need to get it out of the way and then some. There isn't such a good emphasis on desigining a good kingdom.
It's still nice to think about how Valkyrie Crusade now holds events where they're tossing out event buildings again, though. For a long time after Amaterasu's event, there were no event buildings up until somewhere about a month or two ago.
AccessibilityOk, so I've went over what primary things make us attracted to the game and provided some criticisms of them, but how does this relate to new players joining with other players quitting?
Well see, out of everyone who downloads the game from the iOS app store or Google Play store there's only going to be a select few that stick around to play the game actively and then become one of us.
And accessibility is the main factor that will keep a new player's attention. Valkyrie Crusade has a pretty low accessibility factor. When I refer to 'accessibility' (and I might be using this word in the wrong sense), I'm talking about how easy it is for a new player to get into the game and start having fun.
For games like these, it's a HUGE time investment. If you want to get anywhere close to completing all the event stuff from scratch it'll take you at least 2 weeks or so, shorter if you invest.
VC has the benefit of having a very easy to learn battle system. All cards have a certain skill with a certain proc chance and proc count. They have ATK, DEF, and soldiers. It's also not very interesting or complex once you learn that the most reliable teams consist of a systematic 1-3 team buffers with a couple other damage dealers and maybe one support card.
That considered, however, VC is a game of time, and a game of luck. With effort you'll eventually get all the good cards you want to drop, but you certainly won't be able to get them very easily. The event cards are an exception and I admire how nubee's actually making them more useful, but in the end you'll still have to rely a lot on luck to get all the SRs and even URs (if you're doing summons) to get far in the game.
A Game of TimeOne of the players back on the previous post I linked said that VC is now more of a game where you'll only really have fun if you still enjoy the game playing it for a long time. It isn't exciting when you start out at the bottom rung in this game, even though everyone has to. You can't get any of the ranking rewards without having to be fed a lot, you have to find all your good and reliable senders and traders, you have to farm points or get far in the game with a mediocre team until you can evolve it to a kickass one.
VC can suck ass, because it is a game of time. You get more powerful the longer you play, and the longer you've been around. If you've been around for less time, chances are you'll have a weaker team that takes you more time to get points and rewards with because it takes longer or more luck to do damage.
And let's be clear. The biggest problem with games that don't have a skill factor is that they're not very hooking to begin with. They don't make you think. Playing this game means zombifying yourself. You could easily multitask while playing this game like I do, but chances are you'll start to get pretty crazy when you're basically doing the same old thing for hours on end. And they're all little miinute activities, like finding AW, killing AW, finding FAW, sending FAW, seeing FAW, killing FAW.
A Game of Luck (or Patience)It saddens even the people who have money to throw. Box summons is only really the most reliable gamble in this game, but even that costs, what, $550-600 USD in its worst case to get a HUR?
That's a huge investment, and one that's likely to attract very few people. One thing that's notable, I guess, is that even if you spend money you'll still have to spend some considerable amount of time to use all the powerful cards you get via kingdom, unit cost, or level limitations. Although they've countered the unitcost thing, you still require your barracks to be leveled if you want to use a HUR or two in your team with the rest being HSRs.
Jumping into this game and deciding to spend a lot of money is not everyone's cup of tea unless a person is absolutely dedicated into getting into this game for any odd reason out of the blue. There are other games where money is better, and more efficiently spent. In VC's case, all your free jewels are best spent on buildings you actually require to have a much easier time finding and attaining the event cards by subduing archwitches.So instead, most players just have to wait for the best until they can start creating a very formidable and reliable FAW and AW team such that they can rank or reach 'endgame', whatever it is that endgame in VC might be.
And even then, it takes a very long time. It took me around 2 to 3 months of gameplay everyday to build up my 'basic' team that consisted of an odd combination of Lilim and some team buffers and damage dealers. Mostly because back then, FAWs were non-existent so relying on AW drops were the only way you could get SRs.
With time and patience, 7 months after I started the game I had the very reliable team I do now. You can view that on my profile, but I guess I'm one of 'those' people that run a team that consists of 3 HUR ranking rewards. That's a patience-related thing, however.
The good thing, at least, is that the fact this is a luck based thing means you get surprises. Surprises are fun, and that's what compromises a good game compared to a bad one at times. It's just that there aren't very many surprises in VC, and oftentimes you're groaning more at the terrible drop rates that VC has than actually going hysterical over an Ensemble drop, which I have yet to receive.
Both of these things, then, aren't really that great. Though the surprises are great when they happen, they are rare and few in between. The fact that there's now an announcement on the summon page when someone gets a rare card doesn't help either. It's really just a psychological phenomenon that when you see a bunch of people getting rare cards that you could get, you're more compelled to do so. Just like how if your neighbor was telling you a bunch of great things about how he's going to be a millionaire during the dotcom bubble and and you start investing in the same stuff he does.
The Endgame (then and now)I guess it's nice to know that it wasn't always like this. Just going to quickly brush over this.
Endgame used to just be this:
- Have a reliable AW team
- Have an AB team (optional?)
- Be able to collect all the AW and other event cards with ease
- Get to lv 100/120.
Now it's this.
- Have a reliable FAW team
- Be able to rank
- Lots of senders and traders
- Join a very active alliance
- Be active in AD at certain times during the day
- Get Rank All Time 1 (eek!)
Why It's Important
Because before FAWs were introduced to the game, much less UR ranking rewards, VC was mostly a matter of enjoying the game at your own pace getting all the event cards every event and then farming some more in case you wanted to see Lilim drop, for example.
So endgame didn't take all that long to get to. Orihime was a reliable AW card for many players, and with some time other team buffers could also drop and help make an even better team.
However, the game didn't have much lasting value because of it. Players would come and go as they please because there wasn't much of a reliance back then on trading or sending unless you lacked a magic school. Relying on your own AWs for drops was often the best method, and experienced players would also be willing to friend newbies and take sent AW for grabs because swords were still plentiful back then.
Well, they still are now, in my case, but since FAWs were introduced to the game the game has taken up a lot more time for those who want to really play and see how far they go. Problem is, outside of personal achievement it isn't really that fun.
It's just a huge time sink.
Though, it's not like it wasn't a huge time sink before, it just became a much bigger one after that update. The FAW update was responsible for a bunch of things: presents cleaning, box opening, complaining about bad traders, trader and sender spreadsheets... like, you name a bunch of aspects that exist now and those you didn't really need to have back then. Now you gotta do all these chores. Ahh, chores.
Not that you couldn't do what you did back then before FAWs came into existence, it's just the perceptive side of things. When there's more things available to players, they tend to want everything that's available. Like I said, cute girls are why most if not all players play this game.
In addition, ranking rewards are exclusive things. They perform almost as well as IAP UR drops if you happen to rank in the top 300, and plus you get a little trophy you get to favorite and show to all your friends and comrades as a sign of your ranking prestige.
ClosingYes, there is going to be a part three! Why? It's because I felt like I didn't get to cover enough again. And I have even more exams this week and the next, but it isn't too bad.
Haven't been on VC for a while as you can tell. I go on very infrequently, as usual these days, and I apologize to all my senders and traders for that matter. Mostly because I'm still concerned with a lot of crap on my plate which includes reviewing group code, concepts, paradigms, math, whatever you imagine I study.
Anyways, in my third post I'll go over what aspects of the game make this seem like it's dying. Someone in my previous blog brought up a kinda good point about how a game is either one of the two, either dying or not dying. I'm kinda suspectible to that opinion too. Every game dies, but what aspects of the game could've made it so?
And as I've said before, I'm only writing about this more now because, well, I 'kinda' retired, but also that there have been numerous other people that have quit and it's only being brought to attention now.
I'll note one last thing but you know, even though nubee is kind of uncommunicative with us and I guess it's because they're overseas or something, there IS infact an inquiry form that allows you to send suggestions to nubee.
Go to the bee on the menu, then go to support, scroll all the way down to inquiry form and then select feedback/concerns, and from there you could just suggest something nubee should change with the game. I'll talk more about it later, but for now it's Sunday, and I have classes tomorrow.
Seeya guys later, and I wish you all the best in collecting all them cute girls and/or ranking, whatever you do! Thanks for reading.
EDIT: Right, also, congrats to Athena of Athena's Fury for ranking 1 today! I guess it's exciting to see another person rank first, though that must take so much effort now. Yikes.