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JW

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Making Dominion Online better for new players
« on: September 20, 2017, 11:10:42 am »
+20

Dominion Online can be difficult for beginners. Below are several suggestions to help address this, with links to ShuffleIT’s forums where I’ve posted about items there. Thoughts, comments, and further suggestions appreciated.

Items implemented since this post first mentioned them:
Create an official FAQ and guidelines about how to use the client, building on Chris’s excellent (but now outdated) unofficial FAQ. Edit: werothegreat has posted an official FAQ

Create a “new to Dominion” page in the game client that links to one or more video tutorials about how to play Dominion, to the Dominion wiki so that players can look up FAQs for cards that they are unfamiliar with, and perhaps links to the Dominion Strategy blog’s “New to Dominion” page as well. Edit: werothegreat has posted an official Welcome to Dominion online post.

Remind players of duration attacks, and show -Card and -Coin tokens.

Easy to implement ways:
A “Copper” subscription that adds only Intrigue and Seaside. The current smallest subscription option, “Silver,” adds Intrigue, Seaside, Prosperity, Cornucopia, Hinterlands and Guilds, which may be too much for a new player to learn at once. I eventually bought all sets on the previous online implementation but did so gradually because I was new to the game and that made it easier to learn.

Allow a player to "deactivate" the sets that they have subscribed to, so that they can, for example, still play rated games as if they only had the base set, but can mix in other sets when they want to.  By far the fastest way to find a game is to use the automatch feature to find rated games. Burning Skull had to create a separate account ("Drowning Skull") for his great "How to Base Dominion" video series because it is much harder to get a game with only the base dominion set if you are a subscriber.

Rename “practice” games to “unrated” games. The term "practice game" seems problematic, because it may imply that the games aren't expected to be taken seriously, which reduces player interest in these unrated games. I believe that the term "unrated game" is both more accurate and avoids this negative connotation.  And unrated games help new players to learn new cards at their desired pace, and may provide some people with a less stressful experience.

Create an option to avoid opponents subscribed to more cards. This lets new players avoid running into kingdoms in which almost every card is unfamiliar to them, and there are many new mechanics.

Add a see all Kingcard cards /events/landmarks feature. This is particularly important for new players because they may not know many of the cards in the kingdom and currently need to repeatedly right-click on individual cards.

Update the wording of Black Market to match the current implementation (probably not as important for new players because they're less likely to see it, but this is a simple change that will reduce confusion).

Harder to implement ways:
There should be a well-formatted log available after Dominion Online games to anyone with the hyperlink, regardless of subscription (like the old log prettifier). Having available game logs would make it easier for new players to analyze games, and to get feedback on their games.  There should be a search feature that allows game logs to be looked up later, like the old Goko Salvager website (the closest thing right now is that the website Dominion Scavenger lets you look up game IDs for recent rated games, which you can then load with the "load old games" Dominion Online feature if you subscribe to all of the cards used in that game).

Improve the visual interface of the game, so that less reliance on the game log is required and things are easier to follow for beginners. Show animations when Advisor reveals three coppers ("game does mandatory actions for me" should also be an option that needs to be enabled), show players what cards are in split piles even if they are not on top, etc.

Add an in-client tutorial about how to play Dominion

Improve the play of the bots. Once that is done, add offline play, preferably also available on tablets. Campaigns (potentially available both online and offline) designed to teach new sets one at a time may also be useful.

Note: This post was inspired by Polk’s excellent post that lays out the case for pessimism about Dominion’s future, in large part that full random Dominion has become more complicated over time and so it’s harder to add new players.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2017, 11:38:04 pm by JW »
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werothegreat

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Re: Making Dominion Online better for new players
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2017, 11:40:34 am »
+1

Create an official FAQ about how to use the client, building on Chris’s excellent (but now outdated) unofficial FAQ.

Create a “new to Dominion” page in the game client that links to one or more tutorials about how to play Dominion. This page should also link to the Dominion wiki so that players can look up FAQ for cards that they are unfamiliar with. Perhaps link to the Dominion Strategy blog’s “New to Dominion” page as well?

This is being worked on!  In fact, I've written it.  It just comes down to when it can be translated and implemented.  I'm guessing right now Nocturne has priority.
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Re: Making Dominion Online better for new players
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2017, 06:10:41 pm »
0

Found a glitch. I can't change the "you're allowing (number) familiar cards". I select Intrigue only, yet it always defaults to 36 familiar cards, therefore incorporating base set cards as well. Same happens with each expansion by itself. Always defaults to 36, except for the base set alone.

It's a little frustrating as I would like to play random games incorporating only one set.
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Re: Making Dominion Online better for new players
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2017, 06:15:41 pm »
+1

It's a little frustrating as I would like to play random games incorporating only one set.

If you create a table and choose the kingdom cards, there are checkboxes next to each expansion. That allows you to create random kingdoms from only the expansions you have selected.
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Re: Making Dominion Online better for new players
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2017, 06:17:38 pm »
0

It's a little frustrating as I would like to play random games incorporating only one set.

If you create a table and choose the kingdom cards, there are checkboxes next to each expansion. That allows you to create random kingdoms from only the expansions you have selected.

Has anyone had the problem on not being able to click the checkboxes of Adventures and Empires because the interface to select Colonies/Shelters/etc. is in the way?
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Re: Making Dominion Online better for new players
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2017, 06:22:55 pm »
0

It's a little frustrating as I would like to play random games incorporating only one set.

If you create a table and choose the kingdom cards, there are checkboxes next to each expansion. That allows you to create random kingdoms from only the expansions you have selected.

Has anyone had the problem on not being able to click the checkboxes of Adventures and Empires because the interface to select Colonies/Shelters/etc. is in the way?

I can cause the problem by having the browser in windowed mode and reducing its size, but I don't have it when the window is large enough (I have a full-HD display).
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filovirus

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Re: Making Dominion Online better for new players
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2017, 06:24:48 pm »
0

It's a little frustrating as I would like to play random games incorporating only one set.

If you create a table and choose the kingdom cards, there are checkboxes next to each expansion. That allows you to create random kingdoms from only the expansions you have selected.

This is exactly what I was looking for. I was trying to go the "familiar cards" tab and it just wasn't working out. Thanks!!!
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markusin

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Re: Making Dominion Online better for new players
« Reply #7 on: September 20, 2017, 06:31:31 pm »
0

It's a little frustrating as I would like to play random games incorporating only one set.

If you create a table and choose the kingdom cards, there are checkboxes next to each expansion. That allows you to create random kingdoms from only the expansions you have selected.

Has anyone had the problem on not being able to click the checkboxes of Adventures and Empires because the interface to select Colonies/Shelters/etc. is in the way?

I can cause the problem by having the browser in windowed mode and reducing its size, but I don't have it when the window is large enough (I have a full-HD display).

I have my window at max width/height pretty much. Dang, either my resolution settings or my monitor needs some adjustment then. I'll try shrinking the window later too.
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Re: Making Dominion Online better for new players
« Reply #8 on: September 21, 2017, 08:56:37 am »
+1

Easy to implement ways:
A “Copper” subscription that adds only Intrigue and Seaside. The current smallest subscription option, “Silver,” adds Intrigue, Seaside, Prosperity, Cornucopia, Hinterlands and Guilds, which may be too much for a new player to learn at once.

I would argue that adding Prosperity to a theoretical Copper subscription would be a good idea. Among all of the "casual" players I know, Prosperity and Seaside are always tied for the favorite expansion. This does have the downside of having 3 new sets to learn instead of 2 though. But maybe if Seaside and Prosperity are loved that much more than Intrigue, then new players will be more willing to put up with learning new cards?

I don't know. Would it be too much of a sin to have a Copper subscription that is just Seaside and Prosperity? I mean, I feel dirty even suggesting skipping Intrigue- the most basic expansion- but if we're already skipping Alchemy, maybe it's not unreasonable to say that the cheapest subscription tier should be composed of the two expansions that new players tend to like the most.

Of course, this is all based on the assumption that the sample size of new players I've spoken with is representative of the majority (which very well may not be true). Maybe Donald X would have a better feel for this?
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Re: Making Dominion Online better for new players
« Reply #9 on: September 21, 2017, 10:18:36 am »
+1

One could file this idea under "Not even fully fleshed out" rather than Hard or Easy to implement.

When it comes to players taking a long time, I like to give a lot more leniency on turn 1. I've played against some newer players who have had to take a really long time to:

A) Read the 10 Kingdom cards and Events/Landmarks to learn how they work
B) Understand what the card is actually doing
C) Figure out what feels like a good plan to them

Some people are just slow readers. As long as they are picking up the pace in future turns, I don't think it's a problem. I wouldn't want them to feel like they can't get into Dominion because other players don't give them a chance to learn the game.

But the problem is, how do you give them more leniency? There are obvious downsides to just increasing the amount of time allowed for Turn 1 (maybe I'm willing to wait around on Turn 1, but some players are going to find that agonizing enough that they would rather just resign). My initial thought was there could theoretically be a system in place that tells players what their Kingdom cards are going to be before they even queue up for a match. To avoid gaming the system, the random seed that determines their cards would have to be determined immediately after every match they play, and stored in the server. Otherwise players could just keep logging in and out of their account until they get a Kingdom they like.

The immediate flaw is, how are you going to reconcile the fact that two players are going to have two different random seeds? Hypothetically, one player may be told that they're going to see cards A through J in the next game, and another will be told they'll see cards K through T. So then the matchmaking system can't pair them together, right? What makes this completely game breaking is, there are so many possible Dominion Kingdoms, odds are that no two players would ever have the same random seed at the same time. What you can do is this: Have the matchmaking system only show 5 cards to each player beforehand (for 2 player games), then when the matchmaking system picks its two players, it takes the 5 cards from Player 1 and the 5 from Player 2 and combines them to make 1 Kingdom. This way, each player only gets to read 5 cards instead of 10, but the matchmaker doesn't have to fulfill any extra criteria than it already does when finding someone to play with.

Sidenote: If one of their preview cards were something like Urchin or a Traveller, the system would also show them the matching non-supply card(s). You probably wouldn't have it show them the bane card for Young Witch though.

I have thought out a method that would work irrespective of how many players there will be in the game, which doesn't break when there are duplicates in the players' previews (Such as, if Player A sees [Rats, Market, Mine, Magpie, Fishing Village] and Player B sees [Chapel, Ill Gotten Gains, Highway, Jester, and Rats], when the matchmaker tries to combine those two lists with a naïve approach, the Kingdom only has 9 cards since Rats was in both lists), and which could work by generating only 1 random seed per player. If anyone's curious I'll share, but otherwise I thought I'd stop there to keep the reply from getting way too long.

-------------------------------------------------------

So, possible problems with this idea:

  • It might not be worth the time to implement into code. No arguments from me here. I'm not at all qualified to speculate on how easy it is to integrate something like that into the current implementation of the online game
  • Players could find it confusing that they're only being shown 5 Kingdom cards, "but aren't there supposed to be 10?". I'd resolve this by having it show 10 card shapes, but 5 of them are just black silhouettes with question marks on them and the other 5 are actual cards. This way they pick up on the fact that they only get a sneak peak at half of the upcoming cards.
  • There could be unintended side effects in how this incentivizes player behavior. Maybe I was gonna play one more game, but I see that 5 of my upcoming cards really suck. Nah, on second thought I've got some other things to do irl. Then, because you can't avoid the seed by logging out and logging back in, you're aware of the fact that that sucky kingdom is waiting for you when you return. So every time I think "I'm gonna play some Dominion tonight", I remember "Oh wait, I'd have to start with that really crappy kingdom first.... Nah, forget it". With the current implementation, since players don't see a sucky kingdom until it happens, I feel like they take a much more "That's just the hand you're dealt" approach than if they were to be informed about the kingdom ahead of time. The only solution I can think to this is to give players a new random seed if it has been over 24 hours since their last game.

Anyway, this is all just an early rough attempt at spitballing something that could give players some more leniency on time without driving their opponents crazy. It very much may be killing a housefly with a hand grenade. But I think it's an interesting thought at least
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JW

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Re: Making Dominion Online better for new players
« Reply #10 on: September 21, 2017, 02:32:26 pm »
+3

I would argue that adding Prosperity to a theoretical Copper subscription would be a good idea. Among all of the "casual" players I know, Prosperity and Seaside are always tied for the favorite expansion. This does have the downside of having 3 new sets to learn instead of 2 though. But maybe if Seaside and Prosperity are loved that much more than Intrigue, then new players will be more willing to put up with learning new cards?

Unfortunately, Stef, the developer, says that there won't be a cheaper subscription option than the current Silver package. So unless that changes, the question of which sets a hypothetical Copper subscription should include is moot.

8. There won't be any cheaper subscription models. That's just an economical argument - Silver and Gold are already so cheap that almost nobody will reject it because of the amount. If people don't subscribe it's because they just don't want to pay for various reasons. And people playing with less cards aren't actually cheaper to support for me then people playing with all cards (assuming those cards get implemented anyway).


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SCSN

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Re: Making Dominion Online better for new players
« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2017, 03:27:24 pm »
+6

There just isn't a market for more fine-grained levels. Even on Goko/MF, where people could purchase as little as half of a medium-sized expansion, almost everyone owned either nothing or everything.
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Re: Making Dominion Online better for new players
« Reply #12 on: September 21, 2017, 03:44:49 pm »
0

There just isn't a market for more fine-grained levels. Even on Goko/MF, where people could purchase as little as half of a medium-sized expansion, almost everyone owned either nothing or everything.

I guess you have seen data on that! For the last several (6?) months that they had the license, Goko/MF started offering subscriptions through the end of 2016 rather than (very misleading) set "purchases." So I wonder if you saw so few people who owned something in between because relative beginners would have subscriptions instead of sets "purchased", and therefore shown up as owning nothing in your data.
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Re: Making Dominion Online better for new players
« Reply #13 on: September 21, 2017, 04:29:45 pm »
+4

There was no data about MF subscriptions because those weren't eligible for a 1-year subscription.
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Re: Making Dominion Online better for new players
« Reply #14 on: September 21, 2017, 07:25:00 pm »
+4

There just isn't a market for more fine-grained levels. Even on Goko/MF, where people could purchase as little as half of a medium-sized expansion, almost everyone owned either nothing or everything.

I guess you have seen data on that! For the last several (6?) months that they had the license, Goko/MF started offering subscriptions through the end of 2016 rather than (very misleading) set "purchases." So I wonder if you saw so few people who owned something in between because relative beginners would have subscriptions instead of sets "purchased", and therefore shown up as owning nothing in your data.
No, MF told us before then that almost everyone owned nothing or everything.
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Re: Making Dominion Online better for new players
« Reply #15 on: September 22, 2017, 10:07:07 pm »
+3

I just want to say i really appreciate it you all thinking of how to help new players.

In june i bought a gold subscription for a month, and didn't learn that much because it was way to much new cards. I tried sometimes practicing on only one of two expansions but because i didn't have the patience for waiting for an opponent at a table, so i mostly played bot games and didn't learn very much. Now i bought a silver subscription for a month and have the feeling i improve a lot more.


8. There won't be any cheaper subscription models. That's just an economical argument - Silver and Gold are already so cheap that almost nobody will reject it because of the amount. If people don't subscribe it's because they just don't want to pay for various reasons. And people playing with less cards aren't actually cheaper to support for me then people playing with all cards (assuming those cards get implemented anyway).


I personally would like a subscription model where i could choose the expansions, so for example silver subscription = you choose 4 expansions (price would of course be different depending on the expansions). That way it would be easier for new players to focus on some expansions and learn the game gradually. So, for me it's actually not an economical argument to not go for the gold subscription, it's a practical "getting-to-know-the-game"-argument. In the long term i probably would buy more full gold subscription if i first could subscribe to not all expansions at one time.
« Last Edit: September 22, 2017, 10:19:52 pm by Puk »
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Re: Making Dominion Online better for new players
« Reply #16 on: September 23, 2017, 01:01:17 am »
+1

I just want to say i really appreciate it you all thinking of how to help new players.

In june i bought a gold subscription for a month, and didn't learn that much because it was way to much new cards. I tried sometimes practicing on only one of two expansions but because i didn't have the patience for waiting for an opponent at a table, so i mostly played bot games and didn't learn very much. Now i bought a silver subscription for a month and have the feeling i improve a lot more.


8. There won't be any cheaper subscription models. That's just an economical argument - Silver and Gold are already so cheap that almost nobody will reject it because of the amount. If people don't subscribe it's because they just don't want to pay for various reasons. And people playing with less cards aren't actually cheaper to support for me then people playing with all cards (assuming those cards get implemented anyway).


I personally would like a subscription model where i could choose the expansions, so for example silver subscription = you choose 4 expansions (price would of course be different depending on the expansions). That way it would be easier for new players to focus on some expansions and learn the game gradually. So, for me it's actually not an economical argument to not go for the gold subscription, it's a practical "getting-to-know-the-game"-argument. In the long term i probably would buy more full gold subscription if i first could subscribe to not all expansions at one time.

In the future there will be Campaigns, each focusing on a single expansion, which should help with that a bit.
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Re: Making Dominion Online better for new players
« Reply #17 on: September 23, 2017, 10:53:53 am »
+1

No, MF told us before then that almost everyone owned nothing or everything.

Even if in any given snapshot, almost everyone who owned some sets owned all sets, some people who eventually owned everything may have purchased the sets incrementally, and found that option to be useful.   Multiple new players have recently stated that they'd prefer options to be exposed more gradually to new sets, and a Copper subscription would be one way to help them out.

I just want to say i really appreciate it you all thinking of how to help new players.

In june i bought a gold subscription for a month, and didn't learn that much because it was way to much new cards. I tried sometimes practicing on only one of two expansions but because i didn't have the patience for waiting for an opponent at a table, so i mostly played bot games and didn't learn very much. Now i bought a silver subscription for a month and have the feeling i improve a lot more.

What I would love is the ability to turn off and on certain expansions that I've bought via my Silver subscription. I think that would enhance learning and allow for the steep jump from Base to the many expansions Silver encompasses. I get that that's not possible now, and I'll continue with my work-arounds and learning, but it might be something to consider for the future.

In the future there will be Campaigns, each focusing on a single expansion, which should help with that a bit.

Campaigns will help more if the bots play better. People can create a table now and get games against bots with random combinations of cards from the base set and their choice of expansion. Hopefully your FAQ will help more people realize that's an option, but these games are of limited use because it's so easy to beat the bots on most kingdoms, particularly with later expansions. So I hope better bots will be a priority first.
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Re: Making Dominion Online better for new players
« Reply #18 on: September 23, 2017, 03:02:36 pm »
0

Campaigns will help more if the bots play better. People can create a table now and get games against bots with random combinations of cards from the base set and their choice of expansion. Hopefully your FAQ will help more people realize that's an option, but these games are of limited use because it's so easy to beat the bots on most kingdoms, particularly with later expansions. So I hope better bots will be a priority first.

I think campaigns will be easier to implement than making bots more competent and will help new players get familiarized with expansions quicker. Whether or not the bots are too easy won't change how familiar a new player gets with the new cards.
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Re: Making Dominion Online better for new players
« Reply #19 on: September 23, 2017, 04:37:38 pm »
+6

Someone on reddit recently posted that the bot was unbeatable unless you mirrored it, so its ability probably isn't a major issue for brand new players. It is competent enough to beat them.

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Re: Making Dominion Online better for new players
« Reply #20 on: September 23, 2017, 04:43:47 pm »
+1

Someone on reddit recently posted that the bot was unbeatable unless you mirrored it, so its ability probably isn't a major issue for brand new players. It is competent enough to beat them.

Maybe the bots do okay in base only games against complete beginners (as long as they don't trash their whole deck with chapel). However, the bots play the expansions worse than the Base Set and by the time someone is looking to branch out of Base they have probably learned enough that the bots are easy, especially taking into account the cards in other expansions. For example, I believe that the bots don't know that Witch + money is much better than Smithy + money.
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Re: Making Dominion Online better for new players
« Reply #21 on: September 23, 2017, 04:53:34 pm »
0

For example, I believe that the bots don't know that Witch + money is much better than Smithy + money.

I wouldn't really expect them to know that though. Programming AI with hard rules like that becomes a hot mess.
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Re: Making Dominion Online better for new players
« Reply #22 on: September 23, 2017, 06:22:51 pm »
+5

Even if in any given snapshot, almost everyone who owned some sets owned all sets, some people who eventually owned everything may have purchased the sets incrementally, and found that option to be useful.   
It's possible, in the sense that it has a nonzero probability. It's not possible, in the sense that that isn't what happened, and it makes no sense to think it did; it's a thing to cling to when you don't want to give up on a poor theory.
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Re: Making Dominion Online better for new players
« Reply #23 on: September 24, 2017, 01:49:38 pm »
+2

I've updated the original post to indicate that werothegreat has posted an official FAQ and an official Welcome to Dominion Online post. Thanks, werothegreat, for all of your hard work on this!  Hopefully Stef updates the client to link to these posts soon.
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allanfieldhouse

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Re: Making Dominion Online better for new players
« Reply #24 on: September 26, 2017, 11:22:21 am »
+4

Even if in any given snapshot, almost everyone who owned some sets owned all sets, some people who eventually owned everything may have purchased the sets incrementally, and found that option to be useful.

This is exactly how I bought the sets on Goku. I bought them (in release order) every month or so and played the campaigns for that set until I learned all the new cards. Eventually I owned everything, but I definitely enjoyed adding new sets incrementally.

If you think about it, this is how long-time Dominion players have experienced new cards/sets too (just on a different timescale).
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