Balancing Emissaries

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    Ahoy everyone,

    With a week having passed already since the release of the Ships of Fortune update, I wanted to give you all an update around how the update has landed, along with some detail around the balancing changes we are intending to roll-out today.

    The Emissaries feature and the addition of Reaper’s Bones was obviously a big change to how Adventure plays, particularly with the increased focus on the interplay between more PVE focused playstyles and PVP. While we expected that the nuance of the design would take some time to ‘bed in’ as players adjust, it’s still been great to see the overwhelmingly positive reception that the release has had, as well as us starting to see some of the factional stories of co-operation and conflict that we had hoped for. At the same time, there are still some more negative things we’ve observed, such as some misunderstanding with how the feature works, which is really all on us, as well as some balancing issues related to the progression time in Reaper’s Bones and Athena’s Fortune.

    Our progression modelling takes into account emergent opportunities, sailing distances and ‘gold per hour’, based on a number of scenarios. Along with this, we’ve also introduced the Emissary multipliers based on the flag, along with the cash-out bonuses when lowering a Grade II flag and above. Essentially, there are a lot of variables to balance against each other, with this being particularly impactful as behavior changes impact all players in the shared world. While we work with our business intelligence team to double check that the assumptions we’re making in the economy model are reasonable, the feedback from Insiders is also absolutely critical, and you’ve seen us make iterative changes to balancing around these new features. That being said, nothing will be as revealing as a release hitting the scale of our week 1 players.

    Here are some of the issues we’ve noted and want to address:

    Reaper’s Bones Reputation

    This is obviously an issue that’s had a lot of discussion as part of Insiders, especially the balance of what loot gives you, versus the Emissary Flags you can claim from sunk ships. Our intention was always that the sole focus of Reaper’s Bones should be sinking Emissaries. Its ties into their lore and the fundamental gameplay we want this company to stand for. However, we had to recognise that having Emissaries around to sink is not a guaranteed thing, and nor should it be. We deliberately didn’t want to migrate players automatically or change the core fabric of how players meet in the world, so therefore had a fall-back where loot could be taken to the Reaper’s Hideout (a single choke-point) for Reputation and Gold. However, even though we’re seeing amazing engagement with the Emissaries feature, players are progressing much faster than we anticipated using loot, especially from the Fort of the Damned.

    With this in mind, we are implementing the following:

    Standard loot items will now be worth a quarter of their original Reputation value to the Reapers Bones. Gold remains unchanged.

    Athena’s loot has been reduced to half their Reputation value to the Reaper’s Bones, ensuring that legendary steals are still perceived as more valuable. Gold remains unchanged.

    Ashen Tomes & Keys reduced to half their Reputation value to the Reaper’s Bones. Gold remains unchanged.

    Gifts and Rag & Bones Crates reduced to half their Reputation value to the Reaper’s Bones. Gold remains unchanged.

    Reaper’s Chests, Box of Wondrous Secrets and Gold Hoarder’s Skull still kept as the most valuable loot items to the Reaper’s Bones.

    Lower level Emissary Flags are worth more Reputation and Gold compared to their original value, while the Grade IV and Grade V flags have been reduced, as while we still want these to be the most rewarding, they were excessively high given how we’re seeing players play at scale.

    Grade progression for Reaper’s Bones will now take longer if relying on loot items, roughly 25% more effort to reach Grade V and unlock the special ability to reveal Emissaries on the Ship’s Map. However, grade progression from acquiring and handing in Emissary flags has been increased, again increasing the focus on this style of play.

    Athena’s Fortune Reputation

    The biggest issue to callout with Athena’s Fortune was that we unfortunately introduced a loop where players could progress through Athena’s Fortune grade progression, claim their Grade V quest, lower their flag, and use the quest to get back to Grade V again. This has massively decreased the intended time for players to increase their Reputation level.

    While we didn’t want to reduce the value of the Athena’s Fortune Emissary quest, this balancing issue has now been addressed as part of the below:

    The grade progression for Athena’s Fortune has been adjusted to ensure that to takes more actions to advance, preventing the Grade V quest loop.

    There is a small increase in sailing times for the Emissary quest, which was quite small anyway, requiring players to sail and carry loot further distances.

    Emissary Completion Bonuses

    After assessing the gold earnt and how players are playing, we’ve decided to lower the Reputation and Gold pay-outs when lowering your Emissary Flag across all companies. While we still want there to be a reasonable bonus for a stint as an Emissary, we want to refocus the progression gains on the intended behaviour of taking on risk and delivering loot.

    As with all of the above, we’ll continue to excitedly watch how this plays and be ready to adjust as needed to encourage the intended gameplay focus.

    Thanks again for all your feedback and playtime.

    Pirates for all Eternity
    Mike Chapman
    Creative Director

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    @mikethemutinous and still nothing on if Reapers Bones gives you PL? lol....

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    @mikethemutinous Thanks for sharing your insight Mike. its nice to see where you're coming from, and I think these are all good changes. I had a question though. in the original patch notes for Ships of Fortune, in regards to cashing in Emissary flags, it says: "Emissary Flags from sunken rival Emissary ships can be cashed in with Trading Company representatives. The Reaper’s Bones Emissaries can return these to The Reaper’s Hideout for especially high rewards."

    I took this to mean we should be able to sell the flags of other emissary ships to the representative of the company that we are an emissary for, for instance, a Merchant emissary that sinks a reaper's emissary ship should be able to sell the reapers emissary flag back to the merchant. at the moment however, flags of any company can only be sold to the reapers bones representative. Am I understanding the release notes incorrectly, or is something not working as intended? Thanks Mike

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    @teh-jokeer it does Jokeer, Joe Neate confirmed it during their live stream on Tuesday

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    @teh-jokeer said in Balancing Emissaries:

    @mikethemutinous and still nothing on if Reapers Bones gives you PL? lol....

    It does!

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    "Emissaries feature, players are progressing much faster than we anticipated using loot, especially from the Fort of the Damned."

    Mike, Insiders could have told you this before the update was even made. If you made a focus group and talked to us in the community, we can tell you how things would play out when the update goes to Retail.

    I recall many posts regarding server takeovers and farming gold both in Insiders and outside it. The people getting high numbers outside what you anticipated was thought of by some in our community.

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    @mikethemutinous Sounds amazing, addresses all the things in the update that i had an issue with. Great patch and it came quick! thank you!

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    I do not agree to the emissary nerfs. Been playing this game for like 2 years (with tons of breaks in-between) and for the first time, I was having a lot more fun because grinding rep and gold wasn't a boring slog with the increased rewards of the emissaries. It was a risk/reward factor, especially if there's a reaper ship on the server. I do not share the vision of the developers with this nerf.

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    So you decided to remove the enjoyable aspects from the update? how perfect. Completing levels and voyages was actually fun as it was not a long overly boring slogfest. thank you, for making me want to stop playing again.

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    I didn't see this in the patch notes but has people leaving the game so you don't get their emissary flag been fixed? Shouldn't the flag float no matter how they sink?

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    There is a lot of cheesing available with this update, glad to see it fixed. Good work.

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    @sonicsonic3 said in Balancing Emissaries:

    I do not agree to the emissary nerfs. Been playing this game for like 2 years (with tons of breaks in-between) and for the first time, I was having a lot more fun because grinding rep and gold wasn't a boring slog with the increased rewards of the emissaries. It was a risk/reward factor, especially if there's a reaper ship on the server. I do not share the vision of the developers with this nerf.

    Note that the only changes that affect all Emissaries are the "Lowering Flag" rewards, which aren't where the majority of reward from Emissaries comes from.

    What we've seen in the past week is an imbalance between the companies and how they progress, both in Reputation and in Emissary. This update addresses that imbalance between the Companies.

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    @mikethemutinous Okay but now please fix the fact you cannot reach pirate legend when you're 50 in Reapers Bones

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    @sonicsonic3 said in Balancing Emissaries:

    I do not agree to the emissary nerfs. Been playing this game for like 2 years (with tons of breaks in-between) and for the first time, I was having a lot more fun because grinding rep and gold wasn't a boring slog with the increased rewards of the emissaries.

    They lowerd is abit so you can enjoy it further. I am sorry but i played through this and it was WAY to easy... i thik you wont notice alot from the nerf. You just have to do an extra voyage or 2 to get grade 5 so what :) and maby some more balancing is in order but we will see...

    It was a risk/reward factor, especially if there's a reaper ship on the server. I do not share the vision of the developers with this nerf.

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but if you can grind athena 20 in 14/18 hours (wich we tested and completed with a friend) and you think thats fair againt everyone like me who grinded athena 10 the old way (not that i dont aprove with the new items) but athena 20 in 14/18 hours with reaper fights or anyone who tried to sink us.

    I am sorry but if you dont agree thats abit to short for something like that then we will have (no) content cry baby's within the next 24 hours :)

    Cheers Tango

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    @lord-szarvas said in Balancing Emissaries:

    "Emissaries feature, players are progressing much faster than we anticipated using loot, especially from the Fort of the Damned."

    Mike, Insiders could have told you this before the update was even made. If you made a focus group and talked to us in the community, we can tell you how things would play out when the update goes to Retail.

    I recall many posts regarding server takeovers and farming gold both in Insiders and outside it. The people getting high numbers outside what you anticipated was thought of by some in our community.

    They did talk about it, a lot. The problem is those farm servers are going to stay anyway, there is absolute zero they can do about it.

    And btw, literally nobody in insiders takes the time todo a FoTd, 95% of the insiders login for their reward and then byeee

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    @teh-jokeer said in Balancing Emissaries:

    @mikethemutinous and still nothing on if Reapers Bones gives you PL? lol....

    As Mike already mention, Reaper's Bones Rank 50 should count towards PL although a bug was discovered which prevents this.

    We have a fix for this which will be included in our next update.

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    @cb58logan Scrolled up and saw people saying it does. I am 50/50/50 including reapers bones, and I have not received PL. It is either bugged or not a feature.

    view the image album

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    While I see where you guys are coming from, I totally disagree with the Reaper's Bones nerf. An xp earning decrease was necessary, but 75% decrease is way too much. This totally kills the fun of the faction, and makes it way more annoying to grind.
    I have yet to test the Athena Emissary V requirements increase, but if it's increased by more than 25% then it'll be too much again.
    I'll test it when I'll want to play the game again - I played a lot since last update but this overkill nerf is gonna make me play other games for now. Would like to see the nerf put at 50 or 40% original values and 25% for Athena instead of 75%/50% ...

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    @mikethemutinous As an essential worker still going work with the Covid-19 pandemic, I have not had as much time to play the update as much as I would like to.

    It's unfortunate that there was no rollback to those who took advantage of the initial reputation payout. (You have Leaderboards with in-game rewards now so this should have been implimented)

    Now those of us who play when we can because of essential work will have to play 3 times as long to get the same emissary rewards.

    Thanks Mike! :(

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    @cb58logan said in Balancing Emissaries:

    @cb58logan Scrolled up and saw people saying it does. I am 50/50/50 including reapers bones, and I have not received PL. It is either bugged or not a feature.

    view the image album

    Did you go to the Mysterious stranger when you bought all the rankups? if you miss one rankup or something it does not work. If you mentioned or tried this before srry i am PL year 1 but i remember back then i forgot to buy my merchant 50 upgrade and took me alittle to figure out i still had to buy it for the mysterious stranger did its thing :)

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    @mikethemutinous said in Balancing Emissaries:

    @teh-jokeer said in Balancing Emissaries:

    @mikethemutinous and still nothing on if Reapers Bones gives you PL? lol....

    It does!

    Does that really make sense for it to count towards pirate legend? The Reapers Bones are like an enemy to Athena's fortune and so allowing that to count to your status into their faction doesn't seem to make sense. To me at least, maybe i'm missing something

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    @mr-shatango look in the screenshot, it says titles 10/10.

    They confirmed the bug further up the thread seconds before I posted

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    @cb58logan My bad one screenshot didnt load for me

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    @mentimjojo

    Right. It seems to me these changes are trying to balance that. And if those servers are inevitable, it makes the people that are more casual lose out more cause these changes effect them more.

    The people that farm, its already too late. They got their farm and millions in gold and all the rep anyways. So, I am a bit confused here about it.


    Point is, I think SoT would benefit from a player run council on future updates to help give ideas on a user side of things on how things play out in the Retail version of the game.

    The current formula for the game is Rare makes these updates in advance and we don't know anything about it until its pretty much made before the month is up.

    I see things all the time in Retail that I miss in insiders because I simply don't have the crew to properly test things out and flesh out a good test run.

    And you're right, people just use it for the reward. I try not to, but sometimes it can be an incomplete build to really test on and giving feedback on a new build 4 weeks is pretty small, in my opinion.


    Going back to what I quoted, and I really don't mean to be Rude to Mike and the team, I just wonder how could they have not anticipated this? That's all I'm saying.

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    Thanks for fixing the progression. See a lot of posts her eunhappy about it so wanted to add a voice to the agreeing with you re: progession. I think Lord is right though in that the community could see this coming and did warn early on about it. You mentioned before how only a small % of athe player base utilise server takeover approaches, but this was when so many regular players already had their levels. It's quite clear that it will have come back with a new update and more levels. Now, and then. - Keep up the good work but please try to sense check things with your player bas ein mind. - New designs = what would players do to exploit this? / how does it break other things. etc. I don't want this to be a negative post, but a helpful one for future updates.

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    @d1no Agreed, this is kind of a slap. everyone who could rush through it is fine, but screw over anyone with less time to play. very nice.

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    Thanks for the fix guys! i agree with @MazLad nothing more to add i think! been waiting long for this update some finetuning when hitting retail but as always amazing work! for many years of SoT and more content to play while telling story of the old experiances.

    See you all on the Sea's

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    @sonicsonic3 the nerfs are not that strong, the multiplier at least for the other 3 companies stays when selling loot, only the reward of lowering your flag has decreased

    The nerf of reapers it's more a buff than nerf, literally now reapers can also hunt treasures, besides flags, to increase rep. Lower tier flags of other companies gives you MORE exp, while higher gives you a little bit less than before.

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    Why not simply force players to keep the level 5 flag up while doing the special mission?

    That way the upgraded mission doesnt factor into the emissary progression at all.

    Maybe add more incentive to keep a grade 5 flag up instead of completely incentivizing players to raise to 5 and reset to 1.

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    @lm-robin-hood Ye, I agree with that, being able to claim the emissary quest again and again, but keeping your flag up, not letting you lower it all the time, it would add more "risk" but more rewards.

    PS: The other 3 companies not adressed, can do the same loop, as in gold hoarders and the others, you just need to find another chest that is not corresponding to the emissary quest, and you get your Greed Flag again up to 5 after lowering right before starting the emissary quest

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    I'm kinda unhappy how things are handled with the athenas rep. People who rushed athenas now have a huge advantage over other people in therm of the leaderboard, while play who would be one-week late can't catch up that fast. I would have loved a other solution, but tbh I don't know one. Guess we should have tested better in the insider.

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    @rikuoo just do it next month if your worried about it, the rewards arnt going anywhere

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    @rikuoo said in Balancing Emissaries:

    I'm kinda unhappy how things are handled with the athenas rep. People who rushed athenas now have a huge advantage over other people in therm of the leaderboard, while play who would be one-week late can't catch up that fast. I would have loved a other solution, but tbh I don't know one. Guess we should have tested better in the insider.

    Rep has been decreased not the value of the stuf you deliver. they only have their lvl advantage but leaderboard is minimum it will cost more voyages now instead of the free grade 5 voyages basically thats true. But same is achievable just leveling goes slower. Plus is mostly focussed on lowering the flag if i am correct.

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    @mikethemutinous with every update, including these tweaks, it always gets harder for solo players. Always.

    Don’t @ me

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    @dutchdeadschot I see the point, however...

    A benefit for solo sloopers here is that ships will make Reapers Bones Grave V much slower than they did previously, meaning you can go about your business should you wish!