Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mafia Wars Robbing Thought Process Explained

Recently Mafia Wars went out of their way to explain robbing. This was incited by a players letter to the Mafia Wars team that stirred them into action to explain what robbing is and what is the thought process that went into creating this feature on Mafia Wars. It also seeks to answer and clear questions that players may have about robbing. This letter also explains what features of robbing are going to stay and features that are going to be added.

Please find a copy of the letter below

Dear Mafia Wars Player,

First of all, I want to thank you for this thoughtful, well articulated letter. I always like hearing feedback from our most passionate players. Your wants and desires for this game are tremendously important to us here at Mafia Wars, and we hope that every feature we create will delight you.

In fact, we hope that our features will delight all of our customers, and therein, I fear, lies much of your angst. For you see, robbing was not primarily designed for the hard core player, a player archetype we like to call the social fighter. It was designed to try bring more players who might not ever fight someone into the PvP game, to try and nudge them down the path to becoming social fighters. As I am sure you know, for people who are not in clans, or refuse to go to “add me” threads, it is almost impossible to compete at all in fighting. There is almost no point in putting any points into stamina, or atk/def if you do not have 501 mafia. Robbing was designed to try and encourage those people to become more interested in PvP, to try and convince them to get more people into their mafia, and to get them to participate more in fighting. The data is still coming in, but so far it seems to be doing exactly that. We are noticing many more people putting points into stamina now, and many more people are taking part in some kind of PvP (fighting or robbing) than previously.

While this is good news for me as a designer, it is certainly not good news for you guys, the people that already have 501 in their mafia, and don’t need the gentle nudging towards becoming social fighters. All I can say to this is I DO feel that we have greatly underserved our fighting community in Mafia Wars, and that we are working on systems that should reward fighters greatly (I mean, please, there isn’t even any mastery bars for fighting  ). I think that you will enjoy the things we have planned.

It seems that your main concern for robbing is that it is not adversarial enough, and actually, I agree with you here to a point. However, the old robbing was WAY too punishing to players who could not defend themselves. If one person decided to “pick” on my properties, it quickly became worthless for me to ever even think about repairing them, or upgrading them. Essentially, if you were not an active fighter, with a large group of friends to back you up, there was no point to even investing anything into properties, since they would quickly be robbed down to 20% effectiveness, and the repair costs were so prohibitive. Many, many players were just giving up on properties, and not using the feature. So, when we redesigned robbing, we wanted it to matter when someone robbed you, but we did not want it to be the case that any one person (or groups of people) could completely shut you out of your properties and make them useless. Thus we came up with the “wither” idea, where people robbing your properties would be stealing the money your properties produced, but would not prevent you from collecting in the future. On the whole, I think this is a good system, however our implementation still needs some work.

Currently, properties do not stay on the robbing list for long enough, and so it is rare for a property to get robbed all the ways down to 30%. This is part of the reason why new robbing does not feel adversarial enough. We are looking in to why this is the case, and hope to have a fix out for this in the near future ( the tech behind generating the lists of properties that are vulnerable to being robbed is more complex than you might think!). Further, I agree that robbing someone from their profile page is not as satisfying as it should be. In the future, you will be able to see how badly a person’s properties have been robbed, right down to the yellow tape. Also, I think it will be possible for us to let you know with a countdown timer when a person’s properties will become vulnerable to being robbed.

A couple of other small improvements are planned for robbing soon including adding it to the other cities, as well an achievement for 9-0 clears, and the ability to retry a rob when you fail.

I hope that provides some insight behind the curtain. Now, to your specific suggestions about robbing:

1) “Return times robbed to player stats.”
Agreed. We will add this in a future push.

2) “Add real time robbing to player updates.”
Agreed. We will add this in a future push. Further, I think we will be doing away with the “coming soon” map on the properties page, and putting a special robbing only player updates there.

3) “Disallow robbing from the grave.”
Here, I disagree. 20 health is the bar for attacking. That is, you cannot attack, or be attacked when your health drops below 20. Since robbing does not do damage to the defender, we do not feel it is fair to prevent someone from robbing when their health is low.

4) “Add the progress bars and yellow tape to robbing.”
As I mentioned above, we will be adding this to robbing from the profile page, along with a timer letting you know when the other properties will become vulnerable. Also, the rewards for robbing from the profile page will be tuned up in a future push.

Again, thank you for your letter. I hope you keep enjoying our game!

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