Ben Brode: The New Player Experience Needs Work

Ben Brode: The New Player Experience Needs Work

Ben Brode took to reddit this morning to touch upon the new player experience.

  • Tweaks made throughout the years have increased player retention.
  • Casual matchmaker has been improved to increase new player winrates by around 15%.
  • Ranked is becoming more difficult for new players.
  • New players play in different pools with other newbies with similar sized collections.
  • The introductory missions feel good but then it turns into a cliff.

How do you feel about the new player experience? Have any of your friends recently joined the game and turned away?

Quote from Ben Brode
Hey there!

We agree that the new player experience needs more work. We've been tweaking it for years and have seen significant increases in retention among new players since launch. Most new players start playing against the AI and then take on other players in Casual. The Casual matchmaker has gone through a lot of iteration and new player winrates have increased by ~15%.

Ranked is a different story. Ranked is becoming more difficult for new players over time. I spoke about some of the challenges we are currently facing with our ladder system before I left for paternity leave here: [See quote below - Ben on Ladder]

Something you may not realize is that new players actually play in a seperate matchmaking pool for their first several sessions. In Casual, we match them entirely against other brand new players with similarly-sized collections.

That all said, we think the introductory missions up through Illidan feel pretty good, and after that it still feels like a bit of a cliff. It's definitely something we're aware of. Thanks for your feedback, and for the feedback of everyone else who's been chiming in on this over the last few months.


Ben on the Ladder System

Quote from Ben Brode
Seeing some comments here about how people are enjoying easier laddering due to this bug, and hoping we leave it unfixed. I thought I might chime in and talk about the ladder a bit, and hopefully get some feedback!

We have been discussing the ladder system a lot recently - we're not 100% happy with it.

Here are some things we are currently discussing:

  • Rank 18 players are higher ranked than 50% of HS players. That number doesn't make you feel like you are in the top 50%, and that's a missed opportunity. We try and counter this by telling you all over the place what the mapping is to the rest of the population, but it'd be better if expectations and reality matched here.

  • We've received feedback that the last-minute jostling for high Legend ranks at the end of a season doesn't feel all that great.

  • We've received feedback that the ladder can feel like a grind.

  • We are reanalyzing the number of ranks, the number of stars per rank, the number of bonus stars given out at the start of the season, and other parts of the system.

  • We are developing simulation systems that let us predict what changes to the ladder would do to the population curve. If we inflate too many stars, the whole population ends up in the Legend bucket and while that might feel great for a single month, the entire system falls apart eventually. People who played waaaay back may remember when "3-star master" was the pinnacle of achievement, and it meant nothing because so many people ended up in that bucket. With better simulation tools, we are planning on trying a lot of crazy things. Iteration is important in design, and getting the tools to iterate quickly is very important.

Something I want to emphasize is that while I think we can improve the ladder, the metric for that improvement isn't necessarily any one player's individual rank increasing. Players want the better rewards (and prestige) associated with high ranks, or the Legend card back, so any change we make that increases the chances of those are likely to be perceived as "good", at least for the short term. But part of what makes the ranked ladder compelling is that exists to rank players. If you want to see how you stack up, ranked is the place to do it. So while some inflation might improve the experience, we need to be careful and make sure we end up with a system that makes people feel rewarded for increases in personal skill or for finding a new deck that breaks the meta.

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