Musket Smoke 1.82 Sneak Peek

The upcoming update will have significant changes.

  • Rain. 
  • More ELO points for campaigns.
  • Fallback Button change.
  • Campaign Unit changes.
  • No ‘muzzle smoke’ for ballistic artillery.
  • Free online Mini Matches boosted to 7.
  • New User Training Zone.

You can see all the gory details in the Next Update section.

Send comments, questions, concerns – to my snowpunchgames gmail.

In a nut-shell, I’m addressing some issues related to overly defensive play and also make things better for new players. Plus a lot of fine tuning..

Gory Details:

  • New user Training zone. This is significant because the first online experience for a new user is a sensitive moment. It should not be over too quickly without any chance to do some damage and see what the online game feel is like. Experienced players can enjoy blitzkrieg tactics vs each other and leave the new players out of it. This is our last chance to start growing the community again and it requires both new players to hang in there and old players to help mentor our new players. Right now we have many old players starting mini-matches hoping for a chance to earn some mentor points via matching up with a new player.
  • Each new battle in the campaign will reset the round counting back to 1.
  • Winning a campaign battle objective (10 green pie pieces) earns 1 ELO point. This was changed to encourage more aggressive play. Those that are stingy with letting opponents have rewards will obviously get the same treatment back to them and will most definitely lose out in the ELO race in the long run.
  • Can’t fall back after ANY UNIT makes an ATTACK. If a unit attacks a unit then the fallback button will disappear for the rest of the round. This is addressing the (I kill SF unit and then FALLBACK QUICKLY) move. A kind of dirty play that is not really sportsmanlike (I did it once and felt bad) and it also takes advantage of the easy fallback button. If you are really falling back then you are moving only, not attacking. Attacking means you are staying for another round and that your opponent has a chance to respond.
  • Introducing the RAIN concept.  If we end up liking rain then I will make it a random threat to powder weapons, to encourage more aggressive play. But for now it’s just a new concept and a soft round limiter, a subtle hint at round 16 to start wrapping up the battle.
  • The SF mortar going bye bye. Replaced by a new SF Cavalry! This is just a reaction to a bit too much artillery recently and also too much tactical influence by this one mortar unit. Your either babysitting it too much, or it’s too influencial in battles. It was fun for a while but with the loss of wind it’s now a bit too powerful. Plus I just want to shake things up with a gradual move away from SF Artillery, starting with the SF Mortar. The extra SF Cavalry unit should liven up a lot of battles starting with the Wheat Fields as it’s not a ‘promotion’ unit like the leaders are. It is an ‘extra unit’ and one that will definitely change the attack dynamics of maps 3-8 (if you keep it alive).

The larger Goals of the 1.82 Update:

  • Great for new players. The New Player Training Zone and free mini matches boosted to 7.
  • More lively matches due to looming Rain and less muzzle smoke on artillery. Plus campaigns have a chance for a bonus ELO point and less artillery ini general means more exciting unit movements.

Lots of fine tuning all across the board and a soft push to reduce defensive play should help liven up battles. I am particularly interested how some of the bigger changes will affect things. Rain, the bonus ELO point, less artillery and the new SF Cavalry unit. Not to mention the new user training zone will give new users a 5 point boost from all opponents and also compliment Mentor matches nicely.

If these drastic measures do not help enough with the war on overly defensive play then I have a few more ideas on the forum that have some merit. Although, that would be a different update further down the road.

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New Player Training Zone!

In the 1.82 update all new players will be able to defeat at least 5 units on the battlefield.

That’s what the new button in options guarantees. ‘New player Training Zone’ disables bases and enemy attacks (every way to score) when the opponent starts a round with more points than the new player.

This button option is universal and applies to all players, including other players and even Dukes. Both sides could use it if they wanted, which would just guarantee both sides get at least 5 points.

The ‘New Player training Zone’ will make several of your first matches in our friendly little Mini Match arena – a very good first experience.

It will give you lots of hands-on experience with flanking, routing, charging, cannon fire, musket fire and grape shot. Plus a stronger sense of morale as these matches will have on average more unit routs and kills than a normal match with a new player. As a new player it’s important that YOU do more killing/routing to get stronger sense of what the game is all about.

You don’t need to know how all this works but for the curious I’ll explain below.

In any round, we have two possible states:

  • Normal mode, when any unit kill/rout is ok. The scores are within bounds.
  • Protected mode when one player has lost the ability to attack. They can still move though.

The way we ensure a new player get to experience no less than 5 kills works like this. You can not score more than 1 above the new player.

If both players are using the protected mode then the same thing happens for both sides. When a player with training mode on reaches 5 points the protected mode ends and normal play resumes. The second half of the match is just a normal mini-match.

The emphasis of this training exercise is unit killing. There will likely be no bases unless the training mode is started after round 3.

On a related note, we currently have a friendly competition for our Grand Dukes to be Mentors for new players. The senior players even have their own leaderboard ‘Duke Mentors’. A Mentor Match is something that would happen in the second half of the match after the protected mode has completed it’s mission and the new player already has his 5 kills.

It has never been a better time to be a new player in Musket Smoke.

Welcome to our online Community!

“The whole art of war consists in a well-reasoned and extremely circumspect defensive, followed by a rapid and audacious attack.” – Napoléon Bonaparte

So what are you waiting for?

Form up your troops and don’t forget to flank!

The Mentor Match is a Success!

The mock training I did all day with many of our active Dukes was invaluable. Thanks to these awesome volunteers I have learned a great deal.

The main thing I learned is that the idea is good! Its definitely more fun to try and get Mentor Points rather than just defeat a new player. It’s more challenging and more of a puzzle (with risk) and feels better morally as well. It also doesn’t hurt that it helps our community. Good Karma! And gives the new player a more fun and engaging introduction to Musket Smoke’s online play experience.

So now with the upcoming ‘New User Training Zone’ we don’t have to worry about new players anymore. New players will enjoy a pleasant first experience regardless of our little side competition.

The Mentor Match side competion is a challenge that allows a Duke to further boost a new players kills/points from 5 up to a possible 9. It also gives the Dukes the power to directly help Musket Smoke’s front line in a war that is dead serious for the game. Also it is the only way to earn the precious and honourable Mentor Points.

As a developer I love getting new reviews for Musket Smoke and seeing players frequently submit moves and play lots of matches at once. But seeing a Duke move up on the Mentor Points leaderboard also makes me very happy. I need all the help I can get with this Game and improving your Mentor Points score is the best way to help Musket Smoke keep new players. Our Grand Dukes have the ultimate power over the fate of Musket Smoke.

Thanks guys!

Wetmusket

The Mentor Match – FAQ

(note: this FAQ is an ongoing process and will be adjusted as we learn new things)

How do you know if a new Mini Match is a Mentor Match?

Answer: When you open the match, a message tells you.

IMG_1543

How do I create a Mentor Match?

Answer: You start a random Mini Match. Then if you are a Grand Duke and the other player is a Lance (or less) – then a Mentor Match is automatically created.

IMG_1546

What is a mentor Match?

Answer: A special training match between a new player and a Grand Duke. The Duke is playing to win the match, but also giving the new player as many unit kill/rout/point opportunities as possible. The higher the new player score, the more Mentor Points the Duke receives. But The Duke must win the match in the end to receive them. For the Duke to earn mentor points, new player must get between 4 and 9 pie points (red,yellow or blue), the higher the better. 

lanceMessage

This message shown at end of match just before the Mentor Points Awarded message.

So what do I do first as a Mentor?

Answer: Kill a couple units to get things under control. Then dramatically cut back on flanking moves and attacks that remove new player pieces from the board. You need new player pieces on the board so that they can earn your mentor points. Make many big mistakes and see if the new player properly capitolizes on them. But don’t give away the farm. You must win in the end so you have to carefully gauge the new players skill level and just try to have fun with the training. Ideally – let them have spectacular kill opportunities. Let them grape shot you!  Let them charge and flank and rout your units. They need the experience taking out units. You need the Mentor Points. It’s win win.

What are typical Mentor mistakes?

Answer: Killing too many new player units early on. It will be awkward later when you want the remainder to kill your units and they just don’t have the manpower.

Don’t try to teach tactics at this point. Don’t play perfectly. Don’t overly protect your flanks. Show weakness. They can’t learn to capitalize on mistakes if you don’t make any. Every mistake you make is a great learning opportunity for them.

Playing perfectly with an aggressive attack and a rock solid defence is the worst thing you can do (unless it’s temporary because you are outnumbered).

One of the biggest mistakes is forgetting that you are training your own troops. Still thinking of the new player as the enemy. What is actually happening is you are training your second in command. If you don’t let him kill in every way possible, fill his gaps in knowledge then that will come back to haunt you on the battlefield. Think of him as the one who will soon have your back. Commanding half your forces. Is he not flanking properly?  Then lock a unit with it’s ass facing him so that he learns that 3 hits on the rear makes the unit go bye bye. Make sure he knows how to grape shot and charge. You already know that he knows how to die. Teach him how to kill. Do the full gauntlet of kill exercises, over multiple matches if necessary. Just let him make more kills. How hard can it be?

Actually it’s pretty hard because you have to also win. When you win a mentor match after letting the trainee grape shot you, charge you and flank and rout you many times, it shows that a commander of your caliber can take a severe beating and still come out victorious. It shows there is more to the winning than just man counts. It inspires them to not give up when it seems hopeless. Try to show them something impressive in the end game when you win wth just a few weak units.

Treating all Mentor Matches the same is a mistake. Many matches will be wildly different depending upon the new players current skill level. Often Mentor Matches will just be normal matches where you will struggle to get mentor points. What you have to be on the lookout for is the weaker new players. The weaker new players are really the whole point of the Mentor Match, not the stronger new players. What often happens is you play a few tough mentor matches and forget to tone down your attacks when you finally get a weak new player. Then they get crunched way too fast and you lose out on the rare opportunity to do an easy Perfect 4 point Mentor match with a final score of (10-9).

What would be the greatest Mentor Possible?

Do what this FAQ suggests but additionally play detective. Try to discover what knowledge the new player is missing. Then maybe present units in such a manner than they can learn to fix this weakness. If that’s impossible then maybe mention something to them. If they can improve play because they played a Grand Duke Mentor that noticed something and helped them, they will be grateful. I will be grateful. Our community will be grateful and your mission would be complete.

But this is completely optional. The priority is giving them more experience with removing your units from the board in various ways. You would be surprised how much difference that makes for the brand new new player. It’s huge!

Do I have to chat with the player?

It’s not necessary at all. But if they ask you anything then try to answer. Chances are they won’t even know it’s a Mentor Match and will just be playing normally. It does not say ‘Mentor Match’ on their side.  (I might change that soon)

What is the scoring chart?

First the DUKE MUST WIN and score 10 pie pieces. Otherwise below doesn’t count.

Trainee PIES Scored: (with your help)

  • 0-3  (PAYS ZERO MENTOR POINTS) – BAD DUKE. POOR TEACHER.
  • 4-6  (PAYS 1 MENTOR POINT)
  • 7       (PAYS 2 MENTOR POINTS)
  • 8       (PAYS 3 MENTOR POINTS)
  • 9       (PAYS 4 MENTOR POINTS) – A PERFECT MENTOR MATCH.
  • 10     (PAYS ZERO MENTOR POINTS) – NO TIE OR LOSS, YOU MUST WIN
perfect

The Mentor Points awarded message. In this case the Score was 9 for New Player and 10 for the DUKE.

(note: Currently if the new player exceeds the rank of Lance while in the middle of the mentor match, no mentor points will be awarded at the end.)

Why not just let new players matchup with only new players?

We already tried that and the problem is there are not enough daily new players to have someone to play. Also some new players just stop playing and the match just waits forever. Sometimes there many hours or even days between match-ups. Then reviews would appear like “Great game, nobody online to play unfortunately’.

What does the new Leaderboard Look like?

IMG_1547

Will the TOP SCORES of this new leaderboard be on the main page of the iPad?

Yes, but not in the initial 1.81 version.

How often will we get to see a Mentor Match?

Not often. This last week we averaged only 24 new mini match starts a day. Out of that maybe 2-4 a day were potential Mentor Matches. When you snag a Mentor Match you should think of it as a precious match.

What is a real example of real mentor match?

I myself was lucky to snag one on the first day and play it through to completion. It was a lot tougher than I expected. The new player had decent skills AND an extra handicap unit.

The player made only one minor mistake which combined with my extensive play experience (and luck) would probably have resulted in a (10-2) final score. However instead I tried to let him get some kill experience and boost his score first. It was hard. I had to UNDO at least 7 times each round and re-think how to not let him win and not let myself win too early.

The new player seemed to know that I was playing a mentor match and deliberately avoided my base, knowing that taking the base would give me my mentor points and cause me to cache out and win. I was surprised about this extra layer of complexity and so found myself really enjoying the match a lot more than expected.

At times I was concerned if I could win or not. It took a lot of will power to hold back my most offensive attacks and stay the course. Owning a base really helped.

I had to finally take the win (a base) when the new player made a good move and got 6 points and was going to win with a base in the following round. The final score was  (7-10) and I scored 2 mentor points. It was a good match for both of us. The new player got to experience killing 7 units in just 1 match with another player. A dramatic improvement over our existing system.

I’m pumped!  How can I help?

Try to leave a match waiting in the random Mini queue. That way when a new player comes they don’t have to wait. Then try to play out the match in real time if possible. A lot of new players are new to online turn based matches and don’t get get the concept of the waiting. So ideally the first match or two with them introduces them to the concept. Likewise just playing lots of mini matches helps. Updating your written review makes it show up when people look at the reviews. I think you can update an existing review just by re-saving it. Those of you good with video can make videos of some aspect you think would be good to share. I can host those videos on the blog in a new video section if that happens. And of course going for a perfect 4 point Mentor Match whenever you can would be a great help.

We all love a good fight. Lets see if we can battle this problem together and elevate the Musket Smoke community. I don’t expect to quit my day job anytime soon, but it would be a dream to get to work on Musket Smoke full time and perhaps make sequels. That hope is a distant unlikely dream, but it never hurts to try.

First lets make the community healthy and growing again and then maybe add some new instructional videos.

Why should I help?  I just want to play normal Musket Smoke.

Our pool of players is gradually shrinking. If the community doesn’t start growing then I may stop supporting Musket Smoke – eventually. If a new version of iOS breaks the game then Musket Smoke could suddenly be gone with the wind..

It’s a small price to pay. Maybe 1 in 10 matches will be a Mentor Match. Do your part. Be an honourable Duke. Also support Musket Smoke by updating your written review every time a new version comes out. This helps to help draw in new players and gives you more Mentor Matches.

If you guys really help make the community grow then I will be inspired to gradually add new features as spare time permits: For example:

  • Features to reduce defensive play tactics. (fragile artillery, looming rainclouds)
  • A public chat board where we can chat with each other like as if it were a board-game night. Players who are Friends can also private chat with each other directly outside of matches.
  • A normal in-match chat function where you can back and forth as much as you like no matter who’s turn it is.
  • Activity page  – a list of current battles being waged (who vs who, which battle).
  • Ability to save full replays to iCloud and watch later. Even if you delete the match.
  • New Mini Match Maps.
  • More refinements and bug fixes.
  • Eventually maybe even a new campaign (further down the road).

Can I get more info about this somewhere else?

Yes. There is another post on this here. Dukes vs New Players – The perfect match?

Dukes vs New Players – The perfect match?

Yes. It’s now the perfect match.

I needed more time before releasing 1.81. I wanted to add some more subtle refinements and do more testing in my spare time (after dinner usually). However GeneralVimes was having issues so I pushed this build out quickly (edit: Apologies to GeneralVimes for the delay. Apple took a long time to review the update.)

Recently I have been mulling over our biggest problem. Community growth, and the likely sore spot that was causing the most issues. The Duke vs New player problem nagged at me for a long time. It’s not fun killing new players, and it’s not fun getting your ass kicked by a Duke. The recent cavalry handicap was a step in the right direction but I wanted a real solution, not just a bandaid.

So I created the Concept of Mentor Matches. Which is just a mini match where one player is ranked Lance or less and the other is a Grand Duke. The Duke is supposed to not play as hard as they can ‘like they are accustomed to’ and to instead play causally and help the new player in the match rack up as many unit kills as possible.

It’s a bit of a tough balancing act for the Duke because he is also supposed to win the match in order to get his Mentor Points. This makes the match better for both new player and also gives the Duke a challenging problem to nibble upon.  (How to elevate the new players score as high as possible, but still win.)

Mentor Matches are just one part of a serious three pronged attack to help new players and community growth. The first 2 parts are done.

  • A handicap feature that gives an extra unit when turned on.
  • Mentor Matches – A new friendly competition for our Grand Dukes to boost new player ‘unit kills experience’ in exchange for Mentor Points.

The third part is the ‘New Player Protection Zone’ (sandbox playground in first half of the match) which just makes sure the new player gets to experience killing at least 5 units per match.

For more information about a Mentor Match, read the FAQ.