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.

 

And then he was gone..

I’m going to be crazy busy for the next few months and won’t have any time at all for my side hobby – developing Musket Smoke. So I thought I would leave with a bang.

Update 1.8 – The Community Booster Update!

A Grand Duke player who goes by :*:Bounder:*: suggested that we improve our match quitting rules. (He also Architected the Battlefield Reference and the Truce feature.)

  • Players can freely quit (PASS) anytime in the first 4 rounds of any match.
  • Anyone who quits a match after 4 rounds gets zero points, and the player who was quit-on gets full ELO points and granted a win.
  • Matches that are expired (4 days) also payout in a full ELO points (2-4) and grant a win.

I wholeheartedly embraced these new rules in Musket Smoke and even pushed the ideas further with a couple new concepts.

The ‘Mingle Phase’ – get only the match-ups that you want.

When you start a new online match, you now have 4 rounds to decide if you want to commit. Take a gander at your opponents stats, or chat with them if you like.

  • ‘A Grand Duke?? Perfect! I was hoping to enhance my skills before really diving in.’
  • ‘We already played a few matches recently. Looking for some new player handicap matches to try out. Cheers.’,
  • ‘It’s been a while old friend. Lets brawl!’
  • ‘I just wanted to take a look at the online turn sequence, thanks. I need to practice more in the solo area first!’
  • ‘This is my first match, just looking for some pointers mostly.’
  • ‘What kind of match are you looking to play?’
  • ‘Sorry. I’m looking for an experienced player to teach me something new. A Grand Duke hopefully!’

Keep in mind some players don’t like to chat or may not speak your language. Don’t take any offence at silence or quick passing. Likely they are just shy.

Our community is small. So don’t burn any bridges. When you Pass someone try to leave the door open for future matches. Also if you chat, it’s polite to give them a round to respond back before you Pass. Once you Pass, the chat function doesn’t work anymore.

The ‘Friendly Pass’ – How to do it.

  • Just press the (X) on the game list item to do a ‘Friendly Pass’.
  • The popup will tell you if it’s still within the first 4 rounds or not. If it says ‘Friendly Pass’ – then you are good.
  • But before passing if you want to chat first then just enter the match, chat, make some moves (incase you change your mind) and then hit ‘end turn’.
  • Give your opponent time to respond, and also you need time between doing passes or you and the other person will keep matching up again and again. If you don’t want a game of basketball (constant passing) then chat a bit. You have 4 rounds to do so and the round numbers are clearly shown in game.

When your community is small, you can’t keep splitting into sub groups for elite, new players, etc. This ‘Friendly Pass’ idea is a mechanism to allow for players to self regulate their own match-ups.

This feature should help encourage more socializing, communication and also better play through appropriate match-ups. Nobody wants to suffer through something less than ideal. Now you don’t have to. It’s the perfect matchup feature.

Although likely many will ignore it and battle as usual. It’s still a good option to have.

I’ll probably re-word the text ‘Find an opponent you like.’  I don’t want any negative connotations around passing, it’s really just finding the type of match you want to play at the moment. The simple words are mainly for our non-english players. Something like ‘Find an appropriate matchup.’ is what I meant.

The next Community booster item is – ReplayKit.

ReplayKit is a tech added to iOS 9 for games to make in-game video with. There is even an option to do voice over on the fly! All on your device. It’s pretty awesome. Except that it doesn’t work on some of the older iOS hardware. In that case I just hide the button.

You can share your videos, or save them to the camera roll, or even edit them.

So what does this mean?  What are some utilities of this?

  • Was that a spectacular round?  Why not save the replay while you zoom in.
  • Want to make an intro video to Musket Smoke?  Go ahead!  Make a commentary walkthrough of the tutorial, or the Solo matches. Or how to quickly get up and running with online battles.
  • Beginner tips for new players. That would be great!
  • Advanced tips for more experienced players.
  • See a bug in battle? Send me a video of it.
  • Got some fancy moves?  Make a showpiece video.

There is no end to the possibilities!  (Especially for voice actors)

The Musket Smoke community now has the ability to take care of itself. To self govern and grow in new ways. Mingle phase, Friendly Pass, Video, New Player handicaps and a feedback mechanism.

A few more things..

I’m pretty happy with this recent series of updates and experiments. It brought together lots of ideas and things to try. This update however, is the balancer – the final adjustments. The concluder. The solidifier. Something solid for the next stretch.

  • Removed wind. I didn’t like the motivation for hacker opportunities, but not only that it was something that was hard to grasp (pun) for new players and too powerful for experienced players. Not a nice matchup contrast. Will it ever come back?  Maybe.. lets see what life without it is like for a while.
  • Removed invisible units in trees. Too many minor side issues, and required special UI support that I didn’t have time for.
  • Removed the device lock. Never inconvenience your most active players! Plus I also hated not being able to continue campaign rounds on the go when I stepped outside away from the iPad.
  • Cavalry handicap adjustments. For mini matches – reduced to just 1 extra cavalry unit, instead of 1-3. Don’t panic young Commanders!  I’ve counterbalanced this with a minor roster reduction to Duke level players. Dukes lose 1 cavalry and one musket in the Mini Match roster (but still 10 units). I think this is finally the long term balance I was looking for between our new players and our more experience players. With these changes there is now less need to ‘Friendly Pass’ – but still, it’s your choice.
  • Can now view quit matches. A minor thing, but significant to some. Your opponent no longer has the power to erase your replays. If they quit or delete the match, you can still can go through and look at your full replays and see what happened in the battle.

Points in the bank.

I throughly tested ‘ELO point payouts for Expired Matches’, so those should be points in the bank. I like that those who are most active and maybe get the most abandoned matches, are also compensated with these points.

Being a one man dev team, I didn’t have time or manpower for a massive comprehensive testing phase. So if you find a bug – send me a video!

Important feedback..

When doing a ‘Friendly Pass’ please select ‘Not a suitable opponent’ so that I can get some feedback on the ‘community vibe’ and make better decisions down the road with player matching or new player help. It’s private info that just goes to me (not your opponent). And it’s all subjective. Not suitable opponent could be a honourable Grand Duke to a new player. Or visa versa. But keep in mind that we are one big family and the Grand Dukes players are your fastest path to success and they are often the most friendly players as well. No matter your skill level, if you play enough you will become a Grand Duke. It’s just a title of experience and not necessarily indicative of skill.

Side note: I was just going for Duke as the top rank. But Armin1962 wanted another rank level, so a while back I added the Grand part. Actually 2 of the mini maps and the entire ranking system was Armin1962’s idea. A lot of this game was conceived by you guys. I’m just the grunt worker!

So that’s it. I won’t be far away. I’m often in battle myself or at least keeping an eye on the activity logs.

Keep your muskets dry!

Woodie Dovich

New users and the Cavalry Bonus – Poll.

Analytics has shown me that a number of new users have been using the new bonus cavalry units in newly created games.  However, what I do not know yet is how those battles are going?  Do the experienced players enjoy the extra challenge?  How are the battles?  Or in short – let me know with this poll. Everyone can respond, even new users.

Use ‘Other’ to go into more detail if you like.

The Big Siege!

The 1.72 update is mostly just incremental enhancements and bug fixes with the exception of one legendary battle.

theBigSiege

The old version of this battle (RIP) is has been replaced with an entirely new battle.

The Big Siege:  (a new battle)
• No reinforcements or countdowns.
• 6 Cavalry & 6 Pikemen (both sides) – plus Commander and SF units.
• New unit starting positions.
• Set inland more with a bit of the water still visible.
• Includes a second long badly beaten up wall with a few holes.
• Trees scattered on one side of the wall.
• No external objective. Battle ends when one side falls back (or CK).

The only thing that stayed the same is:

• The winner gets favourable ground in the final Naarden battle.
• No new SF unit reinforcements after this battle.

Also like the old battle, terrain on both sides is not similar at all. There is a lot of interesting conflict potential with each side separated by a very long weak wall with most sections easily destroyed by a single cannon shot. One side of the wall is wide open, the other side is crowded with trees. Commanders can fight from each side, or both on one side or the other.

The tree side is hard to defend from all the fast (sometimes hidden) units, and the clear side is open to easy attacks.

The map will be a blast to play and will now be a major highlight just before the final battle.

The design was intended to be a personal battle between the Commanders and the SF units. With weak destructible walls and multiple directions to attack from we are guaranteed a new experience every time we fight here.

Special thanks to Grand Duke Wrecktangle.ent who pushed me hard to preserve a piece of the star-fort theme for this important 7th battle. He also provided me with example map mockups to point me in the right direction and threatened to drown me in Naarden historical facts before I finally agreed to his demands. I was initially planning to do a simple forrest map but this new map is dramatically better.

Also thanks to another Grand Duke for his many bug reports and one special issue that touched us all recently. The cavalry charge bug is now fixed and charging is now better than ever thanks to Slayyer0.

It has never been better for new players.

We have a great Community here and Musket Smoke is a product of our collaborations and efforts over the years. (Manual, maps, testing, units, etc). Many of our regular players have played a significant part in making this game or improving it. And now it’s never been better to be a new player. This 1.72 update gives new players more online action by removing the new player zone (aka: the dead zone) and brings those players into the active area where everyone goes to find a friendly partner to engage with. Also the new player cavalry reinforcements update and recent balancing adjustments for both battles and artillery help dramatically. Not to mention recent usability enhancements designed to reduce new player confusion.

All this activity and recent updates amounts to a giant red carpet welcoming new players into our war ravaged community.

Message to old players: I’ll see you on the battlefield after dinner or breakfast – as usual. Our endless battles never get old.

Message to new players:  Welcome to the family!

Cavalry Reinforcements!

Well.. just for new players. This update (1.71) is an experiment to see if we can make things more interesting for both new and old players. (The update also fixes some bugs)

The attempted solution here is to give these new players more units as a handicap. Not for long mind you. Just until they get their battle legs.

For campaigns this is only until the player gets 30 pie pieces (total). So for example if they kill 20 men in mini matches and win one battle in the campaign they will have 30 pie pieces. Then the handicap will no longer apply moving forward with the campaign.

For the Mini-Matches this works a bit differently. If the player has 200 pie pieces or less they get 1 extra cavalry unit.

Regardless, if the new player doesn’t want the handicap they can turn it off by simply turning it off in the options.

For the campaign the handicap doesn’t apply every battle and just adds 4 cavalry units with +1 confidence. Some of you may know this boost as what happens when one side has little or no SF units left and the other side has lots. It’s the same bonus rule only being activated now for new players to give them a fighting chance.

Again this is a big experiment. It might be not enough, it might be too much. 1.72 will likely adjust things or remove it if it turns out this was a bad idea.

I think it will be interesting. As a seasoned player I welcome the challenge of a larger army with a less experienced commander. The scoring hasn’t changed. You still win with 10 kills in a Mini Match regardless of how many units are still galloping around.

Feel free to email me with any stories of how things go with this experimental auto handicap. I need the feedback if you want things to be tweaked.