An open letter/epitaph to BA and it's "community"

An open letter/epitaph to BA and it's "community"

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An open letter/epitaph to BA and it's "community"

Post by PtaQ »

This is a message directed to everyone and anyone who ever was or is in any way involved with Balanced Annihilation, either playing, deving or assisting it from the engine/infra/promotional-side. I would really appreciate those people taking time to read through what I got to say as it might be vital to the whole thing BA is. Due to an amalgamate of different external and internal factors influencing the project, the situation in which BA finds itself as of today is terribly uncertain. Despite the fact that I always laughed in the face of anyone saying this in the past, I actually claim that the game is (this time for real) going to die if the community doesn't take some actions to preserve it.

First off, I should introduce myself to those, who are not aware of my part in all of that or might misunderstand my intentions. I'm writing this as a player who remembers times when the first spring mods were roaming the ancient lobby clients. I'm writing this as some someone who watched them grow and become mature and promising projects. I'm writing this as someone who fell in love with BA and it's legacy. Lastly, I write it as a guy, who was somewhat involved in assisting BA devs for the last year doing some cosmetic stuff like the website, testing, and minor improvements in noob-friendliness of the game.

Why does my opinion matter?
On top of all that, I am a scientist and entrepreneur and what I love even more than BA is a constructive discourse on the foundation of facts and unbiased opinions and finding solutions instead of fighting with each other or turning a blind eye on the issues we face. As someone who for the last year closely monitored BA development and community feedback while still actively playing the game myself, I consider my opinion to be unbiased. I reckon that it is quite a bold claim, but I know that those who know me better here acknowledge my intentions. Those, who may doubt them, I can only ask for keeping their minds open for the time they read that, afterward, they may close them again :)

So, what is going on exactly?
The sociology of BA community is starting to resemble the real world politics. I'm observing a dramatic polarisation of opinions about the direction BA is/should be heading. Since the release of BA10 in December, the community split became frankly unbearable. The real problem is that there are not two but four sides of this conflict and all of them in their own way contribute to the inevitable downfall of BA. There is one minority of players who appreciate new developments (a.k.a. BA10), a small, yet very vocal and active minority of players, who hate anything past BA 9.46 and most importantly, the lovely minority of folks who just don't care about all the fuzz and just want to relax and play their DSD after a day of hard work. Not to forget people running the game on Mac so they wanna join more populated 103 hosts which are mostly 9.46 ones as ppl playing BA10 tend to gather at newest maintenance hosts.

What some of you might be unaware of
Just to give you the general setting of this narrative I wanna make sure you acknowledge what has been done since BA10 from a dev-side. For a moment I wanna talk from the position of that guy who helped the project (or as some ppl call me, Floris dog). Let me tell you a story of what happened after the release of BA10. It sought an increase in (or regained) the interest of some people crucial to its development. Developers came and I even dare to say we were short of having an actual coordinated dev team working on different aspects of the game/infra. Even freaking Beherith came back to announce that we can use his BAR models if we intend to go free of OTA assets. A joined effort of Tzaeru and Gajop was spent to prepare Chobby to run BA so that for the first time we would have a lobby that wouldn't hold back 90% of newcomers from playing. Doo has improved and fixed tons of unit scripts and reworked the boring/uninteresting sea gameplay. Floris broke his back to improve the visual quality of the game, lvlup ui, performance, fix annoying bugs, new engine compatibility and integrate/revamp BAR models. Damgam, doo and Beherrit (not Beherith, the other one :p) made an awesome new AI, that would actually be challenging for players of different skill levels. I have created a website, promoted, was wiring guides, helping newbies. Some effort was spent on getting IP-free sounds and other assets. In other words, all was heading in the right direction to finally give BA the audience it deserves. We have observed a slow but stable incline of player numbers and was set to make BA an independent IP-free game. This is possible, it is something we can achieve if we work together.

But then...
Some players after the release of BA10 resigned because of balance changes, now they came back and gathered to push 9.46 as the one and only "not retarded" one. The problem is that due to how the lobby mechanics at work, once you have 4 haters of new BA on the host, you will have all the others (from the "whatever" group) to join them. You can't blame these haters, they just love old BA balance and bugs so much cuz they got used to it. You can't blame the "whatever" group as they just want to get the biggest game as quickly as possible, hence they join the most crowded host. So, noone is to blame, great, huh? Let us all just close our eyes and ignore what is really happening. People are playing 9.46. Supporters of new BA are either forced to play old BA or forget about playing big games (which, let's be honest, are what gives the most fun in this game). The "dev team" is losing interest in working on this project. I've lost interest in promoting it. The community is shrinking due to the split (and recently some annoying downsides of using newer engines). Most popular hosts are not administered, letting people who call others fucking ni**ers for not doing what they want just enjoy their game without a hint of consequences.

Why I think the supposed death of BA has a tragic note in it?
I'm sorry to say that the ones who promote old BA are weirdly the most toxic players in the recent history of BA. To play the devil's advocate for a second, they do make some correct points about what is wrong with recent BA iterations (among others, which are either not based on facts or exaggerated in an attempt to annoy the maintainers). What is tragic, is that these people are unable/unwilling to carry on a meaningful and constructive discussion with developers. I acknowledge that devs and balance maintainers make mistakes or introduce stuff that these people might not want, but I also don't blame them if the feedback they receive is reduced to personal insults, mocking, and stigmatizing even the positive changes because they were made by the dev x.

The balance can always be changed, improved, tweaked infinitely. There is no dictatorship that tells how the balance should look like. If you have a strong opinion why the new balance is bad, please spend some time on making your fucking point in an objective way in a place that is suitable for discussion (forums/discord) instead of rebelling everyone against "retarded devs". Perhaps we can have new awesome improvements while preserving your beloved balance, who knows. All depends on if you are able to change your attitude and talk like a civilized person.

Remember: Talking is the only tool we have that makes us better, war doesn't get us anywhere. Fix your fucking personal biases. If we are really going to make BA great again we can only do it together. The biggest issue I acknowledge, why all this is happening is not because of split opinions, it is because we are unable/unwilling to talk and listen to each other.

Sorry for the long post, I just wanted to express my feelings about all of this. I really love this game and enjoy playing any version with any players and I don't want to see it slowly go down the toilet. And by the way, just out of curiosity:
Last edited by PtaQ on 23 Jun 2018, 22:05, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: An open letter/epitaph to BA and it's "community"

Post by Ares »

people play what is best
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Re: An open letter/epitaph to BA and it's "community"

Post by varikonniemi »

I do hate the old ba- new ba switching, it is borderline playing 2 different games.

All i want to know is if current ba10 devs are entitled to use the name, and if they are people can STFU and play latest.
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Re: An open letter/epitaph to BA and it's "community"

Post by raaar »

Such feels around BA.
Ares wrote:people play what is best
the "best" is a subjective label which generally gets assigned to whatever people find most other people playing. Quality is secondary unless the game is really bad (which BA isn't). A "great" game is no fun without a player base.

As the MF dev i'd tell you all to play MF instead...But if you all are die-hard fans of ARM vs CORE, why is it so hard for the player base AND developers to converge to ONE TA-derived game?
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Re: An open letter/epitaph to BA and it's "community"

Post by Flaka »

nicely done Ptaq. i agree with you. unfortunately i was hold back from playing new Version because for unkown reason new spring versions didnt start which had been resolved recently by itself. so i was for 2 month core player for old ba but honestly i dont really care about the version. i play all versions and i like them all. i join where the people are. besides balance i think compatibility and stability are equal maybe also more important. people on mac for example will only play spring v 103 because the new one is not compatible. this might be a problem becasue there will remain always a solid player base who start 103 instead of 104., other people joining and so in the end there will be running the old games. I hope devs are going ahead anyway and finding the right mix of features and balance to please most players.

PS: Discussions about balancing, development should be made on forum and not on discord.
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Re: An open letter/epitaph to BA and it's "community"

Post by Optimustron »

I like both versions, 9.46 and 10 a lot. I support the work of the devs but I'd also like to offer my opinion on a couple of things that I believe would benefit from more attention from the developers to bring the community back together and make BA an even better game:

(1) BA is a game that is mostly ready, gameplay-wise.

People like it for what it is. There are issues that need fixing but change is in general bad. Only change things if it fixes something that's even worse.

(2) People like BA for what it is.

When you change BA you're changing it into something that it is not. Unhappiness is a natural reaction, and perfectly valid and justified. Like I wrote before, change is bad and it is justified only if it fixes something that is even worse.

(3) Make balance changes in small steps.

Balance is fragile, and even a small change may affect the best move in a situation, changing the gameplay drastically. Even if the value of some balance property feels weird it might be important for a reason or another, even if the dev at hand doesn't understand why. Changing that value may upset players. Respect the players! A change has to bring more joy than upset to be valid.

(4) Identify and respect the opinion leaders.

To keep the community together and enable improvement, the devs should identify in their minds the people that they think are the opinion leaders in the community. Such persons' opinions get multiplied to other people and as such it makes sense to do one's best to gain the opinion leaders' respect and support.

This may be hard as many of them may have invested enormous amounts of time and effort into learning the game, and perhaps it is them that love the game the most as it is. It is very natural that thus some of them may hate very much to see the game changing, and as such some of them have developed hate also towards what they see as the source of the changes. From their point of view that source is breaking the game, taking it away from them, maybe at some point even stopping them from playing what they love the most.

Still, please do try to respect them and gain their support. Roll back unpopular changes if needed. Remember, an opinion leader's opinion matters most if it gets multiplied to other people. Discuss with many of them, also the more quiet and polite ones, and see if they all agree. If they agree with you, all is good. If all of them disagree with you, are you really doing the correct thing? If some of them agree with you and some of them disagree, note to them that only some of them can be right and you need to trust your intuition. Above all, you do not want to look like someone who alone dictates what the correct balance is. At least keep the facade. ;)
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Re: An open letter/epitaph to BA and it's "community"

Post by MaDDoX »

Balance by committee is bad, balance by deaf ears is even worse.

It's obvious the huge experience and knowledge of the game some of the BA devs have, but using that as a quick trigger gun to dismiss the users' complaints is a terrible attitude and could only lead to this kind of scenario. Even if the complaints come from complete n00bs, at the very least this hints the game is not being clear, and that also needs some help from the devs. And yes, you can completely disagree about what the players are complaining about, and at the end of the day it's your call as the game's dev(s) - but not doing anything concrete about the feedback (even if not exactly what the players are asking for) is a sure shot in the foot.

Just my $0.02
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Re: An open letter/epitaph to BA and it's "community"

Post by gyanbasic »

Lets face facts. The only contention is balance changes.
So why hasnt the new balance convinced people? because the changes were decided on in an absolutely arbitrary way.
The whole process was completely amateur and was thus completely unconvincing. I blame several people but mostly triton's lackluster approach to balance and gameplay and both triton and Doo insisting on not creating a new comprehensive gameplay vision for ba or trying to understand or make sense of how to truly make ba's gameplay good. Instead what happened was constant experimentation, addition of units just for the heck of it, minor changes that weren't really that important in the grand scheme of things but were crucial to some community members.
On top of that everyone was tugging in a completely different direction because there was no attempt to first come to an agreement while insisting that the right way to balance was simply eternally play test and make changes that way, essentially reinventing the wheel(would anyone imagine doing that in a commercial project?).

My criticism might seem harsh and there were some other factors invovled(people injecting their nostalgia into their criticism of changes) including my own initial misguided attempts.
However at a certain point, as this mess was progressing, i came to the conclusion that without a deep realization of what it is that makes ba fun followed by a concrete balance plan that takens into account all areas of gameplay as a whole, there can be no improvment, just shuffling things around.
This is why i made the "BA genetics or what makes BA fun" thread but it seemed that nobody was interested at taking an honest and deep look and make a serious analysis of the different aspects of the game to then extrapolate a calculated and planned way to enhance the good parts while minimizing the bad parts.
All the technical improvement has been amazing though.

Again, the problem has always been balance and the obvious result is that the haphazard approach of the balance team has failed in its mission and in fact hasnt even defined its mission properly.
People honestly tried to improve things but imo their efforts were misguided. Unfortunately, even after months of obvious issues there was no effort to rethink and reconsider the process of deciding on and making balance and gameplay changes.

You cannot persuade people of balance changes if you yourself dont really know why you are making them.
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Re: An open letter/epitaph to BA and it's "community"

Post by Sabutai »

I play what's available and thank you for the work you put into it.

However I liked the old balance better. I've known all the builds, costs, timings etc by heart for years so I have quite the expirience how balanced the game is. As for the new sea I haven't seen enough games to judge.

I was considering donating to keep BA alive. Sponsor tournaments or sth. 50€ a month for example. Is anyone in?
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Re: An open letter/epitaph to BA and it's "community"

Post by Forboding Angel »

The lack of ability to adapt to anything properly leads me to believe that the vast majority of BA players are awful at rts games in general. Maybe they're decent in BA, but I get the impression that you put them in any other rts and the wheels just fall off.
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Re: An open letter/epitaph to BA and it's "community"

Post by Anarchid »

make annihilation balanced again
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Re: An open letter/epitaph to BA and it's "community"

Post by abma »

some time ago i played a lot of chicken defense:

on each release the balance changed. Sometimes new bugs where introduced: it was really fun to play as there were always stuff which could be tested. I still remember how funny it was when we discovered a bug that anti air shoot ground units, too. Sadly this imbalance was fixed :-)

also in this discussion often is missed that changes in the engine or bug fixes already change balance!

this basicly means: no balance change = no change at all = no (new) bug fixes = no new fancy stuff = no fun to play = no fun to develop


changes to the game / balance / engine makes it interesting to (re)play!
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Re: An open letter/epitaph to BA and it's "community"

Post by sprunk »

also in this discussion often is missed that changes in the engine or bug fixes already change balance!
I think it was missed because it is usually fine:
  • an engine change / bugfix can always be followed by numerical tweaks to emulate previous behaviour.
  • engine changes / bugfixes usually have some beneficial effect, such that people are usually willing to tolerate any side effect balance changes that couldn't be removed by tweaks.
  • engine changes / bugfixes are effectively random in their balance effect and don't consciously favour anything - unlike changes made by the game developer, who usually has some vision on what the balance should be and will consistently drift the balance in that direction, which makes people feel threatened.
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