Economy balance update, 28th June 2019
Any economy rebalance will provoke debate. Top Drives is coming up to 2 years old and is doing well; we all want Top Drives to continue to thrive for as long as possible, but not everyone will agree on how exactly the economy should work to help that happen.
We have many different types of players and play-styles to consider, and balancing them will always be hard. Club Events was our first major attempt to tune the economy to work best for the long term.
While we have access to the data that tells us how the game is working, we recognise it doesn’t tell the whole story, which is why we pay attention to what players tell us about their experience of the game.
At this point we thought it would be helpful to take the unusual step of sharing some of the data with you, so you can better understand how the game is working as a whole, and we can have a more informed discussion.
The TL;DR version:
Average RQ150 players are making more money now than before.
The 1% most active RQ150 players are making a bit more money now than before, but are doing significantly more races to achieve that.
We will continue as planned for now and review again in a week.
First, a recap on recent history:
Clubs to replace Dailies and remove Smarfing
Smarfing: playing terrible cards to sink to the bottom of the leaderboard, so you can get easy 3-star wins. Aka the most efficient way to make money in Top Drives.
As Schmidti said, you could say we kind of created a “farming monster” - there are a lot (not a majority, but a lot) of players smarfing and quite used to it. We always thought it wasn’t ideal that smarfing earned such huge rewards (compared to other things), that you should spend so many tickets playing in a non-competitive way. TD42792 correctly identified a big part of the issue too: the biggest imbalance that smarfing creates is between smarfers and non-smarfers.
Players have raised the question of how newer players might be able to catch up with older ones. Roughly 50% of high-trophy (6000+) RQ150 players smarf, compared to 25% of low-trophy (<500) RQ150 players. That means a lot of those low-trophy players are being constantly outpaced, and not by a small amount either.
So, we came up with Club Events as an alternative to the highly-smarfable and (based on typical daily feedback) generally-disliked Daily: a way to earn money by winning, in an environment where you had some choice over requirements, and with a more interesting wider strategy element to it. You could make a bit of money by entering and racing in a few events; if you raced in more events, and did more races, you make more money - much more intuitive than the complete switch you have to make to smarf.
So, hopefully farmers would embrace this new way to make their money, and those low-trophy RQ150 players could see a more intuitive way to increase their earnings - do more in Clubs.
Replacing Dailies with Club Events also had the benefit of adding a new game-mode in Top Drives without universally increasing cash and gold in the game - inflation. To get right to the point on that subject - to have Top Drives thrive for a long time, we obviously do need it to continue to make money; it’s easy to imagine that if all sources of in-game gold doubled, the effective value of IAPs for gold would halve. That’s an extreme example, but if every new mode added new sources of income, we would continue to step in that direction, so we do need to be careful about it.
The Response to Clubs
Players told us quite emphatically that the Daily was too important to lose: the ability to play your strongest hands; the cards for upgrades; the instant gratification; the mental effort/earning ratio. Club Events are supposed to be more entertaining than the daily, but many players were feeling it was just more effort for less reward.
Daily but with less farming
We realised we couldn’t improve Club Events as much as needed by tuning the dynamic aspects (rewards, season length etc), or even with a few quick features - but we still wanted to reduce the significance of smarfing. So, we proposed a compromise: return daily events (with a bit more variety in the rotation), add more cars to prize boards but reduce their overall value, and put more cash in end-of-event prizes instead. My post intimating this idea (perhaps with too much subtlety) didn’t go down well (link), but when Robin proposed a more detailed version (link) and clarified it involved the Daily (or something extremely similar) coming back, it was a lot more popular, so we figured we had a good solution.
The Response to 'less farming'
Now PL9 is here and we have been starting to find out how the rebalance feels and plays out in practice. Although Club event cash hasn’t been reduced yet, and Challenge cash will increase from this weekend, we can still take an early view.
In terms of community response, as we would expect, people who smarfed the most are the most affected, and the least happy with the changes. Some of the people who didn’t smarf do seem to like the increased cash prizes for events. It’s definitely been a more mixed response than just removing the Daily.
In terms of the data on what people are actually achieving under the new system, it’s hard to be certain of things as both the new cars and the auto-hand-forget bug are likely to alter people’s behaviour. Factoring out the spike in activity around a new launch though, we can now see the following.
We considered players of all types, but the most interesting here are probably RQ150 players, with low vs. high trophies, and average players of each type vs. the top 1% most active. Since Clubs have been out for 37 days, we looked across the time period from 37 days before Clubs through to 37 days after, and identified the 1% most active players across that whole period.
If we compare how things are now (with the rebalanced prizes and Clubs, after the PL9 activity spike) vs. how they were before Clubs was introduced, we see the following:
- Average RQ 150 player: They are playing 9% more matches (Daily events, non-daily events and Club events) and making 7% more cash.
- RQ150 with < 500 trophies: 7% fewer matches, 4% more cash
- RQ150 with 6k+ trophies: 23% more matches, 15% more cash
- 1% most active RQ150: 44% more matches (from 72/day to 103/day), 9% more cash
- 1% most active RQ150 <500 trophies: 60% more matches (from 68/day to 108/day), 17% more cash
So what does this tell us?
- Average earnings are up.
- The most active players are also making more cash.
- But - the most active players are getting significantly less cash-per-race...
- ... and lower trophy players are actually doing fewer races, which is probably not ideal.
So what next?
This analysis is only a snapshot - just as important is how things change over time. It’s also important to consider how the game feels to play, as that can help us predict how it will change - if the average player is making more money, but is less happy, they are less likely to stick around. The data doesn’t tell us how people feel, so of course we will continue to listen to your feedback and ideas.
For now we will continue with the plan, adjusting Club prizes and Challenge prizes, and continue to observe the data and collect feedback. We’ll do another update like this in a week.