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Bia
OceanMaster
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Joined: Mar 29, 2005
Posts: 2787
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We shall be implementing some slight changes regarding familiars and how they are awarded starting this month.

The first change is that henceforth the white familiars for the Olympic Championship League will be permanent. This will affect the current OCL prizes as well as all future OCL events. Past winners of the OCL will be awarded a white familiar for their seasons.

The second change is that the familiars awarded for the regular puzzle tournaments will be changed to consistent colours. Monkeys and octopus awarded will be tan and parrots awarded will be tan and another colour. These tournaments will also be increased in frequency slightly to about one per week per puzzle per ocean.

The familiar recolouring service will not be available for any white familiars, nor for the tan monkeys and octopus or tan/colour parrots.

This will not affect any other familiar events, which we will continue to run as often as we are able to do so.

A discussion of this new system may be found here. However, an explanation of some of the factors that affect such decisions may help

Coding

We cannot change the coding for the game. As Oceanmasters, we can only use the tools currently in the toolbox. That means that for the time being familiars are limited to:
  • parrot, monkey, octopus
  • current range of colors
  • do not decay
  • can be traded
  • cannot be labelled

    While one or more of these factors could change in the future, this is how it is at the moment, and we have no control over this.

    Rarity

    Familiars are, unfortunately, too rare. Even with the greater frequency of familiar events over the past several months, the ratio of familiar owners to overall player numbers keeps going down. As one of the visible "goals" in the game, we need to ensure that enough familiars are being offered to allow players even an outside chance of winning one.

    Trinkets, sleeping animals and other rare furniture have answered some of the problem, by providing intermediate rare prizes, and these are used where possible. However, there is still an incredible gap between a familiar and the rarest of any other prize. Introducing some sort of tiering system within the familiars seems a reasonable approach to take. The majority of feedback about familiars is that there should be more of them, and this approach is a way of achieveing a higher ratio without devaluing the existing familiars.

    Challenge

    It's inevitable that familiars are won with different levels of effort. The hardest of them require weeks of effort, the easiest require a couple of hours and a bit of natural talent. There's no magic formula for how much effort each familiar will take. For OCL, there has always been the acknowledgement that winning the leagues takes a substantial amount of skill and commitment, and a view often expressed is that the familiars should be permanent, rather than being temporary "trophies". The move to make these permanent reflects this effort, and brings them more into line with the achievements of other familiar winners.

    If we make familiar tournaments more frequent, it is likely that the challenge in each individual tournament will be slightly lower, but winning them will still be an achievement that most players would be proud of. Not pre-announcing the tournaments has two advantages. First, the tournaments are more likely to benefit those who are actively playing the game, rather than targetting those who log on specially for the tournaments. Second, the support time is lower.

    It is plausible that the weekly tournaments could be supplemented with the occasional pre-announced familiar tournament as well - there's no intention to say that those will never happen again.

    Logistics

    The secondary reason for making the OCL familiars permanent is that with the new OCL, the schedule for the leagues is much more intense than previously. Distributing, collecting, tracking if necessary, all the familiars awarded in the leagues would soon become a logistical difficulty. This way, winners are given their familiars, and allowed to keep them. The players (presumably) are happy, and we do not have an ongoing responsibility to track the ownership of them ready for the next season.

    As the game expands, and oceans grow and increase in number, it is important that the events we provide can be scaled up to meet the growing playerbase. Every event requires time for someone to plan, organise and run, and the familiar events take up a lot of OceanMaster time. We enjoy running them, but they do take time outside our other duties. We have put a lot of effort into making events more effective where we can (for example, streamlining the bake-off events) and we're always looking into different ways of providing good puzzle-based familiar events. However, the only event type that lends itself to being scaled up easily is the tournament, and this is the obvious area to try to increase player participation.


    As with any policy, we shall take consideration for what these changes mean to the game. If this proves unfeasible or an alternative presents itself we can revise it. While no decisions exist in a vaccuum, neither must we remain locked into past patterns.
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