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Developer Interview: Inside the Builders Hut: Episode 1 | House of Clashers | Clash of Clans News and Sneak Peeks

    Developer Interview: Inside the Builders Hut: Episode 1

    Hello Clashers, today Clash of Clans release a Q&A video with the Game Designer Vesa Ylhäinen where he talked about Ores, game progression, Global Chat, using Heroes while upgrading, and much more. Check it out!


    FERRI: Vesa, I'll let you start with the question. What are the current issues with the game that the community has been talking about so much, lately?

    VESA: Well, thanks for throwing me the big questions. Like you said, we had quite a hectic December already. We had a big update coming out. People were understandably worried. Like, okay, is something changing with the way the game works? And we maybe dropped the ball with the communication on that one. So, we're here. How we're seeing things in a larger picture is that Clash is a monster of a game. We have over 11 years of big history, but also the game has changed during those years. The player base has changed. A lot of games don't have this happy problem of having people play...

    FERRI: It's a good problem to have.

    VESA: Yeah, making sure players enjoy our game, that as many as possible play it, remember it forever. That's the goal. That's what we're trying to do. But you asked what the problems are.


    VESA: The progression of the game. Back in 2012 when Clash of Clans launched, it had seven Town Halls. Now it has 16 Town Halls. And I can open up a little bit about the numbers behind it. We have these cohorts who have, and by that I mean, you know, people who started in a given year. We have people who started in 2012, 2013. Uh, many of those people are still stuck around Town Hall 12.

    FERRI: I'm one of them, by the way.

    VESA: Yeah, we have people who started in 2014, 2015, also in Town Hall 12. People starting in 2017, '18, '19, believe it or not: Town Hall 12. And that's not optimal, of course. And what has happened as we've added more content into the game, which is mainly for these end-game players, A lot of other people feel like they're left behind. They feel like there isn't much... The game is just going faster and faster, and faster. And while we've cut costs and times across that road, we've maybe done it in a very... Maybe a little haphazard way, maybe, these sweeping cuts. So, what I believe is really needed is more of a structural change in how that progression works. Instead of having this exponential growth where eventually you get stuck in these week-long timers. We have more of a steady, optimal pace where you're just having fun, you have different timers, some short, some longer. You're having a good time. And the game flows much more nicely in that way. So that is a big, big thing that we think has a long-term impact.

    FERRI: So just to get this straight, because on the last update, on Town Hall 16, we did decrease the upgrade timer for a lot of different buildings and everything. So the idea is to expand on that, but in a different way.

    VESA: Well, we've already done that earlier this year, we did cuts on the earlier Town Halls, up to Town Hall 9 and we saw some very positive changes there.And we want to expand this same direction to all Town Halls. So eventually, it's a steady process where we're trying to find the optimal balance, but eventually it should feel better for all. So that both free-to-play players and paying players are just going to have an overall better experience going through that. And the goal is not for the game to take more and more years as we add more content. Everybody should be able to get to the new part and feel like they're part of a living game.

    FERRI: Perfect.


    I see it as like an absolutely, like a brutal crunching problem. (...) this cannot continue.

    FERRI: Another great topic that we've seen in the community, there's been a lot of feedback around this, is regarding Heroes. So, there're a lot of things about Heroes, but the one thing I want to talk to you about is the "sleeping Heroes", let's call it. And I think that we mentioned this before in a Q&A we did on Reddit a while ago. We talked about why it works the way it works, but I think that players want to know more.

    VESA: Alright, so for those viewers who might not immediately get what Ferri is referring to: when you're upgrading your Heroes, you can't use them. And, uh, like some apt Redditors put it: you need to do Wars in order to get stuff. But you can't do Wars because you don't have Heroes. Thus you don't get stuff. Thus you don't... You know, and that goes on. This is a huge issue.

    I see it as like an absolutely, like a brutal crunching problem. And it is one of the first things that we saw and I saw as I joined the team, like this cannot continue. And if the game was designed today, I would find it very difficult if anybody would suggest such a design in this modern world. However, I'll open up a little bit on the brutalities of being a game designer. So, why this is the hardest problem that a game designer can ever face is because there is a price tag to it. And that price tag is very concrete and it is counted in the millions where I can't guarantee with my own pocket change whether that's going to work. So, just outright removing it comes with this financial risk that I'll have to be able to, what's the word... justify.

    FERRI: Justify the change.

    VESA: That's the word. Um, so I'll have to have a design which is at least as good and hopefully better, obviously. So this brings us to the big changes in December and Equipment. And our hope was that if we diversify our monetization, we bring in these new ways that people can interact with this system, maybe we can pull off the pressure from that Hero Book monetization that has been quite successful so far. And then it allows us the avenues to fix that fundamental gameplay problem that is making people have a bad time.

    So that's where the motivation for that is coming from. And we're looking into a multitude of ways to fix that. Uh, like more Heroes is definitely something that is high priority on that list of possible fixes for that issue. But it also depends on how the Hero Equipment changes go, what kind of balance we find, what kind of success we find, all of that stuff.


    FERRI: Okay, and I guess since we're talking about Hero Equipment, it's also a good segue to the next thing I want to ask you, which is: to upgrade Hero Equipment you need a very specific resource. And this is something that is a big problem right now in the game because how many resources you can get, how many Ores you can get in the game, does not match right now... the number of Equipments you need to upgrade. So I think the main question here is: what are we doing about it?

    VESA: Alright, that is a fair question. So, let me give you a little bit of context.

    FERRI: Please.

    VESA: So I've seen two different questions two different problems. One: Why is there three Ores to begin with? Fair question. Second one being: Hey, we want more of it. Also a fair point. So, why are there three Ores? I wanted to push people into diversifying. As a gamer myself, if I'm given a bunch of stuff, I'm given one resource, I'm going to buy the thing that I think helps me the most. But here, hopefully, the fact that you get more of Shiny and Glowy Ore will push you into having a bunch of Equipment at some level, and then you can find out which ones you like the most and so on. That's the reason. So, you're pushed to diversify at these points. There's not enough of it.

    VESA: We started off this experiment of Hero Equipment with the idea that, hey, this would be a really fun way for you to interact with the game. You can change your Heroes. You can change your attacks. We can do cool things that we thought, you know, a bunch of stuff that maybe didn't get to the original Hero design, but maybe now there's a chance to try it out. And if some player likes it, they can use it. If another player doesn't like it, they don't have to use that particular thing. I think that works well and people have been liking it. But the Ore economy in and of itself is still in its infancy. In the drafting board, when I was putting it out, there were Ore sources for Builder Base, for Clan Capital, for a bunch of new sources that I don't even want to talk about yet, because we wanted this to be a cool new thing we push forward.


    VESA: However, the roadmap and the plans have changed somewhat during the change of the year. We went into it being relatively confident in doing some Builder Base and Capital changes, into being more focused on the Home Village. We said this before. And we think that that focus makes sense, that it comes with a lot of love for the part that we think is the most valuable in the game. And I think players agree as well, with their time at least, as they put it in the game. Alright, well, that doesn't help you, the players.

    VESA: So, we are going to fix it. We're going to give a bunch of new Ores. We're going to add them to the Raid Medal shop, we're going to add them... there's going to be a bunch of new events. We're going to make the 4x Star Bonus also affect Ores. So, that was maybe an oversight on our part to begin with. But we're going to add those in and see where that goes. And we're following constantly how people are upgrading those things.

    VESA: Like where are you... where is the majority of players as it comes to like finished Equipment? And how far are you from being done with those? So, we want those to really feel good. We don't want anybody to be left behind. If it looks like we have a bunch of stuff, but nobody's like, even close to getting done with it, we're going to increase the sources. We're going to also think about the cadence at which we put out those Equipments. Make sure that we don't do it too often. We have a bunch of ideas. We have a bunch of cool stuff that we want to put in and, of course, we need to be a little bit...

    FERRI: And even before I talk about that topic, just when you mentioned, the more Ores and everything, which is amazing. I think that's something that everyone is going to be very happy about. But I think it's also important... and something I want to just confirm with you, that these changes are not set in stone, I mean, not permanent. It's something that we keep reassessing and reevaluating and you might make more changes or change things and everything. So I think it's also... I just want to double check this with you. So also players and everyone is aligned on this and the expectations around this whole source of Ores and how they work and everything. Right?


    Part of the reason why we wanted to try this Equipment without timers, is because we thought that the upgrading experience itself would just be more fun that way.

    VESA: We're extremely committed to giving a good experience to both free-to-play and paid players. Like, if you don't want to pay in the game, you should still be having a good time. If you want to pay, that experience should be fun. Part of the reason why we wanted to try this Equipment without timers, is because we thought that the upgrading experience itself would just be more fun that way. But it is also very stingy at the moment. We recognize that. So we want to find that balance where everybody is having a good time. But our main failure so far, I think, is that of communication. We haven't talked about this. We haven't talked about the goals for this feature. And people are afraid, justifiably, about like, what if this keeps on happening?

    VESA: So the system has been designed in such a way that level 18 is kind of where it peaks out and you're getting diminishing returns for the last one. So being maxed is also not important. Like there's always the last couple of things that you can get. And maybe different Equipment are different, but we hope that you can... The system brings something for everybody. But we're definitely going to assess the Ore sources, assess the balance. But it takes time to get the data in and see how people are actually interacting with it, where the pain points are and so on.

    FERRI: And that's something very important as well, it's something that I've mentioned before as well. We also take time to take action on everything because we need to look at data, understand what's happening, and that sometimes takes time. Most of the time it takes time to have enough data to understand what's happening. So that's why as well, not every change or all feedback can be acted upon fast because we need to... There's a lot that needs to be analyzed and taken into account before making a change. Correct?

    VESA: Exactly. Just so. We're making a game for quite a few different types of players. Players playing at very different cadences, in very different ways. Some play very often, very actively. Others play casually every now and then. And all of those points of view are valid. If we were to make the game just for one group we would easily end up messing up for the others. And while Clash is a really old game, also the players have changed over the years. Many of our fans are now older than they used to be and the time they have on their hands is different, so we'll have to think about how that impacts the design as well.


    FERRI: And before moving on to the next topic, since we're still talking about Hero Equipment and Heroes and everything. We're now releasing a Hero Equipment with this next event. That's something we already announced. Players are happy with this decision. But what about the future? Do we have a clear idea of the cadence of how many we want, an average to be released in a year or something? Or is that something that is still being discussed and nothing is set in stone yet when it comes to the Hero Equipment.

    VESA: Well, I would expect us to relatively quickly get to the point where all the Heroes have a... well, they now have all the Commons that we were aiming for them to have. So, there's going to be four Commons per Hero. And we're not planning on putting any more in at this time. We want them all to have a couple of Epics and then we'll assess again, see how it works. And obviously, like people have also been worried, what if there's like 100 Equipment for all the... It's going to be a mess. And that's that's not the goal either. So once it feels like there's diminishing returns, like we don't want to clog up the system with a bunch of stuff.

    VESA: Probably, we're going to take a step back and see like only... Assess what the best ideas are. See how that works. But we don't want to push one system too much, of course. But right now, because we launched this system to everybody all the way from lower Town Halls, all the way up to the new ones, like many people have correctly identified, you know, you start with a bunch of backlog. There's year's worth of upgrading there that you haven't done. And and that can be a bit of a hassle. So we'll see if we can get everybody now bumped up to speed, so to say. Maybe our launch could have been a little bit better on that as well. Like, be a bit more generous. But we honestly didn't know very well how people would receive the system. And we wanted to be conservative rather than just go.

    FERRI: Yeah, absolutely. After all, it was a new feature, completely new for everyone. So it's understandable that there might be some hiccups along the way.


    FERRI: We had the Root Rider nerf not so long ago and some other changes. But there's still some players that have the feeling that it was not enough, there are some other issues with the balancing, it's not just Root Rider. Which is understandable. So it can be from the Defenses to even sometimes Heroes being too strong. So what's your take on this whole balancing situation?

    VESA: I'm not the number one expert on balancing itself. I'm personally way worse at the game than some of our other designers. And I will confer with them. But I think it comes back down to this question, players are meeting these tools in the game: Troops, Heroes, Equipment, Siege Machines, Spells, all of it at a different... from a different perspective, let's say. If you find a thing for the first time, what is cool about it is that, you know, it's more powerful than the thing you got before. Or maybe it does something completely different. You unlock the Dragon for the first time and god damn it, it flies.

    FERRI: It's amazing.

    VESA: Yeah, like it shoots fire. Why would I want a Barbarian when you're there? But then when you're at that very high level, you start understanding that there's a bunch of things you can do with the Barbarian that the Dragon is not good for. And these things start falling into place in this larger collage of the balance and the meta. The problem is that these pieces need to be interesting for the person when they unlock it, and they need to seem juicy in comparison to the other things, but then the end result needs to be balanced for the competitive play. And we come back to this: we need to balance for two separate audiences and we'll see how we will fix that. Town Hall 16 is now significantly easier than 15 was. And that was by design because we wanted to... wanted to see if that has a positive effect and it does have a positive effect on some portion of the player base. So we want to make it good for everybody. So we'll...

    FERRI: We'll go back to the same topic of balancing the game for two different groups and it is something that's being discussed internally on how to solve it.

    VESA: I can't say when it'll be ready, but it's gonna come out.


    FERRI: Perfect. And I think I want to move on to another topic, which is also something that's been brought up a lot. And I'm going to say the taboo word here, two words actually: Global Chat. It started ever since then. Yeah. You can't type it anymore. But one of the issues that removing Global Chat left one of the holes, let's say, was the whole players finding clans. And I think that's one of the reasons why everyone wants Global Chat back is also because that was something really good to find new Clans. So do we have any plans on how to fix that issue?

    VESA: Yes.

    FERRI: Ooh! Okay.

    VESA: You want to know more?

    FERRI: Yes, please.

    VESA: Excellent. Global Chat had issues, and the issues come down to Trust and Safety. And maybe those are, you know, controversial issues on how they should be handled, but the problem that you can't really recruit people into your Clan, I think is a fundamental issue. It's one of those things that I think is just brutally broken within the game and it's inexcusable. So we're working on it right now, like it is the literal thing that my team is working on at this very moment.

    FERRI: You heard it.


    VESA: So as a sneak peek, we're working on a new Clan discovery feature. I hope it's going to work well. The idea is that you can advertise your Clan, you can find new members for your Clan, like the core thing that Clans are supposed to be all about. And I think it's appalling that you need to go to discord or some other platform to find people for your Clan. That's weird. Although that is also good. Like we don't want to... these things can exist in parallel, but it can't be the only way we need to have something inside the game.

    FERRI: After all, we're named Clash of Clans, right?

    VESA: Exactly, exactly. So I think they should have been addressed already back in the day when we had to take Global Chat away. But the team was much smaller and much more pressed back then, so we'll forgive them for their past misdeeds. And the current us is now going to take this very seriously. So I think that that needs to change. And we're going to change it.

    FERRI: And is this something that we can expect this year, or something for longer...

    VESA: This year for sure.

    FERRI: This year for sure?

    VESA: Absolutely. Absolutely.


    FERRI: Okay, great news. And since we're still talking about Clans and even Chat, we've made some changes to the Clan Chat, which was amazing. Being able to pin messages was incredible, reactions as well. Players are even using the reactions for polls, running polls, which is super smart. I love that idea. The different colors in the Chat as well. Players had a lot of fun with that. Is that the end of it, or is there more planned for Clan Chat features or whatever you want to call it?

    VESA: If we're doing the right thing, we're always focusing on the thing that we think is going to do the most for players. So, right now making some of these Clan improvements is very good, so we're going to continue working on them for a little while longer until we're in a position where we think there is something more impactful in the short term. So maybe a couple more updates on that topic and we'll see where it lands. And then we'll revisit it once we'll see how... if there is something big missing, of course. We're listening to player feedback all the time on that as well. Believe it or not, we're reading all the comments and even the nasty ones.

    FERRI: Especially the nasty ones.

    VESA: Especially the nasty ones. Yes, we're reading them. We're taking them in. We're not letting them crush our spirits every day. And, yeah. Exactly.


    FERRI: I think that's also a very important thing to mention. We're always reading comments, Reddit, social media. It's not like we're clueless to what's happening. I think our biggest mistake here is something that we need to own up to is communication. We're reading them, but we're not talking about them. So that's our fault. We're sorry. And we want to make it better. I think that's one of the steps we're taking into making that better.

    VESA: Absolutely. I think what breaks our heart the most is when the players are not having a good time. Like, that's just... that just is it. We're game designers and game developers, and we work in games because we want to make cool stuff for people. And it means for everybody. And even if there is a small group of people who are like, well, I hate this, it always breaks my heart. I don't want that. Of course, it's really hard to be for everyone at all times. So, there's going to be some parts that some people will like more than others, but it certainly isn't our goal to make people feel that way.

    FERRI: Absolutely. And also, it's not just me who's checking social media. Game designers, a lot of people from the team check those messages, check those things where communities... what the community is saying. I think it's also important to mention that everyone in the team is concerned and wants to know what the player thinks and how they're feeling about the game. So it's a feeling that spreads throughout the whole team, which I think is really nice. Everyone wants to make Clash the best game possible, so players can enjoy it and be happy while playing.

    VESA: Absolutely.

    FERRI: Yeah, no, go ahead.

    VESA: Yeah, I think you said it well, that we failed in the communication part because we want it to be a two-way street and it works in the way that we're listening to you guys, but you guys also... we need to also tell you guys what we think and, you know, make it a dialogue instead of just this one-way street.

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