The 1.12 Tier List has been out for a while and the shock of splitting Tyrant into 2 tiers has sunken in. Well I’m here to stir it back up! I see the necessity of splitting Tyrant as an indication of the poor state of balance in JWA. But before we get into how imbalanced the game is, we have to ask ourselves, what is balance anyway?
What is Balance?
The purest example of a balanced game I can think of is Rock-Paper-Scissors. It’s a great place to start this discussion because of how simple it is. You have 3 moves. Each move beats one of the other moves, is beaten by another, and ties itself. Each move has a 50% win rate. That 50% is the key. If we look at the slightly more complex Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock, we still have that same 50% win rate for each move. In fact, the game can be expanded to any odd-number of moves and remain balanced.
What is Balance in JWA?
Now, as we introduce more complex mechanics and factors that involve player skill, we move away from that ideal form of balance. The goal of working towards more powerful creatures also contradicts this. In the context of JWA, all that is perfectly fine. So let's shift our definition into the realm of JWA. What we want is an endgame where a subset of creatures wielded by equally highly skilled players all approach a 50% win rate among one another. Let’s see what our battle sim has to say about the Tyrants!
Why This is Bad for Gameplay
As you can see, there is no endgame convergence. We can’t expect a perfect convergence (especially since the sims can only show 1 aspect of the arena), but it doesn’t even get close. In fact, we have a huge divergence after High Apex+. At that point, believe it or not, the closest things we have to “balanced” are Erlidom, Yoshi, and Magna. For the most part, the High Tyrants dominate. Past that, any attempt to find a pattern is grasping at straws, but one thing does stand out: Gemini. Even among the best creatures in the game, Gemini could be in a tier of her own.
The gameplay consequences of such a small group of clearly superior creatures should be clear. Instead of an extended Rock-Paper-Scissors meta, all of the focus is on using and/or beating High Tyrants. Team selection starts to become very stale and uniform. Variety is what keeps the game fun and exciting and we are rapidly moving away from that.
Why This is Bad for Development
By allowing things to get this far out of balance, Ludia is creating a kind of self sustaining problem. New creatures that should be interesting (Spinoconstrictor) fall to the wayside if they can’t compete with the ridiculously powerful High Tyrants. To keep players excited about new content, they have to continually match or increase the power level. This creates a positive feedback loop which, despite the name, is never a good thing. What we need is to tone down the overall power level of these creatures. But that brings to light another problem: boosts.
Right now, Gemini is objectively good. Any team that does not include her would be better if it did. So in order to have the best possible team, you would need to boost your Gemini. But in an ideal game, there are no objectively good creatures. Every creature would have equal arguments for and against its inclusion on a team. Therefore, in moving towards a balanced game, some players would stop using Gemini. But if these players who want to drop Gemini have made the previously correct choice to boost her, now they are at an inherent boost disadvantage.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Ludia is definitely between a rock and a hard place here, but it’s mostly self inflicted. Developing using surveys is like a parent giving a kid ice cream for dinner. I saw a poll regarding the Tyrants on the forums recently and nearly every Tyrant had a majority of people saying it was fine as is. What the community wants is definitely not always what the game actually needs. Be a better parent, Ludia.
The path towards a healthy, balanced game isn’t going to make everyone happy. It’s probably not even going to make the majority happen, initially. People don’t want to lose their investments (especially boosts) in a creature just because it was changed by Ludia. These feelings are quite valid and there are ways Ludia can soften that blow. Every major patch they could allow players to freely refund the boosts on 1-2 creatures. This would mitigate team changes due to balance, but is still restrictive enough to make boosting decisions meaningful. But whatever the solution, Ludia cannot let themselves be held hostage by their own system. We deserve a balanced game and they deserve to be allowed to make the changes necessary to get us there.