I know we've had many conversations about the power of cubes, how fair they are, how the developers need to get paid, etc. This is not the topic to rehash all that. What I want to talk about is how cubes scale as the number of players in an area increases.
Yesterday this happened. That is one person cubing 4,500 deployments (mostly plasma) in a 24 hour period. That's enough to make him the #1 most active zone for the day all on his own, the other 56 players in the battle only deployed 3,642 times combined in the same period. He had 5,322,652 kills while the other 32 members of his team only had 1,767,947 between them. The zone started the day with 6,349,593 Swarm bots and ended it with 707,126 Faceless bots. It was an impressive feat of cubing and really shows the power cubes can have if you're willing to buy enough of them.
I'm not mad, even though I lost quite a few bots in the battle.
What I really want to talk about is the few days that led up to this (likely record-breaking) use of cubes. The battle started on the 20th (558 deploys, plus a handful of other small uses of cubes) with the zone originally having 13,580,280 bots in the zone, they caught us with a surprise beachhead and knocked quite a few bots out but we held. The next day (323 deploys) we held more or less even, the day after (460 deploys), the 23rd (839 deploys, heavy cubing), the 24th (752 deploys), and the 25th (also 752 deploys). Through it all, even with several days of what would be considered heavy cubing in most areas (certainly out of most player's price range) and we lost maybe a million bots total off around ten million.
Which brings me to the 26th (1891 deploys), this is probably in the top 10 biggest cubes usages in a single day and they only managed to knock off 1.2 million bots from the zone. How many people are out there who are willing to drop what I'm guessing was an entire $101/550 cube pack to move the needle in a zone by only 1.2M bots? The 27th (827 deploys) set us up for yesterday's 4,500 deploy plasma storm.
The point here isn't that he paid to win, it's how much he had to pay to win. Even with 20-30 people helping him he had to drop hundreds of dollars in cubes to make a noticeable dent in a well-defended zone. The amount he had to spend made the giant effort of his teammates a footnote in the report of the battle. Is it likely that they feel like they really accomplished anything? Is our cube overlord likely to think it was worth the cost? Are the ~20 defenders, many of whom used cubes in small amounts during the battle, likely to keep playing when faced with this level of unrestricted spending which they just can't match?
What this post is about, now that I've finally let my long-winded self get to the point, is how this battle highlights how poorly the cube system scales as the number of players in Qonqr increases.
With only a handful of players in an area a small pack of cubes can go a long way in helping to establish yourself. As the number of players starts to increase there comes a point where you suddenly can't capture or defend zones on your own any more (cue the subsequent whining on the forums about zone stacks being too big). Eventually the players in the area organize and the game becomes a lot more strategic and (imo) more fun. It's around this time that cubes just stop being worth it unless you have deep pockets, a small number of cubes just doesn't do anything worthwhile any more. As Qonqr HQ, the Minneapolis/St Paul area has always been one of the most player-dense areas in the game but most major metropolitan are at the point of organization (or already past it, it tends to happen around 12 players/team) and so past the point where buying small cube packs is useful.
So what can the developers do?
They can try to tweak the power of cubes so they're still worth it in built-up areas without making them too powerful (i.e. required) in rural areas.
They can do things to limit the number of people per team in an area, maybe by making organizing players and gathering information more difficult leading to burn out on the part of the organizers (essentially guild leaders) and boredom/quitting by the average, casual player. Based on my own experience and the number of regional leaders who have recently stopped playing this is happening already even if it isn't on purpose.
They can ditch cubes as a way to monetize Qonqr in favor of another system. Cubes are modeled on the standard F2P cellphone game model where players can spend money to play more/sooner than they would normally be able to. Unfortunately Qonqr has turned out to be more akin to an MMO (that happens to be played on cellphones) than Candy Crush or Angry Birds. I personally compare it most closely to Eve Online because of the importance of the meta-game, politics, mind games, player recruiting, backstabbing, and other things that go on inside and outside of the game beyond just playing. Also the ridiculous number of spreadsheets we create to organize/track intel/players/bot efficiency/formation efficiency. Luckily there's a long history of F2P MMOs Qonqr could take a cue from.
Option 1 is asking for constant complaining and balance tweaking to try and make both rural and urban users happy. Option 2 means fewer players making an occasional small purchase and more reliance on "whales". Option 3 has a very real possibility of destroying the game if done poorly but I think it's the only thing that will work long-term to stop the boom/bust cycle of players, the constant burnout, and the reliance on & backlash from whales in the game.
So in regards to option 3, what are your ideas for replacing the current cube system? Note that any suggestions will need to address the following goals:
Earn the developers as much, if not more money, than they do with the current system
Limit the power of a player with infinite money
Make it worth paying money no matter how much you pay in any given month
Don't make paying players so powerful that free players can't compete
Make sure to like/reply to any ideas people post that you'd be happy with. If the developers know there's broad support for a certain system it might make them a little less afraid to try it.