Tobold's Blog
Saturday, August 29, 2015
Fusion games

At the recommendation of Bryksom I tried out Knights & Dragons and found that it is one of the many games in a very specific mobile games genre which I call fusion games. They all work the same way: There is some combat mechanic, which on winning rewards you with something, like new monsters if it is a game about controlling monsters, or new weapons and armor if you fight with characters. Doing many fights you will find a lot of stuff. But the trick is that unlike MMORPG gear, which just gets outdated and sold to a vendor, the stuff in these games can always be fused together to form new stuff. So you put on your best armor and fuse it with all the junk armor you have to give a higher level armor. Or you combine small monsters into higher level monsters. Usually stuff has a rarity rating which determines how far you can level it by fusion, and then there is often another game mechanic which can increase rarity, but much more expensively.

Because you can use all the stuff you find and nothing is totally worthless, fusion games usually work quite well on motivation, better than eternal upgrade games like Diablo or MMORPGs. On the downside the mobile games pretty much always are very much Pay2Win, and use exploitative sales methods like selling random chests with a chance to find really awesome stuff, or a chance to blow all your money on nothing much.

The most curious thing about these games is that there are so many different combat mechanics used for them. Knights & Dragons has a very simple single attack, which charges a stronger attack once every few monsters killed. But I have seen match-3 puzzle games, card games, or strangest of all a game called Dragon Coins (now defunct) which had a carnival coin dozer as basic combat mechanic.

I can't say I have found any fusion game yet which had held my attention for very long. Many have very simplistic combat mechanics, which you can frequently even set to auto-combat. No interest at all in those. The ones that have more interesting combat frequently annoy me by having a deliberately steep difficulty curve, trying to force me to buy random chests and stuff to advance further. But then there are thousands of these fusion games, and I have just scratched the surface. So if any of you can recommend one of these games which has interesting combat and isn't too exploitative, I'd be interested.

I like this mechanic.

Something that really irks me about WoW is the random stats loot shower, where you get loads of crap that you have to then choose between. Do you keep the otherwise identical shoulders that have critical strike instead of haste?

Just drop upgrade tokens that can be used to achieve a small upgrade to your otherwise generic gear and allow the unlimited manipulation of the secondary stats. The token that drops off Archimonde that upgrades the "Legendary ring" by 3 iLevel is a great example, but the same token should upgrade any item up to that raid tier's cap. You get a set of "starter armor" in LFR and than use the same armor during your entire raid career.
I played Puzzle And Dragons for about a year -- it's a fusion game with an interesting pattern-drawing combat system. And I never felt I had to spend real money to advance. These days I am playing Marvel Puzzle Quest, which has a fusion aspect in that you have to collect covers to skill-up your toons. But the combat system there is only Match-3; you've played the original Puzzle Quest so you know how that works.
On the downside the mobile games pretty much always are very much Pay2Win, and use exploitative sales methods like selling random chests with a chance to find really awesome stuff, or a chance to blow all your money on nothing much.

Yeah, buying chests in Knights & Dragons is wasting money. They don't even say what exactly the chances are to get good armors out of them.

If you really want to blow money to get good armors you are far better off to buy yourself into a guild that goes for top10 or top25 reward in one of the Guild Wars or Raids. Those events are 2-3 day long and require a lot of time commitment in this time on top of buying gems to attack a lot (and of course a good collection of semi good armor already collected to be able to contribute to the event). Still much cheaper than hoping to get something out of a chest.

Long time motivation for me is my inner gatherer. Once you have a good collection of armors the time requirement for the weekly boss is pretty low, I play events in a small non-paying guild just for fun. Wasted time really, but what game isn't ;-)
The fundamental mechanic of such a game seems to be "find +0.01", add it to your one-dimensional gear score.

Doesn't sound very interesting, long term
Gerry Quinn:

"The fundamental mechanic of such a game seems to be "find +0.01", add it to your one-dimensional gear score."

A lot of mobile games in general seem to be built on this mechanic, but it's not "find +0.01" per se, it's more of a casino game of chance, like a slot machine. According to the wiki, In Knights & Dragons if you fuse 2 of the lowest grade items, the result is basically guaranteed to jump 2 grades, where as the higher grade items can actually reduce in grade on fusion, so an element of "loss" in inserted.

The "game" appears to be the fusion, rather than the combat. The combat is just the time sink leading to the actual game itself. Then of course, there's the "collector" aspect and the group play meta component.

If "The game" was "getting good at raiding" like in WoW Raiding, the "find 0.01" reward would make sense, but in a casino game, it would be boring as hell. In the same vein, randomly killing easy ass mobs in WoW would bore you to tears if you always got the same reward, a casino aspect would have to applied to the reward mechanic.

That's my armchair analysis, at least. Bear in mind that the only mobile game I have ever played was "Angry Birds."
Gerry, only fusion of the lowest armors guarantee a to jump 2 grades, most of the fusion above is only guaranteed the same quality of the lowest used up to 2 grades above. Fusing two 4* armors has an abysmally low chance of getting a 5* and even if you get a 5* it most likely will be outdated.

Non paying players like me do the weekly boss battles to get OKish 5* armor, upgrading these to lv99 (that's the +0.01 part) by fusing lesser armors into it. And every couple months fuse our old or unneeded 5* hoping to get a "really good" 5*.

Paying players invest in guild wars/raids to get the "really good" 5* reward of it for being top25 guild or better. Only outdated war/raid armors (still better than current weekly boss) get flagged as being able to get from fusion so non paying players even with the wildest luck will always be several month behind payers.
I've kind of enjoyed the League of Angels fusion game. The combat's not particularly interesting, more timing when to use the hero's recharging attacks... It's all about the party build. I've found the monetization pretty damn generous on the free side.

Also, honourable mention: Warframe.

Warframe's essentially a co-op horde mode with massive sprawling levels that your murder-machines parkour through, but the power progression of the characters and weapons is centered around modifications (from base power increases to interesting utility improvements) which is textbook fusion game. The big difference here is that the fusion game is more of a supporting act to the space-genocide and not the centrepiece of the game.
I prefer the classic roguelike option where you occasionally find A Very Cool Thing. I don't need a constant stream of rewards (if the game isn't rewarding in itself why play it?), and when I get one I prefer it to be memorable. When I raided in WoW I often waited ages for an upgrade, as I would happily pass up the 0.01s.

Mind you I was always a big fan of "overachieve while undergeared" rather than "maximise progression by any means", and I accept that that's a personal choice and most go the other way.
One fairly good fusion game is Etherlords from Nival (of Allods franchise). It has paper-rock-scissors combat system with added quirks plus tile-by-tile world-building puzzles as intermisions. I ran it on Android but it's probably multiplatform.
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