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Kavat Breeding is Flawed


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I'd like to open by addressing the concerns I have in a less than objective fashion first to get those feelings out of the way. Kavat breeding, or breeding in general for that matter, is flawed in many ways that culminate in a system that I would call downright predatory. That is a bold claim, and I intend neither to leave this claim dangling with no cause to be issued whatsoever, nor do I mean to imply that anything illegal is happening. I mean predatory in that it creates a problem that can only be circumvented by unreasonable means that compromise the strong balance DE has struck in being a free-to-play game while still being fair to the average player. Okay, there's all the click-baity material out of the way, if you could call it that.

Why specifically do I claim this is predatory? As I said, it's not just any one thing; any one thing would make it a worse system but not one that is predatory or even necessarily bad. Here are problems I have with the system as it stands:

  • TIME COST: Time costs are one of the most dynamic and effective ways of balancing free-to-play games. They're !USUALLY! incredibly easy to measure and, in a system like Warframe where the market is driven by large amounts of paid-currency (Platinum), it can provide an abstract seam between the rich/established players and the newcomers. When I say seam, I mean it in a good sense -- the "sense of pride and accomplishment" EA clearly fell short of is present here. Understanding your own ability to produce income is aided by being able to assess yourself, "Can I safely purchase this convenience in terms of a time cost exchanged for a Platinum cost?" Another important facet and the reason why I say !USUALLY! is because time costs can be what I will refer to as Determinate and Indeterminate. Determinate time costs are what you see in the foundry -- they have discreet, precise, exact, measurable limits that will pass, for all intents and purposes, 1:1 with real time. There is absolutely no question about when your Warframe will finish crafting, etc. etc. In this context, you know that a Kavat will take exactly 48 hours to "craft." Indeterminate time costs are the opposite: they are vague and can only be loosely quantified. These are generally associated with RNG like drop chances. For example, every wiki page will quantify drops from level completion in several different ways with terms like "Expected Runs" or "Nearly Guaranteed." In this way, a weighted, random system can theoretically give a payout instantly or never until the end of time because of probability. Obviously this is only theoretically possible and different math will tell you different things, but this does not change that in the real world, this is where luck reigns supreme. Your best friend may fight the Ropalolyst and get all the Wisp BPs in 4 runs (that lucky son of a gun!) while it takes you a perfectly average amount given the distribution whatever that number may be. Be thankful you're not Unlucky McUnluckerson who takes 97 kills just to get that Neuroptics blueprint after he's got 42 copies of the main BP. WHY DOES THIS MATTER? Each type of time cost has its own inherent pros and cons that make neither one objectively better. Determinate time costs are nice because they are immutable and perfectly predictable. This makes them great for crafting things like Warframes and weapons -- you know exactly what and when you're getting your stuff. Notice I do not include Kavats in that example and you may already see why. Indeterminate time costs benefit from being effort dependent -- if you wanna put in the work to just grind through a farm that's kicking your butt, that's your choice, you can choose to pay your time to get something on a date sooner rather than later. Part of farming Kavats is an Indeterminate cost: the Genetic Codes. This illustrates the point that often Indeterminate time costs can be manipulated through how the player applies effort, but that's not particularly relevant to this, so I digress. By now I'm hoping more potential readers are beginning to realize that problem I mentioned a few lines back with Determinate time costs. Those costs are good when you know what and when you're getting your reward. The problem with Kavats is you do not know what you're getting, only when. This is because breeds obviously exist. Imprints are a good start to a solution, but by no means solve the problem. Part of the fundamental issue with imprints is that it's dependent on a breed already having been bred. While the Warframe economy is pretty great, observing all Platinum exchanges as simply being a part of a system that relies on money to be paid means that money must still be paid in order to guarantee you get what you want. It may not be you who pays the cost, but someone does: there's no such thing as a free lunch.
  • AMBIGUITY: We've already covered ambiguity in terms of the randomness of breeding and not knowing what an outcome will be ahead of time. However, there is one more point in this regard I'd like to mention. It would be one thing if it were possible to make an informed decision regarding how you want to spend your time and Platinum, but when it comes to breeding in general, there's no way you possibly can. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find any good data pertaining to just Kavats (Do tell me if you've got a link, I'd love to see anything there is), but Kubrows are a tad better likely due to age. Several reports I found claimed that breed chances for Kubrows were even, that you'd have an exactly equal chance to produce any one breed compared to another. However, I was able to find some experimental data referenced on reddit that, if it can be trusted, demonstrates exactly the opposite (Here's the link to the page that referenced it and a link to the referenced figure itself on imgur: https://www.reddit.com/r/Warframe/comments/3m6wb3/kubrow_races_probability_distribution/ and http://i.imgur.com/UgOemSX.png). Judging from this and my own personal experience breeding myself and accounts given by friends, there is a clear tendency for one outcome over another in breeding both Kubrows and Kavats. If I had to guess, these distributions exist because certain breeds are intended to be better or, at least, more complex and provide more than others. That in and of itself is not bad. It becomes bad as a result of a few things. Firstly, the chances must be too low. Too low is partly subjective and will vary based on the other costs associated with initiating the roll of the dice that gives you your craft. If you can try to craft something 100 times very cheaply, then a 5% chance is very reasonable compared to 5% when it costs a fortune just to try once. As it stands, I've got 14 pieces of data from myself and friends breeding and all are the same: Adarzas. I'm not going to lie and say that's a good sample, it's not, but it's a start that can at least demonstrate that the breed chances are nothing short of suspiciously bad. To give you an idea of what this means about the breed chance of a Smeeta, let's make some suppositions and work backwards. If the chances were even, 50/50, then the odds of not getting a single Smeeta after 14 breeds is 0.006103515%. That's such a tiny number, we can safely assume it's not 50/50. What about 75/25? The chances of getting not a single Smeeta increase to 1.781794801%. Getting there, but it's still unlikely that our luck is that bad. Next step: 90/10. You know the drill, it's now 22.876792455%. At this rate I can understand how bad luck could influence this, but it's still statistically unlikely to go this poorly by a very wide margin. One more just for giggles: 99/1. We got 86.874581276%. So what does this all mean? It means that the chances of breeding a Smeeta at random is very likely somewhere below 25%, and could be much lower, but we'd need more data to safely make that ruling. Leaving out as much subjectivity as possible, these numbers are an ambiguous level of bad, but are bad nonetheless. Firstly, the actual numbers should be publicly available. There is absolutely no reason we should not be allowed to know what we are outright gambling on. While I wouldn't say this is the same level of failure that EA and its lootboxes had, it's certainly comparable as a less severe but still similar case. Again, this gamble would not be as severe as it is if there were not such large time costs of both varieties associated with rolling the dice in the first place or if we had the numbers available to us to judge for ourselves. If nothing else, we can conclude that the system is deceptive if not just simply unfair. 

So what needs to change? Any number of corrections to the problems mentioned would be a start. The simplest, fix-all, 0 to 100 solution would simply be allowing players to choose breeds outright such that animal companions are much more like crafting weapons or frames. This may seem extreme, but I'll explain why it may not be after I've finished some notes on smaller fixes. Reduce the costs of breeding in the first place -- time costs and material costs. I didn't even go into costs of things like Incubator Cores, but those suckers add up over time. 100k Credits ain't bad, but 1.4Mil digs pretty deep even with a credit booster. When you add it all up, it's trap after trap to try and get players to spend Platinum to expedite the process, hence why I use a term as strong as "predatory," and the Determinate time cost of 2 days every single breed creates an insurmountable obstacle unless you're willing to open up one wallet or another. Release the actual numbers on breed chances; this doesn't outright fix anything, but it at least let's players determine how they want to spend their time, resources, and Platinum: do you take the risk of gambling on breeding or do you just fork out the cost of Imprints right off the bat? 

So I mentioned what may sound like a pretty drastic change: get rid of the RNG associated with breeding. Hypothetical Naysayer #1 is shouting off in the distance, "But that would kill the demand for Imprints! It would make them completely useless! People would stop breeding altogether! It would be chaos! That sounds like Prohibition!" Hopefully no one is taking it to that extreme, but to anyone skeptical for a similar reason, I've got one... two... words... names... things............... FashionFrame. People breed for cosmetics, that's what adds value to trading Imprints like Rivens. You can't simply put a Riven on display as if they were all the same like bread or milk. Rivens and Imprints are much like art, they need to be judged on an individual basis and their value varies because of it. By allowing players more freedom and less randomness in getting the companion they want, you don't completely Consign any portion of the market to the airlock (with or without 25k credits). Maybe I'm completely wrong. Maybe I completely missed all the points in my reading and research. I can't know the things I don't know because I don't know them, that I know for sure. 

If you've read this far, thanks. As always with topics complaining about RNG, feel free to post numbers of your misfortune with breeding, it would help get a better albeit tentative grasp on what the actual chances are by having more points. You can also call me a moron if you want, I'm not the person who has to deal with it, we're all just people with keyboards. I'd honestly rather be wrong about all this and know the game is better than I thought it was, but if I'm right, and this is bogus, someone's gotta say it. 

P.S. If you wanna be a good Samaritan and support a beggar complaining on the forums and his poor friend, toss a couple Smeeta imprints our way even if they look like dookie. I can give my word you'd get imprints back from the resultant Kavat(s), but use your own discretion when being charitable, as I can't speak for others or for the time it would take to get them back to you. Feel free to end every post with "Shill" or something like that. I know what I am. 

Stay fresh, Tenno.

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You and your friends have been cursed by RNGesus, maybe. There was a time when I bred kavats and the distribution was pretty much 50/50. My most recent one has been an adaraza admittedly. Ever since DE released every color palette possible for kavats there's no point in breeding them. Players would rather spend plat on said color palletes than prints of pure gold or silver.

Bottom line, more data is needed.

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I agree that you should be allowed to determine the specific type of kavat or kubrow and breed should be merely cosmetic. I don't think it'll hurt the high-ticket imprint trading market any and it'd make accessing the right type of kavat/kubrow for your playstyle much easier.

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