Platform X - A technical analysis (from the winners)

  • Hello,


    So I was the main and arguably the sole end game caller for Hugston, the winning megacity from the Einstein Platform X server. I said arguably because midway through end game I got banned (more on that later), but I was able to relay the calls through proxies.


    So let me firstly say that I was reluctant to try this Platform X server, which was an official live server and not a test (PTR) server (and it's important to remember this distinction), mainly because I don't like express servers (2x) and you can imagine that I truly hate fast forward servers (4x). I find them to deviate from the main idea Rail Nation game is: a relaxing web based tycoon game. If you think I am wrong, ask yourself this: what is the average age of the Rail Nation player?


    So Platform X, an interesting twist aimed at incentivizing players to haul integrated, thus building industries, thus building cities. That would have been great if not for the added modifications to the game mechanics in regards to consumption, end game tonnage quota and active players, which ultimately backfired so hard that Rail Nation had to give 400 gold to all the users to alleviate the anger (which itself was an insult to the players as well).


    I will try to split my analysis into several topics:


    1. Why building (leveling) cities was misinterpreted.

    2. Why prestige for hauling to industries needs further balancing.

    3. Why the consumption wasn't an issue (pre-EG).

    4. Why the modification to the end-game tonnage quota is BS (yes, that reads BULLSHIT).

    5. Why Petertown and Oxbury failed (leading megacities).

    6. Why Eight Springs was a nice surprise.

    7. Why Hugston won.

    8. Why 400 gold compensation is an insult.

    9. Why I don't think Rail Nation wanted these conclusions.

    10. Why Platform X is a tragic start towards a right direction.


    1. Why building (leveling) cities was misinterpreted.


    This server was seen in the eyes of most of the players as a city hauler's dream, possibly that of an offline city hauler. Many thought that hauling integrated can no longer be contested and that it represents the HOLY way of hauling cargo. False, but I won't elaborate on this since it's not relevant. But starting with this idea and seeing how the prestige was no longer awarded each day by hauling to cities, but only when leveling them, the main point of the server quickly became: LEVELING CITIES. Which was a HUGE trap for everybody and an even bigger BIAS that I personally had to struggle with, from a city manager perspective.


    Yes, leveling industries became more important. Yes, leveling industries meant cities would have needed to level. But the logic stops here. You can level more than one city! This was the huge trap all cities fell into, at least the leading cities anyway. They all understood: LET'S LEVEL ONE CITY! So they did, tremendously. Yes, Rail Nation were somehow deceitful in turning this leveling frenzy into a race by incentivizing a city to be the leading megacity. Again, HUGE trap for everybody as this did not meant for a city to level as much as possible, but only to stay ahead, be that with level 38 or 48. If Rail Nation' intentions were to truly incentivize cities to reach higher levels, they wouldn't have made modifications to the city consumption.


    2. Why prestige for hauling to industries needs further balancing.


    This was the most intriguing aspect of Platform X, the shift in prestige points from daily reward to leveling industries and cities, but mainly industries because they're more frequent. This had an unfortunate side effect since prestige players had suddenly lost interest in hauling to cities, and industries for that matter, but gain a huge interest in investments, since investments became the most important aspect of the game. On my server we had the chance to see investments vs competitions at play, since transports were out of the question, and the players who capitalized most out of the investments game ranked higher.


    So in the end you could say that city haulers profited more from this shift, but this in turn caused other issues for them. And in the end the prestige gained from leveling industries was still too low compared to when cities leveled, and the industries without any supply (like Iron Ore, Quartz, etc) showed little interest (since they didn't rewarded prestige points upon leveling) and were inconsistent with the change Rail Nation implemented. The prestige points from industry leveling should be buffed, I would say with at least 25%.


    3. Why the consumption wasn't an issue (pre-EG).


    Players immediately noticed the high city consumption right from era 1 and if I'm to be honest, I too found it to be a bit high, but certainly not unsurmountable. I think this mostly came from the city managers and players who were fond of the 2x2 leveling technique, which was heavily impacted by consumption up to the point where it was virtually impossible to use it at high levels. Nevertheless cities managed to reach, at least on my server, level 44, which by all standards when having 200+ players is quite an impressive feat. And I had no doubt that if given more time cities would have hit the ceiling.


    4. Why the modification to the end-game tonnage quota is BS (yes, that reads BULLSHIT).


    I honestly failed to see the reasoning in this change, it ultimately served no one and was a loss-loss for all parties. Rail Nation should expand its possibilities, not limit them, and by having the leading megacity dictate the end game rules means lesser control for the runner-ups. Leveling a city to, let's stick to my scenario, level 44 was easy for the top 3 cities, they all had ~200 players that needed to be whipped into shape. But for a city with less than 100 players that becomes a burdening task, since they know beforehand that if the leading megacity is level 44 it no longer matters what level they are, in regards to the end-game base tonnage, but it heavily impacts their starting position.


    So the pressure was to keep pushing and keeping up the pace with the leading megacity since the lower their city level was, the later they would start the end game, so already a big disadvantage. On any other servers this is a key strategic decision (which level to reach, when to reach it and when to stop leveling a city) that has now been removed from the playing field, which means Rail Nation just removed an intricacy from the game. Moreover they made it so that the decision now solely relies on those with quantity and not necessarily quality. More often than not the cities that WIN the end game are not the ones most populated, or high leveled for that matter, so that if a city decides to jump of a cliff and see how they land, they will take every other city with them. And that simply is neither FAIR nor STRATEGIC, therefore BS.


    I've been baffled to read on the forums that this server somehow gives advantage to the smaller cities. What a complete and utter lack of judgement.

  • 5. Why Petertown and Oxbury failed (leading megacities).


    So let's start with Petertown, the city that lead the other cities almost the entire round and started first during the end game, arguably the favorites. I don't even want to say that I tried reasoning with them, asking to stop leveling, hell I've even let them surpass us at some point just to make them feel comfortable. They just WOULD NOT STOP leveling. And this showed me how little understanding of the game they had. I think of them in terms of robots (no offense), sure they have impecable dedication and vitality but they lack the human cunning. They had no strategy, just hauled the entire game and hoped that this somehow will provide them the win. I have no doubt that even without active players manipulation (more on that later), we would have won. We were surpassing them just 2 hours from the start of the end game, to give you an idea.


    Onto Oxbury, who started the round weak, at first, but showed real strength towards the round's end. Despite them having almost the same mentality as Petertown had, in regards to city leveling, they showed some cunning during the city competitions, and was preemptively recognized by Hugston as the main competitor during the end game, but they badly failed the tactics tests during it. Their understanding of what was going on with Hugston, in the first set, was so low that in their attempt to replicate our strategy they managed to waste 90 minutes for nothing, which ultimately served as their downfall. To bad. They were out of the battle right after the 1st set, much like Petertown.


    6. Why Eight Springs was a nice surprise.


    While arguably most of the experienced players went for a coastal city, Eight Springs went for an inland position, one that could have attracted a lot of traffic because of the connect-through pathway. I am not sure if this was intended or achieved by luck, but they've managed to stay less populated and reach the end game with a small level handicap, hence to their starting position as well, that's all. What separated them from the other cities was their discipline, and let me say this outright, they were the most disciplined megacity, their only weakness was that they lacked another strong association in town, all the more proving that small cities DO NOT have an advantage in this server.


    7. Why Hugston won.


    And this brings us to Hugston, which won the server, quite easily I might add. Hugston had discipline, I will give you that, but not that many, plus we carried A LOT of dead weight in the form of free haulers who simply did not followed the calls (this actually being the reason for my ban, threatening players with reports). With the help of another player, Hear Me Roar, we devised a plan (now commonly refered to as the Mihai maneuver, lol), which practically manipulates the active players during the end game. How do we achieve this? They key lies in how the tonnage quota gets calculated for each set, judging on how many active players did the city had when it closed THE LAST GOOD of the previous set.


    Knowing this, and knowing the full strenght of the teams in Hugston, I asked everybody to park their trains in the city while only my strongest assets nuked the last industry. This is something that Oxbury failed to understand. Then right before recalculation hit, even the players who nuked the last industry would park their trains and everybody was on break for 60 minutes (until the second recalculation hit and the industries cooled down). Now, the last good wasn't something chosen by chance, I specifically orchestrated all so that the last good would have two sites, which will be used by my strongest assets so that each would have majority when hauling.


    Once recalculation hit only two strongest association would close the last good, each hauling from their owned site. This again is something that Oxbury failed to understand, but Eight Springs on the other hand did since they had players present in the city and witnessed everything. This allowed Hugston to decrease its active players from 230 to 150. Again, like I said, we carried A LOT of dead weight and we had to carry all those ungrateful players who simply wouldn't follow the calls. We managed to reduce our tonnage quota from what would have been something around 407k to only 303k for the second set.


    Now, I am an extremely pragmatic caller and careful planner, so I always make sure to be connected to my competition to see what's what. Therefore I can safely tell you that Petertown DIDN'T EVEN HAD A CLUE about what was going on, while Oxbury was trying to poorly replicate my maneuver, which for all intents and purposes was experimental. And I had to battle not only with the system, but with the players' own convictions and the paranoia regarding as to why we have to park trains for two hours during the end game, or why only two teams are allowed to finish a good, and so on.


    But we adapted to a context creation by Rail Nation and to a mess created by Petertown and their misinterpretation of how the server was supposed to be played. It's also worth mentioning that Hugston won every city competition, courtesy of the quality of the players I had at my disposal. One last thing to add was that I obtained the support of the top team, which was a free hauling team by the name of Reavers, which I know of being a strong group. The support wasn't given, but earned, keep that in mind.


    8. Why 400 gold compensation is an insult.


    So there was a lot of fuss regarding a bug that somehow slipped on a live server, not on a PTR server where these bugs usually get grind out. Turns out that in order to manipulate the active players, the 1st ranked city had to ask for its members to park their trains or haul elsewhere in the past 24 hours while all the other cities had to do this only in the past 1 hour, in order to have an easier 1st set. To me this hasn't significantly affected the outcome since Petertown waited 24 hours, good for you, but Hugston, Oxbury, Eight Springs and the other cities have also asked their players to wait 24 hours. It's not like we knew and waited for the last hour, no, all cities took the same precautionary measures.


    But Rail Nation compensating this by giving 400 gold it's insulting because it shows how little do they appreciate their bugs on a live server. I will personally offer myself to purchase 40000 gold just so you fix a couple of bugs that have been disrupting my game play for the last 2 years.


    9. Why I don't think Rail Nation wanted these conclusions.


    To me it's clear that the active players manipulation is not something Rail Nation wanted to be part of the game. This so called tactics causes more turmoil than coherence among the players and most likely will be taken out of the game. I also don't think that by making the leading megacity dictate the base tonnage for all the other megacities, regardless of their level, will stay like this. Like I said, it's both unfair and unstrategic. And last but not least, I have noticed something very strange with consumption, in some instances it was almost over 50% of what we hauled, and that was during set 2. In set 3 and 4 it never occured again and was always under 35%, even when Hugston was back at 230 active players. So Rail Nation might want to check that out. It's basically the reason why during 2nd set, and only then, we had to call it a night and allow all players to take an 8 hour break, otherwise we would have steam rolled this end game in 18 hours.


    10. Why Platform X is a tragic start towards a right direction.


    And finally, I think Rail Nation is trying to tackle the core mechanics of the game and it's good. Unfortunately this first experience is not the greatest and we already saw players quitting the game because of bugs and lack of strategy. Rail Nation should continue to tweak the game mechanics, especially prestige points, investments and active players, but should better prepare themselves and think ahead, instead of thinking backwards. You took feedback and tried to improve on things that have been said in the past but didn't anticipated how this would shift things in the future. Hugston was lucky to have me as a caller, and I was lucky to have Hear Me Roar as a consultant, otherwise we would still be playing an attrocious end game right now.


    Players not following the calls still posed the greatest danger during an end game.

    Players joining in era 6 proved to be troublesome and disobediant in the same time.

    Some players spent more than 400 gold on Platform X, so you best issue a formal apology in the following days.

    And an end game had to be won with its main caller being banned for something controversial.


    Maybe you should reflect on that.


    /Mihai

  • I was there, saw it all, as I was connected to all those EG cities. Involved every minute, didn’t miss any goods.


    I witnessed the players with the insane investing in goods, always running non-called goods in the set. The strategies of two associations only hauling. The dis belief, frustration, anger in sitting idle from other players. Petertown getting lost in tonnage and consumption.


    So, having seen it all, I cannot disagree with the above post, in any way. /Mihai is pretty much spot on.


    ‘How involved was i?

    Reavers-top Association

    *Yes, we decided to haul Hugston after discussion of top-callers in those cities. It proved to be a correct decision for both sides.

    Me personally, 2nd place overall, including #1 in transport ppoints.


    *I will not run in next Project X, why?

    1. The frenetic all-out hauling, just blast away, no real strategic thought. Really poor integrated hauling, I think city-haulers missed out on those integrated hauling ppoints.

    2. I’ve never ran a round where I ran against players using mechanics, boost, instant dispatches as early as era 1. Bad players trying to spend there way to the top. There were so many doing this, it just works against those who know the real way to win is put in the screen time, to calculate when, where to run-not ‘buy’ your way to 1st.

    3. The last second investing especially from era 3 on, players blowing millions and millions time after time for 10’s of points. Why do these ‘special servers’ bring on this behavior? Then, of course. These same players sit idle, or haul ‘coal’ in EG because they didn’t build track/buy wagons.

    4. The EG-see all written above, written on forums, threads, etc. it was poorly planned, thought-out, and not tested to see these results that came.

    5. How RN now ‘bans’, or doesn’t ban players . . . You’re actually making the game less fun-remember, it’s a game, our free time, our diversion from life’s drudgery.

    6. Finally . . . That insult of throwing 400 gold at us, scraps actually, I was waiting for a pat on the head to go with our ‘treat’ then, to walk away. . . . . . . You want to actual apologize? I mean real customer service?.Then refund the money we spent, or re-stock all the gold bought, or a nice percentage, gold, no lost money there. But we know that’ll never happen, we got that little treat, seemed greasy, like a paper bag full of dollar bills. I was quite insulted.


    Enough.

  • Platform X, I dont want too play another round, My gold, or better still my money back, RN are not getting any better at there game, I was in petertown all players worked so hard, but you cant fix broken, The post above says it all, I surpose all the time the money rolls in RN will do no better, Has anyone noticed the poor payout on the lottery tickets, Or is it just me, I can remember when this game was fun, Somethings been lost, playing this game is just like going out too work, and having to pay for the privilege, If a player wants to get anywhere in the game, I surpose they did say it was a pactice round, Or so i understand, Maybe i will give such a round a wide birth next time, maybe a year or two, Has said i was in petertown, well done RN what a cluster ,

  • 6. Why Eight Springs was a nice surprise.


    While arguably most of the experienced players went for a coastal city, Eight Springs went for an inland position, one that could have attracted a lot of traffic because of the connect-through pathway. I am not sure if this was intended or achieved by luck, but they've managed to stay less populated and reach the end game with a small level handicap, hence to their starting position as well, that's all. What separated them from the other cities was their discipline, and let me say this outright, they were the most disciplined megacity, their only weakness was that they lacked another strong association in town, all the more proving that small cities DO NOT have an advantage in this server.

    Hello, Eight Springs was chosen not just to play EG but also because it's one of the best cities to do integration, and being in the middle of the map wasn´t bad at all due the fact of the calculation of active players (almost double when asking for passengers), if a can remenber last time I checked we had arround 600 connected players but never more than 170 active players.

    About our second place it's not a really surprise to me, and we lost for Hugston because at the change from set 1 to set 2 most of the players didn' understand the "break" we had to do, otherwise Eight Springs should have won...;););)

  • Nice Analysis Mihai.


    I played the dominating Corp in SpringVille for early ERAs and i moved to one of the top Corps in Oxbury in end of ERA 5 to prepare for end game. A few pointers from my side on the experience in Einstein.


    1. Its easy to lose interest in the game as many sleep on RGs due to high city consumption. It takes ages to level a city and switch the good unless you are in an active city with more than one active associate hauling and the lively chats keeps you engaged. Having lower consumption and faster city growths will helps players to earn more money, switch their routes regularly as cities levels and also connect to other cities and help them level when a city hits the ERA limit.


    2. Need to reduce prestige from investments and increase prestige from delivery for factory levels ups. Prestige and higher income should be given for goods like Iron Ore, Quartz etc for hauling out than hauling In. this bring balance and encourages players to run these goods. The number of prestige awarded for factory level up also needs to increase marginally for higher level upgrades of a factory. For eg, a factory level up from 10 to 11 should gives X times prestige for top haulers compared to from Level 1 to level 2. Encourages people to level factories higher and higher.


    3. End Game - The active players count calculation and breaking between Boards is simply killing the fun in end game. Just use the players Home city (or if they hauls minimum X tons of each good to a city on a day/week/board) to calculate who is active player and who is not. It makes more sense to count some one as active for a minimum percentage of tons than any one delivery.


    4. Players running their own style and not following calls is part of the game and while the EG callers, top associations and active players will want more control on how an EG is run, its impractical to block / penalize the new players and small associations. That's were deceptive tactics like a dummy EG city, Nuking factories to create high wait times, Fake calls (Try this - The call in city forum is not the real call for the hour) etc differentiates the skills of great callers and great strategists from the ordinary.