The problem with the Stream Raiders CvC mode is…
For the last few months, I've been keeping an eye on the CvC special events, taking part in many and talking to captains both established and new to find out what people actually think about the mode. Without further ado, let's jump in and see just how the CvC is progressing.
What is Stream Raiders?
If you have not had a chance to do so already, check out our initial Stream Raiders blog post here to find out what exactly Stream Raiders is and more importantly, how you can join in.
What is this CvC mode?
The CvC mode for Stream Raiders, also known as captain versus captain, was a new mode added into the game a few months ago. And allows the Stream Raider captains to fight one another for bones (the unique CvC currency), bragging rights and most recently the chance to earn a place in tournaments where captains can earn part of a $30,000 prize pool. As well as skins and in-game items for their playerbase/viewers.
What are bones?
Bones are a unique CvC event currency that can be used to purchase CvC bone skins from the in-game store for their units. These skins are often very unique and rare. Making them highly sought after by captains and viewers alike.
How do captains enter a CvC event?
Currently, the CvC mode is only accessible during special events which happen every few weeks. For October for example, we have just had two qualifying events where captains could earn a place in the tournament taking place this week.
When the events are active, a captain can join using the desktop application version of Stream Raiders, no matter their viewer count or overall Stream Raider community size.
At this point, you may be thinking that all of this sounds great. That the already super popular Stream Raiders has had another mode added in that will further its popularity and increase interaction with the game. However, the mode has had a somewhat negative effect on the community - which I will go into now.
The CvC mode when it was initially released was something exciting, new and everyone took part. The interaction was high, the popularity was high, and there was a buzz about the CvC events every time one was announced but as time has gone on the CvC has brought a very damaging mentality to many captains and viewers alike.
From a human perspective, this has meant occurrences like:
Toxic behaviour between rival captains. Don't get me wrong there are playful rivalries between many, and then there are those that walk the fine line of cyberbullying.
Rival captains dispatching viewers to fight on opposing teams to waste their placements/troop allotment.
A superficial player count where many captains will play to earn raffle tickets, which enters them into the draw to see who is invited to a tournament with cash prizes or physical prizes like gaming chairs and graphics cards. However, once reaching their maximum ticket limit, they will often not play any more as I will hopefully be able to demonstrate below.
A toxic mentality within the captains where some will ban viewers from playing with them unless they do exactly as they are told (with regards to where units are placed and what types can be used). Although there is often a practical reason for this, the amount of times people have mentioned they have been banned for misplacing etc. is ridiculous and a very poor impression for new players.
And there are also many technical or game-related elements that just further poor sportsmanship and a dull gameplay experience, such as:
The buster/balloon buster meta, which is a standing joke in the community, is essentially where a team will deploy an overwhelming number of busters and balloon buster units to the field to decimate their opponent. Larger communities use this to effortlessly wipe out smaller or weaker communities. Although there are units to counter this in theory, the units are unbalanced and deficient map design on some maps makes it impossible as team deployment zones are literally on top of each other.
- Screenshot of a tweet from Stream Raiders' official Twitter account on the 10th October -
As mentioned above the general balancing in the CvC between units needs a lot of work. Although weaker communities that do not have a full power bar get a boost to help them when a match starts - the increase itself has been proven to be unbalanced and ineffective. All of which is documented in discord threads within the official discord.
The CvC mode uses a power bar for both teams to display the amount of power they can use in a fight. This is essentially how many units they can place. And what ranks are in use. Although this is meant to be even for both sides, especially on mobile, there have been many instances where one team's power bar will increase beyond the 100% mark to a higher percentage if more powerful units are placed right at the end.
The matchmaking process between captains is again unbalanced where instead of fighting captains of a similar size, many captains are often paired with communities both larger and smaller than themselves. With a low participant count at times (which I will show below), this means captains are stuck in a cycle of fighting the same people over and over again so stuck with easy wins or getting massacred match after match.
Although these issues have been repeatedly flagged on Twitter, during Twitch dev streams and in the official discord. Many of them have been plaguing the CvC mode since its inception. Instead of taking the CvC to one side and working on it to fix the problems such as balancing and matchmaking, which could be argued are key functionalities, the rate at which events occur just continues to increase.
But people are still flocking to the mode, right?
I would have to say no, but let me explain why. Personally, I believe and have even posted in previous blog entries and mentioned on stream, that the main draw for CvC is the physical prizes and cash prizes. Without these, we would be able to see a true reflection on how many people are actually interested in the mode. And there would unfortunately not be that many interested in it in its current state I reckon.
Having been watching all of the previous events and participating in a few (as both captain and viewer), I thought it best to start tracking some statistics which I feel only serve to back up this point of view.
Let us start back in July on the 18th when the mode was having a thirty-six-hour event:
18th July | 14:00 BST | Out of the 112 captains playing Stream Raiders only 14 were taking part in CvC, equating to 12.5% of the captains.
19th July | 11:15 BST | Out of the 88 captains playing Stream Raiders only 9 were taking part in CvC, equating to 10.22% of the captains
19th July | 20:45 BST | Out of the 147 captains playing Stream Raiders only 13 were taking part in CvC, equating to 8.84% of the captains.
Although these times were taken in BST (British Summer Time) the percentages of the active captains show that even late in the evening there is a minimal activity with a lot of the captains preferring to play the CvE mode with their community as the event goes on.
Now jump forward to this month for the regular twenty-four-hour events:
10th October | 20:00 BST | Out of the 417 captains playing Stream Raiders only 71 were taking part in CvC, equating to 17.02% of the captains.
10th October | 21:15 BST | Out of the 452 captains playing Stream Raiders only 68 were taking part in CvC, equating to 15.04% of the captains.
Many of the original captains that had been playing at 20:00 had by 21:15 already changed back to the normal CvE mode, meaning although the number of captains playing was still relatively high at 68 - there was no continued interest in the CvC mode from many of the original group of captains.**
On the following day too, between 10:45 BST and 11:45 BST, there was a decent increase in Stream Captains coming online (+38) but another drop in CvC activity.
11th October | 10:45 BST | Out of the 146 captains playing Stream Raiders only 26 were taking part in CvC, equating to 17.80% of the captains.
11th October | 11:45 BST | Out of the 184 captains playing Stream Raiders only 17 were taking part in CvC, equating to 9.23% of the captains.
Of the original 26 captains playing CvC, hardly any of these were still playing CvC an hour later and instead opted to run CvE raids while they streamed. Meaning the 17 still active in CvC were comprised mainly of new captains. By the afternoon, CvC participants did manage to go back up to 39 around 16:45 BST, but this still only accounted for 10.54% of the 370 captains online.
For the penultimate event this month on the 20th October there was the largest number of captains playing CvC to date (that I have recorded) with 87 out of 511 captains playing. Equating to 17.02% of the active captain base. However, this was recorded at 19:00 BST after the event had just begun. And from 21:00 onwards, participants again began to fluctuate until it evened out at 12%.
Although many factors contribute to what a captain decides to play, whether it be CvC or CvE. As you can see from just a limited set of figures (I thought it best not to continuously repeat similar quantities), interest is high when the event begins. Still, very quickly that begins to ebb away with the participating captains not really reaching 20% of the active captains at any one time. And many not playing for more than an hour or two (based off of repeated observations), the CvC mode does not have enough to keep people engaged as it can get repetitive and very samey quickly. I should just mention though that I believe the cause for the spike on the 20th October was due to an influx of new captains taking an interest in the CvC mode, which on the one hand is fantastic, but for reasons, we'll cover in a minute - many have moved on to other things.
What furthers my belief that people only play this mode for the cash prizes and rewards is that when a test event was run for twenty-four hours on Saturday 24th October. There was very minimal interest from captains with participating captains varying between 3.75% (at its lowest point) and 7.10% (highest recording I made on the day) of active captains participating.
** When recording times and the number of captains playing each mode, the names of the CvC captains were taken to help compare who was doing what when (such as having gone offline or moving over to CvE mode).
*** All of the figures above, such as active captains and number of captains participating in the versus mode were (a) taken from the Stream Raiders website and mobile app and (b) only counted if the captain was live,
What parts of CvC put people off?
Although not always positively received, as it is a bit nosey, I did manage to get to find some chatty people and have spent a lot of time speaking to not only established captains. But also popping in to see new captains and asking their views on the CvC. Although there have been a lot of captain specific reasons they do not play CvC much, I have managed to put together some of the critical points that deter people from becoming more involved with the CvC mode in general:
Many captains, both new and established, find the CvC mode to be overly toxic. Where simple gestures such as wishing people a good fight, are met with calls of stream sniping and having them reported in the discord or called out in-stream (which is effectively humiliating them). Some have even had both captains and viewers from the opposing team come into their chat to berate them. And their communities. Unfortunately for multiple new captains, who have been with Stream Raiders for only a few weeks, the toxic element of the CvC made them feel unwelcome.
Captains are frustrated with the buster/balloon buster meta with it not being so much 'unfair' but an overly used strategy that many deemed to be unsporting and a one-trick pony that is hard to counter on many of the maps due to their layouts.
Map designs, especially the more elaborate and complex ones, often find captains sandwiched between each other. This removes any real sense of tactical planning and strategy, making captains feel as if they are having the fun aspects of the CvC taken away. And it's a case of dump units anywhere and hope they survive.
Matchmaking for the CvC mode is broken (which we have commented on in previous posts and above). When asking captains to clarify, they find themselves being put into matches with the same people over and over again. Removing any variety or the prospect of new challenges from different opponents.
Limiting the CvC mode to only one captain slot out of three has severely limited how many captains (from a viewer perspective) you can play with at one time. Many viewers, when faced with this, opt to join larger captains who often win - so that they can harvest bones (the CvC event currency). Although this is down to the viewer's individual choice, it does impact smaller captains and is not something people can influence as the limitation is imposed by the Stream Raiders team. An excellent point raised by several people I talked to was that there is no real incentive to join smaller communities as the bone skins are still so expensive. So people understandably prefer to go to captains they know they can get a decent payout from.
Should a captain not qualify for the main tournament they are still eligible to win what are known as 'Challenger Rewards,' during the length of the tournament. This is where captains who do not qualify for a cash prize can still win merchandise and vouchers. When picking the winners for these rewards, they are also chosen by a raffle ticket system, meaning captains that fight the majority of the time the event is on have as much chance to win as a captain that has won a single match. This gives a poor impression to many as it does not reflect their loyalty and participation when they do play. But instead leaves it all up to a toss of the digital dice.
Many captains noted that when the CvC events are on, their raider counts will often drop and their community members go off to raid with CvE streamers until the events are over. On multiple occasions, examples were given of how Twitch viewers also dropped significantly - meaning those hoping to get Twitch affiliate and work towards other goals found it did more harm than good in terms of watch time and chat activity.
As you can see, there is a mix of community and mechanic related issues. However, when asking about views on the CvE mode, there are mostly glowing reports. With the odd comment on stability and graphic issues (such as when you go from the store to your battle map and the store skins are still displaying over the map).
Surely something has been done?
To address the toxicity issues and people abusing the placement periods, Stream Raiders are implementing an optional room code system for CvC where a viewer must have the room code for a captain - to be able to join them.
- Screenshot of a tweet from Stream Raiders' official Twitter account on the 24th October -
- Screenshots of the room code system in-game (from the captain's perspective) -
Unfortunately, this came out on Saturday as the twenty-four-hour trial and did not really seem useful. But it is too early to fully judge as we have only had one chance to try it out so far and the Stream Raiders team have already said they are working on the feedback they received and fixing an issue with the room codes not displaying on mobile devices.
From a balancing and functionality point of view, the development and design teams are continually working on back end fixes for the mode and new maps that are meant to counter the buster/balloon buster meta with increased distance between opposing deployment zones etc.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the player's behaviour, toxicity and established opinions on the mode the Stream Raiders team has tried to curb the worse of it and addressed the issue in the official discord. Still, to many, the damage has already been done, and I doubt nothing less than significant improvements to many aspects of CvC will lure them back to trying it out again.
Does Stream Raiders' CvC mode have any sponsors?
Although no full details have been provided, as no doubt Stream Raiders would want to play their cards close to their chest until everything is confirmed, they have started openly seeking sponsorships for the CvC tournaments.
- Screenshot of a tweet from Stream Raiders' official Twitter account on the 10th October -
However, I found their initial post to be very misleading as it details the prize fund would go towards supporting 5,000 + streamers but in fact is just split between 77 captains. That is broken down into 50 cash prize winners and 22 challenger rewards.
- Screenshots from the official Stream Raiders discord about prizes -
I believe that with a waning interest in CvC from many captains and less than 20% of active captains participating in the event for the majority of the time, sponsorship money may not be well spent from a community point of view. It would be better used supporting a CvE event that had hundreds if not thousands of active captains and that other 80% + of the captain base (and their viewers!) which would provide phenomenal brand awareness for the same sponsorship amount.
Why have you not mentioned the viewer statistics?
Unfortunately, with no publicly accessible API, it is challenging to collect the number of viewers that are active in the CvC sessions via an impartial source. So I thought it best to add this in as an explanation and to not include them as I did not have a full viewer count for every recorded entry used above. Whereas for the captains, I have screenshots to use in support.
The CvC mode started out with the best of intentions. It was an accessible, welcoming and fun addition to the game that has since taken on a less favourable stance with many people. I honestly hope that the mode can be worked on, the kinks ironed out, and the interest in it renewed but as it stands it appears the Stream Raiders team will continue to promote it almost as if it is an esport with cash prizes for the top competitors. Should the prize aspect ever be removed, I believe wholeheartedly that the CvC mode would die off quickly and the masses jump straight back into the CvE mode.
When it comes to the raffle aspect of allocating invitations and prizes, using a raffle system as opposed to different competition tiers. For say large, medium and small communities. It is rather daft and as with many of the aspects of CvC poorly balanced, leaving participants feeling underwhelmed and frustrated where they can play for long periods and receive no prize but see captains who only fought one or two matches benefit. Personally, I haven't been a captain in the CvC mode for a while, but you can see all winner announcements both in Stream Raider dev streams and displayed in the official discord.
From a personal point of view the more I play CvC even as a viewer, the more tiresome I find it as, as I mentioned above many of the core issues are still very much a part of the mode. I honestly think after posting this I will be washing my hands of the CvC mode entirely for a few months and then we will have another look back in to see if it has improved and if it's popularity has increased.
Thank you very much for taking the time to read the post this far, and I hope you enjoyed it or at least found it informative. As I always say, these are my views and opinions, and hopefully, I have been able to support them. However, you may have a difference of opinion so feel free to pop it in a comment if you want to share. For now, though, have a fantastic day and happy hunting in your future Stream Raider battles!