Yet another blunder (A TeamLava rant)

Sometimes, I really am dumbfounded with some gaming outfits. I suppose I’ve never really had an opinion of TeamLava specifically, though I have tried almost all their “-Story” games and have spent money on gems. I’m currently an active player of Bakery Story, and have started out on Farm Story as well. I’ve toyed with the idea of reviving my Restaurant Story game, which is the next-highest level TeamLava game I have.

The Chocoberry Cafe

I enjoy the games, although Bakery Story is the most interesting for me. My bakery is called the Chocoberry Cafe, and I bake according to a theme: if a recipe has chocolates and berries (of any kind) in it, I make it. This means I always juggle between recipes that have long cook times, but higher yields, and recipes that are quick but have lower yields (except for Brownies and Blueberry Muffins, because they are too quick and I can’t afford to babysit the cafe). Given the theme of my bakery, it’s fairly important to me to keep the food stocked up and displayed on the counters. After all, the food is the reason why my cafe is named “Chocoberry Cafe”. They are part of my “decoration”, if you will. So whenever a food item dips to less than 5,000 plates, I could be in danger of “losing” that item, which is something I’d rather not happen. (It also messes up with whatever arrangement I already have with the food items, since you don’t really have any control where the food gets served once you serve it.)

Yesterday morning, I saw a message on my wall from one of my neighbors, saying that she was gifting brownies now (instead of the “standard” cappuccinos) due to changes in the game, and that they are now the highest-profit items. Dumbfounded, I went and looked it up–and it’s true.

This isn’t Kansas anymore

As early as January 17, players have noticed the change and have put forward their thoughts and complaints. TeamLava has responded only to say that the change is “to ensure that the game is enjoyable as possible — not just for current players, but new players as well…to balance out the game”. Based on what I’ve read, the changes that have happened include:

  1. Normalizing selling price per food plate to 4 coins. This raises the profit for stuff like Brownies (initially selling for 1 coin per plate) and lowers it for stuff like Red Velvet Cake (initially 12 coins per plate, though I may be wrong–this used to be my biggest earner, though).
  2. Lowering yield per bake. I have no comparison data for this, but it’s been reported.
  3. Lowering cost of recipes to bake. This was communicated later on, but again, I have no comparison data.
  4. Blocking the door to stockpile food does not stop sales now; there have been reports that once you unblock the door, the food that you should have sold while you were stockpiling all gets sold immediately.

These changes make counters harder to stock, whether you’re a new or older player. I’ve noticed this myself, but shrugged it off initially and thought maybe I was just imagining things. Less yield means that if I try making an item that takes a number of hours to make, if my baker stays open the whole time, by the time I get to serve these new food items, there is nothing on the counter anymore. Empty counters at any point of the game means unhappy customers, and unhappy customers bring your popularity down, and popularity affects the number of customers coming into your bakery (lower than the measly 30-or-so customers we’re already getting). I have some stuff stocked from before the change (now selling at a loss, since they were baked with a higher-priced recipe than now, and selling for much lower), but new players don’t have the 16 appliances I have: how are you supposed to keep counters stocked with only a handful of ovens that you’re limited to due to your low level? Why, spend $4.99 to buy gems to add one extra appliance, of course! Worse, you can’t even block the door to stockpile, now. The only way I got through those lower levels was to stockpile. I don’t see how this change will help new players.

These changes make it slower to earn money. I used to spend a lot of bake time and coins to bake the ones with high yield and high profit, because I knew that once that batch sells, I will have reached a coin goal and I can get x item, or expand, etc. as opposed to waiting and waiting and waiting for my lower (therefore slower) items to sell. And yes, the recipes cost lower to make: but you bake more (and therefore spend more) in order to keep your counters stocked, so the point is moot. I’ve noticed it’s harder to earn money: it’s been a while but I’m having a hard time trying to break 2M (for my 4M goal, which I need to expand) when I need to keep baking to keep food items on counters.

Also, it removes the strategy element: if everything is normalized, then it doesn’t really matter what item you bake. I enjoy just making the food items that fit the theme of my bakery, but I want to make other items too, but right now, I can’t afford to do that (time-wise) because wait, my Chocolate Cake is getting dangerously low, I need to stock up on that first. So I just never end up making these other items. It becomes mindless, which kids probably don’t really care about, but as an adult, it was part of the draw of the game. If I wanted a mindless game, there are a lot of action arcade games made for the iPhone, on other consoles. I’ll go play that instead.

And an extra dash of salt to wound:

No warning nor formal announcement on these changes. They were just rolled out and it was the users themselves who noted it and started asking questions, who are understandably confused and worried if there was a bug. They have responded with an official statement after a while, but continue to largely ignore the strong user sentiments on the changes. And other people have noted that TeamLava’s wording–that they have “legions of super-passionate fans” sound almost insulting. I don’t think it’s wise for TeamLava to ignore these “legions” of “super-passionate” gamers that they are alienating. New users are great, but those who TeamLava might classify as “super-passionate” are the ones dropping significant hard-earned cash for the game.

A time for all things to end

I do like spending cash now and then on freemium games–I just did recently with Bakery Story. Paying for stuff like gems is good because it supports these smaller game houses and I like thinking that I’m doing my bit to keep them going. I stopped Bakery Story for a while, but then had my account ported over to my new phone just to be able to keep going. But this is unacceptable. Poor communication with the community and user base, shady decisions that doesn’t look like it’s going to change–I’m not going to continue supporting games by a company who does this.

I’ve been thinking it’s time for a break–and maybe it really is time to say goodbye to TeamLava and the Story series. Goodbye, Chocoberry Cafe and my beloved chocolate fountain.

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