The Case for HP Increase
In this article I will explain why adding HP Increase as a fourth option for 1-Player battles should be the top priority for the Battledome. I will start by explaining the concept of HP Increase and why it’s such an important feature. Then I will address possible concerns surrounding the addition of HP Increase. Finally, I will address some of the other important bugfixes, features, and quality-of-life changes requested by battlers, and I will explain why HP Increase should be prioritized above each of them.
Prior to the 2012 revamp of the Battledome, 1-Player challengers had a single mode in which each opponent would get slightly stronger every time you beat it. Generally, the challenger would gain stats equal to 10% of its base difficulty, though some had lower scaling and some had higher scaling. Note that, despite the name "HP Increase", the opponents would also gain strength and defense as well. This formed the basis for every type of 1-Player competition, from the earliest war plots, to the official 1-Player high score tables, and even user-run events like the Summer Scrimmage, where participants were grouped according to their pet’s stats and they competed within their groups to get the most wins against the chosen opponents.
In the old dome, 1-Player challengers had the same strength and defense caps that our pets had, which meant that their damage output would eventually hit a wall. This led to the 1-Player Invincibility Problem: pets with 2,000 HP and a percent-based multihealer (Illusens Staff, Wand of the Dark Faerie, Sword of Lameness) could outheal any opponent’s maximum damage, achieving full invincibility. Competitive players who reached this level were faced with the reality that, for them, 1-Player competitions were no longer about stronger pets or better strategies; it was all just a matter of which player had the most amount of free time to grind out guaranteed wins with their multihealer—precisely the same problem that prevents 1-Player competitions currently. This is why the uncapped strength and defense boosts for 1-Player challengers should be seen as a feature, not a bug, and must be carried over into the HP Increase option.
Of course, this type of competitive system doesn’t appeal to everyone. That’s why I’m asking for HP Increase to be added as a fourth option. I’m not asking to take away anything from the current Battledome. In fact, the consistent loot drops from the static HP system serve an important role in making the Battledome accessible to all users instead of just the ultra-rich. The two systems serve two different purposes and appeal to two different groups of battlers. Both systems are necessary, and both systems can exist side-by-side (even if their communities sometimes can’t).
Despite being added as a separate option, there are still a few concerns players may have about the return of HP Increase.
What happens when I can no longer beat an opponent?
Then you’re doing something right. You’ve racked up enough wins to create an opponent that poses a challenge to your unique combination of pet stats, weapons, and Battledome knowledge. Now you’ll need to improve on one of those three things to get your next win. Incentivizing growth as a battler is the main goal of HP Increase. If you’re worried about loot drops, remember that the static HP options will still be there. With both systems coexisting, you’ll never run the risk of battling yourself out of an income stream.
If the opponents have uncapped boosts, won’t my icon-based shields eventually become useless?
Yes. At that point you will need to start using percent-based defense instead. That’s another intended feature of the HP Increase system: when opponents stop being push-overs, you will be forced to rethink your strategy and maybe discover obscure weapons that are only useful against that particular opponent. This adds another layer to weapon choices that didn’t exist in the old dome, where upgrades followed a simple, linear path leading up to the Wand of the Dark Faerie.
How would this work during site events? Would plot opponents use the static system, or the HP Increase system?
I’ll leave that decision up to The Neopets Team, because I think the proper system depends on how the Battledome is being used within the plot. If special loot drops are part of the plot, then I think the static system makes more sense. But if it’s going to be an oldschool style war plot, where all of your points come from battling, then I think the HP Increase system would be the better choice. But let’s just supposed they exclusively use the HP Increase system for plots. Looking through past plots that used HP Increase, the first opponents generally had a base difficulty between 5 and 15. Compare that to the first Wraith, which had a base difficulty of 35. Using an HP Increase system for plots allows TNT to create opponents with much lower starting difficulties because those who want a challenge can create their own by grinding out extra wins.
Other fixes and features
There are plenty of other bugfixes and features that competitive battlers would like to see, and I’m not ignoring or dismissing those; I’m just putting HP Increase at the top of the list as the single most impactful change that could be implemented.
The problem of Lens Flare spam, for example, is a major annoyance when trying to beat any opponent that doesn’t drop in one or two rounds. There are also missing features that never got carried over from the old dome, such as stealing, stances, passive resistances, pets no longer being healed after a win, and the hitpoints display. All of these features are best suited for competitive battling, but that simply does not, and will not, exist in 1-Player without HP Increase. In the current system, the optimal—and really the only viable—strategy is to use your Lens Flare, freezer, and maybe Warlocks Rage, to beat your opponent before they have a chance to do anything. Because challengers never get stronger, this strategy will work indefinitely. None of those missing features will be anything more than a minor inconvenience so long as the standard battle only lasts 1-3 rounds. Of course, those fixes need to happen at some point, but that point is after we have an HP Increase option.
There are also some major bugs that impact 2-Player battling, like the foresight glitch, freezing being partially broken, and Lens Flare being far too strong an ability in the hands of an actual person instead of an NPC. But 2-Player battlers have historically added their own restrictions on weapon and ability usage to fix any perceived imbalances in the Battledome, and that’s still the case today. Players generally agree to not use Lens Flare, and to "respect the freeze" by sending an empty move when frozen. The only 2-Player glitch that can’t be fixed by player agreements is the Foresight Glitch: when one player submits their next move before their opponent’s page has finished updating, their opponent might be shown the pending move in addition to the current move. This would allow unscrupulous battlers to craft the perfect counter for the next round, using information they should not have had.
While there is no workaround for the Foresight Glitch, we need to consider the scale of impact when prioritizing these fixes. Even at the height of popularity, the 2-Player scene was much smaller than the 1-Player scene. Today, the difference is even greater: while the desperate attempt at creating competition in 1-Player has managed to attract almost a hundred active competitors, 2-Player tournaments (where competitive systems actually exist) struggle to even reach double-digit participation. This doesn’t dismiss the problem of 2-Player glitches, but it does show that they affect a much smaller portion of the community than HP Increase would by bringing back competitive 1-Player battling.
The last missing feature that I want to address is the Defenders of Neopia series. This was a sort of mini-game for the Battledome where users were shown a short comic about a Neopian villain, then had to go beat that villain in the Battledome. Each victory earned the player a trophy upgrade for their userlookup, and completing the Meuka mission also awarded an avatar. But ever since the Battledome underwent its revamp in 2012, Defenders of Neopia has been stuck and won’t allow players to advance in their missions. I’ve seen two justifications for wanting Defenders of Neopia to be fixed, and I will address them both. For most users, they weren’t able to complete all the missions in the old dome, and they want to finish upgrading their trophies now that their pets are stronger. For others, this was their first avenue into the Battledome and they hope that having the missions up and running again will encourage more players to begin learning about the Battledome beyond what it takes to beat up the Koi Warrior 15 times a day.
For anyone looking to upgrade their trophies after all these years, realize that you will likely just breeze through the remaining missions in a single day. And then where will you be? Right back to where you are now: farming Codestones and begging TNT to add something else to the Battledome. On the other hand, HP Increase provides a permanent solution to the boredom, and, once implemented, requires no future updates or additions from TNT. Don’t sacrifice the future of the Battledome for one day of activity. HP Increase first; then Defenders of Neopia.
As for Defenders being a first step to full Battledome immersion, I think the prospect of Codestone drops have done a good job of taking over that responsibility. The best farming opponents do require a decent amount of training and a basic understanding of how to battle, and that will provide a good start to any players interested in trying out other opponents. We already have a gateway to bring in new battlers; what we’re lacking is the next step to go from casual to competitive. HP Increase is that step.
As I approach my final plea, I want to remind you once again that I recognize that the Battledome has plenty of bugs that need fixing, features that need adding, and components that need rebalancing. And I want all of those fixes, features, and changes to happen. But we need to keep in mind that working on a site feature requires an investment of TNT’s time and resources, and some fixes will provide a greater return on that investment than others. HP Increase should be one of the less resource-intensive features while having the greatest payoff of any possible change TNT could make. That’s why I’m asking you to join me in advocating for HP Increase as the top priority for the Battledome.