All my little hobbit wanted was a pretty Black-footed Chicken for a pet. How shiny and beautiful its black plumage is! The lovely little chook would make such a nice wandering companion that I obliged her little hobbit wishes and took her to the Hobnanigans field. What we were met with was not quite as fun of an event as we were both hoping for.
I’ve played quite a few rounds of Hobnanigans across two different fields. Sometimes by myself and sometimes with my husband playing too. I’ve persevered and played through them all (for blog science!) however my husband quickly grew agitated and frustrated with the event. I barely convinced him to keep playing through his first match and after a few hours he tried again but rage quit towards the end of the game. The other person on our team was AFK and the team we were against were very coordinated. On top of that he was very frustrated with the mechanics of the chickens and was having a lot of difficulty selecting the chicken amidst all the players scrambling to hit the ball. He sighed in frustrated and turned to me, saying “I’m sorry but it’s just too frustrating to be fun.”
Below I’m going to examine the specific elements that make the newest iteration of Hobnanigans, AKA Chicken Ball AKA Chicken Soccer AKA Chicken Hockey so frustrating for players who just want to have some fun playing festival games and earning some cool “fluff” rewards along the way. I’ll only go into detail with issues I myself have witnessed, though I’ll also mention some of the issues that other people have expressed on the LOTRO forums and on twitter.
Once a match of Hobnanigans starts, some players choose to go “AFK” rather than participate in whacking the chicken back and forth. This is because even if you lose a match, you get 5 Hobnanigans tokens. Some people see the game as too frustrating or trivial to play but still want the rewards, so they see sitting AFK on the field as a reasonable way to acquire tokens. This causes frustration in players who are trying to play the game as intended. Sometimes you’ll join a match and be the only person on your team playing, which frequently means the odds are not in your favor. Occasionally AFK players give you an advantage if you happen to be playing against a team of AFKers.
Proposed Solution(s): There are a number of ways this issue could be resolved, but the two I propose are 1) descrease the tokens you receive if your team loses and 2) award tokens based on number of chicken hits landed. If you only receive one token if your team loses rather than five, AFK players may not feel the reward is enough to take up spots in matches. Additionally, if there are rewards in place based on actually hitting the chicken and participating in the match, the rewards for participating will out weigh the rewards of sitting AFK enough to encourage people to participate. A possible reward could be 5 tokens for every 15 chicken hits landed.
Chicken Hit Mechanics
Regardless of the direction you are facing, if you hit the chicken while it is already in flight in a certain direction, your hit will act as though you had hit it again in the direction it is already going. It is unclear if this is a bug or intentional but nonetheless it can create a lot of frustration. For example if the chicken has just been hit and is close to going into your goal posts, if you try to hit it away from the goal posts while it is still in the air your hit gives the chicken just enough extra push to go through your goal posts, thus scoring a point for the other team.
Proposed Solution(s): It would seem more realistic to have your hit always count in the direction you’re facing. Which means in the circumstance above, the hit would send the chicken careening away from the goal. However if this is difficult to implement it might be best to make it so that chickens cannot be hit until the chicken is in a “rest” state again after landing from a previous hit.
The biggest source of frustration for me is that some fields are bugged out and don’t keep score properly. It is hard to pinpoint what exactly is happening and determining any pattern. I’ve played a number of games on both Field 2 and Field 3. Also for the record I play on the Windfola server, which is relevant because people from other servers have noted the reverse of what I have experienced with Fields 2 and 3.
Field 2 Blue Team
We lost but in a fair way. All the players on both teams were playing but our team was not coordinated and lost. All the necessary score notifications popped up on screen when they were supposed to. This was my and my Husband’s first attempt at Hobnanigans.
Field 2 Red Team
Despite winning multiple matches as a Field 2 Red team member (both from other teams being AFK and giving us an easy win and from fairly played matches), the necessary score messages do not appear on screen. No notifications about either team scoring appear though the designated Crier NPC does mention who scored and lights the fireworks. Once the match is done, the Crier yells out who has won though each team only receives 5 tokens. This happens even if the win is a total blow out (10+ goals to 0)
Field 3 Blue and Red Team
I haven’t experienced any scoring problems on this field, regardless of team or win/lose. I have only won one match (blue team) and received all the tokens necessary (15). The score messages have flashed across the screen at the proper times. Only issues faced on this field have been AFK players and the frustrating chicken mechanics mentioned above.
Proposed Solution: If you earned tokens based on hits made as proposed above, it would ease the sting of bugged scoring. However the optimum solution is to have all the fields scoring and awarding tokens as intended.
Out of Bounds
Others have complained about chickens being hit out of the Field bounds or onto walls and goal posts where they are un-hittable. I have personally not experienced these bugs. However I can understand how frustrating they could be for the people who encounter them. The obvious solution to this problem is to ensure that chickens cannot be hit out of bounds or on top of objects.
High Token Costs
Some of the token costs for chickens feel a bit high. I understand wanting the chicken pets to be long-term goals so that people continue participating everytime the event is active. However for me and others the cost is quite intimidating, especially when paired with bugs and AFK players that decrease our chance of winning or receiving the tokens we are owed when we do win.
Conclusion AKA TL;DR
To reduce frustration felt by players who are attempting to play Hobnanigans as intended the bugs preventing players from receiving rewards or participating in matches should be fixed: Fields should keep track of score correctly and award earned tokens; chickens should be hit in the direction the player is facing; chickens should not go out of bounds. Additionally, the reward for losing a match should be decreased to one token while new rewards for successfully landing chicken hits should be added to encourage participation over AFK match sitting.