History of Secret Move

Discussion in 'Announcements' started by skeller, Oct 25, 2012.

  1. skeller

    skeller Well-Known Member

    By Vivafringe

    Curious how some of your favorite Puzzle Strike chips came to be? In Hidden Gems, we explore the development history of various chips. This time we take a look at Secret Move.

    Of all the puzzle chips we tested, which one got the biggest buff? I'm not sure what the answer is, but Secret Move is certainly a contender.

    For version 1, Secret Move had the following text:


    This was a staggeringly bad chip. It is very nearly never worth buying (exercise for the reader: find a counterexample). What caused the chip to be printed as is? I'm told there were two factors.

    The first was that there was a general bias among testers in favor of :pspig:s. People overrated them across the board. Indeed, looking from version 1 to version 3, you can see buffs to tons of chips with pigs on them! Here are some before and after shots:

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
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    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Thus, it's not surprising that a chip that gave you a recurring :pspig: would be the most overrated chip of all. However, there was a second factor. At the time, people were afraid that Midori :midori: was too strong. As it turned out these fears were unfounded, and in fact Midori needed large buffs. Midori's development deserves more detail than I have space for here, so I'll :pspig: him for next week.

    Anyway, if Secret Move is good on anyone, it's good on Midori. Since Dragon Form usually keeps him from buying orbs anyway, Secret Move's drawback is a non-factor. Furthermore, Midori is a person who likes pigs a lot. If you've ever drawn two crash gems in a turn with him, you'll know what I'm talking about! Because of this, Secret Move was kept back in development by the oogie-boogie phrase, "what about Midori?"

    Anyway, the rebalanced version rolled around, and people complained that Secret Move was awful. And so for the reprint of version 1, Secret Move's cost was reduced to 3. We weren't testing huge changes at the time, and were reluctant to do anything more. Of course, the chip continued to be unplayable garbage. The old idiom about putting lipstick on a pig seems unusually fitting here!

    And so, when Sirlin decided to rebalance the base chips for version 3, Secret Move was the first thing we looked at. The obvious idea was to change the cost to 2. But would reducing the cost again really make players buy it? Moving from 4 to 3 is a big gap, because it means the chip no longer has to compete with combine. Moving from 3 to 2 is a much smaller effective difference.

    No, it was decided that the effect of +:pspig: every turn was incredibly small, barely an effect at all. If we wanted Secret Move to be viable, it needed a massive boost.


    This, in my memory, is the most dramatic buff in the history of Puzzle Strike development. People had trouble wrapping their heads around the idea that a printed chip needed so much help. Adding a +:psblack: to anything was a big improvement, and doing this AND reducing the cost to 1 looked insane!

    Of all the concerns that were brought up, perhaps the most salient one was that it appeared to invalidate Safe Keeping and It's a Trap. In practice, this turned out to be a non-issue. It's a Trap is usually preferable to Secret Move, since the chip leaves your deck permanently. With Secret Move, you have to eventually draw it again if you ever buy an orb. So it gets the edge if what you want most is deck thinning. On the other hand, if all you want is a cheap chip that washes +:psbrown: into +:psblack:, Safe Keeping is more dependable precisely because it stays in your deck! It also has powerful combos with trashing chips like Gem Essence.

    Okay, but the buff still looked crazy! To many, this seemed like a "guilty until proven innocent" situation; what was the justification for the change? The answer is that, although pigs are not particularly powerful, they tend to do great things for the game. A common design challenge with Puzzle Strike is giving players incentives to not pursue boring, consistent decks. I've already mentioned mono-purple a few times, but there are other examples, like "buy all the roundhouses" or "buy all the color panics."

    Once you try going for inter-chip synergy, you often find yourself at the mercy of variance. For instance, Now or Later and Recklessness are a fun combo, but either chip can be underwhelming when drawn alone. And that's where pigs come in.
    :pspig:s are the "secret sauce" that makes wacky strategies better. And they give little help, if any, to a person who is going for a boring, consistent deck. It usually doesn't matter which turn you play a Roundhouse or Combine!

    This "promotes cool strategy" argument is what eventually pushed the change through. And the results were great! Secret Move was the very first chip to be changed in the version 3 rebalance, and went a long way towards convincing everyone that changes to the base set were a good idea.

    Previous Article: History of Degenerate Trasher
    Next Article: History of Midori in Puzzle Strike

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  2. -Y-

    -Y- Well-Known Member

    I want to rep vivafringe more.
    link6616 likes this.
  3. rabid_schnauzer

    rabid_schnauzer Well-Known Member


    After the introduction of the $1 cost +:psblack: secret move, there was a sarcaistic meme amongst playtesters about the degree of buffing the chip had received and there was roughly a month where anytime someone won a game with Secret Move in play, observers would comment things like "OMG secret move is OP!!", regardless of whether Secret Move had played any role in the game at all.

    Exercise for the reader answers:

    1. You are Grave or someone with Training Day, you have a surplus of Combines, a $4 buy there are no other 4-cost [Puzzle] chips in the bank, but there are Roundhouse, X-Copy and Option Select. Of course this answer is strictly hypothetical, because Martial Mastery and Training Day did not get their non- :psorb: restrictions until 2nd edition rebalanced, at which point Secret Move was at cost $3.

    2. In the exceedingly long game where both players have survived the opponent throwing multiple master puzzlers but neither has access to an deck-thinning so each has a deck of like 50+ chips - then being able to use pigs to reduce variance and space out clumped :psorb: is surprisingly meaningful. However, I only saw this case twice, and both were with the $3 Secret Move and before the introduction of the Panic TIme rules.

    3. The hypothetical extreme version of case 2 where all other puzzle chips and :psorb:s have been bought from the bank and you do not have any deck-thinning to trash Gems or Wounds.
    variable, Turbo164 and vivafringe like this.
  4. dustman

    dustman Member

    great article :) and what a buff indeed
  5. Sirlin

    Sirlin Steward of the Realm Staff Member

    I should probably comment on this, as it's not exactly the right story. Secret Move was originally going to be maybe cost 3 or 4. It was somewhat of a late addition, and people weren't sure what it should cost. It wasn't anything to do with people "overvaluing pigs" imo, it was that there might be something you could do with the chip that we weren't thinking of. Near the end of development, tester ChadMiller (who had provided much good advice before) said probably it should be cost 4 because of the risk of it somehow doing some degenerate thing we weren't aware of.

    For the next printing, I asked ChadMiller if 3 would have been ok. He said yeah because no one ever really did anything unfair with it. Not much thought was put into this, as we only did the slightest of adjustments at this time.

    For version 3, we had tons of information at that point that some chips were far too weak. My *first* proposal of a change was the actually shipped version that has +arrow and costs 1. This was considered an insane suggestion. If everyone says a thing is brokenly powerful, I respect that and don't do it, but in this case the first person who even heard this idea was the playtester Sotek. He was immediately excited by it and thought through the possibilities. He quickly concluded that "improved the game" to have that chip.

    Sotek didn't mean that it just made some weak chip not weak, he meant that it was like a sauce you pour over the whole game that makes it kind of better. You can try to go for cool combos in Puzzle Strike, but sometimes the pieces of your combos don't line up. Meanwhile, "you always draw the right number of combines." That means if you draw 1 combine, you can play it. If you draw 2, you can play both. If you draw 3, you can play all three. This was before -$1 combine, so there was no reason not to play those combines. Meanwhile, if you were going for a more interesting combo strategy, you were far more likely to lose to variance. Secret Move gave you smoother draws to go for the combos we kind of want you to try.

    Furthermore, even if players are not going for particular combos, Secret Move still helps the game, said Sotek. When two players are similar in skill level, it's possible that toward the end one of them doesn't draw a crash when they really need it, and this leads to losing. Secret Move smooths out those draws too, allowing you to have that crash when you need it. There's kind of a general principle in competitive games that worse your skills are, the more variance you want to introduce into the game to get lucky and somehow win. The better your skills are relative to your opponent, the more you want to reduce variance. So highly skilled players would value Secret Move more than new players, which was kind of interesting. And regardless of that, the kind of things it was buffing were exactly what we wanted to buff anyway. We later changed combines to cost $1 on each play, so Secret Move helping you beat monopurple was less important, but whatever it still seemed fine.

    Despite Sotek's long dialogue though, when *other* people heard about it, they kind of freaked out. It was claimed to have various problems that never made any sense to me. So I listened to Sotek, believed it would improve the game, and just waited. After quite a bit of testing, no one every really did anything "unfair" with it, and it seemed to help the game in exactly the ways we imagined. So that ended well.
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  6. vivafringe

    vivafringe Moderator Staff Member

    Oh, okay. My main reason for the overvaluing pigs/Midori stuff was that was what chumpchange said when I asked him why Secret Move turned out so weak.
  7. Sirlin

    Sirlin Steward of the Realm Staff Member

    Yes, Midori was a concern, he's right about that. In the "what if there's something you can do with this that is more powerful than we realize now?" question, Midori often appeared as a possible answer.
    variable likes this.

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