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Developer Spotlight: Why we rebalanced the Totem feature

CATANEirCATANEir Developer Posts: 38 Game Developer
edited April 6 in News & Announcements

Greetings Explorers,

Recently we made a substantial change to how much it costs to use your Totem. With this change it became more expensive to enter a Settlement, but cheaper to move the Totem and harvest Resource Centers. You can read more about this here

Ultimately, it came down to this because players were not spending totem tokens freely enough. We believe this is partly because while all interactions cost 1 Token, not all interactions were equal in value. Typical Totem Token usage was to park a Totem in an area with multiple Settlements and never move it again. Furthermore, Resource Centers were significantly under-used for the same reason: Totems stay immobile. With all costs being equal, the value was in NOT moving your Totem and just entering a Settlement to roll dice and play as many cards as possible. This isn't in line with the vision of CATAN – World Explorers as a game about movement and exploration. Even if you are at home, we want Totems moving, and we want players making active decisions that include visiting both Resource Centers and Settlements. An example of an interesting decision is to wait another 20 minutes for a Harvest Dice timer before moving to interact with a new location. The decision to never move the Totem because it is in a hot spot is not an interesting gameplay decision.

We investigated free movement for Totems, which did not make the cut for a few reasons. The main reason: The Totem system was set up in a way where reducing a cost to zero broke it and opened it up to exploitation. We also looked into merely tweaking the numbers just a bit, say: 1 Token to move, 2 to interact with Resource Centers and 3 to interact with Settlements. However that still meant doubling or tripling costs, while keeping the relative differences between actions too close together. We didn’t want to adjust the costs to 1/2/3, just to then adjust them again to 1/3/5 a few weeks later and so on. Better to adjust once and leave it as it is. 

With the Totem Token cost rebalance we planned to adjust Daily Quest rewards from 2/4/6 (Free/Easy/Hard) to 20/30/40. Though in testing we realized that the daily quest UI broke if you increased Totem Token rewards to any number above 30. So we made the call to go live with 10/15/30 as rewards – and we made it a high priority to fix the UI bug. Today we adjusted the quest rewards to their intended values. Read more about this here. From just the free daily reward, you can now visit a Settlement which would take up most of your daily earnings, or visit up to four RCs. Perhaps a move or two, swipe two RCs of a scarce resource and keep the change for tomorrow? There are far more interesting choices to make with Totems now, with less of a penalty to just get it in position.

While we can understand that this change to Totems came as a shock to some of you, we believe that it was a necessary change for the long term health of the game. We want to keep Totems dynamic and fresh, instead of incentivising hoarding. Also we want them to be used in a variety of strategic ways.

To give you the opportunity to try out the new system, we have just sent you 80 Totem tokens for free to collect via your inbox. So don’t forget to collect your reward and happy exploring!


CATANEir and the CATAN – World Explorers Team

Post edited by CATANFiona on


  • AjanHukkaAjanHukka Member Posts: 443 ✭✭✭

    There have been a lots of complaints about totem nerf but that’s just the standard human behaviour.

    If the tokens had been 4/8/12 originally and if those had been changed to something like 2/4/6 with original scale (that’s how they were and people were happy) people would still have been super annoyed. 🙂

    I personally think that the rewards and costs seem pretty balanced now.

  • MykanMykan Member Posts: 52 ✭✭✭

    Definitely could see the need to rebalance the totems, the same cost for unequal actions was always an issue. Thank you for the explanation it helps a lot. With the new quest rewards the numbers seem to be about right. Looking forward to exploring my choices with the totem.

  • WindWind Member Posts: 407 ✭✭✭✭
    edited March 9

    back in October, i would just camp and harvest a settlement 3 times a day with just the 3 totem tokens from hard quest. A month or 2 later, it doubled the count to 6.

    now, 40 does not equals 3 harvest a day.... Only 2, maybe 3 every other day.

    a whale who tops up tokens daily can still harvest around 7-8 times a day from 2 settlements if hit the right spot with or no movement .

    so a questionmfor you @CATANEir Do you factor in the number of remote harvesting one can do daily as a F2P totem user? As well as factor in hoarders for End of season bonus building drops for VP wins?

  • ZinkyZonkZinkyZonk Member Posts: 91 ✭✭✭

    Under the old system .... multi settlements accessed by the one totem placement were an great team building exercise for the Brisbane wolves.

    In season's 8,9 and 10 there were only 1 or 2 doubles across the whole of Brisbane. Spent hours scouring the map for locations.

    With the extended range in season 11 multiple triple settlement sites and doubles. We never parked at a multi-settlement for long as we built it up over 1 or 2 days.

    There have been no joint builds by across town players this season. Not as much chat either.

    Thankful for the rapid builds we made in season 11. I have an excellent knowledge of how to build settlements to their best potential.

    Really peeved about the totem nerf still. So i am unlikely to ever buy tokens again.

  • GandalfTheWhiteGandalfTheWhite Member Posts: 95 ✭✭✭
    edited March 9

    If I could range just a bit further in the map, I would be much happier. Atm I can view about 10km away, which only gets me to see locations way outside of my local town which is 20km away, and not in my usual area.

    Once at a site (on the map) I can zoom out a bit and jump to nearby locations too. If I could see locations even 15km away, but certainly 20km, I could continually work on my local town settlements as I do when going shopping, and my local one at 3km away. Right now I'm just pouring resources into my personal monument as everything here is built to the max.

    In fact, the 'local locations' list being optionally able to list locations out to 20km would be enough.

    I know I'm a rare case being a country bumpkin and all, but it would be nice to be able to do.

  • EloiseJenkinsEloiseJenkins Member Posts: 4 ✭✭

    Yup I'm still in full hoard mode because of the expense, upping the rewards won't change that

    I used to move my totem to visit multiple settlements a day, now because of the expense I haven't moved my totem since the change, and I rarely bother to spend tokens

  • CachedCached Member Posts: 17 ✭✭✭

    I moved from last season using the totem to collect resources, and moved it regularly. Now I hoard and only use to visit my two primary settlements to build when buildings bag is full.

    I was buying daily coins (3 totems). No purchases this season.

    When I'm away from home in a remote area with a lone tree, I sometimes move it home to be able to claim from my gold settlement.

  • GrogyanGrogyan Member Posts: 434 ✭✭✭

    @CATANEir I have not used the Totem for over 3 seasons, as my (many) points for how they were being abused, which have been proven.

    I don't have many settlements to interact with, the decision to not use Totems made the game more interesting.

    I am very very skeptical about the new costs, as you haven't really dealt with the elephant in the room. Pay-to-win aka pay-to-spoof.

    The current global scores show that the Blue Bears are consistently winning by a fair margin. However without any information on disproportion of factions, we have to assume that there is roughly a good balance of players across all 3 factions.

    Therefore, why is the Bears ahead by 60k

    Seems super sus

  • LinkMatrixLinkMatrix Member Posts: 7 ✭✭

    Seriously!? Stop with the spoofing already. It is not and will not be anywhere near that.

  • M42M42 Member Posts: 47 ✭✭✭

    I can see you guys thought long and hard about the Totem token cost. My initial reaction was mainly thinking about my own rural game, but I did say that and I only have my own experience to go by.

    So I understand the cost now and appreciate the raise you gave to give us the same amount of Settlement visits that we had, the only problem I have is when the game crashes while I'm in Totem mode and I have to shut the fans down. But that seems to be happening less now and I know it'll probably be almost not a thing when the game is in full release.

    Thanks for the explanation about the token costs. Keep up the good work, I'm really enjoying Catan.

  • GandalfTheWhiteGandalfTheWhite Member Posts: 95 ✭✭✭

    Personally, I'm ok with the balance now. I agree that making it cheaper to travel is a good idea. I was also just sitting between two settlements. Now I'm likely to visit at least two, and maybe more if I have enough tokens for a whole season.

    BUT... I'm not happy about losing tokens when being kicked out by a bug or connection error. I also sometimes need to examine my backpack while in a settlement. At present you cannot do that inside a settlement, so using a totem is less attractive.

    The easiest solution, and which has been proposed a few times, would be to allow access to a settlement for a fixed amount of time. I believe 30 minutes would be adequate.

    I would also like to view inside a settlement before deciding to enter. I'm not going to risk 15 tokens on a possibly undeveloped settlement. How about 1 token to view? That would possibly be quite simple too.

  • RandomExplorersRandomExplorers Member Posts: 12 ✭✭


    "The current global scores show that the Blue Bears are consistently winning by a fair margin. However without any information on disproportion of factions, we have to assume that there is roughly a good balance of players across all 3 factions."

    • I wonder how this assumption would have come about, as the allocation of the fractions is not done by the system, but by human choice with bias and preference.

    @ZigZagWanderer :

    Great suggestions on time based interaction! I like it! I did think of an activity or used based charging mechanism as well, but that would become unnecessarily complex to code, and the developers time would probably be better spent fixing the existing bugs or developing other new better ideas / features.

  • WindWind Member Posts: 407 ✭✭✭✭
    edited March 11

    A 5 mins freedom of entry once paid entry cost? Will expire once 5 mins is up or when totem moves. A neat idea to deal,with the crashes and reservations people had with the token costs. Still need a harvest cooldown timer visible from the outside without payimg the cost

    ps @ZigZagWanderer 30 mins is too much, 5 mins is best due to people would be like take note of time, dump buildings, farm more, come back in 1 mins before expiration to dump more. No thanks thats OP

  • GrogyanGrogyan Member Posts: 434 ✭✭✭

    @RandomExplorers I did say disproportion, ie not an even split between the 3 factions.

    Without hard numbers of players per faction presented @CATANdominik we have to assume that there is an even distribution of players per faction.

    Hence my argument.

    @ZigZagWanderer there should be no cost at all for viewing into settlements.

    If no action is done to the settlement.

  • AjanHukkaAjanHukka Member Posts: 443 ✭✭✭

    Player numbers across factions are obviously not equal. They probably even shouldn’t be. Makes more interesting to have different dynamics in different factions.

    The scoring needs to take that into account somehow though.

  • GrogyanGrogyan Member Posts: 434 ✭✭✭


    Even if the robber is fixed, to be able to pick the faction on the settlement to not gain VP until it is moved.

    Is still a numbers game, more players means more 7s are rolled.

  • GandalfTheWhiteGandalfTheWhite Member Posts: 95 ✭✭✭

    Ya know what? If the goal is to encourage travel rather than camping and harvesting settlements, you need to allow a cheap or free method to view inside a settlement.

    As stated, I'm not going to risk 15 tokens on an undeveloped settlement, so I'm just not going to explore.

  • CharmqCharmq Member Posts: 183 ✭✭✭

    Agree with @ZigZagWanderer that the current system doesnt encourage exploring at all. In fact it is doing the reverse because of the steep entry cost. Perhaps instead of a flat 15token price, it could be broken down to entry/interaction price (5:10 or whatever ratio you guys tink its fair) if i pay 5 tokens to enter the settlement and dont like the look of it i could leave for the next settlement. If i feel like i could add cards/harvest from the settlement then another 10 tokens.

    Although i would like a preview or free look kinda system but i doubt it will happen coz there is the exploring element to it where you get resources for exploring new settlements. So there should still be a cost to it if accessed via totem but 15 is too steep in my opinion.

    also agree with players above that totem should remain in settlement unless we click a button to exit it, to save us all from the angst of being booted out by a bug and being cheated of hard earned tokens.

  • WindWind Member Posts: 407 ✭✭✭✭

    1 Move

    2 View settlement

    5 Explore & harvest a RC

    10 Unlock a Settlement for buildimg deploys & Harvest

    really think growth of hexes should not be done from totems IMO

  • SerendipSerendip Member Posts: 54 ✭✭

    Like many others who have posted above I'm now using the Totem far LESS than previously.

    I used to move it around and use it to search, explore, collect resources etc. - up to the limit of the the tokens I'd earnt from Glinda. So I'd be using it to interact multiple times a day.

    Not any more. I haven't moved it since the change and I now only use it to interact with the one settlement I'm parked at - and that is only 1-2 times a day.

    I definitely understand you tweaking things - that's what Beta is for. But for me at least this change has resulted in the direct opposite of what you intended.

  • Sev7nSev7n Member Posts: 6 ✭✭

    This token cost change has actuality resulted in me playing less, let alone exploring and using the tokens. Constant (and I mean CONSTANT crashes) deplete my tokens before I can even get in to a settlement. And that's if I can get to my totem. I still want to check on my settlement *crash* repeat repeat and play the daily dice * freezes*.

    So yeah, I get the intentions but I'm literally playing spades and chess more now because catan is jumping the shark.

  • SolidRockSolidRock Member Posts: 11 ✭✭

    Thanks for this information. I was keeping my totem at my main settlement and accessing it at the same time as my home settlements, three to four times a day.

    With the change (which was a big shock on day one when I pressed the button and saw the 15/45 tokens disappear before I realised it had changed). This season I was keeping it near my 2 main and moving it little, because of the cost. Since reading this I have been moving around and using it for exploring RC to fulfil the quests I usually ignore. It's been liberating. I have over 400 tokens, and have all week despite spending lots.

  • ZinkyZonkZinkyZonk Member Posts: 91 ✭✭✭

    Argh i was so grumpy about the totem 'nerf'

    ....said i was only going to play one more season.

    yet i'm so keen too keep playing.

    .... said Never going to buy tokens again.

    yet I did.

    Hahaha 😁

    I really love totems.

  • QueglarQueglar Member Posts: 38 ✭✭

    While brownie points are awarded for being more open about explaining game changes (and you should keep doing it), the logic seems a little weird.

    You want us to spend more tokens...? and/or why is hoarding tokens tokens bad?

    If you have an internal market with price signals within a game, the prices are used to encourage or discourage behaviour - it's the behaviours that are the goal, not the spending or not spending of tokens...

    But ok, lets assume hoarding tokens is such a bad thing (and I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume it's not to encourage players into paying for them). Then increase the in-game value of what you can do with them, make the market "bigger" by expanding the range of things you buy with thing, and/or reduce the cost - basically you just make it easier to "spend" by adding multiple price points to spend on more "stuff". Not really sure how that would make the game more enjoyable to play though.

    You want us to move around more...? Well maybe just put that on hold until the global pandemic is over aye? That's an external factor that no fiddling around is going is going to fix.

    But ok, lets assume you aren't trying to get people to be more socially mobile during a global pandemic, and actually just mean getting players to range across more of the game map with totems. Given that game is fundamentally about entering settlements, constructing buildings to increase production and earn VP (which is still the only "purpose") then no amount of price signals on tokens is going to make resource centers worth spending tokens on. So by increasing the cost of entering settlements vs resource centers, all you've done is made it even less likely to waste token on some low value resource center when it's better to "hoard" them to spend on entering settlements...

    I don't have a problem with playing around with the token prices, but the logic for this one is all over the place.

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