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Totem Feature: Design & Vision – a note from the team

CATANdominikCATANdominik Administrator, Community Manager Posts: 105 Community Manager, Global
edited October 2020 in News & Announcements

We've been very excited to unveil our Totem system, and now that it's here, we're thrilled with how the community is interacting with their new animal friends. Since it’s introduction almost a month ago, Explorers have used nearly 100,000 Totem Tokens at Resource Centers and Settlements. In that same time, players have walked over 110,000 kilometers! Amazing!

Design Goals

Our goal in developing CATAN – World Explorers has been to provide a game that offers opportunities to play in Wayspot dense areas, as well as areas not so dense. Trading, questing, shrubbing, and harvesting Resource Centers are all means to achieve victory at Settlements. But, if a player doesn't feel like they're able to make a difference for their faction – that's a problem for us. Settlements are the lifeblood of our faction competition, season after season. 

Part of maintaining that has been in monitoring the ratios of Settlements to Resource Centers in the world, but sometimes players live in areas that are just Wayspot sparse. More recently, players live in areas in different phases of quarantine, or maybe just can’t get outside as much as they used to. We want those players to experience CATAN – World Explorers as well, even if it is at a different or a less-optimum pace than other players.

We have built CATAN – World Explorers around the idea that the gameboard gets reshuffled with every season – similar to when you would start a new game of the original board game. Perhaps this season, you hit the jackpot and live near a settlement but next season you might not be so lucky! This is just one of the ways that Totems can supplement the standard get-outside-play. 

Balancing Totems

That said, we launched with expectations of performance and tactics, but we also expect to be surprised and learn from the strategies our community comes up with. The state of our Totem Tokens – prices, action costs, and availability are just like everything else in the game, always under review and never final. That goes for totem looks and skill set too – we have many things under consideration and thank everyone for their feedback, concerns, and suggestions. Keep them coming!

Play from anywhere

Creating a feature that enables and encourages play from anywhere, is not something that we at Niantic take lightly. We strongly believe that our games should be played on the go, exploring real-world locations. Moving is healthy and something that we want to be a key component of all Niantic experiences, including CATAN – World Explorers. 

This is why we believe that testing the Totem feature during an extended beta period is vital for CATAN – World Explorers. We do want to give you the opportunity to play during times when you cannot leave your house or are stuck somewhere (due to Covid or otherwise). Though what we don’t want, is for any gameplay mechanic that enables remote play to become the dominant style of play.

Balancing something like Totems is key: It should become a nice addition that enables you to come up with interesting strategies to use them. But we still want this game to be primarily about visiting places in the real world – and about meeting people, once this is safe again.

Your feedback about Totems is essential now during the beta period. So we can make sure to strike the right balance between moving in the real-world and sending your Totem. Please let us know in the feedback section of the forum if there is anything that could be improved.

Stay safe out there and enjoy the increased Totem Token rewards this Season!


Dominik, CatanEir & the CATAN – World Explorers Team

Post edited by CATANdominik on


  • MiraggenMiraggen Member Posts: 75 ✭✭✭

    amazing, I can't wait to be able to test the game too!

  • AjanHukkaAjanHukka Member Posts: 378 ✭✭✭

    It’s obviously nothing bad in the state it is now in, a little bonus to help you.

    Just don’t make more couch game features but concentrate on exploration and going out to places. 🤗 That’s what really is unique in Niantic platform games even among other geolocation games that just use random POIs.

  • CataniusCatanius Member Posts: 183 ✭✭✭
    edited October 2020

    "But, if a player doesn't feel like they're able to make a difference for their faction – that's a problem for us."

    This can be solved easily... Redesign game locally and not globally... Less players means make a difference is easier. Players will be happy to win in settlements instead of local areas and they will be able to make a difference for their faction in local areas (instead of the whole world). Actual global winners badge should be actual local winners badge and actual local winners badge should be a new settlements winners badge.

    Totem is not really useful for me. I prefer you solve the depleted ressources centers bug and the dice mini-game bugs (dices physics and dices rewards).

    Add personal rewards in gold/RP/XP/special cards/etc. at settlements (like in pokemon go) to have players more interested in settlements development.

    Thank you

  • AjanHukkaAjanHukka Member Posts: 378 ✭✭✭

    Hmmm...ditching global won’t be nice. That’s the very core of the competitive gameplay. I definitely want to see and experience that.

    But wins by settlements, that’s an interesting idea. 🙂 Like the player who contributes the most to the settlement of the team that ends up winning the settlement would be the winning player of settlement.

  • CataniusCatanius Member Posts: 183 ✭✭✭
    edited October 2020

    @AjanHukka I agree with you... What I wanted to say about global winners is that only 1 faction will win all the future seasons (now it changes cause new people join the game (cause new countries are added)). So only 1 faction will have the global badge and this is sad for players from other factions... A noob in the good faction will be rewarded with a badge for doing nothing and a player with 1000+ VP per season in another faction will never finish the badge. Personally I've earned more than 1600 VP last season and my faction lost in global but I have win the 4 local areas near my home and I have contributed to more than hundred settlements. But I agree with you, ditching global wouldn't be nice too it's interesting to experience that (like you said)

    But about POI I disagree with you @AjanHukka it's not normal that a player in a city can have more than 100k POI in a small area when a player in country have maybe 10 or less POI in a similar area. I think all Niantic players have seen how it's sad to play a Niantic game in an area without POI and usually these players don't play when they are in these areas.

  • BanjoBBanjoB Member Posts: 14 ✭✭

    I feel like totems shouldn't require both a token to move and another token to interact, should be one or the other. Seems very expensive to use 2 tokens to harvest resources a single time.

    Yesterday I didn't get close to finishing the hard quest - not a single settlement near me has grain in it and I've only found 1 grain resource centre so far. So I used tokens to visit new settlements hoping to find grain - after 6 settlements and 12 tokens still no grain so I failed, but now also don't have any new tokens. If harvesting resources wasn't so expensive I would have used my totem to look for grain rather than hoping to get lucky with settlements.

  • AjanHukkaAjanHukka Member Posts: 378 ✭✭✭
    edited October 2020

    @Catanius, it’s the real world platform indeed. It’s just is a bit unfair ror rural players. It cannot ever be totally fair and equal as different places just have different numbers of POIs. Wayfarer helps with this little by little, it’s much better at least in Finland that it was like 4 years ago.

    The idea is that you go where the POIs are. That’s what I was doing daily in the earlier Niantic games. It was nice as it ended up in the situation (in pre-covid19 world) that some places were so good that a lot of players gathered in those places that created the true multiplayer geolocation game experience. Catan naturally doesn’t (yet) encourage such gameplay but maybe one day in better times. That experience would have never happened if every rural or semi-rural player had had perfect gaming conditions just outside ones house.

    That’s just impossible if game was 100 % equal for everybody, it wouldn’t be AR anymore at that point, as odd as it sounds. 😳

    @BanjoB, maybe it’s the part of the challenge to find a spot that you can keep your totem at snd only use tokens to enter. Daily is probably not designed to be done with totem only, it’s just a small bonus.

  • GrogyanGrogyan Member Posts: 332 ✭✭✭
    edited October 2020

    @CATANdominik but you have not rebalanced Totems At All!

    I spent a lot of time getting enough VPs to win my cell and another, whilst others just laz about. You must think is a joke, but assure you it is not, and shows just how broken game balance is for players who are actually out and about.

    Again, I request that you rebalance Totems, removing the ability to place VP cards and doing trades.

    You MUST make the game balanced for players to get out of their home, and off their couch!

  • GrogyanGrogyan Member Posts: 332 ✭✭✭


    "This is why we believe that testing the Totem feature during an extended beta period is vital for CATAN – World Explorers. We do want to give you the opportunity to play during times when you cannot leave your house or are stuck somewhere (due to Covid or otherwise). Though what we don’t want, is for any gameplay mechanic that enables remote play to become the dominant style of play."

    The Golden Settlement has options for further development for players who are stuck at home/hospital. And still be balanced in a way that encourages play for those that can get out and about. Consider that please, and remove from Totems for remote scoring of VP and trading of resources.

  • SerendipSerendip Member Posts: 44 ✭✭
    edited October 2020

    I think the totems are a fantastic inclusion and was pleased and surprised to see them there as an option when I loaded the game. I'm not currently Covid-restricted so I can, and do, get out and about to hunt down POIs. However, in my suburban area they are pretty sparse and the totem is a great balance for that.

    Without the totem the game becomes a driving game, rather than a walking game, in areas of sparse POIs.

    And, as long as the number of tokens that are earnable in a day remains very low, as it is now, then the totems remain a support for players in difficult situations (Covid, rural, disabled etc) without becoming viable as a totally different way of playing the game.

    And by, in a small way, enabling a larger number of people to remain playing the game the totem helps the game remain robust and more likely to survive long-term. If we still want to be playing this in twelve months then we need to be supporting and encouraging developments that allow for a diversity of gameplay.


  • SchnuefuSchnuefu Member Posts: 247 ✭✭✭

    Ressources won by rolls do not upgrade automatically, when one uses the totem. One has to restart the app, that this works, which means one has to spend another token to reenter the settlement.

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