So that's where my stats went...
This article is in the perspective of a Comp Sci major with experience in software engineering.
Since searches for 'Kroakatoa Island' are being covered with game sites putting in press releases and their impressive pictures without even trying the game or factoring user reviews, and simply posting as a comment has no effect (they disabled wall posting), I've decided to put in my honest opinion about why all these negative ratings came about.
Good Things From It
- Play around with two additional powerups. According to replies from player's messages sent to Popcap, "Color Nuke is so powerful, you'll wonder how you ever lived without it." It only becomes really useful when it's fully upgraded though, otherwise it pops at most ten balls in most cases. It worked well in Zuma's Revenge to get out of a tight situation, but note you're here for points, not beating the level.
- Addition of fruit. In addition to being a fourth power, they have some unique features: One, they can add points in a variety of different ways, and two, they don't have a level requirement. They're unlocked fairly early, too, so it brings some early customization.
What Caused Massive Amounts of Negative Reviews
- Lack of coins on the new island. You don't get any after a game. Though the coin bonuses when leveling up are substantially higher than on the old island and makes up for that, that didn't stop lots of people concluding that the game rips them off and Popcap (or more likely EA) is extremely greedy, summarizing it as a 'pay to play' game. Having mojo and idols, which was a unique form of currently compared to other casual games, converted to coins didn't help with that either.
- Remaking the game with no regard to veteran players. This and the previous reason got almost everyone enraged.
Veterans got all their high-tier powers and sent them back to level one, without any warning. No wonder why people are upset with this. Worse, the coin rate at the start isn't scaled up to regular use of powers normally attained at level 100 or so as well as accounting in spirit animals.
A new player at level 11 with Cannon and Wild Shot equipped (no spirit eagle since it's too expensive for him to even use at this level), it costs 3500 and uses up his level up coins in two games (five if using old ZB prices). No biggie, refill in 6 more games. That's two power games per level.
A veteran player however can use all his powers and food (and maybe a spirit eagle) and costs him 70,000 coins. Not bad except it will take him nine more levels (100 no power games) before he builds up enough coins to use it again with the same powers. (At level 100, he can use this twice before having to level up again.)
Even if you have enough money to not worry about it, if you don't have serious competition, it can get boring very quickly. For lvl 80 veterans, save for the two powerups left to fully upgrade, there is nothing left to explore after lvl 15 since you unlocked all your powers already. There's 110 levels, but they did away with all the extras that made leveling up meaningful, such as critical hits, fruit point upgrades, and mojo upgrades, so veterans end up with 91 meaningless levels. (That's over 80% empty content)
- Lack of score details and more information. Should've had it developed, you beta tested this thing for weeks and it's not there. You give players no clue how they got their score, even though it's quite clear (through Fiddler) a score breakdown is present and is sent back to the game servers. (See above image)
- Not doing anything about it. It's explainable that those who maintain the page aren't the developers and can only forward requests, but if people are complaining, you should speak to them, not give generic responses to give the game a chance, or putting up exciting posts about the game without even looking at the comments at all. Worse, even entire posts are being pulled off for periods at a time, and not even a single post was made informing them that they were going to fix this. You had one job!
(Must be EA's doing. Anyways...)
- Not telling people that the switch was permanent and making finding a survey hard to find.
What Should Be Improved
- Improve the help pages a bit and make them accurate. Misleading information is probably what drives people off. I wasn't informed that "the faster you get more life" actually meant one extra life every 40ish games, while at the same time making it longer than the old island to regenerate life.
- Notify players before changing the score mechanics. It's sad to have tons of people leaving because they got very low scores, mainly due to the gap shot scoring rules, which were silently changed in the new version, and disregarding even what Popcap Scott said about Double Tapping. You can dismiss his Tiki Tip, that trick's not gonna work anymore.
- Add some additional features when leveling up doesn't give you a power upgrade. Unless the devs made it that way, there needs to be some way of indicating that having a higher level gives you an advantage over low level players, for both new players and vets alike. At this time, assuming that all powers were unlocked on the previous island, after level 8 if one player is sufficiently skilled than the other he will always win, no matter what level the other player is at, be it 10 or 100 levels apart.
- Don't ever let players buy high tier powers. It just makes the game unfair and leaderboards always favor the person who spends money to max their upgrades. A new player can immediately buy Sands of Time III for less than ten bucks and will tilt the odds in their favor for at least a few months while other players have to level up to get to it.
- Change the look of the two people. They eyes look... reptillian.
The island was not ready to handle tons of dissatisfied players - its numerous bugs (no pun intended) and lack of game features indicate Kroakatoa was clearly not ready to be revealed and explored at this time.