Through the last several months, many players, myself included, have had mixed experiences with -Mafia 2.0-. I have embarked on a quest to see where these experiences diverge. What is working? What isn't working? What needs desperate attention? I've compiled lots of information and data over the past couple weeks from arcade players and held several long-winded conversations over Discord about the current state of the game.
Here is my interpretation of the SC2 Mafia 'meta' and how its evolved/morphed to fit the new dynamic of -Mafia 2.0- .
[ META ] - (Most Effective Tactic/s Available) is a term used to describe the most effective method of achieving victory in a game or setting. In the case of -Mafia-, the 'meta' is both the standard 8331 or 933 setup as well as how players navigate this setup with their own intuition and strategies.
It's worth noting that every game in -Mafia- is different. Sometimes the meta is in play, sometimes its not. Many people refer to the meta as "game within a game" because of the strategies that develop back and forth between players. Essentially, its a strategic and logistical "Mind Game" that never stops shifting in strategy.
First and foremost, Starcraft 2 itself is outdated. Very few new players are actively joining the Arcade, and I think everyone knows this. There isn't really a solution to this, SC2 has been neglected by Blizzard Admins for a few years now, and auto-bot moderation has taken over any sort of moderation that was going on. The best thing i can think of for -Mafia- community to survive LONG TERM is porting ourselves as a F2P game on Steam. Not only a logistical challenge, but we as the -Mafia- community enjoy a certain aspect of liberty and freedom of speech in our games. If we were to be assimilated into the corporate Hiveminds of Steam, Origin, etc., we would lose a lot of that autonomy that we enjoy.
With the deterioration of the Arcade, the player base is becoming more rigid, and people who enjoy the Arcade are actually branching out to other games. So, while the Arcade and SC2 itself are on the proverbial clock, -Mafia- has actually seen an increase in player count. And I don't mean old players coming back from hiatus, I mean old arcade veterans who've decided to branch out to see if -Mafia- is worth their time. This is where I will target most of my research, taking the point of view of older arcade veterans as they learn and struggle to grasp the intricate chat-based gameplay.
To start, 2.0 has 15 new roles to play with. At surface level, this is great. New roles are almost ALWAYS appreciated. I cannot describe how excited i was to see our players genuinely happy and ecstatic to try out the new roles. This is both good and bad. New evil roles and new neutral roles are fine, because of the way Standard 933/8331 setups are arranged, having a singular neutral evil that could potentially be 1 out of the 5 evil roles doesn't affect the game. The problems start to arise with the new Town roles. In a game of Mafia, typically every person counts. Whether they are totally AFK, screeching obscenities in day chat, or just generally being stupid, Every Single Townie plays a vital and important role in the maintenance and survival of the rest of the town. Think of it this way;
If a save contains two Protective slots, these slots can be filled with (Doctor, Bodyguard, Armorsmith). Each of these roles serves a vital role and has the potential to completely flop a game in one way or another. A Bodyguard is an invaluable asset to the Town Government.
Spinning the pendulum, if a role list contains two Support slots, these slots can be filled with (Party Host, Escort, Oracle, Street Racer). The problem here, is that some of these roles "outperform" the others.
Party Host in general is seen with loads of distaste in the -Mafia- community, simply because it's mechanics just aren't helpful to the town as a whole. Hosting parties is a good way to keep dialogue between townies going, especially when there is a government role. Party Host has very little practical applications. The best way i've been Party Host used is by hosting parties to confirm themselves. While i think the Party Host is a flavorful role, i don't think it has any business being in a traditional 8331 or 933 setups. A maximum of two parties means on average a party is hosted N1 78.2% of the time. This means on average a party host will have 1-2 parties left to play around with in a given setup. Assuming they don't die, the odds of a Party Host attempting to userp the position of a dead Government, are 0%. Especially if there are other townies who outclass the Party Host in terms of raw strength, like a Veteran or Vigilante.
Tying into the dislike of Party Host, the number of Town roles has increased by 6. This affects the 'Role Pool' significantly, it means every role has a less % chance to spawn on average. This means that the number of town roles that don't spawn increases. Some roles are present every game, and that's important for the stability of the meta. The -Mafia- meta has undergone some changes since I started playing, generally there was a shift from 933 to 8331 because of the extra diversity and freedom the "Any Random" slot allowed in terms of both assigning roles to the town, and evil roles capability to forge claims. The addition of new roles, while positively welcome, has overall had a detrimental effect on the stability of the meta thanks to there being too much diversity on the side of the Town. The new roles are great, and they each are fun to play, but they don't Synergize very well together.
The Oracle, one of the magical support roles, does absolutely NOTHING 'support' related. Comparing Oracle to Street Racer is like comparing Investigator to Bus Driver. Each of the Support roles does something specific, like the Escort, or the Street Racer, that usually involve some type of manipulation not found in any other role. The Oracle serves more in line with Investigative roles, except its WORSE because the Oracle needs to die in order to actually be of any use. I would argue that a mechanic that requires a player to die in order to work isn't very fun to play around with.
I haven't even started on the Triad/Mafia side of the argument. Because of the 3 players on the Triad/Mafia team, this 'role pool dilution' is even more extreme. It is absolutely imperative that the Mafia/Triad have roles in their roster that can stay active and stay alive even if one of them drops off. Each team got both 2 unique roles, and 2 roles that are available to each other team. Double Flower, 49er, Soldato, and arguably Caporegime each have mechanics and abilities that keep the Triad and Mafia actively participating in the game.
(Caporegime has unfortunately suffered from the problem above. He takes up a very valuable slot as the third mafia member, and he sucks in the sense that swapping other mafia's roles is such a niche ability, it rarely ever plays out in favor of the Mafia.)
Swinger/Heartbreaker, and Actress/Diva, on the other hand, seem to have 'flopped' in terms of playability. Actress/Diva are very good roles mechanically wise. Interacting with the graveyard is something few roles possess, and for good reason. A single dead Actress/Diva can mislead and misdirect the town simply by existing as a dead entity in the graveyard. It's a great mechanic, but the veteran -Mafia- players wizened up to these Actress/Diva situations, so i think Actress and Diva are in a good spots mechanically and logistically.
Swinger, Heartbreaker, and Lover are not in good positions in the current meta. Lover, as I have explained before, is bad. Very bad. The problem with Lover lies in its ability. The Lover MUST fall in love with another player. If the Lover does not pick a target N1, they will suicide. And that's the "Lover" experience. If you were AFK while the game started and missed n1, sorry bro, no game for you. If you got redirected, manipulated, or otherwise, sorry bro, no game for you.
Falling in Love also presents its own problem. You tie your hitbox to another player. You essentially make any player that is alive in the game and double the chance for him to die at night. If you die, the other will die, and vice versa. While it's a good idea on paper, and even better considering it mirrors an already existing role, Executioner, in practice it's just the absolute WORST role you can get assigned. And i feel partially responsible for that since I threw the idea out there in the first place.
If you are a Lover, and you end up falling in love with a Veteran, you just killed 2 people.
Now imagine you pick another player, let's say you land on the Arsonist. Sure, the Arsonist is now disillusioned to dousing you, but now you've essentially nullified the Immunity a killing role possessed. If you fall in love with a role which has night immunity, you just stripped them of their night immunity.
The best way for a Lover to play the game, right now, is to just afk and not love anyone n1. This way, you're eliminating yourself from the game without taking anyone with you, and you're allowing the town to cross off the potential Benign role.
It's also worth mentioning that Heartbreaker and Swinger suffer from this problem too, they don't really do anything in the games they exist in. It's actually the meta right now to completely AFK and focus on fabricating a good fake role claim rather than use your ability as Swinger/HeartBreaker, because the role is just so underwhelming and underpowered, its best to just not interact with it at all.
Poisoner and Electromancer are fun roles to play with, but in the setting of 8331/933, Poisoner and Electromancer DO NOT have the ability to win games by themselves in ways that SK/Arso/MM usually do, and this is because of the lack of immunity. As frinkies has stated, giving those roles immunity might actually make them too strong for the town to handle, which is understandable thanks to the Poisoners similarity to 'dousing' and nigh-unblockable kill.
Overall, I believe that our development team should slow down with production/implementation of new roles and focus on ironing/polishing the roles that already exist. Adding new roles tips the fragile balance of power that currently exists in -Mafia-. If players feel like their role isn't fun, they stop playing, or just don't participate like they normally would, and this dampens overall playability and game progression.
Thank you for reading/skimming over this report. I love -Mafia- and its community, and that's why I want what's best for the new roles that are added/removed/changed, this game will always be close to my heart, and if possible, I will keep this games heart beating for as long as it will allow.