Five Suggestions for Improving Game / Server Lifespan

early-access

#1

Throughout Early Access the game has risen and fallen from the public eye. People are feverishly interested in this game, but there are some key mechanics that I have found cause players to drop it after just a few months. This leads servers to drop from max-capacity to just a fraction after five months (and sometimes sooner).

I’ll try to illustrate this, as it has repeatedly happened after each wipe throughout Early Access. The good news is that players have always come back post-wipe, in greater numbers. But without a wipe after release, the servers may stagnate and become abandoned in short time.

I won’t argue for regular wipes post-release, as I feel that damages the significance of the gameplay. Instead, I offer five suggestions for improving the gameplay mechanics, which will help keep servers alive and full of excitement for all players — not just the twelve or so players who are the ‘alpha’ clan and their allies.

I’ll start by illustrating how servers have shown to progress with time, until they eventually become sparsely populated. You can also skip to the section beneath, which gets right to the suggestions.


SAMPLE SERVER TIMELINE

Day One

When a server starts after a wipe, it fills up to capacity. #616 will fill up to 40 players. Then, #610 will fill up to 40 players. And so on until all the players are ‘seated’ in a server.

Now, on each full server, there is only enough room for about three serious clans. A serious clan might have 6 or 7 players, so that a server will have 21 players (half the server) being of those major clans alone. The rest of the server is filled by 5 minor clans (2-5 players) making up another 15 players, and solo players being the remaining amount. In total, you might have just seven clans on a server, on day one.

Two Months Later

As the game progresses, people start to bow out. Two months later, where a server used to have 3 major clans, 5 minor clans, and 6 solo players, it will now have just 2 major clans (12 players), 3 minor clans (another 12 players), and 5 solo players. Total active players now number at 29.

That’s still a fair number of players, but the game structure is beginning to solidify. People have cemented their alliances, and have identified their enemies. The population goes downhill, as players begin to ‘grief each other off the server’ in a zero-sum, scorched earth environment. The strong prey on the weak. Players log in to find their bases repeatedly destroyed, as an increasingly powerful ‘alpha’ alliance develops.

Five Months Later

After five months, the composition has significantly degraded. You might have one clan, which has achieved ‘alpha’ status, another 2 minor clans which have allied with the alpha, and solo players who are regularly raided by the established alliance. Those solo players aren’t having much fun, and leave the server weekly. Total player count: 18.

And that’s for a server that was packed to the brim at Day 1. Servers that aren’t so packed will experience a drop even faster than this illustration. I can attest that this is the same phenomenon that happens across multiple servers. Perhaps people can comment whether this has happened to their server as well.


SUGGESTIONS

Here are my suggestions to alleviate the predictable population-decay that we’ve seen in Early Access:

  1. Create a stronger ‘fallback’ tier. Prevent the effectiveness of ‘scorched earth’ tactics by improving the ability to rebuild, bounce back, and take vengeance upon clans you truly hate. I suggest this as a tier that may be crafted from the inventory, like a ‘Stone Tools 2.0’ but crafted from Obsidian and Bone. The purpose of this is to alleviate the ‘grief them off the server’ mentality, where a clan can be neutered by destroying their base.
    Make it so that clans cannot be neutered to such a significant extent, so that players will be more hesitant to attempt total war. Let players stalk the woods, with rude and violent obsidian weapons, armored in bone rib-cages and skulls, striking fear into those who claim that they are the ‘alphas’. Let players make vengeance more easily.

  2. Improve server capacity. This will reduce the ability for a single clan to become alpha. When there are more clans vying for power, there is less ability to keep track of all the clans on a server. Right now it is easy to scout out where every clan is building — in my example, by the second month, you can count the number of clans on a single hand. By introducing more ‘noise’, and more clans to a server, then it is less possible to ‘dominate’ everyone. You want as many big clans to be on the same server at once, and as many medium clans to be on the server at once as well.

  3. Increase map size. The new ‘swungle’ (Swamp/Jungle) biome will be a massive help. This is especially because it is so far away from the North. More size means less ability to survey the entire map, and a greater potential to rebuild after a defeat. Additional biomes would help even further — reducing the ability for an alpha alliance to ‘see all and raid all’.

  4. Make a highly effective Purge system, which targets the alphas and prevents them from dominating the server at great length. Great clans should be able to dominate, but their control should be increasingly contested until their empire inevitably crumbles. The Purge should specifically target alpha clans, and constantly harry them as they attempt to solidify their rule, and hoard the pillage of the server. The Purge should be so devastating that a true ‘alpha’ can hardly catch their breath.

  5. Create different servers for large, medium, and small clan sizes. This would enable 6+ major clans to fit on a server, 10+ medium clans to fit on a server, and 20+ small clans to fit on a server. Having the same-sized clans sharing a server would create more of an even playing field. This is more of a competitive gameplay mode. Perhaps this could be something to run as tournaments alongside the regular servers.

People are going to love this game no matter what, but it has so far proven to have a short lifespan throughout Early Access, due to such an overwhelming alpha mechanic.

My preferred suggestion is my first one: Creating a new tier of Obsidian tools and weapons, and Bone armor (crafted from the inventory) that would enable clans to rebuild much faster, and be terrifying to fight against in the open fields. This tier should not be so powerful as Steel, but have its effectiveness be in that it is simple to make, and matters little if it is lost to a more powerful foe. This is my preferred suggestion because it is the simplest to implement, and the cheapest in development cost (as there has already been strong hints of an impending Obsidian and Bone tier).


#2

Well put. Another thing I’ve noticed from other games is that the “Alpha’s” tend to leave themselves after they grief everyone off a server with weak memes such as “Gitgud”, Dedgame", “Worldchamps” etc…

I like the idea of easily craftable, disposable midgrade weapons for those who are having a hard time. It would add that element of “I’ll be back” and give them a way to defend themselves.

With such low population caps, clans SHOULD be limited to 6-8 people so they don’t have half the server within just one clan, for more diversity. Often times the “Alpha’s” hate to lose at all, and only get the strongest, most skilled people together and don’t like fair competition. Smaller clan size would limit the amount of expendable fodder and even up fight numbers (although i could see alliances forming to get around it, but it would still limit resource sharing).


#3

While I am for bone and obsidian equipment, I am not sure it needs to be a fall back tier. Larger maps with more biomes is good because it provides defeated clans places where they can hide and regroup. The most important thing, though, is a robust purge. When a clan is so powerful that no players can defeat them, the purge is the only thing that can both provide a challenge to the alpha (giving them something to do) and disrupt there dominance to allow another clan to become competitive.


#4

Thanks, I’m glad you find these to be worthy suggestions.

The ‘alpha’ dynamic is alluring, and after all, the slogan goes “SURVIVE. BUILD. DOMINATE.” My suggestions are designed to create a higher barrier for being a true server ‘alpha’. Not only would one need to be able to dominate the players, but at the same time they would need to protect their base from a very ruthless Purge.

You may break the morale of a player, but the Purge will constantly drain your resources.

I would love to see Locusts that can shoot acid-spit that can corrode stone, Giants that can break down walls, and Batdemons that can pluck players off of walls.

But I also don’t have full confidence in the Purge to be able to tackle players’ ingenuity. We haven’t seen a flying mechanic, nor a climbing mechanic for AIs. Therefore it seems reasonable that clifftop bases will be immune to the Purge until these AI components are added.


#5

A strong PvE possibilities should only enchance the PvP experience, give incentive to do something else than rooting out bases.

Players will find a way to avoid combat with AI becouse it is how it is meant to be. If AI is unescapable then that will cause alot of rage. There is a solution to make defenders sally out against purge however, one present on pages of our history. Make purge bring siege machines (or boulder hurling giants!) to bare and archers. Let them throw orbs and place explosives. That will force players to face them instead of hiding. Let our thrall fighters fulfill their rightful cannon fodder duty! With all this I would also assume purges being able to be set to certain hours in a day, at least as an option for some servers. I don’t want to loose due to sleep or work.

Is it possible to make humanoid enemies group aggro? Like when you attack a village a band come to face you, maybe shouldn’t have tried to solo an entire village next time without a good plan? Or maybe you are that good and you just might? Like an alarm thing that makes surrounding NPC aggro as well, not the entire village necessary but at least fighters in the same group:
"
-so then me and Grom went out and…
-hold on a second! I see an enemy! Going to charge and be right back!
-sure buddy, ill just wait here and let you get slaughtered on your own
"

Enchance the dungeons. Black keep is a good example of fun and rather challenging encounter. I would only add some moving enemies to make clearing it inconsistent. Add more enemies to the dregs sewers, and toughen em up. Players with low level have other things to do rather than clearing dungeons. Best to move that dungeoing content into everlasting endgame (or those good enough to face that challenge earlier). And I would say this again: make bosses immune to arrows - give them some sort of invisible shield when enemy is not within a certain distance (dregs got scaly skin, black keep boss got thick armor, projectiles loose their impact with distance - for anyone who would claim it to be unrealistic). Face your enemies like a man not a mice! It is also boring to make people cover in a certain place shooting hundreds of arrows…


#6

I whole-heartedly agree. I would love to see more dungeons in the game that have a) meaningful loot and b) provide challenging content that can be done with a small group of 2-4 fairly skilled players. Sorcery coming into the game would make dungeons even MORE fun by allowing for healing, CC, summoning etc. Quests would be a welcomed addition to the game as well. Not quests like…WoW quests, but quests for instance you might get from the neutral city. Bounty quests, gathering quests, provisioning quests (like supplying the city builders with 10 reinforced foundations or something). The quests should be random, traversing the world and repeatable to always give even high level players something to do.


#7

A strong PvE possibilities should only enchance the PvP experience, give incentive to do something else than rooting out bases.

Definitely. But then again, players always have access to ways to improve their own bases at nobody’s expense. They can build more walls, more towers, get more thralls… But in order to truly dominate, you don’t just bring yourself up. In order to dominate, you must also bring others down.

I would like to see the dungeons enhanced (who wouldn’t?) but I don’t think that would be the true answer to solving the issue of an overwhelming zero-sum ‘alpha griefing’ mechanic.

I’ve seen some other users on Reddit recently suggest shifting the balance of defense and offense. Make building more permanent, but also more difficult. Make raiding more expensive (orbs are ridiculously overpowered) and less accessible. Explosive jars are already quite balanced. Trebuchets aren’t bad either. Making orbs less effective would help.

There are lots of ways to combat this issue. I’m hoping we can keep discussing this and find not only a bunch of different ways, but filter through them to find the best ways.


#8

On testlive orbs damage T3.
Orbs are overpowered due to their cost and ability to “reset” the burn timer. Orbs should be made more expensive to craft - they made explosive jars a liability.


#9

Or… How about the Gods (Avatars) randomly spawn in time to time (rarely) and wreck havoc. Gods do interfere in the matters of men on occasion. They could destroy all things they encounter for a set time limit. Making bigger losses for those who have more, and less losses for those who have nothing. Just a suggestion.


#10

Your preferred suggestion is absent one potential key factor. A highly cost-effective ‘fallback’ tier of armor and weapons will be used by the defenders as well as the attackers.

For example, many times I have seen defending clans sally out of their forts in their birthday suits, armed with iron weapons, to meet attackers. If the defenders die, they lose very little, but they can inflict enough damage over time to force the attackers to retreat to resupply or heal. Then the fight devolves into one of attrition.

Remember, what you give to one side, you give to all sides.

How then can this ‘fallback’ tier be refined so that the appeal declines with larger clans but rises with small-time outfits?


#11

If people want to defend wielding these savage weapons and armors, then they should! Players can also run naked against trebuchets, to try and steal the boulders and materials from inside. This presents more of an offensive, fighting alternative. More cheap and effective weapons and armor. More of a fighting chance!

The intention of this certainly isn’t to stop players from fighting during online raids — that’s one of the best things that can happen in the game. The point of these tools is to help high-leveled players rebuild and fight despite a huge loss of their industries.

No refinement necessary! Keep it savage.


#12

So some level 60 (70?) Feats for low-cost items that are craftable in a player’s inventory?

I can get behind that. Perhaps even lock these ‘fallback’ Feats in a dungeon somewhere, and require say, Hardened Steel Smelting or some such Feat?


#13

Hmm… Make them part of purge?
“How did you dare not giving enough sacrifices?! DIE!”…? :slight_smile:
For big bases though!
No reason for them to come to life in front of some 4x4x1 base…


#14

For example, many times I have seen defending clans sally out of their forts in their birthday suits, armed with iron weapons, to meet attackers. If the defenders die, they lose very little, but they can inflict enough damage over time to force the attackers to retreat to resupply or heal. Then the fight devolves into one of attrition.

A sound strategy. Very common in the history of warfare even today! Although I can see the unrealism in respawning over and over. This was easily solved in one of the first MMO’s Ultima Online - after 3rd death in a short time span you had to wait for you soul to regain strength (5-10 minutes would do).


#15
  1. Improve server capacity. This will reduce the ability for a single clan to become alpha. When there are more clans vying for power, there is less ability to keep track of all the clans on a server. Right now it is easy to scout out where every clan is building — in my example, by the second month, you can count the number of clans on a single hand. By introducing more ‘noise’, and more clans to a server, then it is less possible to ‘dominate’ everyone. You want as many big clans to be on the same server at once, and as many medium clans to be on the server at once as well.
  1. Increase map size. The new ‘swungle’ (Swamp/Jungle) biome will be a massive help. This is especially because it is so far away from the North. More size means less ability to survey the entire map, and a greater potential to rebuild after a defeat. Additional biomes would help even further — reducing the ability for an alpha alliance to ‘see all and raid all’.

Defintely strongly agree with 2 and 3. And not just because you name dropped Swungle
Alternatively i offer up: 2.5. Decreasing the total limit of clan members allowed. or progress blocking it with some sort of “clan experience”, I think 5 people per clan seems pretty reasonable for officials(Rather then the current limit which is 20. I assume that would probably make people want a in-game alliance system, rather then trust/friends making split clans.


#16

Take with chunk of salt as it comes from Reddit, but I’ve been catching up with the sub and lots of clan players say this: 22 is too few. After Frozen North I played on a team where our nightwatch was Team Oceania. We also had some Brazilian members. So the limit meant about half the slots were taken by offline members.