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Part 1: Lessons to be learned from Crowfall, another KS MMO in production

WarthWarth Member
edited August 2020 in General Discussion
I have spent quite a few hours in Crowfall, in order to bridge the wait until the Alpha of AoC. The latest Beta Phase just started a couple of weeks ago.

I think there are a couple of major takeaways, which might become relevant for AoC, as both games are in development right now. First I’ll start out with the objective observations, then
I’ll give you more of my personal opinion regarding the game’s features, that find resemblance within AoC.

Let’s start out with the most important one:

Performance is King

I can’t stress this enough, but a decent performance is the bread and butter for any decent MMO, especially when they feature medium – large scale battles. A game that stutters isn’t fun. Playing a game with 25 FPS once there is 20 people fighting is neither immersive nor does it encourage the player to stick with the game for very long.

Just look at Steam’s monthly hardware survey.
Graphic cards like the 2070 are by no means prevalent in most systems. Obviously, the release is still quite a bit in the future, so there will be quite a few upgrades within the player base. This doesn’t change the fact, that poor performance can easily turn away 20-40% of the future player base, depending on severity of the optimization problem.

This is something a lot of genre defining games have in common: They are easily accessible on a fundamental gameplay level, whether you play on a toaster or a high-end PC.

Running around in a city with 45 FPS, small scale combat ( < 20 participants) with 30 FPS and large scale combat with 10-15 FPS simply is not enjoyable. No amount of content, well thought-out game systems and community interaction can replace a playable performance on a lower mid-tier PC. You can hardly make them have a stutter-free experience in the 250v250 Castle Wars, but you can (and you have to) give them a playable everyday experience (with up to 50-80 participants), or increasing number of players will turn away day by day. Like my previous Boss always used to say: “Performance isn’t everything, but everything is nothing without Performance”.

Unfortunately for Crowfall, this is one of the major issues. 45 FPS within the player hubs, 30 FPS in small scale combat and 10 FPS in combat involving 50+ People are currently common. It is turning away potential players every day, it is discouraging active players from playing until there have been major improvements. I would hate to see the same thing happen to AoC. The excuse of it “only being Alpha 2 or Beta 1” simply doesn’t fly for very long. There has to be a certain degree of optimization and polish, that enable the players to comfortably play the core gameplay activities of the game, whatever the testing phase post Alpha 1. Venturing through the world alone with less than 60 FPS and player hubs with even worse FPS just dont build a lot of trust with the community, no matter how much you promise that it will become better.

Community, Community, Community

Crowfall had a recent promotion, which gave you a 20% discount on the Pledge Packages when you join a guild before purchasing the game. I can’t tell you how much this improves the onboarding experience of a new player. People get help, People form connections, People find new friends to enjoy a new game with. Within a couple of minutes, you already meet new people, that try to help you out when you are stuck, group up with you when they level alts and answer all kinds of questions you might have about the game. It also provides a room for Newb-Oriented guilds that exist to help new players get into the game. Crowfall has a lot of them and they are blessing to have. They are a shining example on the great things an (“allegedly Toxic PVP”) Community can do, if you provide them the tools to be good. So far, the community I have experienced there, is easily the best community I have experienced in any MMORPG so far. Getting such a good first experience improves your will to continue the game a lot.

Community, Guilds and Friends are one of the MAIN ways to retain players for a long time. Who hasn’t played a (honestly) subpar game before, oftentimes much longer than the game would have deserved, solely for the people they have played with? I certainly have (*cough Bless Online *cough*). Even shit games will become reasonable fun if you have people to experience it with.

I would a believe to a 100%, that a similar promotion would go great lengths for a community driven MMO like Ashes. "Join a guild and get 20% off your subscription costs for the first 3 months". This wouldn’t only attract more players to the game, it would probably pay off big time as players stick to the game for an extended period of time.

The onboarding experience

Crowfall provides you with tutorial-like quest for the first ~ 2 hours of the game. They teach you the basics and give you a sense of direction in a world, where a direction is so hard to find. At least that’s what they are supposed todo. In reality, it just doesn’t quite work out that way.

Why? Because they encourage you to mindlessly follow the quest line the same way WoW encourages you to do. Just, that they suddenly stop once you are at level ~ 18/30.
This isn’t exactly a problem. The problem itself stems from the facts,

* that these quests have minimal learning value, as you just mindlessly work through them

* that there is no smooth transition between the quest period (WoW) and the key-gameplay loop of the game. (Farming materials in the open world, grouping up with others and beating each other up for rare items, fun and the ultimate goal of winning the campaign).

* that they are in sharp contrast of what the game is truly about.

I do think, that an introductory quest system is important for the onboarding experience of new players. They should however be reasonable fun and teach you about the core gameplay mechanics of the game, rather than delaying the actual learning experience until 1-5 hours into the game. Wasting a new players time with fetch quest simply isn't good game design.

This has already become longer than I expected it to be. I’ll put up the second part on similar game systems to AoC, interesting decisions in design philosophy and creative solutions to common MMO problems tomorrow.

Comments

  • CaptnChuckCaptnChuck Member
    edited August 2020
    I agree with most of the points that you've said, except for this:
    Warth wrote: »

    I would a believe to a 100%, that a similar promotion would go great lengths for a community driven MMO like Ashes. "Join a guild and get 20% off your subscription costs for the first 3 months". This wouldn’t only attract more players to the game, it would probably pay off big time as players stick to the game for an extended period of time.

    I think its great to do this for the first month, but not more than that. The game relies on sub fees primarily for income. If every new player pays 20% less, for 3 months, that can be a lot of potential revenue lost, not to mention the reduced cost for botters and multiboxers to do their thing.
  • Your first point about performance is the most important one for me.

    It's one of those aspects that I'm kinda worried about. Because it's hard to optimize a game, and Intrepid studios is a pretty small studio.

    With all the big scale battles that AOC will have, it's going to be very taxing on your CPU particularly, and I worry that the game won't be optimized for multithreading enough.

    I hope I'm wrong though.
  • CaptnChuck wrote: »
    I agree with most of the points that you've said, except for this:
    Warth wrote: »

    I would a believe to a 100%, that a similar promotion would go great lengths for a community driven MMO like Ashes. "Join a guild and get 20% off your subscription costs for the first 3 months". This wouldn’t only attract more players to the game, it would probably pay off big time as players stick to the game for an extended period of time.

    I think its great to do this for the first month, but not more than that. The game relies on sub fees primarily for income. If every new player pays 20% less, for 3 months, that can be a lot of potential revenue lost, not to mention the reduced cost for botters and multiboxers to do their thing.

    the 3 months were merely on example. How exactly this would look is up to intrepid.Getting the to join a guild is the primary thought behind it. It could also read: "Join a guild an your next sub costs 30% less". This way the abuse potential would be reduced as bots/goldseller still habe to buy the first month in full
  • AtamaAtama Member, Braver of Worlds, Kickstarter, Alpha One
    Actually I like the idea of finding a way to promote the community aspect.

    Maybe a sub discount isn’t the way to go though. Maybe you just get something in-game. A skin or boost, I dunno.

    I definitely felt more encouraged to join guilds when there was an immediate advantage to doing so, even when I wasn’t too interested in socializing (especially when I’m going through beginner content that can be soloed). WoW gave bonuses depending on what rank the guild was. In ESO, joining a guild was the best way to buy and sell things since there was no AH (and they let you join up to 3 guilds, and many guilds only existed as stores). In Star Trek Online you can join a fleet (that’s the equivalent of a guild) to gain access to many services available to fleet members. In those games at some point I had joined guilds for non-social reasons.

    I think that sort of tactic can work pretty well, I know that when I joined guilds for convenience or boosts I eventually met people through them and became social on top of everything else.
     
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  • PlagueMonkPlagueMonk Member
    edited August 2020
    Warth wrote: »
    I have spent quite a few hours in Crowfall, in order to bridge the wait until the Alpha of AoC. The latest Beta Phase just started a couple of weeks ago.

    I think there are a couple of major takeaways, which might become relevant for AoC, as both games are in development right now. First I’ll start out with the objective observations, then
    I’ll give you more of my personal opinion regarding the game’s features, that find resemblance within AoC.

    Let’s start out with the most important one:

    Performance is King

    Unfortunately for Crowfall, this is one of the major issues. 45 FPS within the player hubs, 30 FPS in small scale combat and 10 FPS in combat involving 50+ People are currently common. It is turning away potential players every day, it is discouraging active players from playing until there have been major improvements. I would hate to see the same thing happen to AoC. The excuse of it “only being Alpha 2 or Beta 1” simply doesn’t fly for very long. There has to be a certain degree of optimization and polish, that enable the players to comfortably play the core gameplay activities of the game, whatever the testing phase post Alpha 1. Venturing through the world alone with less than 60 FPS and player hubs with even worse FPS just dont build a lot of trust with the community, no matter how much you promise that it will become better.

    When I played DAoC, my first PC wasn't what you would call a 'gaming machine'. So when more than 50 people got together in a single area my frame rate would drop to sometimes < 1 FPS.......and then it would crash :p I remember more than a few ToA raids that I had to stand behind something just to keep my computer from crashing.

    THAT however was due to my first crappy computer that I later upgraded for a much better gaming experience. Lesson learned.

    Then there was Shadowbane where I had that same 2nd gen system but same thing happened. This time it wasn't my side but the server/game. One of the many many reason why I stopped playing that game so I can attest to the fact that if I'm running a good system but STILL can't get a good FPS I will be movin' on.
    Atama wrote: »
    Actually I like the idea of finding a way to promote the community aspect.

    Maybe a sub discount isn’t the way to go though. Maybe you just get something in-game. A skin or boost, I dunno.

    I definitely felt more encouraged to join guilds when there was an immediate advantage to doing so, even when I wasn’t too interested in socializing (especially when I’m going through beginner content that can be soloed). WoW gave bonuses depending on what rank the guild was. In ESO, joining a guild was the best way to buy and sell things since there was no AH (and they let you join up to 3 guilds, and many guilds only existed as stores). In Star Trek Online you can join a fleet (that’s the equivalent of a guild) to gain access to many services available to fleet members. In those games at some point I had joined guilds for non-social reasons.

    I think that sort of tactic can work pretty well, I know that when I joined guilds for convenience or boosts I eventually met people through them and became social on top of everything else.

    Again, ESO went old school like DAoC and you had to set up your own little shop somewhere. There was even a whole bidding war on spots monthly, I thought that was great. I also liked going from shop to shop to see if I could find the best deal. Often times it was knowing where to look that got you the best price/item, something you lost with an AH.

    In checking it looks like AoC will have a hybrid system that more heavily favor having AHs. This will be greatly increased if the city is economic. If I'm reading things correctly you can still set up your own shop.

    isFikWd2_o.jpg
  • Nice posting Warth. I agree with most of your points. Wholeheartedly about the community. I think everyone has played games just for the people you connect with. That is why WE can make AoC into something great and should do so.
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