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Topics - Kira Wa Nai

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With creation of the player counsel the community has gotten a great opportunity to improve the game.
It is, however, pretty chaotic, disorganized and, most importantly, doesn't have a slightest clue of what they are trying to build.
This results in inefficient testing, hurt feelings (my latest attempt to organize an internal test was met with "nobody cares mate so im not wasting my time on this") and general disillusionment in the whole thing.

Hence, I want the following questions answered by the developers:
  • How do you see Alliance and Skirmish? Are they separate games that can(and should) provide separate experiences? Can the numbers and mechanics differ between the two? Will you try to unify them or keep them separate?
  • How do you see the competitive play? Is it something rudimentary or is it the central pillar of the community?
  • Related to the previous question, which audience is the game balanced for? New players? Competitive players? Casuals?
  • Are new game mechanics planned? Is proposing a new mechanic valid feedback or will it be scraped as being too low ROI?
  • What is the general balance strategy? The current devapp tests are not enough for thoroughly testing things, so it's either greatly increasing the quality and quantity of those, or just stuffing things onto the live server and doing the balance later. This could be pretty important for the competitive community.

Right now everyone in the player counsel has their own opinion regarding any and every of these questions, so it would be nice to get a coherent vision that we all could follow.

Feedback and Suggestions / A cry for change
« on: January 16, 2017, 04:48:11 pm »
Before I begin, I want to apologize if this post comes off as somewhat rude - I tried my best to make it polite and level headed, but the russian definition of “polite and level headed” differs a lot from the american one and I am not really good at producing texts that fit the latter.

This post is a compilation of opinions of Polaris Company members written after the latest Spire playtest.

Short summary:
We are dissatisfied with the development and balance process of Skirmish mode.
In our opinion, the game has a lot of potential which isn’t harnessed by the dev team due to either lack of experience or conscious decision to ignore it.
We would like to ask for at least a promise of post-Alliance-release change in said process.

And now to the actual post.

Old players might remember who Polaris Company is - an old russian clan that played competitive and had mostly been incative for the past two and a half years. We love this game and, despite it becoming pretty stale and boring for us, still come back occasionally. We also love the Spire, and the news of it being changed managed to get many of our members to reset their two-year long offline timers. Having participated in the two “Tank Spire” playtests, we have become desperate enough to overcome our dislike of community interaction and write this plea.

This post is about the Skirmish mode (deathmatch in particular), its development and balance process and its future.

Skirmish mode is a competitive, cooperative PVP game with very high skill ceiling.
It also has a very steep learning curve, forcing new players into interaction with the older ones.

Therefore, it needs a few vital components to exist - a community, a competitive scene and a player-developer feedback loop to keep the game interesting.

Due to either inexperience or excessive focus on Alliance, only the community part has been somewhat nurtured by the dev team. The competitive scene was largely powered by the efforts of a few community contributors with occasional blessing by Keyvias and the player-developer feedback loop is nonexistent.

The last part is, in our opinion, the biggest problem.
GoIO is hard to balance, it is hard to introduce new things into it and it’s hard to change whatever is already in the game. Balancing such a game requires a complete, coherent vision regarding the following questions:
  • How is the game meant to be played?
  • By whom is the game meant to be played?
  • How long of a future do we see for this game?

Such vision is necessary to produce coherent, sensible changes to game mechanics, balance and content. It needs to be constantly discussed, criticized, and iterated upon - all as transparently as possible, to give the target audience whatever it desires.

This hasn’t been happening for the past four years and it isn’t happening now.
In our opinion, if it doesn’t start very soon, the game will die shortly after the initial Alliance euphoria is over.

What is happening right now feels, frankly, like a complete neglect of the game by its developers.
Such a vision doesn't seem to exist at all.

The key figure here is the person responsible for game balance.
To produce changes that actually make sense to be introduced into the game, this person has to closely interract with both casual and competitive communities, collect their feedback, openly propose and discuss changes, conduct playtests and only then make any decisions.

Right now, exactly none of this is happening.

Instead, this is:

Please, don’t take this personally, I’m just trying to showcase how far from the optimal design process the game currently is.

The Spire playtest is another illustration of disconnect between the dev team and the community.

A group of players has been pushing for a playtest of “Tank Spire”, giving the dev team exact changes that they wanted to see.
Instead, the test server had something insane. The changes on it just didn’t make sense. They accomplished exactly nothing to fix whatever problem Spire has, they weren’t even a direct implementation of community’s proposal. They looked absurd to anyone who actually plays the game and knows the ship.
Its primary defense mechanism was taken away with nothing of use given in return. Its firepower was taken away with nothing of use given in return. Its maneuverability was taken away with nothing of use given in return. Why would anyone who actually plays the game do that?

And the person responsible for the game balance wasn’t present at the playtest to hear the dissatisfaction. Instead, community managers were. They are great people and we love them, but it’s not a CM’s job to do the game balance! They aren’t nearly good enough at intricacies of game mechanics to do a good job of translating player’s post-test ramblings into coherent feedback!

Said person has given up on reading forums too, so the only way to reach him is to PM him on the rare occasion when he is in game.

This shouldn’t be happening. Nothing will be accomplished this way. The feedback is distorted, the decision process is nontransparent, and there appears to be no actual vision of the game’s future.

The only thing used to do the balancing right now is numbers. Arc angles. Damage numbers. HP and armor points. Speeds.

Map design is not being used. It is as powerful of a balancing tool as the numbers are. Map changes can influence the meta tremendously, promoting or discouraging certain playstyles, making certain mechanics and ships more viable, and doing everything you want from a balance tool. Instead, the maps are almost exactly the same as they have been four years ago.

New content is not being used. Introducing a mechanic or a ship is an extremely powerful tool to do balance. Alliance has an enormous amount of content, sitting ready to be ported into Skirmish. It’s potential to affect gameplay is not harnessed. Since release, the following content had been added:
  • Spire
  • Mobula
  • Lumberjack
  • Hades
  • Mine Launcher
  • Minotaur
  • Canyon Ambush
  • Labyrinth
  • Refinery
  • Rangefinder

Most of these were added in the first year and a half of game’s existence.
For the past two and a half years, the game has had very little new content to shake up the meta.
Please, Muse, do something. You have a passionate community that refuses to let the game die and gives you almost a carte blanche for changes.

Please, discuss how you see the Skirmish mode’s future. How you want it to be played. Whom you want to play it.

Post it for community to discuss and criticize. Listen to this feedback and make changes to it to make it match the community’s desires closer. Make this as transparent as possible.

Redo the balance process. Create a much closer interaction between the community representatives and the balance team. Turn the Hand of Balance into the Head of Balance and let the community hear his thoughts and plans. Conduct proper playtests with balance team present to hear and discuss the feedback. Utilize the currently unused map design and content addition.

We understand that the team is currently very busy with Alliance. We aren’t asking for you to start running like you are on fire and to immediately implement the changes described here.

But please, at least give us a promise that you will do this after Alliance is released. We love this game and really don’t want to see it die before we are done having fun in it.

P.S. If it wasn't obvious, the expected outcome of this post is a reply from Eric. Come out and play, we won’t bite you!

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