Not a Space Game but a Civilization Simulator [An Essay on Expectations vs Reality]

Joined
Aug 9, 2019
Messages
12
#1
Disclaimer: This is a copy of the post I made on Reddit the other day. It has created some great discussions and I feel that it's appropriate to re-post it here for further discussion. https://www.reddit.com/r/starbase/comments/cnsay3
We are all excited about Starbase, the rootin tootin space shootin game. Though it has two huge hurtles that it needs to overcome which is the Early Release Hurtle and the Early Game Community Hurtle.

A bit of background about myself as a gamer. I have seen projects like this a dozen times in the past 10 years promising a dynamic massive multiplayer building survival experiences and have backed many projects to see these games develop. In not any particular order, World's Adrift, Crowfall, APB, StarCitizen, Ark, Conan Exiles, Planetside 2, Elite Dangerous, TUG, Yogventures, No Man's Sky, Sea of Thieves, DayZ, Empyrion, Space Engineers, StarMade, Rust, and Unturned. Yes, some of these are not like the others. Some have failed terribly while others have survived in their own unique way and others have delivered on their promises. All of which have brought me to witness the rise and fall of gaming communities and gaming companies, and seeing this game gets me excited again, but I don't want to be burned again.

Early Release Hurtle will make or break this game. Honestly, if it were up to me, I would push to delay the game until it's foundations can handle a stable release. Games are exhausting and first impressions are important. That first week for players will convince them to keep playing or never visit it again. The Sea of Thieves launch was pretty rough, I was among the first players in and the dev team had to sacrifice a lot of development to push out a playable build for Microsoft to advertise their new Gamer Pass. A year passes and Sea of Thieves is so much better now than it was, though what happened a year ago still stuck which was. "There's not much to do...." YouTubes initial reaction was disappointment and it spread hard. Even when bringing up Sea of Thieves to friends who haven't looked at it since launch, immediately lose interest due to their first impression. A better example was the No Man's Sky Launch. That was an impressive disaster that slowly got bandaged for 3 years due to expectations and hype. Most recently World's Adrift, the steampunk open world airship mmo, closed down after nearly 2 years of early release hell. The dev team seemed to have gotten lost in how to flesh out the game and hit wall after wall of server stability and player balancing. All in all, I urge the dev team to carefully consider how stable the game is. It's never too late to push a release date to 2020 or 2021 if that's what your team needs to ensure Day 1 success. You want youtubers gushing about how well their experience is, and how much fun it is. We don't need Angry Joe dressing up as a robot and then looking disappointed into a camera.

[A quick note to the developers reading this. Your honesty is invaluable to the community. We understand the hardships and discussing what issues you are facing means a lot. Sea of Thieves posts weekly dev updates, worlds Adrift team, despite the game failing, always were upfront about the issues plaguing the game all the way through to the end. In order for us as a player base to trust this game. We need to trust you. Don't be afraid to show us why a concept won't work or what concerns you as a developer. You've opened your game to the world, please let us help in any way that we can.]

Early Game Community Hurtle is what us, as a gaming community, need to handle when the servers open up for us. The most involved I've been in running communities was being in charge of RageQuit, a large gaming community, when I brought them to World's Adrift. I'm seeing the past repeat itself with communities writing up elaborate documents on how they will rein supreme. I was part of a writing team that made basic declarations before World's Adrift was even playable! The harsh reality is when StarBase is playable, none, if any of the communities being formed will survive initially. There will be two starting factions for everyone to start building their ships and machines. Everyone thinks they will immediately be taking part of large space battles, those huge battles may not even happen until a month after release.

We are building a civilization, we're gonna be a bunch of Space Cowboys in the first month. Here is how I will imagine it will go...
Day 1, everyone is gonna be very poor and rushing to throw together very basic ships. There is gonna be a lot of space junk floating around from players just leaving scraps to the first few players that find guns and start shooting up the place. Maybe we will see some form of basic mining ships just to use for getting materials built up.

End of Week 1. After a ton of trial and error, a handful of groups manage to make a small fleet to head out into the unknown to establish a remote bases. Nothing big at all, far enough from the starter area where not many will find them, but enough growing room to start experimenting and making money off of mining and shipping supplies back to one of the first faction bases. There is a big risk of being pirated or griefed by players who have made decent combat ships,
End of Week 2. The remote colonies are gaining a bit of leverage, players are inclined to get new players from the starting area, regular transportation routes are beginning to form. Some colonies may afford to hire mercenaries to protect their mining operations as they move materials around.
End of Week 3. Player designed ships are getting a bit more advanced with gamers mastering YOLOL, the colonies that can afford it are getting better at defending and trading, discovering new markets such as selling basic ships at the starting factions. Meanwhile at the starting factions, players who have elected to stay within the safe zone have developed factories for automation, designed fun interactive rooms using YOLOL such as mini-games, fun interior designed buildings, overall the 2 starting factions are looking less like a mosh pit and more of a city.

End of the first Month. Forums are freaking out, the 3rd faction megastation has been established. Many long hours of mining, trading, and recruiting, have turned what started out as, a few friends establishing a small base, into the first player made profitable megastation. 4 separate groups came together to make this megastation happen. The other player groups who haven't gotten that far, are jealous, and declare war. Thus the first major space battle takes place.
Thank you for reading this far, I don't normally write essays, I graduated college a few years ago, turns out you don't write very often afterwards. I love what we've been shown to us. I want to see this game reach the it's zenith of potential. I want it to be the crown jewel that shines into the 2020s as the new era of gaming. Leaving the rough experimental world of the 2010s behind but contains all the love that the gaming culture has developed these past 10 years. Mining, Survival, Space Exploration, Creativity, MMOs, FPS, and Communities.

tldr; Upon release this game will be a pirating griefing wild west until the communities form larger infrastructure organically. The longevity of this game depends on a loyal fanbase, and a dev team that is aware that execution and honesty is how this game will survive.
 
Joined
Aug 9, 2019
Messages
29
#3
Well said TimSoulSurfer.

One element that was touched on but I feel could be emphasized is honest from the devs. just talking and admitting the problems goes a long way toward player retention.

I would mention that the key gameplay element that great number of early access(EA) launch's fail at dealing with is server load/ player count. often these EA games have little to no tutorial. further even the game takes 1 to 2 hours to get to the core gameplay. Because the slow start players clog the starter areas. this clogging leads to server problems and lag which pushes people away from the game. the key to a good launch is overbuilt servers and a good initial game intro that throws you out into the core gameplay quickly. so for example in Starbase give players a starter ship quickly and get them out is space exploring or mining as they choose.

I really hope the launch goes smoothly.
 

Saltylelele

Well-known endo
Joined
Aug 9, 2019
Messages
64
#4
From what we can know it seems to be handled okay on the server side, with the instances etc. I mean, I will not be suprised if 6k people joining at once may nuke the network (if there is no queue or something like it)
 

Recatek

Meat Popsicle
Joined
Aug 9, 2019
Messages
286
#5
The game will need systems to support long-term community goals beyond just "hit rock", "build ship", and "shoot other ship". Smaller-scale survival games can get around this with server wipes and resets to keep things fun, but an MMO doesn't have that luxury -- at least, not without making people rather upset. Worlds Adrift lacked these systems until the very end, and suffered for it.

As an example of a place where the game needs a system, consider territory control by factions. Worlds Adrift's answer of "suuure you can claim territory, just have someone patrolling and guarding it 24/7 and it's yours!" is not a game system. It puts too much burden on players to do boring things (who wants to circle around empty space for hours on guard duty?) to accomplish a goal that the game itself doesn't even recognize. This is where a game system needs to come in and provide something tangible to work towards, with lasting effects. Yes, players can fill a gap where a good system doesn't exist, but not if that gap is a chasm. There's only so much logistical busywork you can expect most players to do.

If anything, my biggest concern and the thing I am going to be watching the closest is how these systems form after the early access launch. Particularly how the economy works, how many different playstyles evolve beyond just "miner", "builder", and "PvPer", and what groups can accomplish that doesn't require some poor sap to selflessly do boring things (like guard duty) for hours on end.
 
Joined
Aug 31, 2019
Messages
2
#6
" All of which have brought me to witness the rise and fall of gaming communities and gaming companies, and seeing this game gets me excited again, but I don't want to be burned again "

I must to say that totally agree whit your opinion. I was also burned and very disappointed whit many games and player-Orgs before and my honest proposal to all gamers out there is, dont get to much over-hyped, be patient!
When is about all that big groups who want to build really big civilizations , I mean that is cool and nice quest (so to speek)
but many will fail, it will be just how you already said:

" The harsh reality is when StarBase is playable, none, if any of the communities being formed will survive initially. There will be two starting factions for everyone to start building their ships and machines. Everyone thinks they will immediately be taking part of large space battles, those huge battles may not even happen until a month after release "

And also this:
" tldr; Upon release this game will be a pirating griefing wild west until the communities form larger infrastructure organically. The longevity of this game depends on a loyal fanbase, and a dev team that is aware that execution and honesty is how this game will survive "

In my humble opinion only the disciplined and loyal groups can and will survive and be able to build theyr great empires/federations/etc.
(again sorry if my english is not good)
 

Vexus

Veteran endo
Joined
Aug 9, 2019
Messages
234
#7
Hmm didn't see this thread yet.

An easy solution to early pirating and the early situation described is:
  1. A large enough safe zone where it's hours of flying to get out of it into non-safe space, so almost all gameplay is available in the safe zone
  2. At the same time, you can join Empire or Kingdom and engage in full on warfare day 1 which is combat that takes place in non-safe space
How a player reaches Empire and Kingdom would be a travel mechanic unique to them. Before EA, Empire and Kingdom would need to set up some infrastructure where they simply need soldiers to get to the battlefield, to then get into fighting - at the same time, needing others to begin mining and ship design to push these big factions forward, technology wise, faster than any other faction due to their access to resources.

I would foresee all the combat oriented players shifting away from the safe zone to immediately experience ship-to-ship combat day 1, which also would lend well to stream viewership and showcase the game for the flashy shooting potential which hooks people so they can get involved and then later understand the full depth.

The devs are in control of this. They can give us a weakly formed safe zone and rules and restrictions and role playing that force players into resorting to safe-zone harassment to get their PvP fix, or they can understand the tens of thousands of players who will want to log in day 1 and just shoot stuff with a ship and give a red vs. blue Empire vs. Kingdom all out war from day 1. I'm more in the position that if the game does take months to grow into a scale that can support full warfare, if we have too many efficient factions who know not to fight, the game will be dull. Having the constant theme of the biggest wars, initially, being the rich and powerful Empire vs. Kingdom, will help solve a lot of these problems.
 

Vampiricdust

Learned-to-turn-off-magboots endo
Joined
Aug 9, 2019
Messages
47
#8
Player stations won't be a thing initially. They won't be ready for launch as far as we know, but that may not stop people from building "ships" that act more like bases than mobile ships.

Also, you're missing that the Empire & Kingdom will be lead by Lauri and Joel. They will already have a head start with having stations before players can build them and will likely be the biggest source of large combat until stations are organized.

This means player factions will most likely focus on saving up resources for station release and building up ships in the mean time. Larger factions will probably prowl outside the safe zones to hunt for people trying to mine outside and haul it back in. We don't know how long we'll play without buildable stations, so it's likely factions will try to control sections of the belt outside the safe zones. There will be a lot of small conflicts, mostly one sided as people will tend to attack with numbers most of time.

Honestly, if it were up to me, I would push to delay the game until it's foundations can handle a stable release.
The game has been in development for 5 years already. This is not Bossa who has no idea what they're doing and tiny company. FB has had a team of 60 people on this for awhile now and focused on making it playable first. What we're waiting on now is the actual core game play loops to be finished and then after EA launch, they will flesh it out with more mechanics like player stations, content, and features. This isn't going to go like other games because FB is an indie studio not beholden to a publisher. They are not being forced into some deadline and haven't announced a release date yet because it's not close enough to do that.

The community side is it's own beast, but it really depends what Lauri & Joel will do with the factions. They could be major forces initially that fade into obscurity as mechanics & features are added to let player factions handle it. It sounds like the plan with them is to have them steer the game in the direction the devs are hoping to achieve, but time will tell.
 
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