Starbase's Top Issues #8: The Dangerous PTU

Vexus

Master endo
Joined
Aug 9, 2019
Messages
266
#1
Hello,

At some point, a PTU server was fired up for Starbase so features could be tested in a test environment by players and devs before being pushed to the official main universe "live" server. This isn't itself a problem as many games do test their releases internally before releasing to their playerbase. However, the issues with the way Starbase added their testing environment caused many easy to foresee problems that hurt the game as a whole.

starbase_mwJtISoFdp.png


I recall when the PTU was first released. As soon as people found out they could spawn unlimited resources and have infinite credits, everyone left the live server to work on ship design in the PTU. Needless to say, this was even more devastating to the playerbase than the SSC/Space Ship Workshop was - so many players were removed from the 'live' game world that the live universe's activity dwindled rapidly. As players stopped interacting with other players (because players were in the PTU designing ships for free) a compounding drop in players began to happen.

chrome_cfCNdoUaI8.png


It is hard to show the direct results, but the release of the PTU around August 12th (the middle-left of the above image) is when the rapid down-trend of player activity occurs. This isn't to say the PTU is the only issue at fault, however I would say it is one of the top 3 contributors to the playerbase dissipating so heavily.

The Problems With Starbase's Test Universe:

1. With access to free resources and infinite credits, players had no reason to play on the "live" universe anymore. Since the end-game of Starbase at the time (and perhaps still is today) is the creation of unique high-performance special-purpose ships, the main limiting factor for testing ship designs and perfecting ship designs came down to resource acquisition and credits. This was the main draw of the game universe - that you had to go out there and get stuff, and either bring it back to market or use it for your own ships. This meant you had to play the game at least a little bit even if you wanted to spend lots of time designing ships.

Even if you wanted to design ships, as I was fond of doing, I still needed resources and credits. This let me manage my company, sending out my crew to get resources and credits while I worked on ship design. It was a team effort and they needed my ship designing skills, while I needed their ability to acquire resources (and engage in combat, exploration, and all manner of fun in the meantime!).

The PTU introduced what essentially was "cheat mode" by giving players unlimited everything. Games are supposed to offer constrained entertainment, not free everything. If in the game of Chess all pieces were Queens, it would destroy the game as a whole. It is the limiting factor of each piece that makes the game as a whole worth playing. Starbase took out the limitation of having to actually play the live game universe to engage in the "fun" of Starbase - or at least, one of the key elements at the time which was ship design.

As a Company leader, I was disappointed as my own crew went off to the PTU to prototype ship after ship. Worse, they then began engaging in fights with other players who were testing their own ship designs. I observed in gamer-horror as the area around PTU stations became littered with wreck after wreck as players spat out ship after ship, engaging in pointless combat for the sake of something interesting to do. Worse, players began to devolve into orbiting-style dogfighting. In doing so, they began to create ships purpose-built for that strange style of combat, finding ways to improve "dueling" behaviors of ships with no regard to cost. Prototype after prototype was created, tested, and thrown away with zero impact on the live game world. The live game world crashed hard as players were able to outsource the game's "fun" into a meaningless test universe with meaningless combat and yet... meaningful ship design.

The worst part about the ship design, however, is that those ships were able to be transferred over to the live universe. This meant there was no reason not to test ship designs in the test universe, because anyone doing so on the live server was basically burning resources and credits for nothing. Everyone else who went to the test universe to design ships was in effect making millions of credits per hour worth of gameplay action with no downside.

There was no reason to play on live anymore, because it was more cost effective to test ship designs on the PTU. Anyone trying to play on live now found it even more barren of other players than expected. Any issues that you ran into on live were heavily punished, because you could have just done those things on the PTU without risk of loss. The playerbase dwindled - Starbase promised a game where your actions mattered, and then promptly introduced a "cheat mode" that completely gutted that idea that your actions mattered. Now your actions meant nothing, because everything you tried to do on live, you could do for free on the PTU with zero effort or risk.

starbase_ccpToCqUYE.png


2. The next issue with the PTU, which surrounds the "cheat mode" aspect of it, is that players began hyper-specializing ships. With free access to every material and infinite credits, the types of ships players began producing were far ahead of what would have otherwise been possible in the live game universe. Because players could experiment for free, testing ship performance for free, and working out bugs and issues with "meta" ships - from fighters, to miners, to haulers and more - the types of ships that began arriving were far in excess of what would have otherwise been reasonable given a pure live-universe environment. Even though the same tools were in place on the live server, the issue here is time. Because no player had to spend any time in the live game universe to get resources and credits, the rapid iteration of a ship design where you could simply ignore a flawed design on the PTU and remake it meant not only were players spending more time in the PTU than ever, but that players were incentivized to spend as much time as they could in the PTU solving every single issue their ship might have before ever launching it on the live server.

No longer were any ships thrown together, patched up, repaired by hand or otherwise worked on by actual players. Instead, ships were completely perfected to the designer's idea of perfection, then tested in combat on the PTU with no risk of loss, reiterated after finding issues, and perfected again. This process, again although possible on live, incurred no cost to players on the PTU, where on the live server it would have taken time, resources, credits, or something else to incentivize players to play the game instead of sitting in the SSC on the PTU all day.

The result is two-fold. First, there was an influx of meta ships into the live game universe that before did not have any. Where players initially had to consider the time cost of ship design and production, including the time it would take to produce each individual item of a ship, which would limit the practical and reasonable allocation of time and resources to something usable, now ships could be mass-produced without regard to those limitations because the ship design was already perfected for free. 2000-create hauler ships, before would have taken you a dozen hours to craft the individual components, or otherwise pay a hefty credit cost to bypass manufacturing, were now created perfect with no need to wonder if your ship was even usable anymore. In other words, there was no need to get a return on your investment, because you had already worked out all the bugs of your ship in the PTU where you knew for certain now that your ship was good to go on the live server.

Second, anyone else who wanted to make a ship now was forced to go into the PTU to design their ships. This is because it would be a disadvantage to working on a ship design on the live server when everyone else was using the PTU with free materials and free credits. I personally prefer the live universe, however I was forced to retreat to the PTU SSC because it was just too cost effective.

starbase_C1Em3G0LVC.jpg

(In this image, you can see the rapid prototyping of ships on the PTU, with no regard to cost or consequence - the vast amount of gameplay lost here deeply saddens me)

The end result was a bunch of people getting all the excitement of combat while testing their ship designs on the PTU, with none of the risk/reward mechanism which is necessary to keep players playing the game being implemented. As the live universe began to see less people due to the PTU, some players found no fun in an empty universe. Compounding the effect, as players realized they were better off going into the PTU to do their own ship design, the live game universe again was hit by another wave of people abandoning the live universe to go ship design in the PTU SSC. In the end, players routinely now completely avoid the live SSC until their ship has been perfectly designed in the PTU SSC.

Again, it wasn't just combat ships, but mining and all the other effort that otherwise would go into actually playing the game itself was lost due to being wiped away by "cheat mode" PTU access.

This is, unfortunately, a huge problem, and comes because... devs didn't ask me the consequences of such an action damn I need to start a consulting company or something... But besides that :) The problem comes because of the free access to resources and credits. That is the main issue at hand. A test server is not a terrible thing, though I would argue that for an MMO, it is completely counter to the point - splitting your playerbase in an MMO is a bad thing! It is the reason MMOs release expansions, not new versions. World of Warcraft has expansions, not separate clients for each new set of content. By keeping players in the same game world, they are going to form friends, groups, guilds, alliances, enemies and more. When you split the playerbase into different "games" - in this case, Starbase "cheat mode" and Starbase "live mode" - it is devastating to the player population.

3. With risk, comes reward. The last problem with the PTU is obvious but I wanted to point it out. By taking away all the risk in creating and testing ships, the PTU then took out the reward of defeating your enemy. This affected the market and the overall fun of gameplay on the live server, because any ship defeated on the live server was either not perfected in the PTU SSC, or wasn't as "fun" as engaging in an orbit-dogfight pre-scheduled combat event on the PTU. In other words, the reward of using your ship to defeat another ship became negated, because there was no value to the "win" - you already had access to infinite resources and credits to design whatever ship you wanted. No need to scavenge parts or secure materials off the other ship when it was more cost effective to design ships in the PTU SSC and then print the ship on the live universe. Your time was better spent in the PTU, so doing anything other than killing another ship and leaving became a "waste of time." In effect, the "reward" of playing on the live game universe was gutted, and without a meaningful reward for actions taken (which is time! TIME! i.e. gunpowder in Rust i.e. takes a long time to make, so securing an enemy's supply is rewarding as you didn't have to spend that time!), players were not incentivized to keep playing.

Problem: Starbase's PTU incentivizes players to not play on the live server for any ship-designing efforts, removes any consequence of testing ship designs, removes vast amounts of gameplay by giving players credits and resources for free, and splits the playerbase.

Solution: Remove the "Dev" tab and free credits from the PTU. Wipe the PTU weekly to disincentivize players staying on the PTU. Allow the PTU to exist as a test environment, not a new home for ship designers who then avoid having to play on the live server until they have a perfected ship design.

Note: This problem ties in heavily into so many other issues, such as the economy on live and so much more. As "mistakes" are no longer part of the equation on the live server, much of the live market economy is affected when players get only as much as they need for their perfected ship design. As these perfected ship designs also allowed for the amassing of wealth on the live server far beyond what was practically possible beforehand, the "cheat mode" PTU has cascading consequences that are truly devastating to the game in multiple ways. As other players see that the PTU is a better place to spend their time, they too go off to the PTU for their ship designing. When a player has their perfected ship design, they come create the ship on live, only to find out no one is playing on the live server - they're all off perfecting their own ships on the PTU. It is a huge void to have cheats available to players in any game, and this issue must be solved if Starbase wants to keep an engaged population of players.
 
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XenoCow

Master endo
Joined
Dec 10, 2019
Messages
545
#2
Another Problem
I think another problem with a PTU with infinite resources should be noted. If the PTU is intended as a test environment for the live game, it should mirror that live game so that all the same incentive structures remain. I am reminded of the problem with laboratory mice having an exceptional ability to regenerate cells. Long story short, the cells of lab mice are able to repair damage far better than wild mice, meaning that a drug tested on them that would poison a wild mouse will appear to do no damage to a lab mouse, and might even make that lab mouse look more healthy since the primary cause of death for those lab mice is cancer.

The point I'm making is that if players are given freedom to create as much as they want for free in the PTU, there will be new features that will not cause them any harm that would cause harm to live server players. And, they might even look like a great idea since they bring the PTU down from its artificial level to a more balanced play space.

Tying the PTU to Live and Creating the Right Incentives
Perhaps the purpose of the PTU should be reevaluated. It is, as far as I know, intended as a place for players to test new features and find bugs before they enter the main universe. As you outlined, it's being used for very different purposes. It could be time to reconnect the PTU to it's purpose.

One way of doing that could be to put bounties on bugs found. If players are the first to report a bug, they could be given a reward in the live universe. So, being a PTU bug hunter could actually be a lucrative live server profession! This would help to make it so that players are incentivized to help improve the game instead of just using the PTU as a free playground. Maybe some other incentive besides credits could work. Maybe you get tickets that can be used in a special bug hunter's cosmetic shop.

Comments on Your Solution
Solution: Remove the "Dev" tab and free credits from the PTU. Wipe the PTU weekly to disincentivize players staying on the PTU. Allow the PTU to exist as a test environment, not a new home for ship designers who then avoid having to play on the live server until they have a perfected ship design.
I don't know that requiring players to start with absolutely nothing is the right move when testing bugs of parts of the game that may be late game things like capitol ships is the right move. Instead, maybe the items given could be more targeted at the current patch being tested. If the patch is about the new player experience, then no items should be given, but if it's about siege, then players will need to be able to quickly build stations so that they can fight on them.

I do agree with the wipes, though, but maybe over slightly longer than a week so that features that take more than a few hours to test are possible to be tested. Maybe 2-4 weeks, or some time dependent on the patch being tested.
 

Vexus

Master endo
Joined
Aug 9, 2019
Messages
266
#3
it should mirror that live game so that all the same incentive structures remain.
That's a good point. If the PTU does not mirror the experience of live, then much can be missed in terms of how the majority of players (who are more likely to quit when encountering a serious but rarely occurring problem) experience the game.

One way of doing that could be to put bounties on bugs found. If players are the first to report a bug, they could be given a reward in the live universe. So, being a PTU bug hunter could actually be a lucrative live server profession!
Unfortunately, this diminishes playing on the live server, and splits the playerbase. If the PTU is to exist, it should not be an enjoyable experience. Every person on the PTU is 100's of interactions lost on the live server.

I don't know that requiring players to start with absolutely nothing is the right move when testing bugs of parts of the game that may be late game things like capitol ships is the right move. Instead, maybe the items given could be more targeted at the current patch being tested. If the patch is about the new player experience, then no items should be given, but if it's about siege, then players will need to be able to quickly build stations so that they can fight on them.
It seems you initially agreed, and then you back track in thinking that there should be ways to test end-game things quickly ("for free" perhaps). Consider that anything that can be tested in any environment which makes it easier to test the mechanics will be done in the easier mode for the sake of time efficiency alone. This splits the playerbase and results in a terrible loss of interactions on live.

If the game world is playable, time can be taken to release features, where internal testing can find and resolve most issues. Not all issues will ever be found, either in internal testing or the PTU. As such, it just needs more time before reaching live. The playerbase at large does not need exposure to end-game things immediately in a test environment. In fact, it's contrary to your initial point regarding this - the process of going from zero to capital ship should be "tested" to see how a new player would feel or react to undertaking such an effort! If players do not want to engage in those actions, great - they'll continue to play on live.

Most game companies are used to selling an experience. A one-off game. An MMO adds a new element - selling interactions. You sell interactions with other players, like any other social media company. The successful MMOs put no barrier between player interaction, just like you can like, comment and subscribe to people on social media. The product is the people, the interactions. Social media does not segment their audience, and no MMO should either. Most successful ones don't, which is why it is odd to see so much of it happening in Starbase when there are so many examples as to why splitting your audience is not a great idea.

Not every game has a test environment available to the public. In an MMO, it is often internal only, because devs recognize the damage of splitting their playerbase. It would be just fine for Starbase to completely remove the PTU, and just to simplify the player's experience at this point and drive home the idea of a single game universe, I honestly think the PTU should be completely removed, avoiding confusion and any incentive to be anywhere else except the live universe.
 

XenoCow

Master endo
Joined
Dec 10, 2019
Messages
545
#4
If the PTU does not mirror the experience of live, then much can be missed in terms of how the majority of players (who are more likely to quit when encountering a serious but rarely occurring problem) experience the game.
Not every game has a test environment available to the public. In an MMO, it is often internal only, because devs recognize the damage of splitting their playerbase. It would be just fine for Starbase to completely remove the PTU, and just to simplify the player's experience at this point and drive home the idea of a single game universe, I honestly think the PTU should be completely removed, avoiding confusion and any incentive to be anywhere else except the live universe.
I am trying to grapple with the idea of how to reconcile that there will be bugs that scare off players, as you say, and also that you suggest getting rid of the PTU completely. Personally, I am not opposed to the idea of removing the PTU, I have never played on it, unless you count closed alpha as a proto-PTU. However, I do wonder how bugs can quickly and effectively be found without burning too many players if they slip through the cracks.

Is it a matter of improving developer bug testing and slowing down releases as you briefly mention here:
If the PTU is to exist, it should not be an enjoyable experience.
Or should the costs of losing players just get taken for the benefit of the game at large? Maybe the game should return to a more closed-alpha like state where bugs are common and wipes may happen, but it is clear that everyone is playing an alpha version of the game instead of what we have now which looks to many laypeople like a faulty product. Maybe instead of getting rid of the PTU, the live server should be gotten rid of until a beta is reached and then the PTU will go "live" and not get wiped anymore and then there will be no PTU since there will be less dramatic change of the game from patch to patch, or at least a solid game loop to hold on to player between patches.
 

Vexus

Master endo
Joined
Aug 9, 2019
Messages
266
#5
I am trying to grapple with the idea of how to reconcile that there will be bugs that scare off players, as you say, and also that you suggest getting rid of the PTU completely.
It is simple; slower, more deliberate updates. 4 big updates per month, with most of the work focused on bug fixing, especially right after an update. Path of Exile does this and gives plenty of time for devs to work on new content, and bug fix immediately after an update. The solution is just to slow down and focus on quality because there's plenty of content - or, add content that takes months, like players being responsible for the building of a mega station piece by piece.

However, I do wonder how bugs can quickly and effectively be found without burning too many players if they slip through the cracks.
Players will always find critical bugs; I'm reminded of the Path of Exile Hardcore players who die to random bugs after a patch. It's best to simply be on point and fix those, instead of trying to eliminate them all before they rear their head. Patch slower, with more attention to bug fixing immediately after, instead of constantly adding features. A PvP game doesn't need to change rapidly; players create the content.

Or should the costs of losing players just get taken for the benefit of the game at large?
You cannot build or progress if the concern is to not lose players. The approach is how to acquire players. People will always be lost; the goal is to show a player who has not spent money on the game the reason why they should: because the dev team is always active, always fixing bugs right away, always responsive, always introducing quality content, etc, etc.

It is a strange thing, but the player who leaves is irrelevant. League of Legends designs new champions who will be used in their highest worldwide competitive environments for the most part, keeping the top-tier players engaged - everyone else follows along and the 'lesser' used champions fall to the wayside. Meaning... someone who leaves will leave; focus on the players who will stay.

Maybe instead of getting rid of the PTU, the live server should be gotten rid of until a beta is reached and then the PTU will go "live" and not get wiped anymore and then there will be no PTU since there will be less dramatic change of the game from patch to patch, or at least a solid game loop to hold on to player between patches.
This is not the way; the live universe must be the most consistent, steady, unchanging environment it can be. Players have almost never seen a single-universe MMO. It should be embraced, and all options to play not-single-universe-Starbase should be cast aside.
 
Joined
Nov 15, 2021
Messages
5
#6
Hello,

At some point, a PTU server was fired up for Starbase so features could be tested in a test environment by players and devs before being pushed to the official main universe "live" server. This isn't itself a problem as many games do test their releases internally before releasing to their playerbase. However, the issues with the way Starbase added their testing environment caused many easy to foresee problems that hurt the game as a whole.

View attachment 4715

I recall when the PTU was first released. As soon as people found out they could spawn unlimited resources and have infinite credits, everyone left the live server to work on ship design in the PTU. Needless to say, this was even more devastating to the playerbase than the SSC/Space Ship Workshop was - so many players were removed from the 'live' game world that the live universe's activity dwindled rapidly. As players stopped interacting with other players (because players were in the PTU designing ships for free) a compounding drop in players began to happen.

View attachment 4716

It is hard to show the direct results, but the release of the PTU around August 12th (the middle-left of the above image) is when the rapid down-trend of player activity occurs. This isn't to say the PTU is the only issue at fault, however I would say it is one of the top 3 contributors to the playerbase dissipating so heavily.

The Problems With Starbase's Test Universe:

1. With access to free resources and infinite credits, players had no reason to play on the "live" universe anymore. Since the end-game of Starbase at the time (and perhaps still is today) is the creation of unique high-performance special-purpose ships, the main limiting factor for testing ship designs and perfecting ship designs came down to resource acquisition and credits. This was the main draw of the game universe - that you had to go out there and get stuff, and either bring it back to market or use it for your own ships. This meant you had to play the game at least a little bit even if you wanted to spend lots of time designing ships.

Even if you wanted to design ships, as I was fond of doing, I still needed resources and credits. This let me manage my company, sending out my crew to get resources and credits while I worked on ship design. It was a team effort and they needed my ship designing skills, while I needed their ability to acquire resources (and engage in combat, exploration, and all manner of fun in the meantime!).

The PTU introduced what essentially was "cheat mode" by giving players unlimited everything. Games are supposed to offer constrained entertainment, not free everything. If in the game of Chess all pieces were Queens, it would destroy the game as a whole. It is the limiting factor of each piece that makes the game as a whole worth playing. Starbase took out the limitation of having to actually play the live game universe to engage in the "fun" of Starbase - or at least, one of the key elements at the time which was ship design.

As a Company leader, I was disappointed as my own crew went off to the PTU to prototype ship after ship. Worse, they then began engaging in fights with other players who were testing their own ship designs. I observed in gamer-horror as the area around PTU stations became littered with wreck after wreck as players spat out ship after ship, engaging in pointless combat for the sake of something interesting to do. Worse, players began to devolve into orbiting-style dogfighting. In doing so, they began to create ships purpose-built for that strange style of combat, finding ways to improve "dueling" behaviors of ships with no regard to cost. Prototype after prototype was created, tested, and thrown away with zero impact on the live game world. The live game world crashed hard as players were able to outsource the game's "fun" into a meaningless test universe with meaningless combat and yet... meaningful ship design.

The worst part about the ship design, however, is that those ships were able to be transferred over to the live universe. This meant there was no reason not to test ship designs in the test universe, because anyone doing so on the live server was basically burning resources and credits for nothing. Everyone else who went to the test universe to design ships was in effect making millions of credits per hour worth of gameplay action with no downside.

There was no reason to play on live anymore, because it was more cost effective to test ship designs on the PTU. Anyone trying to play on live now found it even more barren of other players than expected. Any issues that you ran into on live were heavily punished, because you could have just done those things on the PTU without risk of loss. The playerbase dwindled - Starbase promised a game where your actions mattered, and then promptly introduced a "cheat mode" that completely gutted that idea that your actions mattered. Now your actions meant nothing, because everything you tried to do on live, you could do for free on the PTU with zero effort or risk.

View attachment 4717

2. The next issue with the PTU, which surrounds the "cheat mode" aspect of it, is that players began hyper-specializing ships. With free access to every material and infinite credits, the types of ships players began producing were far ahead of what would have otherwise been possible in the live game universe. Because players could experiment for free, testing ship performance for free, and working out bugs and issues with "meta" ships - from fighters, to miners, to haulers and more - the types of ships that began arriving were far in excess of what would have otherwise been reasonable given a pure live-universe environment. Even though the same tools were in place on the live server, the issue here is time. Because no player had to spend any time in the live game universe to get resources and credits, the rapid iteration of a ship design where you could simply ignore a flawed design on the PTU and remake it meant not only were players spending more time in the PTU than ever, but that players were incentivized to spend as much time as they could in the PTU solving every single issue their ship might have before ever launching it on the live server.

No longer were any ships thrown together, patched up, repaired by hand or otherwise worked on by actual players. Instead, ships were completely perfected to the designer's idea of perfection, then tested in combat on the PTU with no risk of loss, reiterated after finding issues, and perfected again. This process, again although possible on live, incurred no cost to players on the PTU, where on the live server it would have taken time, resources, credits, or something else to incentivize players to play the game instead of sitting in the SSC on the PTU all day.

The result is two-fold. First, there was an influx of meta ships into the live game universe that before did not have any. Where players initially had to consider the time cost of ship design and production, including the time it would take to produce each individual item of a ship, which would limit the practical and reasonable allocation of time and resources to something usable, now ships could be mass-produced without regard to those limitations because the ship design was already perfected for free. 2000-create hauler ships, before would have taken you a dozen hours to craft the individual components, or otherwise pay a hefty credit cost to bypass manufacturing, were now created perfect with no need to wonder if your ship was even usable anymore. In other words, there was no need to get a return on your investment, because you had already worked out all the bugs of your ship in the PTU where you knew for certain now that your ship was good to go on the live server.

Second, anyone else who wanted to make a ship now was forced to go into the PTU to design their ships. This is because it would be a disadvantage to working on a ship design on the live server when everyone else was using the PTU with free materials and free credits. I personally prefer the live universe, however I was forced to retreat to the PTU SSC because it was just too cost effective.

View attachment 4718
(In this image, you can see the rapid prototyping of ships on the PTU, with no regard to cost or consequence - the vast amount of gameplay lost here deeply saddens me)

The end result was a bunch of people getting all the excitement of combat while testing their ship designs on the PTU, with none of the risk/reward mechanism which is necessary to keep players playing the game being implemented. As the live universe began to see less people due to the PTU, some players found no fun in an empty universe. Compounding the effect, as players realized they were better off going into the PTU to do their own ship design, the live game universe again was hit by another wave of people abandoning the live universe to go ship design in the PTU SSC. In the end, players routinely now completely avoid the live SSC until their ship has been perfectly designed in the PTU SSC.

Again, it wasn't just combat ships, but mining and all the other effort that otherwise would go into actually playing the game itself was lost due to being wiped away by "cheat mode" PTU access.

This is, unfortunately, a huge problem, and comes because... devs didn't ask me the consequences of such an action damn I need to start a consulting company or something... But besides that :) The problem comes because of the free access to resources and credits. That is the main issue at hand. A test server is not a terrible thing, though I would argue that for an MMO, it is completely counter to the point - splitting your playerbase in an MMO is a bad thing! It is the reason MMOs release expansions, not new versions. World of Warcraft has expansions, not separate clients for each new set of content. By keeping players in the same game world, they are going to form friends, groups, guilds, alliances, enemies and more. When you split the playerbase into different "games" - in this case, Starbase "cheat mode" and Starbase "live mode" - it is devastating to the player population.

3. With risk, comes reward. The last problem with the PTU is obvious but I wanted to point it out. By taking away all the risk in creating and testing ships, the PTU then took out the reward of defeating your enemy. This affected the market and the overall fun of gameplay on the live server, because any ship defeated on the live server was either not perfected in the PTU SSC, or wasn't as "fun" as engaging in an orbit-dogfight pre-scheduled combat event on the PTU. In other words, the reward of using your ship to defeat another ship became negated, because there was no value to the "win" - you already had access to infinite resources and credits to design whatever ship you wanted. No need to scavenge parts or secure materials off the other ship when it was more cost effective to design ships in the PTU SSC and then print the ship on the live universe. Your time was better spent in the PTU, so doing anything other than killing another ship and leaving became a "waste of time." In effect, the "reward" of playing on the live game universe was gutted, and without a meaningful reward for actions taken (which is time! TIME! i.e. gunpowder in Rust i.e. takes a long time to make, so securing an enemy's supply is rewarding as you didn't have to spend that time!), players were not incentivized to keep playing.

Problem: Starbase's PTU incentivizes players to not play on the live server for any ship-designing efforts, removes any consequence of testing ship designs, removes vast amounts of gameplay by giving players credits and resources for free, and splits the playerbase.

Solution: Remove the "Dev" tab and free credits from the PTU. Wipe the PTU weekly to disincentivize players staying on the PTU. Allow the PTU to exist as a test environment, not a new home for ship designers who then avoid having to play on the live server until they have a perfected ship design.

Note: This problem ties in heavily into so many other issues, such as the economy on live and so much more. As "mistakes" are no longer part of the equation on the live server, much of the live market economy is affected when players get only as much as they need for their perfected ship design. As these perfected ship designs also allowed for the amassing of wealth on the live server far beyond what was practically possible beforehand, the "cheat mode" PTU has cascading consequences that are truly devastating to the game in multiple ways. As other players see that the PTU is a better place to spend their time, they too go off to the PTU for their ship designing. When a player has their perfected ship design, they come create the ship on live, only to find out no one is playing on the live server - they're all off perfecting their own ships on the PTU. It is a huge void to have cheats available to players in any game, and this issue must be solved if Starbase wants to keep an engaged population of players.
Dude WTF?
 
Joined
Dec 10, 2019
Messages
545
#7
Well, I think you have me on team "No PTU." Especially since the game is now paid. Maybe before it would have made sense, but not now. I do worry that the devs might not feel as free to take risks if they know everything they want to add to the game can only be tested by players in the live server. But maybe they just need to get over that and trust that players will be willing to take weirdness so long as the devs have humility about it and are willing to back off when things get really bad and stand strong when they know that a game-breaking mechanic is just the first piece of something that will improve the game with time.
 

Vexus

Master endo
Joined
Aug 9, 2019
Messages
266
#8
I do worry that the devs might not feel as free to take risks if they know everything they want to add to the game can only be tested by players in the live server.
If they are slower to release features, thinking them through based on how it will affect players, doing internal bug testing, giving themselves more time to pour over those systems, testing them internally, and also committing to rapid bug-fixing upon release, there won't be an issue.

Something like the Easy Build Mode should have been gutted week one, or bug fixed if they wanted to keep it, but truly, it should have been gutted and is unfortunate that it still exists. It was rushed, not available in alpha, not required, and came with a tutorial system that made it hard for them to gut the thing. If they either fixed the thing, or gutted it, the game would have been better received, with less people getting their ships completely bugged out and broken or deleted. If the future development process is a long period of internal testing followed by a commitment to fix issues upon release to the live servers, then Frozenbyte will fall in line with other developers who are doing just that. It is a proven successful model that top games are working around.

Players suffer issues fine if the response to those issues is quick communication about the issue followed by dedicated work to resolve it.

But, this is really about the PTU itself and how its free resources and credits destroys the incentive to play in the live game world. Even in a limited closed fashion where a handful of players are allowed in, with free resources and credits, those players will avoid the live game universe during that time. The crux of the problem is the playerbase is too small right now to endure a separate playable Starbase universe, and the whole thing should be removed from player access, only used for dev testing, and perhaps consider opening it up to a small number of community members in the future to stress test specific, big-idea features (like EBM mode), but thereafter making it inaccessible again so people continue to play the live game.
 
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