State Of Play
On Friday, Mar 13th, we unlocked the game’s final Starter Kits
Since people in the test program wouldn’t need or have access to this, we decided to test it this way because this is precisely how the game will be accessed when completed.
The game is in dev and thus exposes the process of game development. Stuff can and will break, not work properly etc. That’s how games are made. It’s a process.
It’s a massive game with different experiences and built with an in-house custom engine based on various third-party middleware engines.
Games of this scope are very difficult and very expensive to develop, fine tune and tweak. It is a very long and arduous process fraught with problems, challenges, long days, sleepless nights.
Which is precisely the reason that we have been running these playtests, while unlocking specific aspects for focus testing so that we can fine tune, fix and tweak those aspects and thus ship a game with less problems than would otherwise be the norm.
So, essentially, you are on the ground floor of where we are, but probably don’t quite understand or appreciate what exactly it takes for us devs to bring our games to you.
My studio has never been one to make run-of-the-mill games; we target a niche audience of gamers who prefer something new, challenging and off the beaten path, in an industry that is rife with copycat and derivative games.
PLAY TEST WEEKEND POST MORTEM
- Some gamers don’t like to read stuff. The game has built-in docs. F4 opens the game commands, F5 opens the game docs. Both of which are on the launch screen. The first game screen!
We even created nice, graphical in-game command sheets and docs.
Go ahead, take a look. Nice, clean, clear and to the point. Easily accessible.
So, those “reviews” of how do I move, how do I fire my weapon, where do I go, are very strange to us.
- Some gamers want hand-holding. Even in a simple game.
- The bigger the game, the more likely it is that gamers are going to be lost and/or confused in what it is they are supposed to be doing, where to go etc.Even for a game that is not only open-ended, but also has various easily understood gameplay modes.
- Gamers who have sub-par rigs are usually mystified that their rig, which solidly ran single-level games, doesn’t run well. Aside from the fact that the game is still not optimized, there are other factors which determine how well the game runs on your rig.
When you look at the screen shots that we and those with high-end rigs are posting, it should give you an idea of what the graphics look like.
If you don’t have the rig to run it, and which meets the game’s system requirements, your experience will be different from shots taken by others from inside the game via the Steam client. Some are even better than the ones we post on our website media pages.
But the fact is that this is a massive game, if your rig doesn’t meet with the game’s minimum system requirements (subject to change), then you can’t play it.
- We need to do a better job of guiding new players early on in the process. We were already steering the test gamers progressively and with a view to sorting this out during the last phases of testing.
Though some playtesters know the game inside and out by now, and also tend to read all the new stuff in the changelog, we should have planned for the fact that some gamers need some hand-holding.
- We need to accelerate the process of steering gamers to a common staging area so that spawning into such massive scenes, doesn’t feel so empty, even though there may be hundreds of gamers on the server, but scattered across the game’s 13 massive scenes. If you login and spawn (since you have a choice during this phase of development) in a station with two others, while 50+ people are already in and congregating somewhere else, ofc it looks empty.
These are not your standard “levels” as in other games and which have steering points. These scenes were built with fast moving vehicles and aircraft (space and planetary) in mind. So they are massive.
- This will probably be our first and our last free play weekend because clearly “free” sometimes tends to attract the wrong demographic. We did this in order to test various aspects of the game engine which couldn’t have otherwise been tested due to the fact that some tiers have no access to the Starter Kit.
- The Steam community review process is broken and continues to be abused by “gamers” with ulterior motives. This has been a problem for many years on Steam. And it continues to this day. It’s called review bombing; and it’s a real thing. And it’s not just happening on Steam. It happens with similar products (movies, books, games etc) on similar sites such as Amazon, Metacritic etc
When someone starts a game, then quits and writes up a scathing “review” with only 0.1 hrs of play time, all the while abusing, harassing and insulting the devs in said “review”, you have to wonder why they are even allowed to review a game just by starting it and quitting.
And that’s not even the full extent of the problem. Despite the fact that most gamers tend to take reviews with a pinch of salt, the fact remains that it ends up being distracting, as well as skewing the results of the game’s weighted scaled. For example, in the span of this freeplay weekend, our game went from “Positive” to “Mostly Negative”.
But that’s all I’m going to say about that because I’m not the first, nor the last dev to complain about this in all the years that this became an epidemic.
- Public playtests tend to do more harm than good because you get to attract the wrong type of gamers and those who would otherwise not invest in the finished game anyway. And when you let them in – for free – while a good game will attract a healthy number of supporters, it is a double-edged sword because you can also attract those who don’t like the game for whatever reason.
If you like the game and would like to contribute to it, join us.
AFTER ACTION REPORT
I reviewed the results of the playtest weekend and here are my comments to some of the suggestions, complaints etc.
Also, I updated the link in this thread to the game’s chart tracking. The metrics were way better than we were expecting, including play and engagement time. Especially for a game that a bunch of people couldn’t figure out, let alone play. So bogus “reviews” aside, I am quite pleased with the turnout.
Nothing we can do about things we can’t reproduce. If we can reproduce it, we can fix it. So fill out a support ticket and provide your system specs. Since the Early Access started, we’ve had quite a few bug reports; and as seen in the changelog, we fix them as they come in.
- Performance issues
We know that a bunch of people who didn’t even have systems that meet the game’s minimum requirements, were trying to play the game; leading to disastrous results.
Others who did meet the specs, were subjected to a massive special fx (particles, explosion debris etc) surge when a Nucstar nuclear (!) mine which was left in a ground scene by mistake, detonated each time someone logged in.
The symptoms of this were abysmal frame rates on joining the game via a planetary base. We fixed that around 9:30am on Sat as we announced over here, complete with details and screen shots of the extinction (!) level event.
That’s game development. It happens. We get over it. We move on.
- Technical issues
e.g. some people said that their mouse acted weird when running the game in a window (not full screen window).
The game is still in dev, so fill out a support ticket as that will help us greatly.
- No ADS (Aim Down Sights)
Actually it’s there. But since most weapons have an alt fire mode which is controlled with the right mouse button, the ALT key is used for ADS.
In keeping with other fps conventions, we’re going to be changing this and remapping it to the right mouse button for weapons that support it, then use the Q/E keys for weapon mode selection.
- Weapon reload animations
We have too many weapons and we’re not going to allocate time, money, resources to animating every facet (magazines etc) of a weapon’s reload animation.
- Lack of direction on what to do
Here’s the thing, most games in dev don’t even have 10% of the information that LOD has at this stage of the game development. Everything is kept current, including the in-game docs (F5), commands (F4) etc.
The game has several documented gameplay modes, though it’s primarily PvP. However, we’re going to be updating the in-game docs with a quick start section at the top.
Also, instead of letting everyone spawn where (in the 13 scenes) they like and getting lost, taking too long to locate friends/hostiles etc, we’re going to make a change in the next version. That change means that anyone without Commander, Ambassador, Emissary tier will be forced to deploy in one of two locations aboard the GCV-Starguard carrier. From this location, you can chat with others there, can read up on the game, figure out where (planet, station etc) you want to go etc.
There will be also a forcefield (similar to the Detention Hold) at these locations preventing the opposing side from entering them. And weapons will be disabled inside these areas as well.
Starguard Deck 1 : Commander's Quarters, Officers Quarters, Guest Quarters
Starguard Deck 3 : Engineering1, Engineering2