Blog
2015-01-02-0028

State Of Play
Comments Off on State Of Play
03-15-15

FREEPLAY WEEKEND

On Friday, Mar 13th, we unlocked the game’s final Starter Kits build 00.09.04.01.

Since people in the Early Access program wouldn’t need or have access to this, we decided to test it using a Steam free play weekend because this is precisely how the game will be accessed as F2P when completed in the coming months.

The game is in Early Access 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.

What we have seen this weekend by letting everyone in, is precisely the reason that we priced the Early Access tiers so high back in Sept so that we only attracted the few people who want to help us test and improve on the game. People who understand how games are made and thus can look past the game’s many deficiencies which do exist, not only in games in development, but even those that are finished.

Writing up bad and silly reviews about problems in an Early Access game, is disingenuous, mean spirited and neither helps the game, nor the team and testers dedicated to making it work.

This game was developed by a global team of less than a dozen people. Yes, you read that right, as in less than twelve. The only other game (you know the one) of this type was developed by a triple-A team of over 100 people, with a massive budget and released back in Q4/12 with a slew of problems (some of which still exist today) despite a lengthy open beta test.

And this game is much – much – larger in scope and built with an in-house custom engine based on various third-party middleware engines, all of which we have to make play nice with each other.

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 since we put this up on Early Access, we have been 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.

STEAM FREE PLAY WEEKEND POST MORTEM

  1. 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.

  2. Gamers want hand-holding. Even in a simple game.
  3. 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.
  4. Gamers in 2015 and who have sub-par rigs, are usually mystified that their 2009 rig, which solidly ran single-level games, get to be laughed at by our game engine.That’s gotta hurt. And make you mad. Like, real mad.

    As a gamer and game developer, I understand. But I can’t help you with that. If your rig can’t run the game, there is nothing that I can do about that.

    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.

    And saying the graphics suck just makes us, and those with rigs that can run the game, wonder what you’re going on about. Especially when we look at some of the games in your Steam library and you recommend while saying nothing about the graphics.

    But the fact is that this is a massive game, if your rig doesn’t meet with the game’s minimum system requirements, then you can’t play it.

  5. We need to do a better job of guiding new players early on in the process.We were already steering the EA gamers progressively and with a view to sorting this out during the last phases of testing.

    Though the EA gamers 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 letting n00bs loose in a game of this scope, is putting too much faith in the ability for the average gamer to, you know, read stuff.

  6. 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.

  7. 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 an aspect of the game that couldn’t have otherwise been tested due to the fact that the paid EA tiers have no access to the F2P Starter Kit. So now that we know it works and that SteamWorks entitlement, auth etc are solid; Q.E.D.
  8. The Steam community review process is broken and continues to be abused by “gamers” with ulterior motives.

    When someone starts a game, then quits and writes up a scathing “review” with only 0.1hrs 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.

    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.

  9. Early Access tends 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.
  10. Haters gonna hate. We just want to make games.

    If you like the game and would like to contribute to it, join us.

AFTER ACTION REPORT

I reviewed the results of the free play 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.

  1. Crashes

    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.

  2. 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 was left in a ground scene by mistake.

    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.

    It happens. We move on.

  3. 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 in early access. So if you want to be helpful, fill out a support ticket.

  4. Some people complained about the lack of in-game music. It’s an early access game and many things are missing, broken etc. As obvious as that is I find myself repeating this over and over again. Regardless, we have a vast library of in-game music which we are going to be adding to an upcoming build of the game and which can be controlled via the audio tab on the options screen.
  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Lack of direction on what to do

    Here’s the thing, most Early Access games 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 four primary gameplay modes, two (PvP, Hostile Incarceration) of which have been implemented thus far.

    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 an Early Access tier (Commander, Ambassador, Emissary) 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.

    Since the EA players will have the required CTC allowing them to deploy anywhere in the final game, we’re not going to change this functionality for them.

    There will be 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.


    TERRAN/MILITARY

    Starguard Deck 1 : Commander's Quarters, Officers Quarters, Guest Quarters

    TERRAN/INSURGENT

    Starguard Deck 3 : Engineering1, Engineering2

    Here are maps of these locations

  8. Finally, even though the free play weekend was designed to stress test a bunch of things, as well as test the F2P (via the Starter Kits) aspects of the game, we are no longer going to be doing that again because of our experiences.

    These experiences are also going to determine whether or not the final game remains F2P or paid (no monthly sub) access via the Tactical Advancement Kit (which Early Access purchasers already have).

    If we cancel the F2P aspect, we will then deprecate the Starter Kits as there will no longer be a need for them.

    But until that final decision is made in the coming months, we are going to be doing periodic CBT (Closed Beta Test) via our website signup page.

    Using your Steam account login, you will be able to signup there. Then we will enable the signup one week ahead of the CBT.

    On the day of the CBT, we will pick a number of signups at random and give them access to the game via the Starter Kits.

UCCE20_BoxArt_1024

To mark the 25 year anniversary (see press release) since I first conceived the world, characters and mythos of the first Battlecruiser 3000AD game, and in an effort to introduce a new generation to these highly advanced capital space ship combat simulations, a remastered version of 2009’s Universal Combat CE v2.0 will be released free on Steam today around 11am PST.

So you’ve been running around on the Engstrom class super carrier, the GCV-Starguard; though you can’t and won’t ever be able to pilot that ship, if you really do want to do that, you can now in the ultimate capital ship space combat game ever made.

Another awesome 3000AD game that you can now add to your catalog. Be warned it is one of the most difficult and intense games you will probably ever play. So you may want to pay close attention to the game manual and use the cheat codes.

You can read more about this release over here.

The changelog is also online, as well as the list of scenarios included in this release.

Here is an intense 12 minute fleet battle from the IA0402 scenario included in this release.