Friday with Means - July 3rd, 2009 - German Server and AO Learning Curve
With the excitement of the last few weeks I have not managed to communicate the results of the survey sent to the German dimension concerning the future of their server. Here are the questions and the results. It is interesting that over 50% of the players who received the survey took the time to complete it...this is an enormous percentage for something like that and makes me certain we are getting a good sample of the true opinions of the German AO population. All the questions asked in the survey will be listed here with the results in the interest of clear and open communication.
1. How many active accounts do you have?
None - 13.49%
One - 44.1%
Two - 29.51%
Three or More - 12.88%
This question was asked as a general view of what kind of players generally populated the German dimension.
2. Which kind of subscription do you use?
Full Subscription - 89.45%
Only Shadowlands - 10.55%
Again this was asked to find out more about the player base in general. I was personally surprised that only 1 in 10 players was using the cheaper subscription model.
3. Do you play other characters regularly on other dimensions? (Dimensions other than the German server.)
No - 89.25%
Yes on Rk1 - 5.27%
Yes on RK2 - 5.48%
Again this question was asked to determine how many German speaking players had already decided to play actively in a non-german environment. I was surprised by how low a number this was.
4. There are concerns regarding the number of active players on DNW. Which of the following actions would you prefer?
No merge, no transfer. I like DNW how it is and would prefer to be able to continue playing on a German server. - 53.65%
Merge with RK1 or RK2 - 19.88%
Free transfer to RK1 - 6.59%
Free transfer to RK2 - 5.17%
I am undecided - 14.71%
This was of course the most important question. All concerns and suggestions aside...what did the general population really want? The overwhelming majority of players on DNW want to remain a german population on a german only server. This means we need to work towards a more populated DNW without destroying it with character transfers or server merges. Things that can be done to help with population issues are exactly the same things that need to be addressed for the overall future of the game. The new engine, smoothing out the newbie experience to make the learning curve less scary, running more events, more open/pickup type pvp are all things we are working on to help increase the number of new players who stay with us after trying the game for the first time. The sponsor system of the next question is another example of a tool to help retain new customers and reward veteran players who help the game grow.
7. How much interest do you have in a sponsor system, to get new players motivated to subscribe and continue playing on DNW?
I would definitely make good use of it. - 24.14%
I would watch the situation first and perhaps make use of it. - 53.25%
I don't think I would bother at all. - 22.62%
24% of users would make use of a sponsor system without really even knowing what it was. 53% are willing to look and consider using it if it is worth using.
This confirms the need for this kind of system in AO. AO suffers slightly from "Old MMO-itis" where the veteran players are not really available to new players to help smooth their transition into the game. This makes perfect sense as AO is probably the most complex MMO available and there is little or no benefit to a veteran player who uses their time to help a new person who might not even stay. The sponsor system we are considering is a simple one...as long as you continue to sponsor two new paying players (who are not sponsoring players themselves) you will not pay a subscription fee to play AO...this will allow the veteran players to grow the game and be rewarded for their efforts. This will take some time as we can't allow for "creative gameplay" in this area...but it is in the works.
7. The survey has been kept very short on purpose, if you have additional concerns, please raise them here in this free text box, but please keep it brief if possible.
Translate the game.
While this would be beneficial to the German community it would be an absurd amount of code work to localize AO. Only a very small amount of AO is currently available in a translateable text database...getting the rest in there would represent months (if not years when considering the work of actually translating the text) of code work and can not be justified with the current number of players. Other games that have produced translated versions have not seen a return on the investment made...I don't think we can afford to take that kind of gamble in terms of time and money. While I appreciate the communities generosity in offering to translate the game I unfortunately can't agree to release something we have no quality control over. It would be impossible for us to verify each translation...and therefore impossible for us to make it public.
Enabling cross-server PVP
With our current technology enabling cross-dimension PVP would be impossible. The way the game works would have to be completely restructured to enable this small addition. The motivation for this request comes from a desire to enjoy more pvp gameplay...and I think the way for us to provide that is through new open-pvp encounters rather than spending a year to make the battlestations available cross-server. We'll work on providing more pvp alternatives that can be done with less people in the near future.
New graphic engine.
This was by far the most common concern. We are working on it with all available resources and nothing we can do will make it complete faster. We want it out as badly as you as we agree that nothing will help our game as much as a facelift to today's standards.
AO Learning Curve
There has been a great deal of discussion recently on the beginning experience" of AO. For example this discussion here:
I can't count the number of times I have played the "beginning" of AO. I can full agree that:
1. It is confusing.
2. Overly complicated.
3. Difficult to make money without previous knowledge.
4. Somewhat lost in terms of story.
5. Lacking the obvious direction that new players need to get started.
6. Lacks profession specific content to help you learn your profession.
7. Has massive room for improvement.
Having time I would like to completely alter the beginning of the game. The learning curve is steep and the amount to learn is frightening. Some adjustments will be made...but I'm not sure when we will get to them. There is another problem as well.
Anarchy Online IS complicated.
At some point, whether it is level 2 or level 200, players will look around and be stunned by the sheer complexity of AO. This is part of what makes AO the game that it is. AO is a game for a specific kind of person. Removing this complexity would remove a large part of what makes AO the amazing game that it is. Players return to AO specifically for the complexity and level of character customization. Efforts can be made to smooth out the beginning of AO in terms of the "WTF Factor" but the jarring moment of realization that separates AO players from everyone else will still happen at some point in the experience. We can only hope that moving this moment later into the experience will result in more players joining the community.
Thank you to all who took the time to look at the first moments of AO with fresh eyes and to relay your impressions to us. It is not always easy to know the best direction to take for the future of our universe...and hearing the same ideas and impressions from many different sources certainly helps. When the opinions of the community coincide with our own it makes it easier to proceed knowing we are doing the right thing. There were some excellent ideas we had not considered that will now get attention thanks to your individual efforts.
When I started this weekly update 9 months ago (Can you believe it??) I didn't really know how this was going to work out. It hasn't been easy to always get this done and keep both the dev team and community involved and communicating during this time but I believe it keeps getting better with every month we maintain this commitment. Thank you all for reminding me why this effort is worth it and why we will continue to do it every week...even if I have to use my phone to do it!
Have a great weekend!
Colin "Means" Cragg
This friday with Means can also be found in the Anarchy Online Forums.