To anyone who is still playing or at least following the stats, it is obvious that the game is slowly but steadily losing players. In this post I’ll try to relate the causes and offer possible solutions.
I’ve been playing for over 1k hours in a big company (we had over 100 members on release and two companies after the first Wipe), so my narration might be from that perspective, but I will also try to focus on more casual players’ experience.
Cost of survival
From watching people on stream, surveying other players and my personal experience I can tell that the barrier of enter in this game is very high.
The game demands hundreds of hours of time invested to explore and enjoy its different aspects, however it is even more demanding on protecting what you already have.
In some posts of this subreddit, casual players complain being bullied by large companies, which is true. It is impossible for a small group of 5-10 people to defend themselves from a continuous harassment of a group of 30-50 players or even an alliance of several hundreds. Even if they manage to fortify a mountain somewhere, they will lose their ships and 95% of their game experience will be a disadvantageous PVP. Until they eventually quit the game 1-by-1, or all together.
The solutions suggested usually consist in either reducing large companies in size or giving smaller companies a better protection bonus. But those proponents forget, that large companies would rather change their structure from a single company to an alliance than play with a handicap.
And this was shown with the PVP Colonies and PVP Empires. Almost nobody went to play on the later, instead associations with more than 70 players created several companies tightly knit through the same means of communications (Team Speak, Discord) and the command structure.
In fact, what makes big companies so disruptive to other players is not their offensive capabilities, but rather defensive: 95% of the post-Wipe bases could be rushed by a small team of 5-10 players if taken by surprise (nobody online or in another grid), but because the attackers inhabitate 5% of those tough bases — retaliation was always unthinkable.
For example, before the Wipe we had players who would solo, or in a tiny group wipe entire islands because of boredom and if the attacked ones dared to strike back, they would face the wrath of our entire fleet. After the Wipe this improved a bit, but probably no small or even medium group can have someone monitoring their company logs for 9 hours every single day (aside there are ways to plan an attack so before a single line is ouput by the Discord bot everything is over already).
On other hand, the big companies in most of the cases engage in war with other big companies which require them to put very strong defenses. On EU PVP 750 bots its considered a bare minimum for a single island. The amount of “spam” structures to prevent enemy from building a FOB (an attack base) slows down game fps and worsens the game experience as well making farming hard because of the blocked resources nodes. All that can sit alone for months without anyone daring to make an actual attack, consuming game hours and patience.
“Boohoo poor megatribes, they have it so hard”, well it probably doesn’t feel as bad as losing all your in-game progress, but it is not a pleasant experience. As you can imagine only some % of the members help building and maintaining the base.
Removing the Cost of Survival
The simplest and the most obvious solution was suggested in some posts before mine — make grids with always PVE islands. Some players suggested making different types of PVE/PVP hybrids based on the company preferences. But I know for sure, that the biggest companies would prefer 100% PVE islands even if they have almost 0 materials. In the same fashion that almost nobody wet to play on PVP Empires.
To prevent island-hoarding three mechanics should keep being implemented:
1. Limit of islands by a single owner;
2. Gold cost that would exponentially grow depending on the number of islands the company owns;
3. War Mechanics;
The War tokens should still exist, though War should be more casual. Instead of 24 hours it should be active only 12. The attacker should decide the day, while the defender should be able to pre-set the default war time through the flag interface (similar to how PVP timer works right now). If the owner doesn’t have the time window set before the war is declared, the war time should be default for the island.
With mechanics like this and the cost of the Token, nobody would declare a war to just harass. Companies would do so with a true purpose like taking over an island or punishing their enemies.
1. Remove costs associated with the survival. Casual players would only have to farm the gold needed to maintain their islands flags, which if balanced correctly (exponential costs mechanics for multiple islands owners) would dissuade people from hoarding island and would tax small groups with only a couple of hours of grinding each week. Solo players would be able to become settlers on someone’s island without being dragged into politics and war (unless the war is declared and they can evacuate thanks to the prior notice).
2. Improve game client and server performance, because people would only need to set the most basic of defenses to defend their ships for the anchor cd to kick-in and protect their ships. Islands will have drastically less bots, walls, towers and in most cases no spam structures at all.
3. People would actually have tames and valuables at home (instead of how most companies save their pets on the Free Port islands with inventories full of staff).
4. Naval battles will be more prominent. Right now, most of the ships on Official PVP server are destroyed during PVP time while anchored without doing anything.
5. If the materials on that type of island are limited to generic resources, like those you can farm in the Free Ports, players would be motivated to travel there, creating more piracy-related content for everyone.
Example of the server grid
This map I drew with the sole purpose of illustrating these ideas and promote debate. Main features:
A. 4 clusters of 13 servers each that should contain together around 200-250 PVE only islands. Should be sufficient even if EU PVP and NA PVP are merged. The materials that spawn should be generic (like the ones in Free Port).
B. In middle of each cluster a Free-Port type server, however with a single island that would have an NPC city with a shipyard, bank, marketplace, whorehouse, coliseum and casino (very important
C. Generic Free Port servers, so the space between the clusters is not so barren.
D. 4 Ancient Ruins servers (devs, like seriously, why we need 9? There are only 2 types of bosses and 4 would cover all your biom designs anyway).
No lawless, instead all the remaining servers in the grid should have flag-capture mechanics we had pre-wipe (or on PVP Empires).
This will also prevent island hoarding, structure spamming and would make ground PVP so much more entertaining.
Because right now the meta for island on PVP Colonies is to place the ownership flag on the beach and sit inside a submarine to contest anyone taking it.
This prevents anyone from taking a hold in an island and forces the attacker to spend millions of explosives to do actual damage to anyone. Because those islands are likely to be used only as temporal or farming bases — there is no need to make islands outside of clusters of type A more casual. Instead those island should be fought over for their rare materials, otherwise unavailable.