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Avenues for Improvement

HowardWdW
This of course is IMO. I have been playing the game since day 1 of early enrollment and while there are many things I enjoy about the game, it's beginning to wear a bit thin. The most enjoyable part of the game (for me) is the social aspect of being in a settlement and working together as a team to build things up. The problem I see is that the game is not growing in player population or if it is then it's too slowly.

Anything's success is measured by customer satisfaction, and the number one measure of that is:

CUSTOMER (PLAYER) RETENTION.

Yes, Player attraction is also a big issue, but player retention is in reality an even worse problem because lack of it says that the game is not meeting the audience's needs/wants/desires. There are so many reasons why players don't stay and I'm sure I can't even list many of them. Unfortunately there is no "exit interview". So here are a few that I have personally witnessed.

#1 Immediate New Player Experience

Players we have retained have all told us that if they hadn't gotten in with us on day one they would not have stayed with the game. Why? Too complex to learn and the real fun in the game is grouping up.

The game is complex and new players don't know what to do. There are so many choices and there is no way to "respec" the character once started. Players get discouraged from having made wrong choices at low level when every xp counts and feel their character is "broken" (even though this is a false picture). There are no "build guides" to help players figure out how things go together. It takes a huge amount of research to figure these things out. The Goblinary is a great tool, but figuring out how to spec a character, especially a Wizard, is a nightmare task for a new person who barely has any understanding of the game systems. Most players don't have the time to put into that level of research. They want to download the game and start having fun.

Players don't want to go to school. They want to play. Where is the game played and who can teach them how to play and where are the new players needed? In settlements. Disband PFU as the "training area". Put in a mechanic that either makes a new player choose a group/settlement or randomly assigns new players to settlements.

A simple "alignment" choice would help narrow the field along with a basic "training bent" so there will be training for the class the player wants to play and a description of the play style and main play time of the settlement or group. Then send a notification to the settlement leaders or "new player rep" that says who the new player is that has chosen/been assigned to them.

It is then the settlement's responsibility to train the new players and they are the ones with the most to gain from doing so, which matches responsibility with need.

#2 The Game is Boring

The game is basically all about grinding. While this is true of every MMO at some point in the game, the difference is that grinding in those games produces a tangible result, usually in the form of an exciting piece of gear or a new level with new something. Grinding in this game produces…recipes that the character doing the grinding is probably not going to use, or victory markers , ditto, or "achievements" which do help the character level at the beginning but eventually are simply "there I killed another 5000 of X thing" or "I did that 5000 times".

The main reason for grinding at this point in the game is Influence. That would be a whole different topic. But let's just say that for the "experienced" characters the system not giving any greater reward for killing higher level monsters over and over again than killing the absolute lowest is eventually going to lead to farming low level escalations with guys in T3 gear just so they can gain influence more rapidly without gear loss. Every system needs to have rewards commensurate with risk. This just isn't the case in PFO.

#3 The Game is Boring

Visually this game world is not a fantasy world. Hex after Hex of the same terrain. Mountain hexes that are not only visually unexciting but mechanically a pain in the rear to move around in. There is NO fantasy feel. Every city is the same visually. Where are the Dwarven delvings? Where are the Elven tree cities? Where is the variation expected from even humans? Where are the areas of coastlands and deserts that would give rise to these variations? Where are the fantastic locales expected in a fantasy world? Where is even the water for the rivers in this "River Kingdoms"?

Add onto the above the wooden character animations, the lack of variability in faces, hair styles, body shapes. Add onto that the animations of spells and attacks which are crude and visually mostly … boring.

Visually the game does not meet customer expectation.

#4 The Game is Boring

Like it or not for some players PvE is going to be the main interest along with resource gathering. PvE variety is slowly improving as more monsters are put into the game. But still the main "mechanic" (escalations) is poorly thought out. The "quests" are more grinding and often extremely annoying in design. I love the "spreading" idea behind the escalations. Unfortunately with the low player population things can rapidly get out of control (and have). Also the totally random way in which the escalations appear is somehow unsatisfying. And finally even the loot drop at the end is basically meh.

Monster home hexes. Why are certain escalations home hexes where they are? Why do some monsters have home hexes and others do not? What is the back story? I could see the home hexes of certain monsters being a rich potential ground for exciting visual fantasy environments and story. But no…they are just more hexes, usually ones that fall in the "pain in the rear" to get around in category. A huge missed opportunity.

Then there's the gathering side. An endless stream of visually unexciting nodes giving basically a continuous mix of similar resources. There is no "excitement" to finding the unexpected in a node. Yes that "rare drop" idea in some form is sorely needed IMO.

On top of that, leaving out T3 for the moment, most things are available somehow in most areas of the map. Want to generate real conflict over resources? Want to give reasons for PvP? Segregate the resources more strongly. Create areas where people have to go to get a certain something or they must trade with those controlling that area. Yes the T3 resources are very hard to find and you have to go to X place to get Y thing for the most part. But T3 is way too late in the game for this mechanic. Most players will never reach T3 if the game ever gets to open enrollment. Unfortunately it's probably too late now to do this as it would cause immense disruption in the game world, unless you did a reset, and frankly I can't even see how that would be possible.

#5 The game is said to be PvP but where and how?

I am not a PvP person, but clearly those who want that in the game are not being satisfied. The mechanics designed to prevent "ganking" are only partially working and the mechanics that allow "meaningful" PvP to occur are also only partially working. Then there's the fact that some players don't want "meaningful" pvp, they just want to fight other players because it's challenging and fun.

So addressing the last point first…why isn't there an arena for rep free pvp? In Thornkeep for example, or even as a building people could build in their settlements (which could charge entry fees to players for an income source for the settlement etc).

Why aren't there PvP "zones" which are rep loss free? Make them zones where people need to go for some resource, giving a reason to go (meaning) and a reason for settlements to send teams to that zone. Players who don't want to PvP don't have to go there. For the majority of the map the current rep system and PvP windows for feuds will have to suffice. It will be improved over time I'm sure.

Conclusion

There's no "conclusion" to this discussion. Nor is this an exhaustive list. GW has been focusing on settlement mechanics now for quite a long time. They are an integral part of the game as far as the mechanism by which training will be available and the reason to have and defend settlements…but as Tink said in a recent fireside…they don't change a player's day to day play experience. And it's that day to day experience which is missing and is the reason players are not retained.

Howard, Settlement Leader Ozem's Vigil. Honor, Justice, Goodness and Order. If these are your watchwords then Ozem's Vigil is your true home. Join us today in game and on our website: ozemsvigil.guildlaunch.com
Grim Onyxheart
The game isn't finished yet, this is early enrollment.
~Part of the Empire of Xeilias, settlement of Golgotha, company of House Winterfield~
============= "Through Strength of Arms, We bring Peace." ============
—————————————————- www.xeilias.com ————————————————
Zycor
Nice post. Can I have your stuff.
HowardWdW
@Zycor

LOL!!! Not leaving. Just posting for the benefit of hopefully helping the game.

@ Grim.

I know that. That's why I'm posting. GW needs to hear feedback in order to meet those customer's expectations.
vyal
Good post, Howard, well said.

I agree that retention is a huge problem that will likely persist until GW is willing to make some design goal changes.

IMHO your solutions in point #5 would likely encourage more customers who are interested in direct player conflict to login more frequently. Even, optionally, if such buildings or designated hexes featured non-lethal combat.
Zycor
smilesmile
HowardWdW
@Zycor

I don't like the fact that you grief noobs and I believe you should stop that activity. If you want to be a bandit then play as a bandit. The community as a whole would give you a lot more support for that PvP play style.

"Bandits" are part of what's supposed to be available to play in this game, and as part of creating the "setting" in the sandbox they are needed. This is another area where GW has failed to provide the necessary mechanics.

Find where people are resource gathering, moving mule trains etc. Attack those and not noobs and lobby for GW creating mechanics that allow that play style.
Midnight
@Zycor

I spent my first 55 days being the bad girl.

This community just isn't ready for it. You are of course, free to ignore that fact.

Also, most who have tried banditry have found the population of the game is just too small for the size of the map thus causing banditry to be less economically worthwhile than PvE.

He who wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.
-Edmund Burke
Zycor
I do kill noobs, but I don't kill new players. Lol.
Duffy Swiftshadow
Gonna be pedantic real quick:

I take some umbrage with using the term 'failed' when referring to something not existing at this point. GW whether they implement something well or not, is a small team and they are incapable of making features appear out of nothing. For example, they have not failed at producing a viable bandit system, they haven't gotten to it yet and if we start going down the rabbit hole of 'well they should have done X before Y' we will eventually get to 'they should have finished the game before they let us in' which at this point is doing no one any good.

This is a work in progress, regardless of anything else regarding how anyone feels about that, it is what it is and the reality of the situation is that it's going have missing or incomplete systems. Maybe they could have reordered some of their tasks, but that's an easy call when hindsight is always 20/20. The important thing is to reflect clearly on what we do have and tell them what does and does not work with the understanding that some of it likely to change by design as much as by necessity due to contact with players.

At it's core I agree with a bunch of the things Howard said, and disagree with others. I agree a lot of what we have is serviceable but boring, I do not agree that certain other aspects should or are a priority at this point, but I feel that would be subjective and depends on timelines we can only infer information about. I will add my voice to agreement on one of the points, settlements are great and important part of the game but I think they need some time off after EE11.

Once we can customize them ourselves I think the priorities should shift to fleshing out day to day player content and cleaning up or adding PvP features. Factions will be an obvious part of this, but I feel like a hiatus on settlement features in favor of content or new systems anyone can play with would go a long way with retention and piquing the interest of new players.
 
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