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Now that we know a bit more.. What's next? (long read)


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I would like to put my thoughts on the CEO change out there as I actually feel a lot of this aligns with what I have been saying would be good for the game for a long time.

 

Right now, DU was forced into an early public release for what many expect will be funding needs. And it did not work out. The short-term thinking and rushed implementation of features has only done one thing, cause more delays and waste dev time because a lot needs to be redone.

 

NQ, by means of JC, kept a brave face, and kept saying that all would be well, that there were no signs that they would not be able to meet the end of 2021 target for a full release. The list of features to be done as well as the immense mountain of technical debt, bugs to be squashed, optimization and polish to be done simply make a release in the true sense of the word at best unlikely for the end of 2021.

 

Now, the vision of JC for the game is great but poses a lot of challenges that are extremely hard if not impossible to overcome. The idea of implementing several vastly different playstyles and preferences in one world by itself is tough, the technical challenges remain huge. JC the visionary could and did dream of his game and how it would all come together while JC the CEO of NQ needed to temper expectations and bring that vision down to a manageable and viable level. And that IMO is where things went wrong.

 

 

When I backed the game, shortly after Kickstart ended, I was certain (and had no issue with) that NQ would not be able to hit the December 2018 release as it was clearly unrealistic for a game this scale. When Alpha opening to backers was delayed by several months and we then found ourselves in pre-alpha and under NDA instead at the end of September 2017, it should have been clear it was never going to be possible to get a release done in about 12 months. Yet, it took NQ nearly a year to announce an updated roadmap which pushed release to the second half of 2020. That new release date was clearly still overly optimistic at best seeing the state of the game at the time.

 

Then a new studio opened in Canada, we can only guess as to why but a combination of using a better tax environment for software development, more access to talent and yes, they speak French there. We do not know the ins and outs of how the management structure worked/works but it seems that much of the decisions were made in Paris still. When the first studio lead left the same year JC moved to Canada.

 

With some fanfare a new backing round by investors was announced by JC in June 2019 and when looking at the normal timeline for Venture Capital investment this was a pretty standard Round A option that was taken after the initial seed. Crowd funding never played much of a role in all this with the eventual 2.5M or so being spent before it was received basically.

 

Around November 2019 and honestly very little actual progress later, still under NDA a new roadmap was released pushing the release out for another year to end of 2021. That roadmap still read more as a wish list of features and still seemed very optimistic to me as NQ still had to implement all main features outside of mining and building.

 

Then, 30th of April 2020, JC announced that the game would come out of NDA and go to public beta with subscriptions instead of the planned closed development up to release for backers only. That was the moment where some of us backers started to see signals that NQ was not doing great and needed to start generating revenue which was never the intention. Meanwhile NQ had been operating on a total budget of around 25Million since end of 2014 so it was only reasonable to assume they were running on debt which in itself is fine as long as you can pay interest and keep paying your bills.

 

In December the 0.23 patch dropped which caused much discontent and an exodus of players with changes which were really not bad in themselves, but the implementation was terrible and very superficial. NQ, again by means of JC, blamed the need for the changes on the small groups and solo players who did not use the markets and did everything themselves so that needed to change. Add several badly handled exploit fallouts to the mix and the fragile player base shrunk at an alarming rate. To me, this was a massive signal that JC the visionary was not able to separate from JC the project manager or JC the company president/CEO.

 

JC also said on several occasions that he saw no reason to assume that it would not possible to meet the release date on the roadmap of end 2021, anyone understanding the amount of work left to do and especially the list of feature JC brought in as “coming in the next year” towards the end of 2021shoudl have been a clear sign of the many red flags regarding hitting a 2021 release.

 

Then, as the next major update came around it was underwhelming at best and NQ had to spin missing their milestone by announcing that 0.24 would arrive in “phases”.
And so, here we are start of April and we know that JC has resigned as CEO with anew CEO being appointed in the person of Nicolas Granatino who also is the CEO of the main investor in NQ. And from here all we can do is speculate on what is next.

 

 

 

My hope is this:
Under new management the potential and promise of DU is acknowledged while at the same time the need for more time is established. A big factor in the assets of the game is the server tech which can be developed and licensed to third parties with potentially considerable revenue. For that reason, Novaquark will be receiving a fresh investment injection with a business savvy and financially qualified CEO at the helm. 

 

To achieve this, the company will need to go through a restructure and cut a lot of mid level ballast. I would really hope that NQ will have the balls to relabel the development to where it is, alpha, and postpone the scheduled release with a TBD new date.

 

Then spend time to fix what they have, work through the technical debt, stabilize the backend and improve their community facing communication to a point where we do not need details but do find NQ to actually listen and be responsive and not “be heard” and then hear nothing back. So many great suggestions and ideas have been lost because NQ has shown a chronic lack of engagement and interaction at even the most basic levels.

 

I have always said and still feel that DU has such massive potential and promise as well as will be able to appeal to many different play styles and ideas but NQ as it was, has never really shown the ability to make that happen. I hope that this change is not the end of the company (despite the "letter", I would not disregard that option yet) but a new start in making that potential come alive and a reality.
 

 

I really feel NQ (and with it DU) has a chance here to recover and grow. From where we now are and for it to work, NQ needs to do their part in showing progress and improvement in many ways while we, as the community, need to start with giving them the space to do that and then get past what was and work with what is to come..

 

 

Let's have a good discussion here and not dwell on the past, we're all here because we have a passion for DU and the only way DU will stay alive is for "new NQ" to be able to make it happen. 

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1 hour ago, blazemonger said:

JC also said on several occasions that he saw no reason to assume that it would not possible to meet the release date on the roadmap of end 2021, anyone understanding the amount of work left to do and especially the list of feature JC brought in as “coming in the next year” towards the end of 2021shoudl have been a clear sign of the many red flags regarding hitting a 2021 release.

I think this is where they lost all support from KS Backers from long time ago. And this is the reason we dont believe a single word of what they say, knowing the State of du for years. 

 

Get it to alpha again, fix broken stuff, communicate what you do next and then start over. Otherwise I really cant See this working

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1 hour ago, blazemonger said:

A big factor in the assets of the game is the server tech which can be developed and licensed to third parties with potentially considerable revenue

 

There are 2 models of doing this.

The 1st is with stable product with API calls and documentation. 

The 2nd is with a pure code dump and a message saying "this is what we have" 

 

I dont think DU's tech is ready for the 1st. And licensing does not fit the 2nd.

 

But in general, thank you for your insights and your hope. 

 

PS: Good luck keeping this thread up... 

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I'll give Nick one month of grace period to sort mess (JC left him) out. Not super trust guy, but kinda have cautious hope, that he can du something with DU.

 

One thing that I still see absolutly critical for NQ to improve fast(er) -- comms. Ideally -- re-think whole mode of opetations, go for KS promises about transperancy and using players feedback in innovative ways. Before this was more of joke. But now there is a chance do it without any jokes.

 

Comms can be both "start of rebirth" point (if changed) and "same old shit" return to swamp (if not).

 

 

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48 minutes ago, Lethys said:

I think this is where they lost all support from KS Backers from long time ago. And this is the reason we dont believe a single word of what they say, knowing the State of du for years. 

 

Get it to alpha again, fix broken stuff, communicate what you do next and then start over. Otherwise I really cant See this working

what about the legal implications for NQ if they revert but not honor its promises for beta access players. ?

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58 minutes ago, Lethys said:

Get it to alpha again, fix broken stuff, communicate what you do next and then start over. Otherwise I really cant See this working

 

I can only really agree with this. If NQ is able to find the courage to face facts there and revert to Alpha AND then show us progress and a way out into beta I think that will undo a lot of mistrust and frustration about broken promises. Even a solid plan with a realistic set of expectations and then sticking to that may do the same.

It all depends on what the investors can fix and accomplish over the next few weeks as I do believe that is where we are now. If they find they can't fix it an dit's not worth the risk on their end IMO they are well within their right to pull the plug. But I have enough faith in the potential of DU being strong enough to build a case for renewal and a way forward and we as the community certainly can play a part in that by being patient during these weeks.

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What promises?  They would obviously have to refund active subs or continue to provide access to the game in some fashion (either the current Beta or the Alpha) for the duration of existing subs, but other than that most broken promises are not actionable when it comes to game development.  

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19 minutes ago, Xiolena said:

what about the legal implications for NQ if they revert but not honor its promises for beta access players. ?

 

I'm not sure what you mean by that.. If they would revert back, that would mean putting the right sticker on the package and handling it as such. It might mean not selling new subscriptions but allowing those that are on board to stay on board for the time they have and a way in if they choose to stay.

I personally think maintaining subscriptions in the state of the game is a risk better avoided but I also see how this is a tricky one to get right. I think it's a bit early though to say anything about this.

 

  

3 minutes ago, Taziar said:

but other than that most broken promises are not actionable when it comes to game development.  

Most  of these directly relate to the development of the game.

 

One example is AVA combat which was a hard Kickstarter stretch goal, I expect it was pushed out because NQ at the time had to make choices of what they felt they could get done based on a hard deadline of release for end 2021. If they can now come up with a plan that pushes out release and puts us back to where we really are, in Alpha development, then that can get back on the roadmap to be in before actual beta starts. That will be a tough call and probably a very tough change to make but it will also reset allot of frustration and mistrust to a positive state. It's all "if only" for now though.. I really think NQ needs to get a bit of time to get their internals sorted, take a breath and get back to work. WE, as community may have lots of frustration but I am pretty sure it must not have been very pleasant "on the inside".

I agree with @le_souriceau that end of April will be a good reference point for when it should be clear where NQ is going. And from there it will take them some time to actually get a new roadmap done and get the right people in the right place.. This is not an overnight change by any means and expecting that is just unrealistic.

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3 hours ago, blazemonger said:

the vision of JC for the game is great

 

IMHO I think that's the root problem. He clearly had no experience and knowledge of MMOs and their social dynamics and what changed from the early days 15+ years ago.

 

As for the new CEO, he's a pure finance guy so either he's here temporary till they find a new CEO or he is here to liquidate or sell NQ.

 

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2 hours ago, blazemonger said:

JC the visionary could and did dream of his game and how it would all come together while JC the CEO of NQ needed to temper expectations and bring that vision down to a manageable and viable level. And that IMO is where things went wrong.

 

Indeed! I got the impression that JC the CEO was pretty much non-existent and JC the visionary pushed his idas with brute force, not considering what is possible with the available time, budget and technology and what the players are willing to accept. The new CEO now needs to catch up on everything that JC failed to do. He needs to analyse what has been done and what can be done and how to use it to save as much of the investment as possible.

 

This is actually the good part. Canceling the project would mean that the investment is gone. But it doesn't have to be that way. There are parts of the game that work quite well (e.g. building, industry or lua-scripting) and many problems can easily be fixed (e.g. littered markets). Putting the available pices together and turning them into a game that can be marketed in short-term could at least save a part of the money. That will not be the DU we dream of or maybe not even DU at all. But it could still be fun and give JC the chance to gain the experience he needs for the next attempt to make his vision reality.

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Great read. My only comment would be that from my perspective as a software developer, the red flags where clearly visible a good while earlier then the time frame you mentioned.

 

The lack of actual progress made, recurrence of old/and new bugs every patch (many of them trivial to detect and fix), long standing bugs remaining unfixed, infrequent large patches instead of frequent small improvements (waterfall vs agile) and the way NQ never was willing to openly discuss anything but marketing fluff even in a closed NDA forum. Where all classic symptoms of a project having issues.

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39 minutes ago, Kirth Gersen said:

As for the new CEO, he's a pure finance guy so either he's here temporary till they find a new CEO or he is here to liquidate or sell NQ.

 

The one key thing in the "letter" for me was that the investors were mentioned a being "long term". While I get where you are coming from I can see it entirely possible, and believe what we now know supports that, that the investment group has agreed to put more money into the company on the condition that they were able to take control of the company as I can see how they had no faith in JC's ability to  make this work from a CEO perspective.

At the same time, I can see they will use the coming weeks to not just get the company back on track but also see if it is viable to make this company work and add the funding. If not, then yes they may decide to pull the plug and if there is a reasonable chance for them to eventually recoup their investment then they may look for a more permanent CEO or keep their guy in control. All are possibilities and there is literally nothing we can do to influence that but to keep our cool and give it time to work out whichever way it goes.

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I hate when you make good points, but on the state of the game we've always been in agreement. 

 

A good step one from my point of view would be an admission from NQ, that yes, the game in its current state, is not ready for launch. After that I would like to see an actual development roadmap that is updated. Plus a series of devblogs laying out how NQ views various systems and their roles. Not just a pie in the sky "We're building civilization." 

 

As for what to do with the current subs if we returned to an alpha state, Id say grant access to anyone who has paid for at least 3 or 4 months since thatd roughly equal the cost of the lowest backer package for alpha 3. For those with less than 3 months, give them a discount on a new access package. With those with more than 3 or 4 months, give them free game time once the game actually releases. 

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45 minutes ago, Noddles said:

As for what to do with the current subs if we returned to an alpha state, Id say grant access to anyone who has paid for at least 3 or 4 months since thatd roughly equal the cost of the lowest backer package for alpha 3. For those with less than 3 months, give them a discount on a new access package. With those with more than 3 or 4 months, give them free game time once the game actually releases. 

 

Yep, I think its not that big deal, considering very humble number of active subbers. Sums in question barely comparable to multi-million investement needed to re-vitalized NQ.

 

Its question how much courage NQ will gather to own mistakes and roll back (in some parts -- back to the drawing board).

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3 hours ago, Xiolena said:

what about the legal implications for NQ if they revert but not honor its promises for beta access players. ?

I think at this point it's pretty clear that whatever happens they *can't* honour all the promises (i.e. to make a release quality game with a functioning economy and territory warfare by the end of the year).  At some point those promises are going to get broken and expectations will not be met.  IMO it's better to do that early, take it back to alpha, review, re-plan and try again with a more credible roadmap forwards as others here have said.   Arguably trying to keep going and meet all the expectations regardless of the observable reality of things is how we ended up where things are now.

 

And I don't think there's anything wrong with having a money-person as CEO.  No reason why a CEO has to directly produce the game, they just need to pick a good team and keep them pointing in the right direction.

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Do you know what Blazemonger I don’t generally agree with you i feel that you bash this game far too often, but for once (and I rarely post here)I feel in this post you have the balance between criticism and being constructive spot on here fair play ..

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14 hours ago, le_souriceau said:

I'll give Nick one month of grace period to sort mess (JC left him) out. Not super trust guy, but kinda have cautious hope, that he can du something with DU.

 

One thing that I still see absolutly critical for NQ to improve fast(er) -- comms. Ideally -- re-think whole mode of opetations, go for KS promises about transperancy and using players feedback in innovative ways. Before this was more of joke. But now there is a chance do it without any jokes.

 

Comms can be both "start of rebirth" point (if changed) and "same old shit" return to swamp (if not).

 

 

If Nick have an exit strategy, whatever hapens, you'll never have enough power to give him a grace period.

 

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17 minutes ago, AlexRingess said:

If Nick have an exit strategy, whatever hapens, you'll never have enough power to give him a grace period.

 

 

I know, just fooling around a bit. Mostly its about my own "non-critical holydays" to give things clear our a bit. But, even in worst case, to be fair, its nothing personal. For Nick its just buisness and its his money, he not promised or sold us anything in comparison to JC.

 

Still, I hope, NQ will be given one more chance to realise vision of the game and use it better this time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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14 hours ago, blazemonger said:

The one key thing in the "letter" for me was that the investors were mentioned a being "long term".

 

At this stage I wouldn't give much importance to this "letter". It really looks like an  investor standard boilerplate letter to avoid wild speculations and to buy time before announcing the real decision(s).

The next official communication will tell the fate of the game.

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