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A response to the recent devblog series from an ex DU player.


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About a year ago I fell in love with DU's tech and the promise. Launched my organization (DIA) with the beta. I have grown it to a relevant proportion. I then left the game due to what's basically a lack of content. This devblog series does not rekindle my hopes for the game. Here is what I think about the game's current state and my open letter to NQ and response to the devblogs.

 

Is DU a Tech Demo, a Beta, or a Full Launch?

 

Dear NQ,

 

A fundamental thing about why this game is losing so much momentum is you calling a tech demo a beta, then expecting players to actually play it like a fully launched game.

 

From a game mechanics perspective, Dual Universe is a tech demo. The only sustainably enjoyable and interesting gameplay has been construct building. Most playstyles this game should have been featuring are out of balance, boring, or nonexistent. Player support is a nightmare. The game regularly experiences bugs and exploits most of which affect the universe and enjoyment of all players, not just the ones who interact with the bugs.

 

From the your official perspective, DU is a beta, because you wanted to be able to charge the players for the game, yet make drastic changes to the game without angering the playerbase.

 

But from the player perspective, DU is a fully launched game, because you are letting players accumulate wealth, experiences, organizational structures; and carry it over to the actual launch. Let me explain why this matters so much.

 

Why Would People Play DU?

 

Your failure to recognize the fact that this game isn't a beta for the player showcases a fundamental lack of appreciation on why people play single shard sandbox games. People do not and will not play DU for the immediate experiences of mining, building, industry, ship flying, or PvP.  Your main problem isn't the immediate "gameplay loops" that the players are put into. These are not the primarily outstanding features of DU gameplay. There are much better games out there for each. I could play Star Citizen or Elite Dangerous if I was super into spaceship flying. I could play Satisfactory for a way better version of DU's experience of industry. Literally any game has better PvP than DU. 

 

[I exclude construct building from the above list of activities as it is pretty high level compared to games of similar nature, such as Minecraft. And guess what; it's your most time-invested and early-developed feature.]

 

We are early adopters of this game, because we want to play a game which we don't just log in and do our favorite activities, but we also want a game in which doing these activities matter in the context of the greater sandbox universe. The ore I collect could fuel a war. The PvP I do could save or collapse an organization. The ship or LUA I designed can be adopted by thousands of players, ultimately be used to tremendous ends. The factories I build could be the backbone of my space empire. We are here waiting for this emergent content to emerge. We are want to get ahead, be relevant, be famous, be helpful in our different ways in this universe. We want to be a part of something greater. That's what a single shard sandbox is about. The fact that whatever you are doing matters in a greater scheme of things, is why we are playing this game. This is also why game changes, exploits, lack of support and lack of content matters so much.

 

The Frustrations

 

We cared about playing in the context of a greater, living universe. So we sucked up the broken mechanics and the lack of content, and started seriously investing our time in DU. This is because if we didn't, we'd have fallen behind. In other words, we had no choice but to treat this game as a full launch in our time investment decision, because otherwise we'd be punished with respect to why we are playing the game. You basically forced yourself into a position which you constantly frustrate players, because you gave them a tech demo but pushed them to play as if it was a full game. Let me elaborate on concrete examples.

 

The vast majority of specific frustration cases in DU can be categorized into three.

 

Firstly, there are game design changes that invalidate people's hours. The industry patch, screen updates, and every other perhaps much-needed change that would invalidate hundreds of hours of people's time. Now since the game is mechanically a tech demo, you want to be able to make drastic changes. But since people play it as a fully launched game, they commit their full selves and do become frustrated when major changes that are very much necessary invalidate hundreds of hours of their time.

 

Secondly, there are bugs, exploits, and lack of support. People derived truckloads of money and benefits off them (e.g. the blueprint market bug, the initial T4-T5 bot ore purchases, old broken industry, and lots more). People who didn't get support fell behind (even in DIA we lost a warp beacon, and we didn't have DRM ownership of our factories due to the lack of support). These exploits and broken gameplay elements aren't things that you can shrug off when you fix them, because their repercussions in the DU universe (aka the illegitimate wealth people acquired, etc.) carry over even into the actual launch. And you didn't (in most cases couldn't) address that in most cases. You didn't remove the profits earned by the exploiters of the blueprint bot order fiasco, for example. When players earn billions off bugs and exploits, that makes the rest of us who has to do legitimate work to earn that income invalidated. That's game-breaking, because again, most of our enjoyment of DU derives from our activities in the context of the greater DU universe than just the activities themselves. Again, you launched a tech demo in which you didn't have the manpower to do cleanups (e.g. deleting the income) after exploits, and players playing it as a full game pay the price.

 

Thirdly, there is the lack of content because the game is underdeveloped. The path from a tech demo to boredom is pretty self explanatory with this category of frustration.

 

The truth is many players wouldn't have invested that much time and effort in trying to do things that matter in this sandbox, if the game reset once it's properly launched at an acceptable quality. And no, it obviously isn't enough to argue that "players knew that they were going into a beta" because you committed to not wiping the game, including designs. Because, again, people mainly play DU to matter and to be relevant in a universe, and you left them a choice of either falling behind of that goal, or playing a semi-working tech demo.

 

Emergent Content

 

The second big picture issue I see with your decisions is about your views and predictions of how emergent content emerges. Emergent content does not emerge unless the game creates the right conditions for it to emerge. The lack of conflict and content driving mechanics mostly made it impossible for it emerge in DU.

 

[I am saying "mostly", because the one playstyle which is an exception to this is construct building. Great construct creations (although only in looks, not as much in functionality) are the only emergent content this game provides so far. And guess what, the content around this playstyle (ships, stations, expos) are the only thing NQ Twitter can mention daily.]

 

For even a beta, DU should have emerged as many stories in war, piracy, theft, great empires, great trade deals, and so on. These are the kinds of things Eve players should be familiar with. The fact of the matter is that for any other single player experience, there is a better game. But for the emergent sandbox-wide content, DU could have been the best game. Meanwhile, we got JC's "puzzles" which were badly envisioned attempts to generate that content. They were one-time events generating one-time content. They were pretty exclusive in terms of the ratio of DU players engaging with it. They were probably a waste of your devtime. An elaborate "puzzle" is an example of how not to introduce emergent content to your sandbox. True sandbox content is typically unintended, unplanned. 

 

Here are some immediate choke points on the game design which makes it non-conducive to emergent content.

 

Industry: All processes in DU leading up to construct building are fully vertically-integrateable solo (if not with a small organization). If you have 10 people, no reason to not to everything in-house. The game should have been designed from very early on in a way which deep specializations are needed to prevent self-sufficiency. Instead, your "gameplay loop" and "DU shouldn't feel like work" worries pushes you to introduce even more self-sufficiency (aka mining units). In a true sandbox people who don't want to mine would have other opportunities of value generation to buy the ore. Moreover, this is a bad case of "listening to players". Most players have no idea what makes an overall high quality sandbox. A builder will just want free materials to build. That doesn't mean that's a good implementation for a sandbox MMO.

 

Trade: JC's allergy to API, ESI and such removes huge depth from trading for the sake of trading.

 

Organization-Building: There is no value organizations can provide to members which they couldn't have gotten elsewhere. There is no service and value-generator members couldn't have gotten elsewhere unless they join. And inversely, there is no reason why members should pay "taxes" or invest in their organizations. Thus, there is no point in creating a deeply structured organization. Anything can be done better as 1 or 2 dedicated players, without all the hassle of people management.

 

Consensual PvP:  There is no structure in which players can find PvP. Solo PvP isn't even viable (at least to most who don't use remote controllers) when 2 players can man an L core that can one-shot your ship. It is a huge deal-breaker for a sandbox game if one can't hop on their ship and find daily PvP at their small time window. Frankly I don't see how you will be able to circumvent this problem in the next year or years. The devblog certainly does not provide an answer here.

 

Organizational PvP: Can be summed up as "nothing to fight over". Even if you introduce territory warfare, huge mining and resource distributions revamps will ne required to make territories worth fighting over.

 

Non-Consensual and Asymmetric PvP: Piracy is near-impossible because avoiding potential pirates is easy. There is no mechanical depth to generate a meaningful risk/reward space in which some players die to pirates, but not in a game-disabling fashion. Similarly, there are no asymmetric (big org vs. small org) opportunities for the same lack of depth. 

 

No PvE Content:  You don't seem to have money for any.

 

No Exploration Content: You don't seem to have interest for much. One can do construct and planet exploration, but it gets old pretty fast without any reward. Moreover, exploration gameplay was a very low hanging fruit to generate right at the beta launch. Just sprinkle some exclusive rewards in a manner which someone roaming regularly would find these rewards at least once half an hour (and this is how you botched shipwrecks).

 

The Trajectory of the Game and DU as an Ecosystem

 

Reading the devblog does not excite me about the future of the game and on whether you learned meaningful lessons. Emergent content will not emerge unless you begin thinking about Dual Universe as an ecosystem. In a single shard sandbox, playstyles and activities should be interconnected in an ecosystem of relations. Yes, you do seem to realize that there is a lack of content, conflict driving mechanics, and more "sand in the sandbox". You don't however, seem to appreciate the role this interconnectedness plays in generating content. 

 

For example, you want to implement space mining, but you don't think about the demand-side. Ore itself is only valuable if there is demand for it. The lack of PvP losses, the availability of ore in safe-zone players, in the market, and in people's long term stashes won't make ore worth fighting over. So you need new things with demand. And even when you meet this challenge, you have to solve the n+1 problem. For players, the optimized way of engaging with big-reward mechanics is creating consortiums and monopolies. Good conflict drivers involve inherent game designs against these. There is nothing for example, that yields advantages to smaller fleets of ships over larger fleets in DU PvP. This example illustrates how sandbox conflict drivers are supposed to be grounded on mindful and deep PvP mechanics, as well as meaningful balance of risk/reward to drive the conflict and the fun. It is unfortunately predictable that you will put some ore (or new items) to PvP space, and wait for people to sustainably fight over them, which won't happen. The nature of the reward and the nature of the PvP to obtain the reward are as much inherent to content emergence as the placement of the reward.

 

I have a pessimist prediction, because any earlier game design decisions involving ore distribution to planets and hexes, territory scanning, bot orders, industry flows, etc; indicate a similar lack in conceiving Dual Universe as a single interconnected ecosystem. Earlier decisions could have easily generated a more meaningful distribution of value to territories (the most valuable hex is cleared in a day, which is also connected to mining mechanics), things to fight over (if we would have construct PvP on asteroids, there is no reason why we didn't have construct PvP on some planets), exploration (for example, it's not costly to add 10 valuable NPC ships with sub-par AI at a given time to orbits of planets), and so on. Similarly, some future plans show the same lack of appreciation to DU as an ecosystem; such as mining units which will predictably devalue mining by underestimating how much effort players (and botters/RMT'ers) would spend to create big passive income setups.

 

Overall this all just feels like different teams at NQ are given different aspects of the game and they are all implementing their individual designs. There is no wider orchestration from upper level game designers and producers who truly can conceive DU as an ecosystem, and who can appreciate the interconnectedness different systems in the game should exhibit. JC looks like a person who has a great big picture vision, who wants his metaverse, but who does not have the necessary specific visions and approaches to sandbox/ecosystemic game design and development to get there.

 

DU's Project Management and Finances

 

As a final remark, it seems that most of this "lack of content" and the launch decisions could be due to high level decision-making for financial or technological reasons. Perhaps you heavily needed the subscription revenue. Or you needed players to truly commit to the game so you can test the tech. Even if so, the plan seems to have failed. The people who pitched the game to investors should have conducted better expectation management and better financial/business planning. 

 

I am speculating JC was put on the bench for related reasons. If so, then that's perhaps a good call depending on who replaces him. If this is the most you could deliver given the money you have, I don't see how using the same money better would have delivered a timely product. The game might have just needed more money and several years more of development to reach a workable design and launch track. If so, then the responsibility is with those who planned DU and NQ as a business and project model.

 

That said, I hope the investors keep up with it, because I think the initial promise of the game (provided good future game design) is pretty sound. It might need two years more development and a bigger team though.

 

I'll keep following how the game progresses and I hope it succeeds. I don't find the money I spent on it a waste as I already played hundreds of hours.

 

o7

 

EDIT: Corrected some grammar and sentencing.

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there is no wider orchestration from upper level game designers and producers who truly can conceive DU as an ecosystem

Seconded. This sums it up very well, while NQ certainly means well, it seems like they have very "sterile" approaches to how things should be implemented.

This "game"/metaverse is indeed an ecosystem or should be, so you need to approach it with economical, social and gaming expertise - not just purely assuming one or two "cool features" make a great game or great content.

 

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Game will be better eventualy, sure, to level of quite (solo/coop) enjoyable bastard of Landmark and space simulator with some pvp for entusiasts. Yet bigger train of initial ambition likely missed forever.

 

I wanted to be wannabe journalist in dynamic, war-torn eve-like world, but ended up on some used cars shitty catalogue dump with all this amazing creations and impossibly boring nerds. 

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Great post from OP. Even if they made sure we had PvP in both space and atmos, keeping a big safezone like the one around Sanc, Alioth, Thades and Madis just disintegrates any chance of real diplomacy, politics and war taking the need for orgs and nations with it in it's grave.  Life in safezone is single player and that's the opposite of what we came here for and as long as bases and indies of big orgs can be in safezones there will NEVER be any real emergent gameplay. TW should have been put into the game a year ago and whenever it arrives, it better put a stop to the singleplayer play style of DU.

 

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Careful @Olmeca_Gold

Making sense and putting the finger on the sore spots of NQ and DU will earn you the label of being negative, if not toxic with a good number of players..

 

4 hours ago, Olmeca_Gold said:

Overall this all just feels like different teams at NQ are given different tasks and they are all implementing their own designs. But there is no wider orchestration from upper level game designers and producers who truly can conceive DU as an ecosystem, and can see how interconnected different systems in the game are (and are supposed to be). Meanwhile, JC looks like a person who has a great big picture vision, who wants his metaverse, but who does not have the necessary specific visions and approaches to sandbox/ecosystemic game design and development to get there.

 

Pretty much hits the nail smack on the head here and their are several examples  in game that all but prove this to be correct. and in addition I expect NQ staff have been tasked over time with jobs that really are not/were not in their field of expertise, especially in the UI/UX department.

 

 

Meanwhile, great post, pretty much spot on and too bad NQ will probably "hear you" but forget to actually listen. For me and after the three blogposts we're still at the same point, a game which I'd really like to get good and which has the potential for greatness by a studio which has no idea on how to make that happen.

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Nice post ! 10/10

 

10 hours ago, smurfenq said:

Life in safezone is single player and that's the opposite of what we came here for

 

Disagree ! 

Where did you build your first ship ? Alioth 

Where did you buy that first engines ? Alioth

Where did you sold your first ore ? Alioth

If you dont give new players the chance to build themselves at start without engaging them in a born into war situation then new players will stay in sanctuary or propably wont hope into pvp because they could not acquire their first wealth to build their ship. There is so much difference in hauler-smuggling (Especially in starter areas )and true PVP.

True PVP is what I came here for ...

 

Habitant

Habitants Organization

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This game is just not a game, and problem are they pretend balance the actual game before finish all the features this game to become a game, this is enter in a loop of fails, why every time they adding a new feature disbalance the old ones.

 

At this point we need being realistics, we need a fast release of the new game features , accept they being released with fails, and once we get the full game loot balance, fix, and finaly wipe for a fresh start with the full game content. 

 

Keep in the idea heal the dead horse are just waste time, and waste the oportunity of succes.

 

No, you cant pretend a game were you delive tools to players and they make the game to you, players are not here to do your work, you have to setup the world rules, like all the games from the begining of the game concept.

 

Territory contol, Energy system, Decay, Maintenance Cost, PvP everiwere with secure lvls, risk vs rewars... Nothing new friends, ages of experience in videogames, demostrate this is what work. Include for people who no like this concept, why if you are a no pvp player, you also want to live in a worl alive were are happening thinks, and were economy works and you can sell your products to some one who use its to war.

 

 

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At current state of affairs, the most sensible thing NQ can do with DU is what  Square Enix did with FF XIV, which to this date is considered the biggest and probably only truly succesful comeback of a mmo in history. For those who are not familiar with the situation, the initial release in 2010 was an utter broken mess despite 5 years of development, In 2012 Square shut down all the servers. After complete redesign and another year in closed alpha testing they came back in 2013 with what had become as the most successful mmo besides wow (22 mil copies sold)

 

If NQ is as commited to the DU project as they're declaring they are, and if NQ can secure sufficient funding,  instead of patching a one hole to have two more sprout in its place, give the current iteration a closure in a grand world ending event and close this current technical alpha test.

 

In followup to that, spend whatever time you need to parse and process all the feedback us, dedicated customers have been giving you for the past 2 years.  There are some great ideas there, they really bad ones, and even some that are truly out there.  That please take you time to research those that came before you such as Freespace, Elite, Earth and Beyond and Eve just to name a few. See what made them great as well as what made them fail in their respective ambitions.

 

I believe you convinced most of us you can make the technology work.

 

Now is the time to convince us all you can actually design and make a game.

 

And please, please for the love of Spock, hire actual Producer, and a Creative lead that has shipped at least one game in the last 10 years.

 

If you can credibly show us you can do that, i'm pretty sure most of us who stuck around would not hesitate to throw another 60 bucks your way at the right side of the tunel

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7 hours ago, Bazzy_505 said:

If NQ is as commited to the DU project as they're declaring they are, and if NQ can secure sufficient funding,  instead of patching a one hole to have two more sprout in its place, give the current iteration a closure in a grand world ending event and close this current technical alpha test.

 

Yep, I agree, FF14 way its only trully right choice in current situation.

 

But so far NQ showed almost complete lack of proverbial balls in dealing even with much lesser problems in disign/balance, so expecting them go brave in such cataclysmic one is mostly daydreaming. Even JC silently gone to back seat, having no courage to actually talk with players personaly and apologize for his mistakes, that brought us to this sad point.

 

So more likely we'll see years of desperate patchworking.

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6 hours ago, Aaron Cain said:

since they closed the community page all diplomacy or "wars"have ended. the way this turns out its diplomatic glory days were in the past and are not expected to return soon.

 

Hi,

 

could you please elaborate? Which page are you referring to?

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You charge people and say there won’t be a wipe when entering release, yip, people will expect release features which just need a little fine tuning; not where we are at.

 

Exploits which some orgs/players make mega coin, but isn’t rolled back; yep leaves a sour taste in the mouths of others, especially since they are all competing in the same world.

 

Agree with somebody who said shut it down. It’s time to push its offical status back to Alpha. Stop charging people. Maybe reopen the kick starter for people who wish to be in while it’s in development stage.

 

When they went open beta, they got a lot of players in a short time. It shows proof of concept it’s wanted, they just gotta make it right. Don’t completely destroy the brand name, retreat and rework.

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I realy dont see how the investors will ever get their money back off this game, who are these people that keep pumpin in money into this project, i guarantee they are not gamers themselfs they have no clue. Even on twitch banjoo kazoie has 50 viwers and this game has 20....

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3 minutes ago, Frizura said:

I realy dont see how the investors will ever get their money back off this game


And that's why they are investors, and you are a forum comment writer :P

Investors are not ppl used to calculate the paycheck of 10 or 20 ppl.
They are used to calculate the paycheck of entire companies. For them 10-100K is pocket money.


They know who to call to sell technology if things go wrong.
They know how to dodge any bank debts.

 

They know the chance of success is probably less than 20%. But the investment return if those 20% kick in is huge.

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8 hours ago, Frizura said:

I realy dont see how the investors will ever get their money back off this game

 

I'm still pretty sure the investors are not primarily involved for the game, they are mostly here for the server tech. The risk is that once the server tech actually becomes a viable asset, they may decide to sell the tech to recoup the investment, in that respect the fumbling around by NQ my be a blessing for the game. 

 

On the other hand, if DU ever gets of the ground and starts generating revenue, chances are that there is a repayment of investment of 15-20M a year while leaving enough funds to keep the company going and moving forward with expansions. If the game was pitched as a long term investment, the 22M that is in now and the new investment which I could see being another 20-30M (up to maybe 50M). If the pitch was that the expected revenue would be in line with a game like EVE and the pitch would have been to recoup investment over 5 years after release then it is money (40-70M) that can be recovered. The game will need to start attracting serious player numbers though, retain them and start opening up additional revenue streams (cash shop). For reference, EVE has about 230K unique paying subs and a lot of their revenue als comes from selling PLEX and game/skin/training/game time/PLEX packs

 

I do not think what we see now (in the change of leadership) was unplanned, I'd expect NQ has tried to get the next investment round secured for the better part of a year and they eventually managed to get it by giving up control of the company and having the investors be in charge. This can end badly or it can actually be what saves the company and the game.

 

For this to work out though, I am convinced NQ will need to make a massive shift in how they work and while the first two blogposts of the three we've recently seen do hint at this, the third was yanking all of that right back to the "old ways" of overpromising without any indicators that NQ can actually make  this happen. There is no actual time frame for anything right now but I can see that being because there is no firm commitment on the investment yet.

 

It's not too late and there is a good opportunity I think, but it's close to 12 and you can hear the cogwheels controlling the on the hour bells spinning up.

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1 hour ago, blazemonger said:

The game will need to start attracting serious player numbers though, retain them and start opening up additional revenue streams (cash shop). For reference, EVE has about 230K unique paying subs and a lot of their revenue als comes from selling PLEX and game/skin/training/game time/PLEX packs.

 

Its most dodgy part in whole equasion. Online gaming landscape (on many layers) changed last 15 or so years, so DU face much harder task and grabbing/holding target audience comparing to EVE back then (practicaly enjoying monopoly in respective niche). So, in way DU kinda aimed to reproduce success of EVE, but at same time its not something you can really reproduce without time machine.

 

Snail pace of development also seriously crippled overall momentum, with huge demographic losses of precious super-target audience people (who may never return).

 

 

 

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