Hello there fellow pilots o/
I’m relatively new to the game and want to give a little feedback, in hope it is of worth to someone who wants to make the game more awesome.
Disclaimer: When I say “like in game X” that doesn’t mean I want SC to become this game. What I mean is that other games do good things too. So why not learn, adapt some of it to this one, and make Star Conflict better for everyone?
This feedback report is written for involved SC community members and the game makers.
If you don’t feel like reading, skip to chapter 3.
1. Where I am
I have spent about 8 days in this game, according to my profile. That translates to almost 200 hours. I tried the game in 2013 and dismissed it because I was bored to death with the T1 gameplay (more on that later). I returned a few weeks ago and have reached rank 7 with Empire gunships, Jericho command ships and guards, and Federation Tackler and Engineer. My win ratio is slightly in the positive, but taking a hard hit from all the veterans at tier 3.
At this point, I consider myself an advanced pilot. I have played similar games (team-based arena shooters like World of Tanks and War Thunder) and benefit from the things I learned there. I know how stuff works in general, and I know very well where I am skill-wise, both in general and in SC.
2. How the progression felt
When I started in 2013:
The gameplay is awesome! Flying around in space, shooting lasers and bullets everywhere - who doesn’t like that?
Then I got my rank 3 ship and calculated how many games I would have to do with my average synergy income to reach the next ship. Then I did mindless grinding, then I quit. T1 numbed my brain, I couldn’t bear it. And the problem wasn’t that tier 1 is easy - in fact, I find that very important. The problem was that when I understood the basics, I still had to play T1 for way too long. And what do I get for grinding a new ship? One passive module slot, that’s all? That may have worked in the 90s, but nowadays people expect to get a bit more out of their time.
A game that is in principle awesome made me quit because the newbie area is too time-consuming and boring!
When I came back in 2015:
The gameplay is awesome!
More grinding to try out other ship classes (I only had one ship back then, the Jericho command ship). Boring as hell, but at least I found out that pretty much all the classes in this game feel interesting to play. And that’s quite an achievement! I even had fun in the Empire sniper, despite the fact that it doesn’t fit my playstyle at all. So there you go developers, good job with the classes!
My only complaint there would be that a tackler is not really a tackler. It’s more of a weird double hybrid - it has very good cloaking with damage buff and uses stationary drones, mixed with tackling sklills that are very easy to counter. It’s something like a support-assassin-hybrid with a slow aura. Weird and inconsistent, or maybe I’m too stupid to understand the tackling part. Either way, it’s still tons of fun to play, so I don’t mind that much.
Feels good! People start using their brains, and PvE is way more interesting. Progression feels better, module customization becomes possible, and there are a few new PvP game modes and new maps. My only complaint is that the tutorial mission thingies are totally bonkers. I played 100 hours and still wasn’t able to get through the tutorial, because it told me to do things that are limited to T3+ (placing bombs). Other than that, this tier feels nice.
The PvE is still a bit weak though - there are no dynamic changes in the missions, no chaos factor, everything is always exactly the same, and always tons and tons of NPC mobs, so playing anything other than Guard or Engineer seems somewhat pointless. Fighters are still ok, but the interceptors are more of a single target specialist, which is utterly useless against minion spam.
My most favourite PvE mission is Crimson Haze. It features three interesting stages, first attacking the outposts, then getting through a station (!) to capture the whole thing, then a tower-defense. It’s awesome! The PvE really has potential to be fun. I hope that someone in the development team is allowed to build even cooler missions, because as it stands, the number of different missions (on rank 4-9) is not that high, and many of them suffer from the minion spam problem.
Playing open world:
Woo, flying through space! Cool areas, cool flying around in a squad with your friends. I very much like this one. But! Not cool:
- can’t fly with friends because they have contracts for other factions (seriously, everything that keeps us away from our friends is a very critical problem in the gameplay)
- most regions are not accessible unless you reach T3+ - giving newbies a warning for the dangerous parts is fine, but please please PLEASE let me play your game if I want to! I have a cloaking ship dammit, why can’t I go into dangerous space?
- not much reason to go into open world (yet?). There are only NPC groups that will 2-hit any newbie who dares to undock (not fun), and nothing alse to find beside the nice landscape. I’m not sure how new this open world thing is; I heard it’s pretty new, so I can forgive that. Still needs to be fixed in the future. Otherwise the space will stay empty.
The combination of not being allowed to go anywhere and not being allowed to go with your friends pretty much kills this game mode right now. But developers, don’t be discouraged. For me, this is the most interesting part of the game. Flying through the wilderness of space together with your friends? Remember that Freelancers game? Freelancers co-op? *hint hint* That’s a HUGE selling point. This mode alone would make me happy already - you know, if I could play it.
After having fun in tier 2, I recently reached tier 3. I was excited, because it looks beefy. More playstyle customization (module slots), more PvP modes, more module types, more maps. Great, right?
Well, kind of. The cost increase for upgrading ship modules, or even just equipping the oney I want, has become a pain in the xxxx. So no upgrades for a long long time. At least I got more variety in both modules and game modes/maps. Not being able to upgrade is a bit annoying, but in the context of a free to play business model I can see why it is there.
What I do have a little problem with is how the PvP matches feel. My sample size is still low (maybe 10-20 matches), but so far it’s not very pleasant. When I played League of Legends, I would be thrown into games with people of nearly equal skill. There was always a hidden ELO system. That is more fun for everyone, because pros actually get a challenge instead of just noobfarming all day, and low skill players get an interesting game instead of getting stomped all day. I understand that the low player count is an issue here, which is one reason why I write this. I want to give feedback, so the game can improve and draw more people in.
In theory T3 should be ok, but due to the density of veterans it feels quite hostile. And telling me to “just learn the advanced play” is not going to help. I put 200 hours into this game. And I can assure you that I’m one of the better players out there. An average gamer is VERY likely to quit at this point, because if you still feel like xxxx after playing a game for 200 hours, then what’s the point in going on? If the game punishes the player for not being a pro, then people won’t play. It’s that simple. Always remember the bell curve. The vast majority of people are NOT pro, and never will be. If you leave them out, everyone still in the game suffers from it.
That being said, I’m not giving up at this point. Not yet, anyway. I want to see more of the progression, and maybe help making the game better by giving feedback. Just keep in mind that the average gamer will probably quit at hitting T3. Well, if he doesn’t quit at T1, that is.
3. My first analysis, and how the game can become more awesome
First of all, I want to make clear that this game could be very successfull. The core gameplay is awesome and feeds the Sci-Fi thirst very well. It is free to play, and there is no competitor out there - no bloody “WoT in space” except for this game. So why are the Star Conflict servers not already filled to the brink with people?
In order to get larger player numbers, I found out a few cornerstones in the last couple years. These are my advices to increase the number of players, which are both content providers and customers in this type of game:
make it easy to learn and accessible : One of the two main reasons why World of Tanks is such a huge success is the fact that a 6 year old can play it and have fun. It’s very easy to get into. The fast pace, small targets, and especially the third dimension make Star Conflict inherently alot more difficult to play. So we need to do everything we can to make the rest of the game as smooth as possible:
- Don’t lock people away from game content (open world area locks, PvE rank requirements). Having extra stuff for corporations is perfectly fine and encourages people who want coordinated play. But after playing for 200 hours I’m still hardlocked out of half the non-corporation stuff. DEAD CONTENT IS NOT GOOD! Neither for the player, nor for the game maker (it doesn’t generate income if nobody can access it).
- Don’t lock people away from their friends! A multiplayer game where you can’t play with others? NOT GOOD! The part of the game that suffers from this is open world gameplay. The whole faction separation thing makes sense if it is used gameplay-wise (like faction warfare in PlanetSide 2). But that is a different type of gameplay and would require tons of additional work here (not going to happen). In Star Conflict, you want everyone to be able to play with everyone, so please developers, decouple the station binding from the contract work. It doesn’t serve any gameplay purpose, is annoying as hell and costs you real money.
- Allow newbies to progress faster! As I said above, the problem with tier 1 is not its low difficulty. The problem is that I can’t skip the boring crap if I already have basic skills or am a quick learner. As far as I understand, the main game begins with tier 3. It took me 200 damn hours to get to the low end of it. NOT GOOD! The lowlevel progression is way too dragged out. Tiers 1-2 should be an introduction, and nobody likes 200-hour-introductions.
- support casual (a.k.a. make them come): People will not go out of their way to play your game. A small elitist community is the best way to bring a game to its grave. And it would be a shame if this happens to Star Conflict, because many people like lasers in space! Despite common belief, the vast majority of gamers are casual players. The hardcore players are the ones who care alot about the game, thus are very important. But those players are only 5-10 percent of all gamers out there. Why would you want to keep out the other 90%? Nobody likes long queues and large skill gaps. According to the little update information I have seen so far, adjusting for the casual players seems to be an already ongoing process (UI improvements, use flow improvements, avoiding meaningless complexity etc.), and I encourage everyone to keep these efforts going.
- make it hard to master, and make the path enjoyable (a.k.a. make them stay): Now this one is pretty simple and is already done for the most part. There are enough long term goals, and with the upcoming of the dreadnoughts there is lots of cool endgame on the horizon. People do crazy xxxx with their ships, and there is enough to learn and see, both in content and skill, although more cool PvE missions like Crimson Haze would be nice. Now we only need to remove the things that make the path a pain in the xxxx (see other points).
- Make paying money easy : Games can not be free, most people get that. Game making and game maintenance cost money. So while a free to play concept is perfect for dragging people in, you still need to figure out a way to get some cash in. And the best way to do that is making it feel like a win for both sides. The “premium account” thing is the most common one and always accepted. Trade money for time, that’s fair. Skins are always accepted, pay money to look cooler, that’s fair. Paying 20+ bucks for ONE ship that I can’t even test, questionable. Now I don’t tell you to remove those ships, or those 100 dollar DLCs. But what I say is this: add SOME reason for common people to throw money at you! I tried to find something that I can buy without making me feel like an idiot, but to this day I haven’t found anything. Where is the reasonably priced convenience stuff? Either it’s not there, or not visible enough. People inherently WANT to spend money on useful and reasonably priced things, you just have to give them the opportunities to actually do it. Instead, I can buy a single grey module for a dollar, or a tier 1 premium ship, and have more “fun” in tier 1…
Star Conflict is an awesome game that suffers from a few crippling issues that can be fixed with low to medium development cost. The game market looks very good, the core gameplay is solid and fun, and the free to play model allows everyone to play the game. So there is absolutely no reason why SC should be in its current state. I feel a bit sad that the server population is so low, and I hope that somebody listens to my tiny voice.
Feel free to discuss
PS: I REALLY like lasers in space. And I have experience in software development and design, as well as two decades gaming experience, the last couple years more on the analytic side. Where would be a good place to start if I want to help making Star Conflict more awesome by cooperating with the developers?