After a long time i played a little bit sins (because i saw a new patch was out) and now i figured out a new expansion also is coming out.
Very nice, maybe i will be getting into playing more often again.
Anyways, i did not find a lot of information though, is there any thread or summary here what is known up to now about this game? I would be thankful for any link i could get.
In addition, some thoughts on the future of this game.
I remember how SOSE was in the past and i saw a really great RTS Game that sadly did not have the (multiplayer) popularity it deserved. I can only remember times when there were just a handfull guys playing it online and the only way for me to get a decent game was to arrange myself with others and ask in forums for people who wanted to play it.
So what really determines if a RTS game would become a multiplayer success? (The sales were fine as i remember, the question is why this never hit the online gaming, although clearly a multiplayer oriented title)
It is hard to say, what was the reason for it, because it definetely was not a lack of quality of the game. I remember some incompatibilities between different addons - effectively reducing the amount of people able to play with each other. Really i think this game like all others stands and falls with its capabilities to motivate players.
One factor for multiplayer success is easiness of use. Although quite hard to compare, Starcraft 2 manages this excellently. I know this game starts at a completely different point regarding the community but to me it shows the optimal way, a multiplayer RTS can work: Start it, press play a multiplayer game. Play it. Still, it remains flexible. You can do custom games if you want to. Normally i am not a "play now"-presser, but SC2 somehow does this damn right. It does not give yo the feeling "okay, why should i chose "play now", it just leaves me with less choice than normal".
Maybe it is a slight psychological thing but the fact that blizzard takes a dominant position by chosing your games for you is just exactly what is needed to get the feeling of competitiveness. You would never get there, if the ladder system would be totally open to customization.
I have to say: I am not a pro-gamer. Neither in SOSE nor in SC2. But, i understand, that this community is driving the whole Online Multiplayer. All that makes you want to play a game online and keep playing it is competition. Competition is the simple, logical reason for multiplayer if you break it down completely.
In summary: A successful multiplayer game depends mostly on the level of competitiveness it manages to transport. You have to convey, that this is something that is equal for everyone and that learned skills will make the difference between the games.
I see problems to this, the way it works right now. As i said, i am not good at it and i am sure you can be very pro at it. But thats not the point. Actually it is people like me, without the experience, who should be convinced, that this is very competitive and who should be motivated, to get better. I just tell what it feels like and it feels too much like "Lets play together and have a good time."
Sometimes, too much choice is too much.
Maybe you think i am stupid by demanding less, but actually i think it is as i said before: Giving the players more choices will give them also the impression, there is more that decides the game than just their play. For example it will make them say: "No, i dont want to play with pirates, they do completely throw the game off" while others say: "Its part of the game, comeon". Both will have the feeling, the other one is not playing the same game as himself, therefore not establishing a real sense of competition between both.
What i want to express here is, that to me SOSE feels like a great game to play with friends on a LAN. But still, it somehow misses the taste of real, competitive multiplayer. It is hard to grasp what causes this but i made some suggestions. Maybe someone reads this and thinks about it in a productive way. If not it was at least myself thinking about what actually creates motivation in a game.
And i think you have really good examples out there that work fine. Even if its like David and Goliath - just look at SC2. See what they do right and for gods sake just copy some of the things. I could imagine, monster company Blizzard even has people with degrees in psychology that are paid to discuss things like these.
You do not have to remove all options - just see how SC2 does it and give the game a decent ladder system. Which depends on automatism. You want success? You obey the rules set by Gamemaster Stardock. Plain and simple. People who play for fun can do so by making a custom game. This is just a small thing but it changes the way you perceive the game so much...
One other thing taken directly from SC2: How are you doing the balancing? I dont think a developer does have as much spare time to play the game as the average computer nerd out there. You just DO NOT HAVE A CHANCE to keep up with them. They are freaks - but they drive the success of your game. They will find the slightest error normal mortals wouldnt even recognize and rub it into your face! You can not win the game against the players in this area. You have to play with them.
Balancing is the key to competitiveness - and therefore to success of the game.
Ask the players for dealing with it. But please, do not read and try to change what they say in the forums! If they have noone to interact with, it is just random ranting over their own loss and no real issues.
No, instead give the players the feeling that they participate in your work. Dont do that when the game already is played competitively - the feedback at that point will not be objective anymore because egos become involved. See what Blizzard does right again - give out beta-testing keys. Offer really good players the opportunity to co-develop the game with you! Blizz even payed the world top players to get the balancing right. Again, off the top in this case, but a great idea to get inspired from.
Maybe you just announce an official tournament in SOSE. You encourage the best players here to participate. The winners will get exclusive access to early game versions the development process. They will be invited to play and test the new game with you.
Another good thing i realized in starcraft: Units have to be of equal usefulness and too much units are useless when not each is used frequently in the game.
I asked myself why they had so much more units in the campaign than actually existed in the multiplayer. At first i thought it was to save money for balancing difficulties, but then read the actual thought behind it was what i described above. A smaller set of units that should be diverse, yet balanced and all used in similar proportions. If you think about it, it is a good idea. "Useless" units leave the impression of a fundamentally simple game artificially pimped with a big selection of units that are practically not used much in the multiplayer games.
Talking about Sins, as i said i do not have much experience and do not play well - but i repeat myself: I am the type of player you want to motivate getting deeper into the game. The core of success is numbers of players and this will be set by those new to the game and how a game wil be able to motivate them in the long term getting into the deeper strategies.
I am just telling you my completely subjective, personal impression of the game and i think that it will be shared by many that did not come to the point getting into the deeper strategies. I only realized there actually is more deepness to the game by talking to and playing with people that had played it a lot more than me.
What i want to convey here is my opinion, that the scope of the game is not as obvious to new players as it should be. It is hidden behind an impression, that the games combat principles seem simpler than they actually are. I cant give exact explanations why this is the case, just that it is perceived this way somehow. Advanced play concentrates very clearly on the capital abilities and as a beginner you lack an impression that emphasizes that. The automated use of the abilities is so ineffective that it makes you believe they are useless in the first place.
The combat pace is not fast enough that you really see that these make a huge impact. Instead of seeing your capitals mowing down the enemy lines, making you believe that this is the badass stuff you need, you see a long battle which you won at some point. Without any further knowledge it makes you believe, that just more units will be the critical factor determining the outcome.
Maybe i am just way too noobish and this problem is a general one with all games when you just dont know how to play.
The term "easy to begin with, hard to master" often is used in a way to positively describe a game like this. But i think it also can be negative in terms of motivation to master it at all. That is the case when coming into the game seems easy and works too nice and you would never see, what are the possibilities to master it because you have no streamlined learning curve motivating to get there.
In my opinion, in this game a one-dimensional fleet composition just works a little bit too good. It seems like you can spam LRM frigates all the time and it will do the job. If i am doing such a uniform style of play i want to feel that thats not it. I want to get crushed hard by a superior unit composition (of the AI, when beginning in the first place). I want to feel, that i need a strategy to beat this strategy game.
Maybe i just had this impression because i could gather the other macro fundamentals quickly (i could use my knowledge from Galactic Civilizations 2). I felt, the learning curve is very shallow a lot of the time and then suddenly very steep when you get into the deeper layers of the game. In terms of motivation for new players this is not a good thing: Many may not even realize the quality of the game fully, because they will never keep playing until they reach the steep part. It reduces the player community to some fanatics knowing it to the core and those never having played it a lot. To generate and maintain a bigger base of people constantly playing it, the learning cuve has to be more gradually increasing. As a player at all times, you want to have the impression that you do progress in your playstyle while you can see from the beginning where it can lead to, if you practize. It has to be challenging and very complex from the beginning, without demotivating you completely by making you believe it is much to complicated for being fun to you.
Another RTS example doing this the other way around and showing how complex a good RTS actually can be is the great Supreme Commander Forged Alliance. This almost is too complex. Its like a million different units at the same time and everything multiplied by three (land, air, water). I first saw it when friends were playing it on a LAN. Without any introduction the learning curve is just too steep. The game mechanics too unconventional. I just did not understand it when just thrown into a full game by myself. I forgot it for a long time and luckily got the spontaneous idea to play it by myself after some time. And here we have a game where the campaign is not only a set of scenarios underlined by some random story. No, here the campaign is more of a necessary, enjoyable and legthy tutorial to the game when you are new to it (at least the vanilla game campaign). It gradually, almost way too gradually, gets you into the concepts of the game step by step. When you finished the campaign you realize what a great RTS game you have there and cannot wait, until you play it in multiplayer.
My personal conclusion from these examples is, that Sins does suffer a little bit of a gap between complexity and the first game experiences. Although a really great game, it hides its qualities a little bit because of balancing between different units. Its not unfair, that is not the problem. It is just, that i miss the initial feeling of a challenging strategy game when starting to play it. I know that it really is, but it fails a bit to convey it from early on. With the new expansion you could do a lot. I do not exactly know how - as i said asking the pro players here would be the best idea. An emphasized role of ship abilities would do a great job i think. Not only of the capitals but micro options for the normal ship as well. Micro-management is the core of a RTS-title`s feel of "depth". Optimally you see instantly, you can do a lot of different stuff in the game if you just learn how to manage it. It feels to me, SOSE distributes this too strong between different ships. You see a bunch of offensive ships and a bunch of support ships.
Representing the average newbie you want to get into this game i can tell you how i perceived the way the game felt to me: A lot of macro intensive units working in a basically simple rock-paper-scissors type of play. Also a lot of micro intensive spezialized units i am too lazy to figure out in detail because i have to put a lot of ingame effort into getting them and a lot of personal effort for figuring out their individual value to the game. Using standard units alone just is satisfying enough not to get into deeper strategies. In result, this style of play risks getting boring. It creates the illusion of the game being simple, while it actually is not.
Again, i have to compare to other RTS titles. SC2 manages this ingeniously. Basically i had similar levels of experiences when beginning with SC2 and SOSE. In SC2, you never get tricked into believing the game could be simple at any time. The game mechanics, balancing, abilities and layers of complexity are evenly distributed over all types of units. Maybe, some of this impression is accountable to the faster pacing and more direct feedback you get from this game. But it also gives you the feeling, that each unit has an own purpose and the usefulness of each unit mostly depends on your personal skills to utilize them. It is this feeling, that motivates and captures: the belief, it was you, the player, who won the game, not the units you used to win it. And the standard units as well have upgrades that open new tactical options. The unit selection seems more fluent, the separation between different unit types feels very flexible. This adds more complexity but does never overburden you. While a clear logic behind unit types is key to an easy introduction to the game mechanics, giving options and flexibilty between these uses is the key for adding a feeling of depth to the game.
As i said, i missed the feeling of depth in SOSE for a long time and i account it mainly to an uneven distribution of depth between different units in this game. The game itself has a lot of depth, but it is hidden too much to figure it out early in the game. I believe, depth in a RTS should be visible from the start - and especially regarding the combat which is the base of the game. To get the motivation right, a game should force you to utilize the depth - without taking away the logic behind game mechanics due to chaotic complexity. I just feel the distance between the basic game mechanisms and depths as too big from a motivation standpoint. If you dont have a clue, it tricks you into thinking of a game with a simplistic game mechanic and a huge amount of artificial depth, which is useless (to you). I would have liked to get forced into the depth of the game more early by seeing it will not really work out well without using it. I would have liked more of the impression, that its not this unit good against that unit, but that it really is the composition and use of different units that have an effect. Strategic options should arise from different composition of units and uses (which is the case for capital ships and support ships - but should be distributed more evenly between standard units as well i think).
I just say - challenge the players. And challenge them early on. Give them flexibility from the start. Force them a bit to use this flexibility. Just as a simple idea - deactivate the automatic use of capital abilities completely for player controlled ships. Make the AI crush the player with their abilities when he is not using them. Show the players, that an ability has been used. A small text feedback could be done easily, i guess. Distribute flexibility more evenly between all units.
Give the players logic to understand what that flexibility is supposed to do. Give the feeling it is a necessary part of the game, not just fancy bonus stuff nobody really needs. Ask players which units and features they feel to be quite useless. Give them something that justifies their use more. Give other units what is needed to justify it. Make the game experience more streamlined, where every layer of the game adds directly on top of the one before without leaving gaps in between. This is just necessary to establish a multiplayer community. Complexity alone does not do the trick. Instead it is the way in which complexity stepwise adds on every layer of the game. Complexity is not important in numbers of different units and production options - but in numbers of different ways to use given units. Optimally, all players with different experiences have a feeling of a linear increase in their skills in the game all of the time. Otherwise it will create gaps in motivation.
Man, that became long. Nobody ever will read to this point. Thanks to all who did nonetheless. I am sorry to be so critical. I am just a newbie. I do not know much of the game. But i know, what motivates me and makes me want to know much of a game. That is the whole point of this lengthy post. It should give you an impression of my personal perception of the game. First-Hand-customer feedback from the average guy looking into this game out of basic interest. People like me will be the main customership. People, that will have an average motivation to keep investing into playing this game over the long-term. If i give you my perception of it, it may be similar to the way other average customers will see it. SOSE is a great game. I really like it. It has so much potential. It has just very high demands to your patience if you want to play it in the long term. Many people will not have the patience to reach the deeper levels of the game and might run at risk of totally disregarding it - at least this is my impression. With the new addon a lot of options could be possible. The success will not be about the game quality (which already is great) - it will be about the presentation of it. Think about how it could be improved to show more of its qualities more easily.