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McTan

Soft Launch

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As hype for Stoneborn/Dwarf grows in MWH, most of our members who comment on CF and have not played are very wary of soft launch, especially given the passive method of character advancement. The concern is not allayed by dying worlds nor by catch-up mechanics. The concern is rooted in the health of the game, not in their personal choices of how to interact with the passive advancement. 

I'd love to hear more from ACE about this. In JTC's recent post on this procedure, he spells out quite clearly that the plan is a soft launch, then a commercial launch:

On 4/5/2018 at 2:31 PM, jtoddcoleman said:

 

1. Finish the game, 
2. Stop wiping (because no one really cares when the data can be wiped at any time, and that screws your data)
3. Start running players through our "new user experience" in batches of a few thousand at a time
4. Monitor the conversion and retention of each batch (technically they are called a 'cohort')
5. Try different options.  Repeat steps 4 and 5 until your funnel is optimized
6. Once you've done that a LOT, and you believe the funnel is solid, THEN you spend that marketing budget to drive new players into the funnel
 
We've decided to call step #2 "soft launch" and step #6 "commercial launch".  Maybe those aren't the best terms, but #3 doesn't really quality as "open beta" (since the game won't be reset again), so soft launch seemed appropriate.
 
As for the "player who come late will be at a disadvantage" concern, two points there:  (1) players who come late to an MMO always start behind players who started early, (2) we have a catch up mechanic -- a training tome which can be crafted in game and traded to other players -- to allow you to catch up. FWIW, most MMOs don't offer that; either you grind, or you're left behind.
 
Todd
ACE

 

I want to differentiate this thread from concerns about the advantage he spelled out. Notably, I think the players in my guild will likely start at soft launch. The concern is quite simply that CF will not get the population necessary to thrive by creating this schism. When new players hear about the game pre-commercial launch, during the marketing, they may be excited but will not pick-up the game due to the ultimate "Uncle Bob" situation: those early players who started at soft-launch will all have an advantage.

That is, it's not that these players are coming late, in this scenario - players are starting "right on time," until they find out that a bunch of players started before they did. So, even if the catch-up tome mechanic is literally flawless, it cannot address the problem for players who opt out of the game.

I tend to agree with my guild-mates' assessment of this situation.

The commercial launch needs to involve a full wipe. Everyone who picks up the game at "launch" needs to have a true Day 1 experience, IMO. Otherwise, all the marketing budget will be crippled from the start, when it's attempting to persuade players to join a game late.

I think the remedy is to have soft-launch be the first CW. Winners and losers get to export some unique relics and perhaps get to have their guild crest freely created (or other perks), but then the players' training is completely reset.

Thoughts?

Edited by McTan

Mic MWH, Member of Mithril Warhammers since 2003,


Hammers High! http://www.mithrilwarhammers.com

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CW's will launch at different times. It's possible that most of the soft-launch players will already be committed to their limited amount and thus it'll be mostly new players joining the new CW.

The commercial launch doesn't need a wipe because I don't expect ACE to wipe every time a new group of players joins the game. What happens a year after advertised launch, another wipe? What about 5 years after launcher, another wipe? lets say ACE gets CF on Steam, do that mean we get another wipe?

Every stat has a cap. The skills and gear just get you to that cap faster. It's possible that all of the skills won't be needed to reach said cap. Although those skills will reduce the need for that stat on gear.

I wouldn't be surprised if CW can have skill caps on them as well.


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5 minutes ago, jetah said:

CW's will launch at different times. It's possible that most of the soft-launch players will already be committed to their limited amount and thus it'll be mostly new players joining the new CW.

The commercial launch doesn't need a wipe because I don't expect ACE to wipe every time a new group of players joins the game. What happens a year after advertised launch, another wipe? What about 5 years after launcher, another wipe? lets say ACE gets CF on Steam, do that mean we get another wipe?

Every stat has a cap. The skills and gear just get you to that cap faster. It's possible that all of the skills won't be needed to reach said cap. Although those skills will reduce the need for that stat on gear.

I wouldn't be surprised if CW can have skill caps on them as well.

I'm afraid you are employing a slippery slope. I'm not talking about every time new players join the game. I'm talking about a very specific moment that Todd laid out as "commercial launch." At the other times you are talking about, players will have to deal with the knowledge that "launch" happened already, and they are joining late.

Players joining at "commercial launch" are not joining late.

I think your thoughts about timing are apt, and we should explore them deeper. I am not sure that it will fix the mechanism by which a potential new player avoids buying the game because of an advantage other players have (perceived or real).

Edited by McTan

Mic MWH, Member of Mithril Warhammers since 2003,


Hammers High! http://www.mithrilwarhammers.com

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Jetah raises an interesting idea though. What if they had CWs specifically based on amount of time trained? For example, you could have a CW where you can only join if you have between 1 and 3 months total training. And another for 3 to 6. And another for 6 or more. If they are getting this big wave of people at commercial launch, they are going to have to open a bunch of new CWs anyway, so why not make a bunch of them be limited to players with little to no training? Keep the vets out of them.

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17 minutes ago, Arkade said:

Jetah raises an interesting idea though. What if they had CWs specifically based on amount of time trained? For example, you could have a CW where you can only join if you have between 1 and 3 months total training. And another for 3 to 6. And another for 6 or more. If they are getting this big wave of people at commercial launch, they are going to have to open a bunch of new CWs anyway, so why not make a bunch of them be limited to players with little to no training? Keep the vets out of them.

I think it's okay, but would need to be temporary. Otherwise, you permanently split your community. I am not super pumped with being split from all my guild-mates who would want to join at commercial launch, so I suppose it would need to be a less than function only, rather than ranges - so they can join the "vet" server.

Additionally, I think it will be very difficult to communicate accurately to new players.

Edited by McTan

Mic MWH, Member of Mithril Warhammers since 2003,


Hammers High! http://www.mithrilwarhammers.com

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9 minutes ago, McTan said:

I think it's okay, but would need to be temporary. Otherwise, you permanently split your community. I am not super pumped with being split from all my guild-mates who would want to join at commercial launch, so I suppose it would need to be a less than function only, rather than ranges - so they can join the "vet" server.

Additionally, I think it will be very difficult to communicate accurately to new players.

CW will have a window where you can join then it'll close off. ACE doesn't want people to join a CW just before it ends so they're closing off the join duration. It's quite possible you can join a CW during soft release and your guild mates can't join at retail release.

32 minutes ago, McTan said:

I'm afraid you are employing a slippery slope. I'm not talking about every time new players join the game. I'm talking about a very specific moment that Todd laid out as "commercial launch." At the other times you are talking about, players will have to deal with the knowledge that "launch" happened already, and they are joining late.

Players joining at "commercial launch" are not joining late.

I think your thoughts about timing are apt, and we should explore them deeper. I am not sure that it will fix the mechanism by which a potential new player avoids buying the game because of an advantage other players have (perceived or real).

after commercial launch, you want a wipe (which was promised no wipes after soft-launch) then ACE decides to join Steam an year after retail launch, do they wipe again? (this was my question which you didn't answer above).

for all intents, soft launch is the launch of the game , just ACE isn't going to spend advertising budget on it. They may spend some time where Twitch/Youtube streamers are doing their free advertisement to engage with the viewers.

ACE will offer a catch up mechanic to those players that want to catch up. I personally don't believe it'll be needed because of the stat caps. I played Eve Online and was 2-5 years "late" and they never wiped the skill training.

I believe people are putting too much stress on the passive training and not enough on stat caps.


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47 minutes ago, jetah said:

after commercial launch, you want a wipe (which was promised no wipes after soft-launch) then ACE decides to join Steam an year after retail launch, do they wipe again? (this was my question which you didn't answer above).

for all intents, soft launch is the launch of the game , just ACE isn't going to spend advertising budget on it. They may spend some time where Twitch/Youtube streamers are doing their free advertisement to engage with the viewers.

ACE will offer a catch up mechanic to those players that want to catch up. I personally don't believe it'll be needed because of the stat caps. I played Eve Online and was 2-5 years "late" and they never wiped the skill training.

I believe people are putting too much stress on the passive training and not enough on stat caps.

No, absolutely not for a steam release 1-year after Commercial Launch. For the record, I did answer your question by stating it is irrelevant to what I am trying to discuss, which is the relationship between two moments in CF's development that have been actually brought up by developers: "Soft Launch" and "Commercial Launch."

As I said in my earlier response, players joining at Commercial Launch are not joining late, players joining at this imaginary 1-year steam launch date are joining late. The game released a year prior. Players who are not joining late will be frustrated when they hear that some players joined early, and get tangible benefits from it.

And I do not want a wipe after Commercial Launch, I want one after Soft Launch.

ACE isn't going to spend advertising on Soft Launch, so for all-intents, it is not the launch of the game, however much it might feel that way to players already engaged in testing or the forums.

You are missing my point, this is not at all about the catch-up mechanics. It's not even a thread about players joining late. It's a thread about the likelihood of players learning that there was a Soft Launch and choosing not to buy and join at Commercial Launch. And a thread about the scope of that problem.

Since the Commercial Launch is where ACE is spending their marketing budget, it would appear that it is of high value, and needs a high return.

In our discussion, these guild-mates are concerned that the MMO community has suffered enough Soft Launch issues, so that the advertised beginning of the game--Commercial Launch--must be a true Launch, or risk alienating the majority of MMO players, who would join after the advertisements, precisely because the majority of MMO players avoid soft launches.

Edited by McTan

Mic MWH, Member of Mithril Warhammers since 2003,


Hammers High! http://www.mithrilwarhammers.com

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16 minutes ago, McTan said:

No, absolutely not for a steam release 1-year after commercial launch. For the record, I did answer your question by stating it is irrelevant to what I am trying to discuss, which is the relationship between two moments in CF's development that have been actually brought up by developers: "soft launch" and "commercial launch."

And I do not want a wipe after commercial launch, I want one after soft launch.

ACE isn't going to spend advertising on Soft Launch, so for all-intents, it is not the launch of the game, however much it might feel that way to players already engaged in testing or the forums.

You are missing my point, this is not at all about the catch-up mechanics. It's not even a thread about players joining late. It's a thread about the likelihood of players learning that there was a Soft Launch--and therefore, players that have already started playing--and choosing not to buy and join commercial launch. And a thread about the scope of that problem.

Since the commercial launch is where ACE is spending their marketing budget, it would appear that it is of high value, and needs a high return.

In our discussion, these guild-mates are concerned that the MMO community has suffered enough Soft Launch issues, so that the advertised beginning of the game--Commercial Launch--must be a true Launch, or risk alienating the majority of MMO players, who would join after the advertisements.

If that is a problem, then the game is DOA already. 

The entire growth game plan is about slow build up of players, and existing players feeding the economy.  If the word is the game in unplayable with a mix of players, then the game has been developed wrong and is done for.

 

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25 minutes ago, KrakkenSmacken said:

If that is a problem, then the game is DOA already. 

The entire growth game plan is about slow build up of players, and existing players feeding the economy.  If the word is the game in unplayable with a mix of players, then the game has been developed wrong and is done for.

Okay, but by your own admission there is nothing that can be done in your hypothetical, so let's separate the idea that the game can grow and incorporate new players from the narrative about the game having already had players before the advertised launch.

As with Jetah, we must differentiate between the idea of "there are other players playing the game before me" and "there are other players playing the game before me, but I am told this is Launch."

This conversation is about the latter, and how that plays in the MMO market.


Mic MWH, Member of Mithril Warhammers since 2003,


Hammers High! http://www.mithrilwarhammers.com

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I feel like this is an issue with confusing terminology. Soft launch = Launch because it's the point when there will be no more data wipes.

#6 on JTC's list 

Quote

6. Once you've done that a LOT, and you believe the funnel is solid, THEN you spend that marketing budget to drive new players into the funnel

May not even be one specific date. It's the point when ACE will start spending more on marketing because they feel ready to handle more players. For example, if ACE pays for a booth at a PAX convention post-launch, that will bring an influx of new players after that convention. I wouldn't really call that a PAX launch though :P


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IMO any player that cares even a little about playing crowfall to the extent they'd care about being "behind" an established player will already care enough to be playing at soft launch. Even without any marketing budget there are loads and loads of mmo-centric media outlets and youtube channels and poorly made socks that are often starved for content that isn't "another korean MMO happenned, its like all the other ones"

Honestly I think you're making a mountain out of a molehill. The people you're going to pull in via marketing that you didn't already get by soft launch with word of mouth are also not the people that care if they're "behind" provided a mechanism exists for them to catch up. People that care about logging in day one of passive training also care enough to know when passive training is starting, and without spending a dime games media outlets will be sure to make the release itself difficult to ignore for such players.

The people you're going to pull in with a big marketing blitz are people that don't track games media, aren't all that horribly fixated on being the top of the food chain, and in general just want to play a fun game. Those players will also ultimately be better served by dropping in to a game where the economy is already settled and community "best practices" in the lower end faction CWs already allow them to get in and "just play" without suffering the early que supply drought that's going to come with soft launch as initial crafting/gathering skills are trained and initial shops are stocked.

Edited by PopeUrban

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14 minutes ago, PopeUrban said:

IMO any player that cares even a little about playing crowfall to the extent they'd care about being "behind" an established player will already care enough to be playing at soft launch. Even without any marketing budget there are loads and loads of mmo-centric media outlets and youtube channels and poorly made socks that are often starved for content that isn't "another korean MMO happenned, its like all the other ones"

Honestly I think you're making a mountain out of a molehill. The people you're going to pull in via marketing that you didn't already get by soft launch with word of mouth are also not the people that care if they're "behind" provided a mechanism exists for them to catch up. People that care about logging in day one of passive training also care enough to know when passive training is starting, and without spending a dime games media outlets will be sure to make the release itself difficult to ignore for such players.

I hope that you are correct, but my experiences tell me you are not. Whereas you think I am exaggerating the proportion of the people who would not want to jump in a soft launch, I think you are exaggerating the proportion of MMO players who would not mind being behind. More specifically, I think you are underestimating the amount of people who would care and also would not pay attention to when a game is going to soft launch.

This discussion could include the proposition that ACE widely, widely advertise that they are going to stop wiping. But that means, using JTC's own words, soft launch becoming more like commercial launch.

It's a difficult balance because if your proposition that most anyone who would care about being behind will just join at soft launch, then ACE better postpone soft launch until the game (read: performance) is great. Which also seems to counter what JTC is saying about scaling up. And makes soft launch more like commercial launch.

What about winning and getting a headstart on exports and EK building, which are ostensibly not as impactful on future CWs as passive training?

Edited by McTan

Mic MWH, Member of Mithril Warhammers since 2003,


Hammers High! http://www.mithrilwarhammers.com

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1 minute ago, McTan said:

Okay, but by your own admission there is nothing that can be done in your hypothetical, so let's separate the idea that the game can grow and incorporate new players from the narrative about the game having already had players before the advertised launch.

As with Jetah, we must differentiate between the idea of "there are other players playing the game before me" and "there are other players playing the game before me, but I am told this is Launch."

This conversation is about the latter, and how that plays in the MMO market.

Your splitting hairs with terminology, that is quite frankly a confusing mess of a mess because multiple game companies have muddied the meanings of all the related terms so that they are all almost meaningless market speak now.

The bottom line is, this is not an up for debate issue anyway.  ACE has repeatedly promised existing backers and investors the plan for when the final wipe will happen.

They can't go back on that promise.  Everywhere they want/need wiggle room with what they will deliver, they always couch what they say very carefully to avoid promises. This is one case where they have been crystal clear from pretty much day one what is happening.

This is not up for debate.

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24 minutes ago, McTan said:

I hope that you are correct, but my experiences tell me you are not. Whereas you think I am exaggerating the proportion of the people who would not want to jump in a soft launch, I think you are exaggerating the proportion of MMO players who would not mind being behind. More specifically, I think you are underestimating the amount of people who would care and also would not pay attention to when a game is going to soft launch.

This discussion could include the proposition that ACE widely, widely advertise that they are going to stop wiping. But that means, using JTC's own words, soft launch becoming more like commercial launch.

It's a difficult balance because if your proposition that most anyone who would care about being behind will just join at soft launch, then ACE better postpone soft launch until the game (read: performance) is great. Which also seems to counter what JTC is saying about scaling up. And makes soft launch more like commercial launch.

What about winning and getting a headstart on exports and EK building, which are ostensibly not as impactful on future CWs as passive training?

Skill books make the "headstart" effect from EK building functionally more impactful than skill training. Skill books are set to limit you to being equal to, but not exceeding the total "time cap" since soft launch. Because they are not tied to VIP they stand to only become cheaper over time. This remains a major flaw in EVE's skill injectors, as they are functionally tied to PLEX, and thus functionally tied to actual money which prevents them from reducing in price through natural market forces. The headstart for spirit banking and EKs has no such cap, and is more impactful, not less impactful than skill training for any player playing anything that isn't a zero import campaign. Especially since I can use those gains to, yknow, buy skill books for my alt accounts whenver I decide to create them.

Edited by PopeUrban

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I played eve well beyond it's release. I don't remember reading anything about the game yet I joined 1-3 years behind the release. I wasn't really concerned about being behind that I wanted a skill reset. What I did was read eve forums and any other place I get my browser on to see how I can get skills faster. That pointed me to the Learning skills (these boosted attributes so you learn faster). They did not do anything to progress your character with in game activities. I couldn't mine faster, i couldn't shoot/kill better, i couldn't use my ship better. It took me 3 months to get all of those skills in but I did that while increasing some basic skills. I never caught up but left the game when I had ~110m skill points (roughly 1 month is 1 million points). I never caught up but I still useful to my corp/guild.

Others have mentioned that Soft launch is the real launch of the game. There might not ever be a 'retail launch' it could be as others have said where ACE just spends some budget on twitch streamers to draw in some players. ACE might spend some of their budget on click or video ads in Facebook or Reddit or twitter or YouTube. They might announce the game is officially launched on x date just for the press releases and 'free advertisement' it'll get or they may not.

I'd much prefer a solid organic growth by word of mouth than ACE putting ads up on social media just wanting to get a quick surge of players. This is a type of game that needs a community to help new players get settled in. I was just looking and it took Eve 10 years to get 500k users. That's some solid growth for their niche, although a third might be alt accounts. ACE isn't looking for multiple million users (though i'm sure they'd be happy with them) unless it's organic growth.


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I've not read all of the responses here..but a few.  A intermediate step might be to increase the skill leveling times during the soft launch and then put them back to what CF wants them to be overall.  This way it will be a comparison to what a new player would get.  Yes, those there at soft launch would have a bit of an advantage, but not as much as it would have been and it gives the other players a chance to get there faster than those at soft launch did.

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Fast and Shallow

I'd like to throw in one more factor (if it was already mentioned above, I apologize).  JTC has stated that Crowfall is intended to have a "fast and shallow" power curve.  That is to say, it should not take very long to go from n00b to master.   Now, current testing does not seem to indicate that they followed through with this plan very well, especially where the skill tree is concerned.  At the sped-up training, I got to master in a few areas, but at normal speed training I would not call it a "fast and shallow" power curve.

However, if they *do* tweak it to indeed be "fast and shallow," and if they advertise this point in their "funnel", then I think people will happily join late, catch up, and kick ass like the rest of us.

ACE can't take back promises about soft launch and wipes, but they could make the training faster.  So there is still some debate potential on this issue.

As it stands, I would (if I didn't already KS the game) hesitate joining the game late.  I think a lot of people would.

Easy roles vs Advanced roles

One thing CCP/EvE has going for it is that there are a lot of useful pilot roles that don't take a whole hell of a lot of training to get into, frigate based roles like target painting and what not.  So you can be a very effective target painter on a team, without having been playing very long.  Giving people satisfaction, purpose and pride early in their career like that really locks them in, gets them addicted.  Crowfall skill trees all seem too equal-depth to have this effect as currently laid out in testing (I know 5.6 has big skill tree changes, I hope this is one of them).

Edited by Brindylln
spelling fix

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33 minutes ago, Brindylln said:

Fast and Shallow

I'd like to throw in one more factor (if it was already mentioned above, I apologize).  JTC has stated that Crowfall is intended to have a "fast and shallow" power curve.  That is to say, it should not take very long to go from n00b to master.   Now, current testing does not seem to indicate that they followed through with this plan very well, especially where the skill tree is concerned.  At the sped-up training, I got to master in a few areas, but at normal speed training I would not call it a "fast and shallow" power curve.

However, if they *do* tweak it to indeed be "fast and shallow," and if they advertise this point in their "funnel", then I think people will happily join late, catch up, and kick ass like the rest of us.

ACE can't take back promises about soft launch and wipes, but they could make the training faster.  So there is still some debate potential on this issue.

As it stands, I would (if I didn't already KS the game) hesitate joining the game late.  I think a lot of people would.

Easy roles vs Advanced roles

One thing CCP/EvE has going for it is that there are a lot of useful pilot roles that don't take a whole hell of a lot of training to get into, frigate based roles like target painting and what not.  So you can be a very effective target painter on a team, without having been playing very long.  Giving people satisfaction, purpose and pride early in their career like that really locks them in, gets them addicted.  Crowfall skill trees all seem too equal-depth to have this effect as currently laid out in testing (I know 5.6 has big skill tree changes, I hope this is one of them).

Crowfall's power curve is fast and shallow because the overwhelming majority of your power doesn't come from the skill tree. Arguing for crafting or harvesting to be handled in a similar manner is IMO just dropping a bomb on the entire economy game.

Literally every combat role in crowfall is like target painting in EVE. You can do it, do it well, and be highly effective at it with very little training, but spending time training skills for it specifically makes you good enough to edge out the new guys.


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Aren't new players coming to already established MMOs all the time? How many new players does Eve get every month?

Or are MMOs indeed starving out on players and have to live basically with what they got as player base in the beginning and those very few players that don't mind being late?

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9 hours ago, McTan said:

 

The commercial launch needs to involve a full wipe. Everyone who picks up the game at "launch" needs to have a true Day 1 experience, IMO. Otherwise, all the marketing budget will be crippled from the start, when it's attempting to persuade players to join a game late.

 

Remember, training is set to 10x, so training will be really slow and non-soft launch player will not be that far behind. Also some campaigns are said to be set so that you cannot import goods, so there will be some cases were we start out with nothing, either as a backer or not.

Also, I believe that if people are working to help get the bugs out before launch, they should get some benefit.

Look at Eve online, even after 10 years of skill over time based training,, they are still getting new players (Last time I logged on anyway, about 6 months ago)

 

Having said that, starting a campaign or a few on commercial launch day where you have to start with a Lvl 1 Vassal and no imports, would be a good idea, to help resolve your concern.

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