Devblog 11th July 2017 - End Goal Document Part 1

    Zyrr

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    Strap in, this is going to be a long one.

    You would not believe how difficult it is to rewrite a game design document into a coherent "story" that explains it well for a player that has no idea what's in the other referenced game design documents.
    This document is a mess of indie game dev cliches and a thorough example of Schine fundamentally failing to communicate goals both to itself and to the community in a concise, coherent and comprehensive manner. Per Jordan Peterson, the absolute first step to accomplishing anything is stating your goals in a simple and easy to read manner. These goals are not stated simply nor are they easily read. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and say perhaps you aren't accustomed to writing these sorts of documents or were pressed for time, but this is honestly just not great. Ignoring all of the other problems, just at the very least organize this. Bullet points, to the point explanations, alphabetically or chronologically listed information, et cetera.

    But I have a bigger issue with something stated at the beginning of this document.

    When we talked about how to write this document, we simply put ourselves into a specific play role/play style, defining what we would like to be able to do in the finished game. Coming up with ideas was easy, but getting rid of just as many to form a solid, cohesive game was not. StarMade is after all, a sandbox game. A type of genre where you’re allowed to discover a complete world and do whatever you want.
    This paragraph specifically, only the third one into the document, and it's already told me everything I need to know about how Schine is going about developing their endgame features - and why it's wrong.

    Before you e-crucify me for telling someone their method of game development is wrong, let me explain. As Schine says itself, two sentences later, StarMade is a sandbox game. The fundamental concept behind a sandbox is that the player is free to do as they please, and this includes doing whatever activities they please, whenever they please and in whatever order they please. The game world exists to provide the player the means to carry out these activities ONLY - if it forces the player to do anything, it is not a sandbox.

    This intangible, non-binding "player role" style of sandbox game development, where a development team will put themselves "into the mind of a player" and then add features and balance their game around this vision, is critically, fundamentally flawed. Why? Because this is a sandbox game. Because these style archetypes are not physical features, and they're not binding (like a class in an MMO), players have absolutely no reason to adhere to them. Not only will they not adhere to one specifically, but they will switch between them at will, or will play like many or all of them simultaneously! If you structure the game around roles, what happens when someone playing your game says "I don't want to be just one of those, or any of those"? Any semblance is balance or continuity is completely obliterated.

    So why is this, specifically, a problem? Because this kind of development will ASSUME the goals are binding. Players must fit into one of the roles, otherwise they are now not being considered in the grand scheme of things. Features are added, gameplay is expanded, balance is created but only in respect to these roles, only within the scope of these grounded playstyles. As soon as any player steps outside these molds, again, because they're non-binding, the balance that was carefully constructed is totally shattered. Balance is give and take - the idea of roles is that each one does some things well, other things not as well. For example, the Builder role here is supposed to work on the idea that resources are unbalanced, distributed unevenly - this allows them to be able to source some materials well, others not, therefore reducing the amount of things they can build or increasing the time it takes to build as much as they want. But what if the player is also what Schine would call an Imperialist, who controls large amounts of space and assets? And an Explorer, too, having searched for and located these other areas? And an Industrialist, having a massive base of production to quickly create whatever they need? And a Trader, too, successfully making deals with those from other locations for resources they don't have? Perhaps a Fighter, when diplomacy fails, forcibly seizing resources they don't have or need more of? Or even none of these things, perhaps someone who instead prefers to simply purchase their ships and roam around looking for missions or opportunities? How does this fit within Schine's vision of game balance that says players fall into roles?

    There is a critical, fundamental problem of developing a sandbox game by assuming roles that you see but others may not. There are many examples of this going awry, but look no further than a game called Of Kings and Men. Here, too, they tried this idea - four non-tangible, non-binding roles for their game. They only expected players to be one of these four at any given time. Like all game devs, they prioritised the role they saw to be most important (in this case, the one they expected players to most often be, and the most critical to further development) and began developing that role only. But very quickly that fell through when they opened their game to testing; players not only did not favor this role, but also showed that it was not the most critical to development. Time was wasted, plans had to be reshuffled, and it lead to a catastrophic implosion of a game studio that is irrelevant in this context. The point of the matter is that it has been done before, and simply because your ideas on how to play any given game are likely different from mine, the concept of these molds players fit into is broken.

    This, too, is problematic;
    Last time I really played the game was 3 years ago, not sure how relevant that is as we use the community to tell us what's wrong and what's not wrong. those hardcore PvPers seem to be hard to approach, and I already did a polling on the meta and what was unbalanced with a discord group in the past. Although initial feedback was great, it quickly died out as you know.
    How can the community trust Schine to effectively develop a game based on roles if Schine does not also play the game nor listen to the community? Even if this idea of intangible, non-binding roles was a working solution, how far from reality would Schine's vision of them be? Their ideas could be on a totally different page from where the game actually is, and this disconnect could lead to major balancing issues. This sort of thing already happens, but not on the scale that it could happen should it continue into this.


    Despite the doom and gloom above, I'm glad you posted this now and only posted a glimpse, so that it can be corrected going forward. Should you heed my advice, I'd suggest doing these things;
    1. Organize your ideas from the start. "What is it I want to do, and how can I state in it the fewest words without losing meaning?" Follow this rule, always, and then work towards it. Concisely state what you want to do in order from largest to smallest goals, grouping goals based on progression and/or where it's encountered in the game and/or the difficulty in coding and implementing. Read the document, re-read it, and then pretend you're someone who has absolutely no connection to StarMade whatsoever. Does the document make sense? Can you make heads or tails of what is being said? The hallmark of a good internal goals document is it being able to be understood universally, regardless of context.
    2. Step away from the development strategy of creating roles and then balancing based on that. Remember that, at its core, the universe you've created serves only as a means for players to discover and carry out activities. All features of the game are activities. Every activity should be enjoyable, or be minimally tedious, time consuming and/or boring so that the pursuit of enjoyable activities can continue in the shortest amount of time necessary.
    3. Instead of roles, think of the game universe as an empty canvas. As said before, all features of the game are activities the player can carry out - think of them as that and that only. All features are activities and all activities are optional. They must appeal to the player in some shape or form, and/or appeal to different types of players. But most importantly, they can and will appeal to a player at different times, all at once, or not at all. Do not balance your game with the idea that players will carry out every activity or activities in a certain order, because this will not hold water. Balance your game and structure your universe so that these activities can occur independent of any player or a certain type of player. A critical component of any sandbox game is the notion that the gears will turn regardless of the player, but the player may alter how, when, why, where, etc the gears turn. Change your perspective from the universe requiring the player to the player requiring the universe. Proceeding in this fashion will allow you to better identify what features need to be added, in what order, where they ought to be located and how they should be balanced.
    4. Consider that what you think may be enjoyable can be different from others, so get a wide range of input from Schine, community members and ESPECIALLY non-players. For example, let us say you are working on the exploration aspect of the game. Ask yourselves in Schine what it is you want to see most when exploring (the how, the what, the where, then when, the why, the who) and then present these options as a poll to the Dock community, as well as allowing them to suggest things you may not have thought of. Balance what the Dock says with what you think and what is feasible, and then take these options to non-players you may find. I know, for example, Saber was in communication with the YouTuber TheXPGamers, otherwise known as CaptainShack. Ask him what he'd like to see, ideally, out of exploration in a voxel universe. Then balance what he and anyone else you ask thinks with what Schine thinks, what the community thinks and what is feasible. This will give you the most diverse amount of opinions you can accrue for the most efficient use of your time.
    5. But most importantly, keep sharing with us. Keep taking criticism. The most important part of active development for a game like StarMade is being constantly up to date with the community.

    To summarize; this document has numerous problems but can be easily remedied. Start by organizing your goals clearly and concisely - this will make any further progress, however you decided to go about it, magnitudes easier. Then, reconsider how you are going about constructing this vision of the game's future, so that it includes input from many sources and appeals to as many players as possible.
     
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    I want to organize a traineeship of one week for the shine's team so they can play their game. Unfortunately i don't have the time to do so.

    Also, my biggest concern stick to the roles. I don't want to be forced to stick to one role or even be forced to play one. See above for more details, everything has already been explained.
     
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    if Schine does not also play the game nor listen to the community?
    what game? build a ship, look at it, build another...

    The past month has been pretty slow with the devblogs just repeating info we already knew, just something to read to tide us over for another week.
    Personally, this just looks like a filler, like most of this months devblogs, so my guess is not much is going on or schema is the only one doing something
     
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    Zerefette

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    I think it's good for new players to have a sort of guideline even in a sandbox game, as long as it doesn't put a strain on who wanna be free.
    But why not escorting all players through the galaxy with a set of checkpoints and having also a solid/tangible progression?
    Let's put a set of stations generated on random points on a galactic arm from the starting one that brings you through a galaxy arm until the void and leaves you with the option to go further alone or go back through the chain.
    Example:
    map.png

    To the issue of resources I think one of the problems is that they are too scattered around, I like what schema wanna do with them but it's not enough, asteroids should be closer together like a true asteroid field and be hard to navigate through with massive ships.
    Decrease the number of rings and increase the density, this can increase the chances of findind other players mining too and stir action.
    Also with the new system group outline coming we could apply this to the map as well I think and maybe have asymmetrical fields and more detailed stuff overall.
     
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    Lecic

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    What makes you think we don't realize that? Shipyard related content, the feature that would mainly allow construction for fleets, is the tool to reach this end-game content where you're building fleets.
    I would definitely say it's overpowered right now, as anyone not using fleets would be at a severe disadvantage.
    So shipyards being later game content fixes small ships being massively overpowered? Except you already talked about public shipyards so this means nothing.

    Last time I really played the game was 3 years ago, not sure how relevant that is as we use the community to tell us what's wrong and what's not wrong. those hardcore PvPers seem to be hard to approach, and I already did a polling on the meta and what was unbalanced with a discord group in the past. Although initial feedback was great, it quickly died out as you know.
    Sorry, what? The head tester and balancer of Starmade hasn't played Starmade in THREE YEARS? Most of the people on these forums haven't even been playing for three years! What the fuck, dude?

    And yes, that discord was great, and most of the people in it abandoned it after our advice on the most major balance issues was mostly ignored and you stopped asking us for advice on things. Congrats, we managed to hammer auxes into something resembling balance and then it fell apart.

    what game? build a ship, look at it, build another...

    The past month has been pretty slow with the devblogs just repeating info we already knew, just something to read to tide us over for another week.
    Personally, this just looks like a filler, like most of this months devblogs, so my guess is not much is going on or schema is the only one doing something
    How about the PvP game, or the PvE game, or the trading game, or the ship selling game? All of these are functional to some extent. I've done all of them, and they all have major flaws that would be immediately obvious to anyone who has actually played them.
     

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    I don't get how being an explorer is a role by itself. Isn't being the explorer having interactions with other explorers or what's left of them? ;) Meaning that an explorer simply is a builder, trader, industrialist, ..., any in between or any you like.

    It's not that you choose a role by clicking a button and developing your skills. This game is about to have "enough" gameplay-mechanics (at least for some roles) that you pretty much choose a role by learning about it and developing experience instead of skills. (Pretty much how I think a fun sandbox game would be as it has a goal.)


    One more thing. CCP (creators of Eve Online) hired three economists to help create their game's economy. If you want a living economy, you might consider hiring one yourself. I wish you could hire an expert spaceship builder to help you out in that department, but I think NASA researchers might be a tad bit out of the team's paygrade. You could hire an electrician or something like that to help you come up with systems though.
    I don't like this idea...
    I think hiring someone with the know-how and experience to reflect that in a game is a great idea, but SM is not supposed to be realistic nor technical, it's supposed to make some sense. I wouldn't call this a bad idea in itself as it adds some perspective to the game, but I think a bunch of Sci-Fi fans are way more qualified for that job.
    I would rather see that budget go to a dev or something else to improve test results/bug-fixing.


    I think the end goal is one of the most important/scary things when it comes to building a game as it is a reference for, not only pre-release, but also post-release. It defines the direction the game is heading which defines everything. So I'm glad this is made public already at this stage.
     

    Lancake

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    So shipyards being later game content fixes small ships being massively overpowered? Except you already talked about public shipyards so this means nothing.
    No? How did you even come to that conclusion?
    Whether something is balanced or not and what to do about it, is never addressed in the end goals document. That would be addressed within the game design documents themselves.

    Sorry, what? The head tester and balancer of Starmade hasn't played Starmade in THREE YEARS? Most of the people on these forums haven't even been playing for three years! What the fuck, dude?
    When is the last time any of you have actually played this game? I mean really played this game.
    As soon as I joined the testing team, I stopped playing for "real"...I started playing for testing reasons which is not what I see as "I mean really played this game", hence the 3 years ago part.

    Let me give you a summation of what that entails:
    1. Playing to see if features works
    2. Playing to see if said features are properly balanced (which falls under the "works" part)
    3. Playing to see if said features are fun and find out what to improve upon
    AKA, Quality Assurance.
     
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    I'm amazed how quickly over here on the dock people start to have judgments ready when there's information given over where this game will go, and when the information given isn't even complete.

    I for me see quite a lot of positive and interesting things in this part of the devblog. No more get everything in one place, you need to travel to get the resources you require. Shipyards will finally get a reason to exist instead of being an interesting experiment to try out. Not every block will be as easy to manufacture as it is now, some will need more elaborate ways to produce and some might even only be bought.

    And yes, it's a sandbox game and the 'roles' are merely there as an example of what players could do and what goals to reach for. As confirmed in the latest build stream on twitch, all of these 'roles' can or may be mixed and matched as you see fit with no restrictions on the open game play as is expected in a sandbox environment.

    I'm happy to see what more will be told in the upcoming blogs.

    Greets,

    Jan
     

    Zerefette

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    I don't get how being an explorer is a role by itself.
    I guess we'll be able to trade information at some point.
    It's something that happens in the x series.
    Space maps can change due to having new stations or whatever happens in there.
    Perhaps we can have derelicts spawn based on what happened in there.
     
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    Ithirahad

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    In reality, it's just not fun to explore in the game. All the asteroids and planets are the same, really. Too small, too. There's no real variation, no real fun. On top of that, the game spoon feeds you the information you need - tells you exactly what asteroid X contains.
    Not sure if you've noticed, but one of the major goals for StarMade in the near future is to change that. Also, there's a config option to change asteroid sizes; I personally enjoy them being a bit larger than default.

    You mean exactly like how it is now, where small ships in "large" numbers (I put large in quotes because a dozen or two isn't really that large a number)
    Well, I think that's the issue. People's standards of fighters and stuff come from scenes in Sci-Fi where you really only have (or only notice) squadrons of maybe ten or twenty fighters. Giant swarms of ships aren't really an expected norm. I'm going out on a limb here, but I'm guessing that they want more roles for smaller numbers of "normal" (i.e. not just specific types of meta design) small ships that can have a noticeable effect in battle (where currently their damage would generally be shield regen'd out of existence)
    [doublepost=1499862790,1499862475][/doublepost]Waitasec...

    One last thing to take from Eve, people can be fighters/imperialists solely because of the insurance mechanic, and the variety of systems. We need more than just regular old antimatter canon blocks, I feel like we need tiers of them as well, that consume more power or have other engineering roadbumps tacked on to them. It's like EvE has this minigame of seeing how efficient you can design your ship/systems, and Starmade is close to that except it lacks the variety Eve has.
    Have you even played the game in the past few years? Currently we have three viable weapons, and (at the absolutely most conservative estimation) six viable primary/secondary combinations - and I'm probably forgetting some of the more niche ones. On top of that, there're all the effects, most of which are useful in some way or other.
     
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    So why is this, specifically, a problem? Because this kind of development will ASSUME the goals are binding. Players must fit into one of the roles, otherwise they are now not being considered in the grand scheme of things. Features are added, gameplay is expanded, balance is created but only in respect to these roles, only within the scope of these grounded playstyles.
    Not really. The roles listed appear to be in direct connection with current game mechanics, so these roles are likely to be a orthonormal basis in the space of player activities.

    Assume a game where only placing/removing blocks is possible (like minecraft classic). The builder would be the only 'role' available then. Next, adding mobs&&hp&&weapons a second role appears -- the fighter.
    Crafting brings pretty much simplified but valid 'crafter' role.
    After the introduction of enchantments the 'enchanter' role also becomes available.

    What i am trying to say here is that the difference between "Sandbox" and "non-Sandbox" games (!in terms of roles) consists not in a complete absence of roles in "Sandbox" games, but in fundamental, technical ability for player to combine several roles (which are dictated by gameplay possibilities):
    while in non-sandbox games players have to stay with the basis they chose earlier:

    The axis here are orthonormal, but it is not necessarily as that. In most non-sandbox games classes do have some common abilities, which, however, differ in strength.

    My conclusion here is that those 'roles' mentioned are no other that a complete list of abilities, or opportunities for player, and, most likely, they have to be treated as proposed set of features (mechanics/engine limitations/gameplay aspects) to be present in the final version of the game. There are currently no signs that being a builder makes you unable to be a fighter, too. A not very good fighter, but still.
     

    Zyrr

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    Not really. The roles listed appear to be in direct connection with current game mechanics, so these roles are likely to be a orthonormal basis in the space of player activities.

    Assume a game where only placing/removing blocks is possible (like minecraft classic). The builder would be the only 'role' available then. Next, adding mobs&&hp&&weapons a second role appears -- the fighter.
    Crafting brings pretty much simplified but valid 'crafter' role.
    After the introduction of enchantments the 'enchanter' role also becomes available.

    What i am trying to say here is that the difference between "Sandbox" and "non-Sandbox" games (!in terms of roles) consists not in a complete absence of roles in "Sandbox" games, but in fundamental, technical ability for player to combine several roles (which are dictated by gameplay possibilities):
    while in non-sandbox games players have to stay with the basis they chose earlier:

    The axis here are orthonormal, but it is not necessarily as that. In most non-sandbox games classes do have some common abilities, which, however, differ in strength.

    My conclusion here is that those 'roles' mentioned are no other that a complete list of abilities, or opportunities for player, and, most likely, they have to be treated as proposed set of features (mechanics/engine limitations/gameplay aspects) to be present in the final version of the game. There are currently no signs that being a builder makes you unable to be a fighter, too. A not very good fighter, but still.
    Why can't I be a good builder and a good fighter? This is what I'm talking about. I should be able to be anything and everything I want to be, whenever I choose to. That's what a sandbox is and that's what Schine is seeming to fail to understand. People will do whatever they please unless you force them not to. The game is being stressed extremely hard in MP right now because Schine didn't anticipate that people would automatically build a massive amount of assets, both in quantity and size. The same will happen in the future, when Schine balances "roles" with trade-offs that people will avoid by doing everything at once. I don't get whats hard to understand here.
     
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    Ithirahad

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    Why can't I be a good builder and a good fighter?
    No reason, and Schine isn't trying to stop you either. The main worry is, though, as you mentioned they're basing everything around those roles, which can go the wrong way fairly easily.
     
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    To the issue of resources I think one of the problems is that they are too scattered around
    Completely agree. The "lazy solution" would be having peaks of distribution of some types of resources in some selected systems (one mineral type per 'rich' system), while leaving ~80% of systems with deposits of minerals of all types, but so scarce, that they would be insufficient for large-scale building.
    //both exploration and trade/territory wars encouraged
     
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    Lecic

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    1. Playing to see if features works
    2. Playing to see if said features are properly balanced (which falls under the "works" part)
    3. Playing to see if said features are fun and find out what to improve upon
    AKA, Quality Assurance.
    The problem is that Schine does not test any of these things to the limit in an actual server environment. Shipyards STILL break constantly for seemingly no reason. NPCs need to be disabled or heavily restricted to keep servers from dying after a month. The weapons, power, and defenses balance are an absolute shit show and it's pretty obvious that you guys don't even try to exploit the systems when you're testing them because if you did this shit wouldn't be here to begin with. "Testing" the game cannot replace actually playing the game. None of you seem to understand how all the mechanics you've piled on over the years actually interact with each other.
     
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    Why can't I be a good builder and a good fighter?
    Yes you can! *starmade anthem intensifies*
    The only limitation i had in my mind is pure human skill -- it would require much time and dedication, though.
     

    Zyrr

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    Yes you can! *starmade anthem intensifies*
    The only limitation i had in my mind is pure human skill -- it would require much time and dedication, though.
    No, it wouldn't. Being every role takes minimal amounts of effort, especially when playing with a group. I cannot emphasize this enough - if you balance based on players fitting into specific roles, your game will be busted. It doesn't work like that in a sandbox. It's not a good way of presenting your goals and ideas. It doesn't matter how you slice it.
     
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    No, it wouldn't. Being every role takes minimal amounts of effort, especially when playing with a group. I cannot emphasize this enough - if you balance based on players fitting into specific roles, your game will be busted. It doesn't work like that in a sandbox. It's not a good way of presenting your goals and ideas. It doesn't matter how you slice it.
    The fact that you're using these words means that it is either me who explained my point not deeply enouhg, or you who didn't read carefully enough.
    I will try my best to re-explain my point.

    In the first part of the document about final goals there were presented so-called 'roles'.
    As the word 'role' has a meaning that goes cross-road with the very fundamental properties of a sandbox game, i tried to make it right by giving it a different interpretation.
    In my theory, each 'role' stands for an aspect of gameplay:
    ~ Builder -- make structures/design ships
    ~ Explorer -- search for various points of interest
    ~ Industrialist -- produce materials and/or gather resources
    ~ Trader -- distribute/re-distribute materials/resources
    ~ Fighter -- operate weapons (ship can be a weapon)
    ~ Imperialist -- communicate with all above (and other of his kind, too) to form communities, and manage them
    It can be easily seen that:
    a) these aspects have nothing in common
    b) they correspond to certain technical aspects of game engine
    c) nothing stops you from doing them altogether

    It can also be seen that these aspects are so general and unspecific, that all they actually do is structuring the idea of "minecraft+eve" into something analyzable.

    What are those restrictions you were talking about? In this very moment the only restriction i see is the total time (per day, averaged) one can invest into the game. The more you invest in some aspect, or 'role', the better you are at that.
     
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