Keeping Existing Players

Discussions of sales, marketing, offers, word of mouth techniques etc
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Keeping Existing Players

Postby Mooncrest » Fri Mar 17, 2017 4:27 pm

I have been playing for nearly 30 months now. What has been apparent to me for some time is that we seem to have difficulty in keeping players. I know that there has always been and will always be a drive to get new players, but unless we can keep players playing the game is not going to grow. I know that most players expect MMO games to be combat oriented with, or without PvP, that the combat element of Ascent is pretty basic and this will be a disappointment to a lot of new players. I think that giving the ships in the game Type Names associated with combat vessels was misleading. However, there must be quite a few players who would stay, if not for the fact that a lot of things do not work quite as expected. There is an “unfinished” feel to some of the game mechanics. I realise that the game, itself, will never be “finished”: there is so much content that the developer and players would like to add to the game, but what content is already in the game does need to have that “its done and ready” feel to it. There are at least two major areas of the game that, as far as I am concerned, are not quite “ready”: Trading and NPC Pilots. I think that fixing these two areas soon, would greatly improve the prospects of keeping, not only new players, but some veteran players, who are becoming disillusioned as well.

Trading
There are three elements to Trading in the game: NPC Station Local Market and Contract Boards, Galactic Market and Player Stock Market. Of these the Player Stock Market is probably the most unfinished. Though the other elements do need small tweaks.

Player Stock Market
The very major problem with the Player Stock Market is the fact that when a player wishes to sell a product and searches the Player Stock Market for Buyers the potential transactions listed cannot be relied upon to produce a successful outcome. This causes much frustration and anger, as the player will have spent time searching and moving to Stock Market only to have the transaction not complete with no explanation of why it failed. The actual reason is usually that the Buyer is out of funds or the local warehouse is out of space. Both of these conditions could be checked when the search was made and any transactions that fail these checks left out of the list. This would increase the chance of a successful transaction and reduce, significantly, the frustration. It would also encourage players to trade with other players, thus putting less reliance on trade with NPC Stations to provide a profit.

NPC Local Market and Contract Board
A knock-on effect of the above would be the ability to reduce the over-inflated prices at NPC Stations and bring them more into line with prices paid/charged by players. Thus brining together the two economies. We would still need the NPC Stations to provide Local Market and Contract Board facilities as a way of taking out of the game any over-supply of products. However, it should not be more profitable to supply the NPC Stations than a Player. The commodities that NPC Stations are willing to buy via the Contract Board should be increased to include Electronics, Mech Parts, Graphene, Tobacco, Fertilizer, Beer, Cigars, Wine, and Basic Meds. All at prices based on what players are offering to pay for these goods.

Galactic Market

One thing that needs to be done to the Galactic Market is to add the details of any Specified Buyer to the Sales Details Window. This will allow the Seller and the Buyer to determine who the item is designated for. It is very confusing not to know if a Sale Order you are looking at is for a Specified Buyer when you know you have some items for Speified Sale and other on General Sale. This information is needed particularly if the Buyer does not collect his/her item from the GM within a reasonable time period.

The second thing that needs doing is a periodic removal of transactions that have not been completed within a reasonable time period. There are a lot of Sales Orders for items that have been, to put it politely, priced highly optimistically. Whether the intention was, actually, to rip off players or just to transfer cash from one account to another, these transactions look bad. If they have not been completed after, say, eight weeks, the item should be returned to the Seller's storage and the transaction should be removed from the database.

NPC Pilots
Because the Player Stock Market system cannot be relied upon to work successfully and because the Player Stock Market is so volatile, NPC Pilots assigned to proper trade routes cannot continue to work for more than a few days, usually, before they can no longer find a viable transaction to make. Having reached this point they simply shut down. Of course they do not let you know they have stopped working, because they are not making any progress reports at all. Any data we can glean from them is pretty useless and we have very little control over what they actually do. We, therefore, have the situation that lots of NPC Pilots seem to be congregating around Jump Gates and NPC Stations where they are now interfering with our operations out of those places. How many times have you clicked on the screen when docked at a Station only to have a NPC Conversation Window pop up because of “click through”?

NPC Pilots are only allowed to trade with PC Stock Markets. I understand and agree with this decision. So, they should report that they are idle so that the owning Player can work out other orders to give them. They should also report their actual trade route when asked and not just report “I am working a trade route”.

They seem to get confused about where they are too, especially if they are idle. On several occasions, now, I have had NPC Pilots go idle in a cluster of five systems I have linked together about 80ly from Apollo. Though linked together by Jump Gates none of the systems is linked to the main Jump Gate Network. Yet, idle NPC Pilots have moved from OSBs in these systems to Player Starbases with the same number in Apollo Deep Space. I now have several extra NPC Piloted ships in Miners Paradise that originally were located in the cluster and have no way of getting them back on station. If I could get the NPC Pilot to relinquish their ship, I could move it back to the Cluster and then reassign the pilot to the ship. This mechanic would also solve another frustration I have; I could reassign NPC Pilots to better ships. When NPCs were first introduced I set a dozen up in very small ships, just to experiment with how they worked. Now they are still in Turtles, Hornets and Sparrows and I would like them in something bigger, this is a way of doing that.
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Re: Keeping Existing Players

Postby Kheben » Sat Mar 18, 2017 5:49 pm

I agree to your thorough analysis.
One idea for a true economy would be to make colonists buy a set amount of different things and pay for them with money from the bank. that would make colonies provide an income of their own without the need to haul to inner sphere.
The mats can then be sold very cheap for new players to be hauled or to be used for gates and the like.

In other games, cities use up a certain amount of everything per time in the warehouses, thus players sell some mats to a changing price depending on the needs. This would make the sm to not be controlled by the player but an algorythm for the needs of the people and the stored amounts (or you could make a colony warehouse / supermarket building where mats are sold to the population). But i gues that would be a complete overhaul to the economy...

As i understand that is kind of what is done for the drugs sold to colonists.
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Re: Keeping Existing Players

Postby Moneyman » Sat Mar 18, 2017 6:24 pm

:mrgreen: As usual. you have written your thoughts comprehensively and with exhaustive detail. No stone unturned.

:idea: There are a few things about this game that didn't appear in your post.

:geek: Our UserOFCode (A title I prefer to game God) is stuck in Indie and can't (apparently) address the following:

1. The bigger the player stake, in game Real Estate, the bigger the means to influence the economy ... No taxes to curb appetite.
2. There is generally only one way to accomplish most tasks: No comprehension that all humans don't have equal ability to do things.
3. There is no economic balance to the opposites Trading and Mining: The focus is material acquisition .. Trading is an afterthought.
4. Game design, don't hate me for this, is heavily focused on how cleverly obstacles are put in the player's way ... especially mining.

:idea: This game has one thing that sets it apart from every other Steam game I've looked at: Player fellowship of the first order.

1. Both the game Wiki and game Forum are superior to all its competitors.
2. There are special, unduplicatable players like you Moon and RAM, LadyHawk, Bozack and so many more.
3. We want to keep, forever, every last new player we're lucky enough to get to know.

:arrow: Ask any player in Eve whats so special about that game? Constant beatings by miscreants.

:?: I don't know about you but I'll take fellowship over some idiot blowing up my stuff ... Every Day.

:ugeek: See Moneyman contribution link: http://forum.thespacegame.com/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=3242&p=26802#p26802.
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Re: Keeping Existing Players

Postby Mooncrest » Sat Mar 18, 2017 8:32 pm

Thanks for your thoughts, guys. My original post was meant as a first step to completing some of the mechancs already in the game that are causing frustration and unhappiness among new players, as I see it. There is a host of other things to fix, but they are really minor or cosmetic things that can be left 'til later. Also, there are many things that I, and many others, would like to see added to the game; every player will have a list of content they want to see implemented. All I wanted to do was establish a fully operational and reliable Trading system and to try and ease the use of NPC Pilots. It is these two areas that I think are most deserving of Jam's precious development time as, hopefully, they broaden the activity choices of players.

Kehben, I think that the idea of colonists consuming products other than food and luxuries is a great idea. Since the mechanisms already exist for consumption of food and luxuries, it should not be too difficult to add consumption of other 'Second Tier', as RAM calls them, products. This would provide a constant demand from all SMs for these items and make trading between players even more attractive. But the Stock Market Search mecchanic has to be altered to remove any non-viable transactions, or we end up in the same situation we have now: no-one trades with another player or between other player's SMs because the transactions are not reliable.

MoneyMan, I agree there are lots and lots of things I have not mentioned. I have been making a list... The reason I settled on these two major areas is that I think they are the easiest to complete and having them completed it will get the most benefit vis a vis keeping players active in game. If we can keep players from leaving the community can grow. We, the community, seem to have gained a good reputation for friendliness and co-operation. However, all that positivity could be wiped out by players dropping out. I think that once a large(ish), stable player-base has been established, Jam can hire other coders and many more things can be added. However, none of this will happen until what the game offers now 'feels' rounded out and complete. What I have mentioned above is the first step that I would take in getting that to happen. After that we can run the publicity campaign to really boost new players and, hopefully, the retention percentage will increase.
Last edited by Mooncrest on Sat Mar 18, 2017 9:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Keeping Existing Players

Postby Moneyman » Sat Mar 18, 2017 9:01 pm

:mrgreen: Once again Moon, well thought out and expressed by you ... no surprise to me .. pretty much know and respect your thinking.

:idea: Your post just gave me an opportunity to say my bit ... not for you (You already know) but the new players.

:D Very pleased that Kheben had his say ... always impressed by what you have to say, Kheben. Keep doing it ... it matters.
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Re: Keeping Existing Players

Postby rastilion » Tue Mar 21, 2017 9:07 am

A few thoughts of someone thinking about stopping:

Trading was broken when i started two years ago. Infinite supply from colony/OSB vs infinite demand from NPCs just can't work out.
I was never a trader, so i didn't really mind. But i can see the problems it brings and has brought.

NPCs always worked for me, even if they took strange mixtures of cargo along. Then came the update that would supposedly allow NPC ships to also move OSB colonists, since then i'm having the same issues as everyone else.
I have 2 colonies and one OSB in Alveran that need supplies.

One of the colonies has 3 materials for trade:
Sell Meat, Sewage
Buy Fertilizer
This Colony is always full of meat. Last i checked, it was a couple of million meat.

The second colony trades a little more:
Buy Sewage, Meat
Sell: All mining/farming products, basic meds, wine, beer, cigars, fertilizer
Medical Facilities for 2.5m people, used around 400k.

The OSB has 3m inhabitants, large storage and produces nearly everything, with the only exception of core sampling probes.
Buys: all foods, all metals, all "drugs" except neurostims, med supplies.
Sells: Nearly all tier 2 goods (Graphene, both robots etc), sewage

There are around ten NPCs going between the OSB and its connected colony, the larger of both. Fruit, grain and vegetables as well as the metals seem to get transferred, but there is no migration of people whatsoever, noone gets treated at the colony.
Last time i checked, the sewage did also not get transferred.

There are three NPCs each between the meat colony and the other colony / its OSB.
Both large colony and OSB have not seen meat in the last... i don't know... half a year?
The transfer of fertilizer from large to small colony also doesn't work.

Currently, i'm just logging in once a week to update my research, take a glance at my OSB, see that nothing has changed and log out again.
I will still maintain the Analyser, continue my research for a bit longer and monitor this game.
This was the first game ever to get me beyond the 1000 hours mark, by now i should be close to 1500 hours. I like this game and would be willing to support it much further.

I don't have time to check IRC at the moment, so i don't know if Jam is still active on there. But currently it looks like this is a dead game.
If nothing changes by the time i have reached level 10 on all modules (probably still half a year out, maybe more), this game will have lost another player. The community is great, but that alone is not enough to hold me.

Regards, Rastilion

Edit: For those interested: Alveran System, Colonies Angroshs Forge and Zaturas Fields, OSB Praios Chariot
Open it in colony.ascentextras.com and compare with the stock market settings.
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Re: Keeping Existing Players

Postby Moneyman » Tue Mar 21, 2017 3:25 pm

rastilion wrote:A few thoughts of someone thinking about stopping:

Trading was broken when i started two years ago. Infinite supply from colony/OSB vs infinite demand from NPCs just can't work out.
I was never a trader, so i didn't really mind. But i can see the problems it brings and has brought.

NPCs always worked for me, even if they took strange mixtures of cargo along. Then came the update that would supposedly allow NPC ships to also move OSB colonists, since then i'm having the same issues as everyone else.
I have 2 colonies and one OSB in Alveran that need supplies.

One of the colonies has 3 materials for trade:
Sell Meat, Sewage
Buy Fertilizer
This Colony is always full of meat. Last i checked, it was a couple of million meat.

The second colony trades a little more:
Buy Sewage, Meat
Sell: All mining/farming products, basic meds, wine, beer, cigars, fertilizer
Medical Facilities for 2.5m people, used around 400k.

The OSB has 3m inhabitants, large storage and produces nearly everything, with the only exception of core sampling probes.
Buys: all foods, all metals, all "drugs" except neurostims, med supplies.
Sells: Nearly all tier 2 goods (Graphene, both robots etc), sewage

There are around ten NPCs going between the OSB and its connected colony, the larger of both. Fruit, grain and vegetables as well as the metals seem to get transferred, but there is no migration of people whatsoever, noone gets treated at the colony.
Last time i checked, the sewage did also not get transferred.

There are three NPCs each between the meat colony and the other colony / its OSB.
Both large colony and OSB have not seen meat in the last... i don't know... half a year?
The transfer of fertilizer from large to small colony also doesn't work.

Currently, i'm just logging in once a week to update my research, take a glance at my OSB, see that nothing has changed and log out again.
I will still maintain the Analyser, continue my research for a bit longer and monitor this game.
This was the first game ever to get me beyond the 1000 hours mark, by now i should be close to 1500 hours. I like this game and would be willing to support it much further.

I don't have time to check IRC at the moment, so i don't know if Jam is still active on there. But currently it looks like this is a dead game.
If nothing changes by the time i have reached level 10 on all modules (probably still half a year out, maybe more), this game will have lost another player. The community is great, but that alone is not enough to hold me.

Regards, Rastilion

Edit: For those interested: Alveran System, Colonies Angroshs Forge and Zaturas Fields, OSB Praios Chariot
Open it in colony.ascentextras.com and compare with the stock market settings.


:mrgreen: My BH Serendpity colony and OSB would definitely buy all the meat you have to sell indefinitely .. At a fair price.

:arrow: BH Serendipity colony and MP Weymouth are generating some fertilizer ... I don't know if its too small a quantity or not.

:?: Would you be willing to buy fertilizer at the same price you are selling meat? I never have a $$$ problem.

:ugeek: See Moneyman contribution link: http://forum.thespacegame.com/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=3242&p=26802#p26802.
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Re: Keeping Existing Players

Postby rastilion » Tue Mar 21, 2017 3:29 pm

Buying/Selling to BH would require
1) functioning NPCs
2) a gate connection over approx 360LY
Also, i could use some meat at my main col and OSB to get back to 100% food security. BUT... Issue 1...

Thanks for the offer, though
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Re: Keeping Existing Players

Postby LadyHawk » Tue Mar 21, 2017 6:20 pm

Rast, its wonderful to see you here again!

I understand entirely the frustrations that you mention and I know there are many more that most of us could name as well. I can only offer the thread of hope that Ram's run for President has given many of us. If Jam can be inspired by anyone to work harder to fix some of this stuff, its Ram, and Ram is demonstrating the willingness to take up that gauntlet.

Don't give up on us yet...there is an awesome game base here, it just needs some work. Hope to see you in game sometime soon!
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Re: Keeping Existing Players

Postby Mooncrest » Fri May 05, 2017 3:02 pm

Since Jam has announced that he intends to relaunch Ascent: TSG as Ascent: Black Sky, I have had more thoughts on the Trading Mechanics. I believe that eliminating the Local Market at NPC Star Stations would be a good solution to a couple of problems that we have.

It would mean that it would no longer be possible to mindlessly haul millions of units of carbon from Menzel3 to Ceres just to get the vast profits. The player would still be able to make good profits out of the Contracts Board, just not in the billions as at present. The effect of this would be to slow progress through the ship Classes, thus restoring the ability to spend some quality time learning the game systems and "getting invested", as RAM puts it, in the game. At the moment, it seems from my PoV that the initial stages of the game are treated as a race to see who can get to Class 15 the fastest. I understand that this has been done in a few days... :o :(

It also would stop the feeling that the game is "grindy", if we take that to mean the use of mindless repetition of a task to achieve an objective. Everyone knows where carbon is cheap, everyone knows you can get up to 1000 profit per unit at NPC SS. If there is no ready market for carbon then you are going to have to change your strategy for each sale.

In order for this to work we would need the amounts of material demanded to properly up-scale with ship size; especially for the rarer materials like Magnesium and Uranium. Thus providing a market for these under-used materials. We should also include the new gases: Deuterium and Tritium and the manufactured items like Graphene, Mech Parts, Electronics, etc, etc. We already have Contract Buyers for the Robots.

Lastly, it would reduce the amount of cash entering the economy. Thus, this would also encourage players to trade between player Stock Markets, when that systems has been fixed. Players needing to buy materials, would have a baseline price to offer and players making product would also be able to gauge their selling prices accordingly.
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