Author Topic: No Multiplayer For Stars Beyond Reach.  (Read 18297 times)

Offline x4000

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No Multiplayer For Stars Beyond Reach.
« on: February 05, 2015, 01:13:45 PM »
Original: http://arcengames.com/no-multiplayer-for-stars-beyond-reach/

STARS-BEYOND-REACH-cropped

Some things that I've been thinking about regarding Stars Beyond Reach, adapted from an email I originally sent to Keith.

In my testing at the moment, despite all the early-alpha things that either Keith or I need to fix up before we bring in more players (ETA still hopefully the start of March), I'm finding that quite fun as it is. The turns are a lot more granular than I expected, which is going to be a big problem for multiplayer, though. That's really the biggest issue I've seen. But the early game is always that way even with Civ, and once diplomacy is integrated (we're working on that now), I think that will change a lot. That will take some substantial balance work, but it's all a numbers game at that point.

It's not remotely ready for other players yet, but it's come a long way since the last time I was testing seriously, and even since last night the fun factor jumped up a ton. It's quite a fun game, really, and I'm itching to play more of it. The diplomacy stuff, too -- that's not just throwing a certain segment of the playerbase a bone. It's actually something that I legitimately enjoy.

DiplomacyMocksm

One thing that is really telling, though, is that I'm not looking forward to playing multiplayer at all. It's really fun by myself, but I moderately dread playing with my dad or my wife. I feel that way with Civ as well, frankly, which is why we stopped playing those together. I'd wind up literally reading a book during a lot of turns while I was waiting for others to finish their turns. Something that had a huge "one more turn" grip on me in single player instead felt frustrating and slow in multiplayer. I remember when I was first learning how to drive stick shift on a car, and I kept stalling it out in traffic on the highway. I love stick shifts now, so that analogy only goes so far, but playing multiplayer Civ with people who play at a different speed than me is like being back out there trying to learn stick shift in a traffic jam. Urgh.

This game avoids the problem of too much going on with the units being moved around, which was one of the big problems with Civ. But this game has a whole new problem that is possibly worse: the SimCity style of "leave things still for a while in order to plan, then make a bunch of decisions, then speed through the next while." I wind up with a random turn taking me a long time, and then literally clicking through several more turns with a second or two pause on each one, max. It feels very SimCity-like, and that's how it should feel. It's extremely appropriate...

Except in multiplayer. I'm not sure what to do about that. :/

The recent-SimCity approach to multiplayer is pretty fun in a lot of respects, and could work. Neighboring cities and all that. This game could easily sustain having individual game worlds share resources or whatever but not share turn times (just like neighboring cities in SimCity don't share time flow -- it's 1910 in one and 2005 in another and paused in 2056 in another).

Screenshot_2015_02_05_13_02_57

But then we're back to that whole alone together idea. It could be fun, but it would definitely be strange. A lot of people would chafe at that, and likely call us out for "not having REAL multiplayer" despite "advertising" it. And actually having real multiplayer isn't a problem, per se -- we've been designing it with that in mind from the get-go. We could do Civ-style multiplayer without issue. Except that I don't think it would be fun.

I'm also not keen on the amount of time that's likely to suck Keith away from programming work on the main game while I'm piling up bugs and other code requests for him. That's going to create tension in the schedule and probably hurt the overall game quality. That's my biggest schedule concern.

It may be that multiplayer simply needs to be cut, and possibly released separately as an update or something. Kind of like what Don't Starve Together (which is incredibly fun) has done for Don't Starve. I don't know.

Or multiplayer may just be something that has to be tossed out for the foreseeable future, possibly forever. It' the only real rat-hole that has me concerned at the moment. This is a really fun game, but if people come to it in multiplayer I can't imagine them finding it nearly so much so. AI War is enhanced by having multiple players, as none of the others hold you back at all. It's sooo much fun in multiplayer. But the multiplayer experience here makes the game WORSE, not better, which I think is also true of Civ. It's kind of a "we know you want to play together, so here's the best we can do because the concept of this genre simply isn't built around that."

This is really frustrating for me, because it goes against my core beliefs about co-op.

fenyntreehomes

That said, I wear a lot of hats at Arcen, and it's my responsibility to think with all of them. So let's:

Business Owner Hat: "You mean there's one feature that might suck up tons of time and money, and possibly delay things? It also might give players frustration when they try to use that feature, rather than pleasure? That's an obvious thing to cut."

Project Manager Hat: "This needs to keep on schedule while keeping an eye toward quality. The biggest threat to quality is embarking on 'vision quest' features that simply are out of scope. Right now the only feature that fits that description is this one."

Sales Hat: "It's true that a lot of people like multiplayer in games, but based on data that we have on hand, not a lot of people actually use it in our games. And from what we can tell, in strategy games as a whole, based on data we have from other sources. There are certainly huge online communities around multiplayer in some strategy games, but even with them that's a fraction of the total sales for those games -- there's a huge majority of solo players in every case. The games with the largest online communities have even higher sales numbers of total units sold but who never go online. So this isn't something that is going to hamstring us sales-wise, even though it's likely to frustrate some customers. Seems like a safe thing to cut, particularly if a botched implementation of this could hurt public sentiment toward the game in general."

Game Designer Hat: "I really can't see any good way around this problem. Either I'm having to sacrifice things that make the solo experience very fun, or multiplayer is going to have a lot of frustrations in any situation where all the players don't play at approximately the same speed at all times. If all players make decisions at the same rate, and that's a very fast rate, then we have no problems here -- the actual game design will support that brilliantly. The sole problem here is the awful, awful waiting when someone takes time to look at data and mull, or talk to an alien for a bit to find out stuff or negotiate a deal or whatever. It's not fun being the one having to wait, and it's also not fun being the one who feels pressured into rushing because the other one is waiting."

burlsust-citadel

Programmer Hat: "There are actually some things that we're having to avoid doing in order to be multiplayer-safe. Some of those are optimizations that would actually speed up the late-game between-turns work IF there are AIs doing a lot of attacks out of your viewport but in explored area. In multiplayer we can't really shortcircuit that, but in purely-solo we could. There are also some visual things that we could also probably do slightly better without multiplayer, and a few other things as well."

Artist Hat: "Makes no difference to me."

Sound Designer Hat: "Me either."

Writer Hat: "Ditto here."

Support Hat: "For the most part, ditto here. Though people having constant problems with port forwarding and whatnot is something that is always nice to avoid, it's not exactly new territory."

Keith Pops By: "Multiplayer is always a rat hole ;)"

Back To Me: "This really, really stinks guys.  I just adore co-op, and at one point I was super looking forward to playing this with both my wife and dad.  But that's self-indulgent on my part, no longer super relevant, and in general gets in the way of the greater good of the game.  You know, that whole kill your darlings bit of advice.  It seems unfortunately clear that that's what we need to do here."

AcutianRoads

So... that's what we're going to do.  Frack it.

I'm unhappy about this decision that I've had to make, but at least you can see the rationale behind it above.  If the game does well and there is a solution that presents itself, then we might explore making that a post-release addition.  But I'm definitely not in a position to promise that, and this is a problem I've noodled on for various games for several years now, in various forms.  I have yet to find a solution, and I'm not aware of any other games that have solved it in a way that I find all that fun either.

But on a brighter note!  I'm having loads of fun with the game, and it's coming along really well.  I can't wait to start sharing more of it with you.

ThoraxianTunnelEntrances2
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Offline Mánagarmr

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Re: No Multiplayer For Stars Beyond Reach.
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2015, 01:17:51 PM »
An Arcen game without multiplayer? What is this? RAGNAROK!?


(Reasoning seems fair though)
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Offline x4000

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Re: No Multiplayer For Stars Beyond Reach.
« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2015, 01:20:52 PM »
An Arcen game without multiplayer? What is this?

Bionic Dues or The Last Federation, I guess. ;)
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Offline Mánagarmr

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Re: No Multiplayer For Stars Beyond Reach.
« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2015, 01:22:52 PM »
An Arcen game without multiplayer? What is this?

Bionic Dues or The Last Federation, I guess. ;)
Welp. I guess I should just crawl back under my rock and start paying attention again :P
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Offline x4000

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Re: No Multiplayer For Stars Beyond Reach.
« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2015, 01:24:56 PM »
You don't have everything about our company memorized???  Banned for one week.  ;D

In all seriousness, thanks for your ongoing support though.
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Offline TheVampire100

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Re: No Multiplayer For Stars Beyond Reach.
« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2015, 01:37:12 PM »
Hm, I really have thought it would feature Multiplayer. Not that I'm sad about it, I prefer singleplayer over multiplayer (except in some cooperate games).
Cutting the multiplayer from a games means that the work on the singleplayer is better done. A lot of games lack the balance between multiplayer and singleplayer and often prefer multiplayer over singleplayer in hopes that it might sell better (you can read it everytime in the Steams forums: "Will this have multiplayer?").
Seeing this will Singleplayer experience only makes it an ideal game for sessins when you are alone and wait for friends (this is one of the games that you can play in some waiting time or while you do other stuff because of the turn based system).

I also see a lot of Flaws in Civ Multiplayer and that's the reason why I dropped playing Multiplayer. For one, it totally removes the part of "doing it while waiting for something or while doing something different". At the moment you play with other, these other people have exceptions to you. They wait until you play and you cannot let them wait to long or they might quit the game.
Another weakness is the bad designed diplomacy concept. For a game that focuses that much on diplomacy it does not even allow a combined victory of multiple players. You can trade with others, you can work out peace agreements and support them in war. But in the ned, only one player can win and they have to turn against you if they don't want to loose.
I think that kind of removes a big functionality of the diplomacy system. I would rather like it that my allies win with me instead of seeing me still as potential danger.

Offline Mick

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Re: No Multiplayer For Stars Beyond Reach.
« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2015, 01:39:46 PM »
From my point of view, saying "no multiplayer" on a game these days is worthy of being listed as a feature. As someone who primarily plays single player games, I get frustrated when flaws in strategy games are brushed aside with "well the real game is in multiplayer".

I've never seen a turn-based-strategy game work well multiplayer. I get bored waiting for my turns. If you are playing competitively, players who are behind don't have fun (fine for 30 minute board game, not so fine for a hours long game of Civilization..)

Offline Draco18s

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Re: No Multiplayer For Stars Beyond Reach.
« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2015, 02:10:51 PM »
From my point of view, saying "no multiplayer" on a game these days is worthy of being listed as a feature. As someone who primarily plays single player games, I get frustrated when flaws in strategy games are brushed aside with "well the real game is in multiplayer".

Or multiplayer alone, like Watch_Dogs.  That is: multiplayer happens when you least want it to and does its damndest to be an absolute arse in the process (for example: an exploit where you can attack someone else, then disconnect, and they get penalized for the lost connection at an order of magnitude larger than a single, legitimate, win).

Offline steelwing

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Re: No Multiplayer For Stars Beyond Reach.
« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2015, 02:17:00 PM »
Speaking for myself, I'm fine with no multiplayer.  Unlike Mick, I've seen two turn-based-strategy games that did multiplayer well:
* Age of Wonders:  Shadow Magic
* Stars!
Both are "older" games (AoW:SM was released in 2003, while Stars! came out in the mid '90s and was meant for Win3.x and Win9x).  Stars!, as far as I recall, could not do LAN-based multiplayer.  It was all "play-by-email".  AoW:SM could do LAN-based, but it was also email-capable.  If I was to recommend a multiplayer implementation for a highly complex TBS, email or other file transfer would be it.

Offline ptarth

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Re: No Multiplayer For Stars Beyond Reach.
« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2015, 02:19:35 PM »
  • Turn-based games all have this problem to some degree. I can sympathize with everyone but Artist-Hat Guy. I hate that guy.
  • What about making the multiplayer version be pure coop, where all players are playing the same side or have various duties split up between them?
  • Many board games are taking this path in cooperative games and there is a reasonable case for extending that to computer games.
  • Example: I get research & civil buildings, my partner get politics and military buildings. We are both spending from the same resource pool, so we have to coordinate and decide where and how we want to get a side going.
  • The game then possesses a strong meta-game communication aspect, which is one of the biggest reason we play cooperative games.
  • Plus my significant other can't complain that I just destroyed all of her troops unfairly using tactics.
Note: This post contains content that is meant to be whimsical. Any belittlement or trivialization of complex issues is only intended to lighten the mood and does not reflect upon the merit of those positions.

Offline x4000

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Re: No Multiplayer For Stars Beyond Reach.
« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2015, 02:49:29 PM »
The idea definitely was to be all co-op.  But for each player to have their own civ.

I... suppose that "we share a civ, and divvy up duties however we like" might be interesting.  But again it's one of those things where I think people would complain about it not being "true multiplayer," and really burn us on the initial release.  As a post-release feature, it might go over easier.  That's certainly the best idea I've heard for dealing with these challenges yet, anyway.
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Offline Captain Jack

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Re: No Multiplayer For Stars Beyond Reach.
« Reply #11 on: February 05, 2015, 02:59:33 PM »
Hi Chris! Been an Arcen fan since Children of the Neinzul, but I lapsed until just last year. Have had a blast catching up.

It's a shame about multiplayer, but I agree that it's really a mess in 4X games because of variable play speeds. There is a solution of sorts, and it's especially good if you're interested in the social aspect of co-op: Hotseat gaming. Early experiences with HoMM2/3 are still some of my favorite multiplayer memories since I learned how to play just by watching everyone else, got help immediately just by pointing, and spent the turns until mine asking questions or socializing. And when need arose, heckling and chivvying the one who just wouldn't end their turn.

It's not a silver bullet, most of the reason online co-op is popular is that we can't meet up with our friends for a turn around the PC, or console for that matter. Still something worth considering, maybe.

Offline Mánagarmr

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Re: No Multiplayer For Stars Beyond Reach.
« Reply #12 on: February 05, 2015, 03:03:58 PM »
Speaking for myself, I'm fine with no multiplayer.  Unlike Mick, I've seen two turn-based-strategy games that did multiplayer well:
* Age of Wonders:  Shadow Magic
* Stars!
Both are "older" games (AoW:SM was released in 2003, while Stars! came out in the mid '90s and was meant for Win3.x and Win9x).  Stars!, as far as I recall, could not do LAN-based multiplayer.  It was all "play-by-email".  AoW:SM could do LAN-based, but it was also email-capable.  If I was to recommend a multiplayer implementation for a highly complex TBS, email or other file transfer would be it.
Age of Wonders 3 does it pretty well too. You should look that up.
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Offline Draco18s

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Re: No Multiplayer For Stars Beyond Reach.
« Reply #13 on: February 05, 2015, 03:10:03 PM »
Age of Wonders 3 does it pretty well too. You should look that up.

Seeing as AoW3 came after AoW2:SM... I'm not surprised. :P

Offline GarathJJ

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Re: No Multiplayer For Stars Beyond Reach.
« Reply #14 on: February 05, 2015, 03:12:16 PM »
Chris,

You don't know me. I've signed up just so I can say this.

I'm one of the few. One of those who really do play co-op multiplayer strategy games. Civ, AI War, the few others in the genre. AI War is the best multiplayer co-op game I have ever played. Playing it that way has given me some of the most fun times I have ever had. I was looking forward to Stars Beyond Reach co-op multiplayer a *lot*, and I am deeply, deeply sad that it won't be there.

But the point of my message is not that I'm sad. It's that I believe you've made the right choice. I thank you deeply for setting out your reasoning in the way you have done, and I agree with it completely. If you can't make the multiplayer experience as fun as the single-player experience, if it would take significant additional effort to develop (and I'm a programmer myself. I *know* that it would), it should not be in the game. I and my friends will do what we've done with other games before - simply fire up a single-player game and a screenshare. My sadness that I won't get co-op multiplayer does not diminish the anticipation I have for this game.

Thankyou for having the dedication to making the best game you possibly can that you make the hard decision.

That is all.

JJ