Uncanny parallels: Hawken, an early-access game with issues

Discussion in 'Planetary Annihilation General Discussion' started by Shwyx, July 23, 2014.

  1. Shwyx

    Shwyx Well-Known Member

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    Hi there.

    We've all been busy discussing the 1.0 release and the various issues that still need fixing. On some parts, developers and community agree. On others, not so much. I haven't been part of this community for long enough to assume I can fully evaluate the game's situation - so I won't try. However, I've played other games, some of which have been in similar situations, and I'd like to share a game's story.

    The game I'd like to talk about is Hawken (http://www.playhawken.com/), a mech-based first-person shooter. It is currently in early access and has been available on Steam since early 2014. And first things first: Hawken is different. It's free to play, it's a shooter, it uses dedicated servers, the game has a "classic" publisher, it hasn't been kickstarted, and it's a new IP.

    However, there are several similarities between Hawken and Planetary Annihilation, most of them on the bad side.
    • Hawken has non-existant matchmaking. Servers are sorted by "quality", and players even have an MMR of sorts, but the vast majority of games are one-sided stomps. So far, the developers have never truly acknowledged this issue
    • Hawken has been in development for an eternity, has been available as a playable Beta for ages, but its developers tip-toe around the topic of release. But: there are plenty of cosmetic and other microtransactions available for $$$
    • The game's UI is lackluster, there is no single player available, there is very little chat functionality, the tutorial is extremly basic
    • The game is filled with bitter veterans crushing newbies and wreaking havoc on the official forums
    Do some of these points sound familiar? Yeah, I know. But here's the real tragedy: Hawken is a really, really good game. I've had more fun with it than with most other shooters of the recent years. I ultimately dropped it because despite its mechanics, despite its promising gameplay, I never had fair matches, I met almost no new people, and there were very few signs of community acknowledgement from the developers.

    Want some more parallels? Yeah, I know, the games' situations aren't the same, but here is Hawken's Steam chart for the last 6 months:

    [​IMG]

    http://steamcharts.com/app/271290#6m

    And here is PA:

    [​IMG]
    http://steamcharts.com/app/233250#6m

    And before you object: Both games use Steam and a standalone launcher / executable. Steam's user charts are as reliable data as an outsider might get.

    Here's the thing: I really, really like Planetary Annihilation. I followed the Kickstarters from the very first day, but only bought the game during the recent Steam sale. I'm a sucker for RTS titles, and TA & SupCom will always hold a special place in my heart.

    But I'm also sick and tired of promising games being stillborn. Of integral features (matchmaking and ladders, for the love of god!) missing from release. Of developers wondering why their acclaimed indie titles crash and burn.

    Don't let this game become another Hawken. Please.
    tatsujb, mered4, drewsuser and 3 others like this.
  2. c4ptainpronin

    c4ptainpronin Active Member

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    Those two points are wrong. 2 years isnt a long time for deveoping a rts and the ui has a bunch of features like area commands that are pretty amazing. The chat functionality is also realy good, you can even go though a list of all the players you played with recently and add them to your friends list if you so desire.

    Appart from that you are probably right though.
    I dont realy see the appeal of a matchmaking system or a ladder for myself, but it would be a good thing to get new players actualy playing the mutiplayer and getting good at it.
    drz1 likes this.
  3. Teod

    Teod Well-Known Member

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    Every game has steam charts shaped like that with spikes on updates and sales. I think Hawken's problem is kinda the opposite of PA: they never released it staying in eternal beta. That limits their audience a lot.

    Other than that, yes, those games may have kinda similar problems in design, but that doesn't mean they're both doomed. From what I see on the chart, Hawken does relatively well and PA is climbing up.
  4. cdrkf

    cdrkf Post Master General

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    Hmm I'd argue that things aren't that bleak for PA.

    First things first, if you want to see where PA actually is- you need to play PTE (it's quite a jump from the stable build).

    Also where matchmaking and ladder is concerned, we do in fact have a decent system available from a very easy to install mod (PA-Stats). I've heard comments along the lines of "I don't / won't use mods", however I'm not very sympathetic of that line of thinking. If your into the game enough to want to compete on the competitive ladder, then surely you can download the mod manager tool to gain access to all the useful tools the community have for this game.

    Finally, if you want good games the best bet is to meet up with players outside of PA (as the chat / in game friends system still needs sorting out). There is a PA IRC lobby (old skool I know but free). Also there are plenty of servers on TeamSpeak where PA players congregate- Promethean and The Realm servers are both worth a look (I can get details if your interested).

    Final point- PA is going to get released quite imminently now, and the devs are committed to bringing in new features like an integrated ladder and such, however that is confirmed as not going to be in for release (so the 3rd party ladder system by Cola_Collin is the go to option for now). Many features are still planned for post 1.0 though so the game isn't just going to be left there.
  5. Geers

    Geers Post Master General

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    I haven't played Hawken in a while but last time I did it was a boring grindfest to unlock anything even remotely interesting.
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  6. someonewhoisnobody

    someonewhoisnobody Well-Known Member

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    You just made the most remote comparison on the planet.

    The differences that you said didn't matter do matter, a lot.
    • It's free to play
      • This means no one really has any interest in playing it for more than 10 minutes because they didn't pay for it
    • it's a shooter
      • Completely different crowd
      • Different genera
    • the game has a "classic" publisher
      • This means less community dev interaction
    • it hasn't been kickstarted
      • This means no one really needs to stand behind it
      • With kickstarters people are interested in seeing their money be put to use
      • This means they want things to succeed and they want to play it

    Using steam stats for PA and Hawken is a bad comparison. Most of the people play on the PA launcher so no steam stats. Where as in Hawken all the people play on steam. Meaning that the steam users are not a small amount of the games, they are 100%.

    btw: for Pa stats look at the replays and how many of them are on each date.
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  7. popededi

    popededi Well-Known Member

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    I'd just like to expand upon the logic behind the no mods policy of some.

    Following your approach, you are completely right.

    But if approached from a different angle: people who actively come in wanting to join the competitive scene will do their research and go through the quick and convenient process of installing two mods and joining the forums.

    But most players and general users aren't like that. They need to be reeled in, because they'd like to play the multiplayer and have fun and win, but they just don't know it yet. And that's where first party support comes in. Because if they fire up the game and it's there in front of them, they'll try it and probably stay and then get deeper into it, and start wanting to try mods. But it needs to be served to them on a platter.

    And then it needs to be at least iOS level convenient to download, install and manage mods.

    It's quite not unlike what happened to smartphones actually. They were around, but didn't get widely adopted until iOS and Android came around, made it super convenient for the masses, and now they're overwhelmingly on the top.
  8. squishypon3

    squishypon3 Post Master General

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    Thanks for mentioning NOVA </3

    Realm gets everybody. ;)
  9. cdrkf

    cdrkf Post Master General

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    Lol sorry squishy, to be honest I didn't mention nova cause I've never been on your ts channel... We could do with an address book for pa groups as playing with team mates makes this type of game imo...
  10. Geers

    Geers Post Master General

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    They'll never catch me alive!
  11. speedem0n

    speedem0n New Member

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    The fact that there is a PTE at all is a problem. It is dividing an already small player base which only compounds matchmaking issues. The game is pre-release, the whole thing should be considered PTE, the latest fixes should be pushed live as soon as they pass in house testing. That's what everyone who's playing now signed up for, it's what the nag screen warns you about every time you launch PA. Not to mention, it's not exactly intuitive how to get to the PTE, especially for Steam users, like myself.

    Also, the number of people who feel that they shouldn't have to install mods/3rd party software/2nd version of the game represent a much larger portion of the player base these days than it has in the past. Regardless of sympathies, it needs to be much less of a chore for people to get the full experience of PA if the player population is to grow like it needs to before, during and after release.

    I think the biggest point Uber should take away from all this is that you only get to release once. Everyone who has played PA, but stopped because of whatever, is waiting on release to make it all better. It won't matter how much content, how many features they add after release, if all the players have already left because of <insert random problem here> still existed when they expected it to be fixed/addressed/balanced/ect at release.
  12. Astroniomix

    Astroniomix New Member

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    One thing I will say is that stomps are just a thing that people have to learn to deal with.

    No amount of matchmaking can compensate for the fact that humans are just far to unreliable to generate "fair" matches with any consistency.
  13. Abaddon1

    Abaddon1 Active Member

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    People can also make stomps less of an issue. If you end up in a clearly unbalanced game where you have the advantage don't just try to murder your opponent as quickly as possible. Try out a new strategy you haven't used before, explore some more interesting counter-intuitive ways to do things. Try to make the asymmetrical games less like stomps, because when games are stomps everybody loses and nobody learns anything.
  14. lafncow

    lafncow Active Member

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    The first thing that jumps out to me is that for Hawken, the height of the spikes and the baseline number of players after each spike gets lower and lower, but PA's get higher and higher. I would say this is more of a contrast between the 2 games (and good news for Uber).
  15. KNight

    KNight Post Master General

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    Isn't that a little extreme? It almost reads as if you mean to say "Matchmaking cannot be perfect, ergo it's completely worthless to even bother."

    I agree that in principle we'll never have a "perfect" match making system, there are simply too many variables, but we can create systems that work pretty well all things considered. I can go, pick up Starcraft 2 and within 10 matches know I'm being matched against people more or less of my level and if not, it will adjust automatically. Pa's might not be as good initially, but I don't think a better alternative is to just cross your fingers whenever you enter a lobby and hope for the best.

    Mike
    Last edited: July 23, 2014
    RMJ and RainbowDashPwny like this.
  16. cdrkf

    cdrkf Post Master General

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    I think the main point of the 1.0 release is it *wont be anything to do with PTE*!

    The PTE is a test environment that very likely *wont work properly on your system* which is why it's separate.

    I think it's safe to say most games occur on stable (never many games on PTE) and this isn't going to change for the release version. Very often after a major update there is no PTE version at all (like when Gamma came out) so once we hit the official 1.0 everyone should be on the same version :)
  17. cptconundrum

    cptconundrum Post Master General

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    Have you tried PTE yet? We use it for testing changes to the game and modders like to check mods before the update goes out to stable, but I never see game lobbies up.

    Ok, so if all the good mods get combined into the main game then everyone will have the "full experience". Then what happens a week later when someone makes another mod? I can only interpret your comment as either a request to include every mod in the full game or to ban mods entirely.
  18. neutrino

    neutrino low mass particle Uber Employee

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    On the topic of modding we are working very hard to make mods integral to the experience. Even now you can just join a modded game and it will auto download the stuff you need from the server. We are working on more advanced versions of this stuff to make mods as seamless as possible. Game as a platform, I've said it before and I'll keep harping on it.
    apocatequil, drz1, dukyduke and 3 others like this.
  19. neutrino

    neutrino low mass particle Uber Employee

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    Also as for the original comment about Hawken I'm very familiar with their situation as it exactly mirrors SMNC.

    I wish you guys would let us worry about the business side to be honest. I really don't want to get into that kind of strategy in an open forum. We have learned a ton of lessons and one of them is to not be a free to play game like Hawken and SMNC. That alone makes the comparison kind of silly.
    drz1, japporo, cptconundrum and 2 others like this.
  20. cdrkf

    cdrkf Post Master General

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    I know from personal experience 'business' isn't easy yet everyone's always an armchair expert. I think the fact that you guys survived the issues of SMNC and are now stronger than ever says everything :)
    Bsport likes this.

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