Ban illegal alliance again and find a way to enforce the rule

Changing market from p2p to fixed yet randomized feature is just fixing a symptom.

The disease is illegal alliances. Who wants to put the effort into getting their fam into lead, when other families start to play together and make sure you drop from top position. Market aiding other fams to opp enemy is easy, but things are escalating. Soon ppl will start using ingame NAPs of a third family to prevent enemy from retaking. There will be more 2v1 3v1 wars. All means available will be used.

Some may argue that it increases action and makes the round more interesting when top dog cannot cruise to the win or possibly farm/bully smaller fams after they have achieved sizable lead. True, but who wants to put the extra effort to get there, if other fams see it as their right to kill them when the opportunity is there. Even if the fam got their top position with fair play. It will not matter.

That kinda system does not allow winners in war to end it with fair agreements either. They have to hit enemy so hard down, that they cannot or will not help any other family and get their revenge that way.

It will be a cutthroat game very soon and last remnants of honor will be thrown out. I do not want to be part of that toxic environment.

I am sorry, that I do not have any easy solution, on how to police this, but I am willing to participate in finding a solution with the community.

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Well I feel like our fam is being looked at for this. So I say if you can use small fams to gain leads in planet size by farming why not be able to use them in other ways and make there rounds more interesting also.

If we would have picked on the smaller fams which we very easily could have we would be over 1k planets by now but instead let them be.

I don’t think it has anything to do with grudges to be honest last time orbit and I were playing in a gal like this he was 2v1 me. I think it very much changes round to round and illegal alliances / working together are all part of the diplomacy aspect.

And no knock on you but you’ve won the last two rounds maybe people don’t want a threepeat.

No

The main underlying issue here is that there are too few players playing anymore; which means that the same factions and cliques form and you get a never ending spiral which always ends up with the same people Vs the same people.

Back in the day there were no IAs that stemmed from the smaller guys wanting to gang up on the top guys.

This also causes the imbalance we see every round - if you aren’t in the top assembled fam that round then you’re not getting anywhere - you fall behind very quickly and then its just an infra exercise for those at the top.

this is the root cause of many of the games problems imo, the microcosm of fighting and, I would assume that the personalites of the people who play this game are likely to cause more friction between people than in usual settings hence leading to more animosity and less honourable play.

Simply, no one that is new to the game realistically wants to play a text-based game anymore. With things such as Stadia, Playstation Play, Apple Arcade etc; games are becoming cheaper and more accessible at a higher quality. People would rather play something that they can physically see rather than being text based. Add to that just how difficult this game is for new players to understand because of all the nuances and cliques etc… its an uphill battle.

The main way in which people discover and find these games is through the app stores and games centres that house them - I have never searched the internet for a game; I just download them from the app store from apple arcade or I buy them for my PS. If it wasn’t for my dad playing this game, I would never have known it existed.

Vastly increase the marketing efforts in terms of advertising
Huge push on referral scheme
Introduce a pay to win aspect - this is going to be hated but at the end of the day do you want the game to survive?
Make it much simpler to learn how to play and don’t link it to activity
Consider shorter rounds with shorter ticks

Just a few thoughts anyway. Right now I am not really playing the game anymore because the rounds just feel repetitve, playing with or against the very same people each round and; if I am not online specifically at every earliest opportunity to build during BOR, you fall behind really quickly.

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Pay them to nuke the one fam that could be a challenger, but you’ve NAPd :smile: ‘interesting’
Basically NAPs are worthless then.

Perhaps make hard ops only available when war is declared or a planet has been taken by the other family within X tickets

Meant to say more interesting also for those fams not in general

Can you recommend any specifics given that we have no marketing budget?

The issue most of the time isn’t that we don’t know what we want; it’s that we don’t have the money or resources to do it. We’ve known for awhile now — literally years — that we need more players, increased advertising, etc.

It’s like knowing that we need a mobile app, or a better website, or a friendlier community. We already know the what here, the challenge is in the how.

So, any ideas on how we increase marketing efforts in terms of advertising, without any money to spend on it?

I have thought about this now. It seems veterans are hanging around out of habit or to create even more wild IA schemes at this point. Few are clinging to old ways or have given up. It is spiraling to that deadly toxic area and I would not want to say “I told you so” after IC is totally dead and buried. In fact I will not be here to say anything. I will be playing other games.

I have only few suggestions and I do not think those would even work out in the long run, or at all. But got to suggest them, so you can shoot them down.

Mods or Referees - I am willing to referee a galaxy, if I can be a player in another. There could be honor rules and fixed penalties with some leeway for ref to judge. If possible, there should be a refereeing group, to get better judgement on important cases (individual ref could judge smaller cases alone), but at the moment one ref would be all we need per galaxy. There also should be a way to overrule a ref’s decision (Pie’s call?), but if that challenge does not go through, there should be hefty penalty for unsuccessful challenge. Accusations of dishonorable play should all be open, yet only ref see who has claimed them. Ref could investigate data on his own, but mostly players (leaders maybe only) should have, let’s say 3 opportunities to bring suspicious action into ref’s attention. Ref could not act on unofficial whistleblowing. If suspicious action would prove dishonorable in ref’s opinion too, player would not have lost opportunity to bring up a case. If ref does not see a problem, player loses one opportunity.

Ref should not need to have access to direct proof of IA to stop 2v1 happening. He cannot monitor all communication. He could have access to all actions, market and saves and all data needed ingame to see if that 2v1 is a fair war and should talk to to leaders involved asap. He could just force a NAP on all or some families involved, if needed, or just let it happen.

That is my best attempt so far. Be gentle, I am just throwing out ideas.

I think some of this could work, but only if the role is elected by the players and could be “fired” by the players. This would need to be a galaxy-specific role that is not in any way a staff role.

I simply don’t have time to monitor a role who’s job it is to judge player actions. This would have to be 100% automated and sustainable with literally 0 staff involvement. It needs to be 100% player-controlled.

If we can figure out how to do that, we can explore a special Galactic role and what powers it should entail. Conceptually, this could be an expansion of the Family Leader role; a Galactic Chancellor, a leader of leaders.

The amount of red tape would then be up to that person, who may take direction from whichever subordinates they choose. Different people could enforce anti-alliance rules in different ways, and if they aren’t sufficiently effective the players can replace them.

It was a mistake for staff to have ever moderated alliances. That power should have been in the hands of the players from the start. That is where our efforts should be if we want to influence gameplay. This is a need for a feature, not staff-enforced policy.

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This is like asking for the silver bullet. Advertising is technically just another name for exchanging money for exposure.

Other than that, free but slow to start/overreliance on people’s help:

  • Social Media campaigns: we need some social media presence. This will be slow to build up but in the long run if we had Twitter/Instagram/Reddit etc then we can put out content/competitions/round updates etc. This will take a lot of management, though.

  • Word of mouth: the only way this works is if people get in-game benefits as a result of bringing people into the game. As it stands:
    a) get a standard “aid package” for every new member you draft in
    b) you get a bigger aid package for every new member that passes Virgo
    c) you get a bigger aid package for every new member that finishes their first round etc

obviously WoM is open to abuse, people creating fake and multi accounts in order to get some resources but… the price you pay i guess.

  • Mutual advertising/guest posting: if anyone knows of any other similar games, we could run some like for like advertising in their forums. E.g. they can post a message to recruit new users in our forum if we can post in theirs etc

  • Pay to win features: this is a tough one. A lot of people won’t like it. but if you want revenue to grow and pay moderators, staff, advertisements etc… introduce in-game purchases (speeding up the building of units/buildings) or introduce premium account features (can see morale planets before explo/attack, get extra RP when building a custom race, start with an extra +10% resources in any round etc, higher number of explos per 24h, lower explo/travel costs, access to exclusive ops/spells).

If you’re saying that we have always known what the problems are and what has been needed in order to achieve fixes for those issues and drive new users etc then something needs to change drastically.

The fundamental question is this: Do we keep things the way they are to keep happy a handful of people in a dying game, or do we make drastic changes that may ultimately lead to resurrection/survival.

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@Zanharim IA’s have been ever present in IC and has never changed, the only thing that has changed is the number of players. It’s an individual responsibility for each player to play with respect and honour, for example not farming a family with 2 active players. Referee’s / Mods won’t have any affect on this, I know I have been one, it ends up just being an ego trip power abuse role.

Grudges are also a thing, I’ve had players chase me for rounds with grudges, it’s just a thing, people hate losing.

@Funeral bang on about marketing, referral is a good idea. But this is all small fry unless we pay for advertising, which we all know is impossible.

I think the game needs many changes still before it can entice people to join and stay, it’s still very life consuming.

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This is one of the main points for me, too. I can open up the little Outlanders game on my phone or Age of Empires etc after a few days and I haven’t really lost pace or been left behind by being connected to a group of people. The bleak fact is: thanks to social media, we have transformed over the last 10-15 years into a society with incredibly short attention spans. And the need for immediate gratification. Having to wake up in the middle of the night to play a game or else you’re left behind, is not something that anyone wants to do anymore.

I guess my overarching message/worry here is this: Imperial Conflict as it currently exists is no longer a desirable game to play purely because of the game mechanics and nature of the trend of gaming. It’s like we are scurrying around trying to fix a VHS tape when no one owns VHS players anymore and everyone wants video streaming in HD.

Can it be fixed - I don’t see why not. If the game is adapted to more modern gameplay behaviours and traits. How? I don’t know that, I am a marketer not a hardcore gamer/coder etc. But I believe there are some incredibly smart and insightful people here that may know the answer - but the first step is to realise that forcing a 90s game on 20’s people just won’t work.

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Yep, that’s exactly my point. The question was (partially) rhetorical to show our situation: our problem isn’t that we don’t have enough players; that’s the symptom. The problem is that we don’t have enough money.

Even the “free” options aren’t really free because we’re also short on resources (time and effort).

For example, who runs the social media campaigns? Are we willing to accept any willing help even if they lack experience and do a poor job? That’s a tough question, and that’s assuming we even get volunteers. If we do, they will also require oversight which is another cost.

The p2w thing is iffy, but there are ways to monetize safely. That’s a much larger topic that I won’t get into here other than to say that our goal is not to maximize profitability at the expense of the soul of the community. More players doesn’t inherently mean a better game, especially if we compromise the competition.

There are plenty of profitable and popular games that are exploitative and shit excuses for cash grabs. I don’t plan for IC to be one of them. We want a balanced game, not just a popular and profitable game. Right now we are lacking on both fronts, so we should fix the game first so it is more enjoyable even with fewer players.

So where does that leave us? I think you said it well here:

The drastic change is already happening. The solution to nearly every problem that we have goes back to the fact that our underlying tech is horribly outdated. For example:

  • The backend is unstable, which has lead to people missing units, database issues that effect gameplay, etc. This causes players to leave.

  • The frontend is stale and difficult to navigate, which causes people to leave.

  • Game-design changes are incredibly costly to implement because our underlying codebase, although miles better than it used to be, is still a monster and plagued by technical debt. This causes people to leave because it takes too long to adjust the game in response to feedback.

  • Any marketing efforts that we are able to get going are somewhat wasted because the first impression of the game is so poor, and new players bounce.

I could go on, but the point is that we aren’t having problems reaching players, we’re having problems keeping them. We have literally 100s of new players who have joined this year, verified their email address, and then left.

Marketing will add value for us, but it isn’t the priority right now because it isn’t where our bottleneck is. Our product itself is the problem, not the fact that people can’t find it.

This is close but not quite right. People still read books for example, even though they can watch movies. There is still very much a market for text-based strategy games, and this market is about to shift because of Flash dying this year.

IC is like a book that its original owner didn’t care for, and has a damaged spine, torn pages, and ink that is hard to read. If somebody tried to read it and stopped in frustration, you wouldn’t say “see, people don’t read books anymore”. That’s an excuse to hide from our actual problems: that we’re running a website that severely lags behind modern web trends.

IC is a website as much as it is a game, and the game design itself won’t matter at all if the user experience isn’t up to snuff. That is why our redesign is so important; literally everything else is stuck behind it, including monetization.

Getting back to the original topic though, @Zanharim is on point here in trying to find solutions for the game as it currently is, and @OrBit is correct that IA has always been a problem. Even at IC’s height, this was never handled well. Blaming this problem on player count is overlooking the actual issue.

So, how can we handle unofficial alliances without requiring staff involvement? If we can brainstorm it, we can build it.

It becomes a lot more clear because of the low player count. In the big days you had tri-alliances, and that was typically plenty. With the lower player count, it hurts a lot more because your basically eliminating 10% of the active players.
This is one case of several cases where the ‘event’ is the same, but the impact is bigger.

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It’s a blessing in disguise. If we can solve this for 40 players, it will be that much better for more.

The key question is: what should the punishment actually be? What power do we give to these enforcers, such that it isn’t just an unofficial alliance that attacks unofficial alliances?

  1. Enforcer must not play in the galaxy, but yet should be actively involved in there

This could be a problem for activity and knowledge of relations in enforced galaxy. Big one, if there is only one competitive galaxy running. Bigger problem would be tho if enforces would be someone who is playing in that galaxy at the same time.

  1. There should be powers, guidelines and predetermined punishments

Guidelines:

  • Never lie to an enforcer, punishment will be more harsh if you have done something wrong
  • It is always advicable for enforcer to talk with all parties involved, if reasonably possible, before making any decisions
  • Enforcer and leaders should talk about family plans in private on regular basis and leaders should be open about these, because sometimes two families plan to fight the same target and it does not always involve IA (These talks do not offer proof that there is no IA, because enforcer can not blindly believe that there would not be any secret communication behind the scenes, but it gives more insight for enforcer and could help make better decisions)
  • Enforcer is not meant to correct bad decisions of players or even make playing more even, only to prevent dishonorable breaking of deals and prevent possible IA and such (natural 2v1 is not always IA)
  • Enforcer should protect the weaker, but also not to believe the weaker side blindly
  • Enforcer should be unbiased, hold no grudge and not use preemptive actions, not even if someone is a known rogue-like player or has history of being punished
  • Enforcer needs to explain why punishments have been given
  • Enforcer does not reveal any sensitive info, unless has given a punishment and it is essential to reveal something in order to explain
  • Enforcer must give reasonable opportunity for punishee to defend, in private, before punishment will be executed
  • Enforcers decision is final, but it is open for any discussion
  • NAPs should be declared to enforcer if made unofficially, otherwise they are not enforceable
  • Official NAPs with unofficial clauses, should be declared to enforcer, otherwise they are not enforceable
  • When making agreements, ingame message makes it more official

Punishments:
General rule of planet compensations while NAPed or involving IA, or something similar; 2 empty planets for built planet, 2 planets for hard opp with damage, 1 planet for portal lost, 1 planet for fig running attack. Damage done may differ and thus 1 FB planet lost while galaxy has 500% OB planets in general, could be compensated by empty planet and 20 fig run attacks usually cause minimal damage on later attacks and amount of figs vary vastly, so destroying a war fleet of 1M figs could demand 20 planet compensation, but smaller fleet only 5 planet compensation. Enforcer discretion advicable.

  • NAP break of an unofficial NAP - Enforcer can enforce an official NAP and DPAs as compensation for example
    (Example 1: Two families have declared 48 hr unofficial NAP with core clause and right to clear that core. Smaller family is in a war with 3rd party. Smaller family clears core of NAPed family and mistakenly takes one planet outside of core. Smaller fam is willing to compensate. Bigger family voids the NAP by raiding 10 planets of smaller fam and starts a war, making it 2v1. Enforcer is asked to intervene. Enforcer forces NAP immediately between fams to prevent further damage. Option 1: It appears there was ingame messages in which voiding of the NAP was allowed. Enforcer lifts the NAP and let’s 2v1 happen. Make better deal next time. Option 2: It appears there was ingame messages in which compensation was meant to be the primary way to solve disputes. Enforcer keeps the NAP and let’s families decide the compensation and DPA those. Enforcer let’s families decide if they want to keep the unofficial NAP or official NAP. If there is no agreement, Enforcer makes it based on families negotiations, damage done and general rules of compensation. Enforces 18 planet compensation 48 hr official NAP with DPAs of compensation and is ready to DPA explored core intrusions if needed. If DPA planets are not given, can enfore it by tagging player or players rogue and force new 48 hr NAP if it is canceled before DPAs have been cleared.
    Example 2: Two families have declared Permanent unofficial NAP and sign 72 hr official NAP. One family cancels that NAP. Enforcer forces 72 hr NAP again. If it is canceled again, enforcer may force another leader (rogue tag, reset leader votes). Then takes rogue tag away from ex-leader. If family keeps fighting enforcer and cancels constantly, enforcer may rogue canceling players permanently. Do not fight enforcer. Vote another enforcer next round.
  • IA by market aiding - Enforcer let’s involved families know the facts, negotiate and if there is no agreement, makes one, possibly including forced NAP, compensation of damages and enforces it.
  • IA by helping with opps, for example killing enemy pop banker’s pop when not involved in conflict - Enforcer stops opping by forcing a NAP, let’s involved families know the facts, negotiate and if there is no agreement, makes one, possibly including forced NAP, compensation and enforces it.
  • IA by possibly coordinating 2v1 war - Enforcer evaluates the situation
    (Option 1: There has been constant border skirmish with two families. Third family has been preparing for war and has picked juicy target next to them, because has already NAPed the other in skirmish. Border skirmish escalates into war and 3rd family wants to join. Enforcer advices 3rd family with saves to choose another target if possible, but does not prevent anything. Enforcer monitors the war closely and keeps communication open. Does not necessarily do anything.
    Option 2: Same situation, but no NAPs between 3 families, yet it seems 2v1. Enforcer may force NAP on helping fam and target fam or all fams. Or if there is odd actions which indicate sharing of knowledge of portals or portal blocks or such.

I admit, these are hard decisions without proof or even possibility to get it, because all communication can not be monitored. But if it is 2v1 and it smells like IA, it would be treated like that. If it is 2v1 and it smells like it is faked to look like IA to prevent the whole war (this would most likely happen too), then the faker can be forced out.

Could go on with these, but have to play Monopoly with kids now. :slight_smile: Later more perhaps?

Powers:

  • Enforcer can monitor market traffic (if we keep current player to player market)
  • Enforcer can monitor player and family news (to determine damages)
  • Enforcer can monitor ingame messages
  • Enforcer can force official NAP between families, remove war declaration (so it is not blocking NAP), force DPAs on planets
  • Enforcer can tag players rogue (leaders should not be able to remove tag) for period of time, or until removes the tag
  • Enforcer can reset family leader votes and tag leader rogue (should prevent voting of a rogue) in order to force another leader into fam
  1. Enforcer could be a public post

Player could do it. No need to be part of staff, altho public opinion would throw player into that category easily. Could be voted for the job, but should not ever be voted off. Enforcer has to have freedom to act without being influenced. Term of service could be one round only, and after that, if there is another candidate, players will vote in-between rounds. Yes enforcer could ruin the round. Players can do that too and enforcer is just a player… with powers and also responsibility too. Not going to say that one movie line here.

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@Zanharim sorry to burst your bubble but this is a terrible idea. Having a person mediate a round like a referee will only cause more problems then it solves. Speak to any former moderator, we used to get ripped apart for making decisions during rounds. The only thing this will achieve is that the poor enforcer will have a lifetime of mental health issues. You need to think back on this round at all the mistakes you made and solve your own issues internally.

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Although I somewhat agree with Orbit…:nauseated_face::nauseated_face: The idea of having someone with the ability to only force a NAP is interesting. There is no real power there and the restrictions on that can prevent abuse…