The State of Imperial Conflict for October 2020

This will be a very long post.

TL;DR

Shit be rough, yo.

The actual version

Since our last update we’ve been making progress on code changes, but our playerbase has hit a low point.

I was listening to @MTG_Dad’s podcast recently, where he and @kingray discussed this amongst some other things. It’s great player perspective, I recommend listening to it if you haven’t already.

There are a few points I don’t agree with, but in general their concerns are exactly right: things don’t look so good.

Let’s be blunt: we’re currently lower than what was already painfully low, and if we don’t address this urgently, it will probably get worse.

So, what’s going on, exactly?


Our Bus Factor

Our Bus Factor

The “bus factor” is the minimum number of team members that have to suddenly disappear from a project before the project stalls due to lack of knowledgeable or competent personnel.

Imperial Conflict’s bus factor is 1. It is a worst-case scenario.

This became especially clear this week, when my city caught fire on Monday:

We got our stuff packed to evacuate and it occurred to me that if shit really hit the fan, IC might be screwed.

We’re fine now, thankfully, but it was a good perspective check.

I have been focusing on reducing staff dependency for awhile now, but we are over the point where it is an option. It is essential that we remove any and all dependencies on staff involvement to run the game. We just don’t have the resources (time or money) to sustain otherwise.

We need to increase our bus factory to be as high as possible. In theory, every single player should be empowered to manage the game and act in place of me and @Soull, at least when it comes to non-development matters.


Reducing Staff Dependency

Reducing Staff Dependency

No More Playground Rounds

We will not do any more playground-style rounds until further notice. For as well-received as they are, they take too much time to manage.

Exposing and Automating Galaxy Creation

I don’t mean custom galaxies, I mean a way for players to collectively determine what they want the next round to look like, from beginning to end.

This will not happen in the forums. It will happen directly in the game and will involve staff as little as possible, hopefully not at all.

I can’t overstate how important this is. You guys need me and @Soull out of your way. We are an obstacle that needs to be removed from your playing experience.

@Soull has done a fantastic job as a moderator, but I’ve told him before that our endgame is to make our own jobs obsolete.

That doesn’t mean that we’d go away. If anything, it means that staff would be able to play more frequently alongside you. What a goal to look forward to!

Improved Galaxy Ending Options

On the flipside of creation, is galaxy ending. Sometimes it is appropriate to end a galaxy early, and it is crucial that staff is not required to do so. That is why we built Family Surrender, and despite its problems, it is helping us for the long term.

I had a player tell me, “Pie, you don’t need that. You could have just ended the galaxy when we asked.” and that is completely the wrong mindset.

If you guys have to rely on @Soull or me to manage your play experience, then we’re doing it wrong.

So, let’s stop doing it wrong.


The Codebase

The Codebase

Our Foundation

One of the points that came up on that podcast was that “it’s not the coding that’s the issue”, and that we should be focusing more on gameplay problems.

A few days later, an unexpected database issue caused a bunch of players to lose buildings and resources. :weary: So much for that theory!

Our technical infrastructure is miles better than it used to be, but there are still places where it is unacceptably brittle. The gameplay will not matter if people can’t expect it to operate reliably.

We simply can’t ignore the coding work that still needs to be done.

That doesn’t mean that we can’t also work on gameplay stuff, but we have to remember that as a browser-based game, we require equal parts web development and game development. Neither can be successful without the other.

Open-Sourcing imperialconflict.com

As announced earlier this month, Imperial Conflict is being partially open-sourced. This means that we will be able to accept contributions from anybody who wishes to help.

This does not mean, however, that people will magically jump in to help. We need to get the word out, which is a promotional effort of its own.

That said, it is an important first step to increasing our bus factor further. Whereas the players should all be empowered to keep the game running without staff, our technical friends should be empowered to help improve the website in my place.

I am going to get the new dev website up soon, and while it will hardly be usable at first, it will be an important step forward to making force multipliers out of our community.


Promotion

Promotion

Another thing that caught my ear in the podcast was the contrast between IC losing players during COVID-19, compared to bigger games and AAA titles that have seen a resurgence. You would think given the environment this year, that we’d also be able to attract more players.

There’s a clear explanation for this.

Other games have money.

It’s easy to forget sometimes, but Imperial Conflict is totally free to play, and free to win. We will not exploit you for your cash. Most other games do not operate this way, which puts us at a severe disadvantage in an already ridiculously competitive industry.

We aren’t defeated though. @Zanharim had a good chat the other day about monetization strategy, and there are things we can do to help us raise funds.

This isn’t something that can just magically “idea” itself into place though. It also requires work, but it is something that is continually on my mind.

We need to build and sustain a marketing budget to bring in new people. On that note, the Patreon supporters amongst us deserve all the thanks they can get. You guys really are heroes in our story.


New Players

New Players

We are dropping new players on the floor.

Virgo saw renewed traction earlier this year, that was great and got some some fresh blood. However, it was dependent on mentorship which has always been a flaky situation.

We had some drama earlier this year over enforcement policy, and our last mentor quit in protest over Discord bans. While I understand the frustration they felt, it really put us in a shit spot because now @Soull and I had to step back into mentorship, which takes time away from moderation and development.

Because our development needs are a pretty critical priority, what that ended up meaning is that most new players that come in just sit there and eventually go inactive.

If there was ever any proof that a volunteer-based mentorship system is not sustainable, there it is.

With this lesson learned, we are going to disable Virgo and get players back into the mix of real galaxies up front.

This will have negative side-effects.

In particular, it will increase the occurence of inactives in regular rounds. Part of what Virgo did well was acting as an inactive-gate, and by removing it the valuable newbies will be coming with some dead weight too.

Some positive feedback I heard recently was that Andro didn’t have many inactives. That’s true, but it is only possible because the barrier of entry to our game is so ridiculously high.

It’s a tradeoff: we can’t want a game that’s easy to join and also want a game that prevents inactive people from joining. Those are competing forces and we have to pick one.

That doesn’t mean that we just accept inactivity as it is though. What we can and should do is find ways to reduce the pain that inactive players cause. That is the real solution we should be figuring out.


Our Community

Our Community

The love and energy is still here, and we still have dedicated players.

@MTG_Dad’s podcast is a great example. Stuff like that is our lifeblood. @kingray and I have talked about doing a YouTube video too.

@Arimanus has been helping me troubleshoot a nasty bug, @Zanharim as mentioned has been brainstorming on monetization. Even @Lord_Pickle, despite leaving in frustration, cared enough to leave raw feedback that needed to be heard.

The point is this: we are still a community and every single one of you is valued for your contribution and presence. I could go and name more specific players and I probably will, and I don’t say it enough how important IC is to me personally. Not just the IC the game; IC the people. You.

We are IC together, and have been for some time, and will continue to be. Our community is our legacy.


Thank you everybody for reading this, but more importantly thank you for being here.

I don’t give as many updates as I used to, but trust me IC is still always on my mind. Every single day.

If you are here, you deserve a ton of credit. I don’t care what we disagree about or whether or not you think I’m doing a terrible job. You keep the game alive.

Without our players we are nothing, and there’s a die-hard core group playing that remain here enduring this struggle together. When we turn this around, we will look back at what is happening now and see the value of everybody who stuck with us during the difficult times.

Our road ahead is a tough one, but we didn’t make it 20 years so far by giving up.

Here’s a pie for all of us. :pie: :heart:

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Virgo is the only area of IC that is persistent and economy focused. Please can it remain open but be optional rather than forced for new users.

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Said it multiple times but in terms of user retention and new user adoption strategies; I am a literal digital marketing manager specialising in digital strategy. USE ME! :joy:

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@Pyfco that’s a good point. I don’t think Virgo is the most appropriate solution for the long term in its current state, but we can look at replacing it with something else before shutting it down entirely.

We had Manthano awhile back that proved popular for econ play, and didn’t have any of the graduation features. That may be a good path forward, if we can provide a migration plan for current Virgo actives.

I’ll set up another thread for us to hash this out. Regardless of what we do, we need to shift our focus towards getting new players into competitive galaxies as soon as possible.

@Funeral yes! Let’s get together in our Development chat on Discord and start getting a plan together. :muscle: Thank you!

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Sounds good to me!

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Thank you!!! It is good that some of our points got you talking! whether we agree or not. I think your doing a great Job considering the circumstances just as I have said in the podcast.

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It’s a tough market out there for players…
Most youth want instant gradification…
And don’t like to lose…and give up to easily …
Then the others don’t play if they not on stacked fam/team…
Hopefully those that have taken a break come back…

Only thing I can think of is making sure the game stays phone friendly
I only been able to use mass fleet sender when you had the link on the bottom 3 rounds ago… I’m stubborn and load all by hand :slight_smile: so it doesn’t effect me as much as it would a noob

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Thanks for this Pie. You know we don’t always agree, but I always know for 100% that whatever you do, you do for the good of the game.
Players go with ups and downs, and this phase we’ll also go through. In terms of players it may be an all time low, but I’m sure this round also has by far the least inactives.

About the playground - If you make all fams.full draft, players themselves could organise ‘Playground’
This may also encourage players to bring back old friends to the game.

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Lets be real players have not left do to coding or issues within the game itself, we have had more players with worse issues at hand and have always had bugs and errors but have never lose a large amount of players do to it.
Our game takes a lot of commitment and time invested compared to most games and the ability to lose a week to a month work over night is so stressful on some they will not stay so it is up to the players not the moderators to combat this.

If we ask player’s who left there issues and why they left most have told me do to the players and attitudes around the game.
We use to have unwritten rules and a level of respect we all use to try and play by and we always had people cross those lines but not every single round and that has been far out the window for many years.

Players are now ruder to each other and have no care for what may be right and wrong, families try to to end the others round so retaliation is not possible, they attack very early into round , ask for more then 10% the list goes on and on with the dirty things we now do that players use to enforce not to do.

The issue at hand is players attitudes and respect for one another and yes even I am to blame for this! I think pie has done an amazing job and has done nothing to push players away we have no one to blame but ourselves every last one of us.

Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it.

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Very well said

Not to be a bigger ass than usual, but this thread has been repeated to death for over a decade and seems little is learned :thinking:

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I don’t know what thread you’ve seen repeated for over 10 years; Stefan wasn’t ever this open about his thoughts, challenges, or plans.

I can only speak for my own experience as the owner since 2016, and I feel like I’ve learned quite a bit.

I can’t speak for what the previous owner should have learned over a decade ago.

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I really like your post Cells, and yes, I do believe player attitudes is a part of the problem.
I do feel like half your post is directed to what happened between our fams, which I think is kind of strange, since I had no problems in dealing with Flip, and I believe he had no problems with us.
And it’s hardly like I claimed too much from you and ruined your round, you’re very much in the race so it’s really not like that. If I had asked for 10% or less, then we would have nett negatively with the planets we have back.

I think for people it may feel like this, but this problem is as old as the game itself. People have complained about this literally since 2000.

A problem is that the toxic internet behavior leads to some people leaving, and nowadays its very hard to get new ones.

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It actually had nothing to do with this current round but if the shoe fits.

If you look back throughout time there was more issues with the game then there is today yet we had more players even back in 2014-2015 time frame. Player count spikes and drops but we are now at an all time low and instead of blaming the mod team or coding of the game I think we need to look at the bigger picture and What’s pushed more players away.

That being said I personally know at least 10 players who have left do to attitudes and things player’s have done within a round. If player’s have been complaining about something since 2000 then clearly it is the main issue.

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I stopped playing coming up a year ago at the end of MW72, Decided I didn’t need the hassle of either needing to be online nearly constantly or being in families which were beaten into such submission most players either went inactive or deleted.

MW has always been an hard core gal, but there was a lot more choices of other gals to join back in the early days so if you didn’t have the time to be online constantly there were more easy going gals to join…early days I played triang, then andro with the odd jump into MW now and again.

As I’ve not been here for close on a year I don’t know if bugs have been fixed or wht gals are available but it is interesting to see numbers constantly dwindling…think I said before I left last year, the game needs to change otherwise pie is just flogging a dead horse…seems I may have not been wrong sadly

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This idea has probbaly been thought of before but i really believe it would relieve so many issues.

Its not fair to be exp3cted to be on non stop at the calls of an attacker builder or popper or most active player but its almost expexted. And if your not aiding in every second tick your slowing things down and ‘negatively’ affecting your family.

A player chooses to allow or dissallow the leader to take aid ahipments from that player.

How good would that be. Dont gimme shit about team play necause logging in sending aid is not team play its activity a monkey can do that, we dont need people on 24/7 we need people playing

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I fully agree we need some sort of way to make the less active players just as important I have always thought this or an automated family bank of some sort.
Yes this could be exploited but no more then any other feature or option we have. I think it would allow people to not feel so depended on to be active and online in order for your family to do well.

Less active families will never fully compete with a very active family but we can find ways to make it easier on them and the players.

This would be really good

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