vinski gives two reasons for why new players do not continue playing warsow:
- The game is too fast, too quake-like and dare-I-say-it too hardcore.
- There were not enough players to keep them interested.
One additional reason is given as to why the hardcore did not stay:
- Lack of big events / prizes. (And thus the lack of ‘something’ to aim for)
I’d like to address these points.
When warsow was first brought to ESReality, by the world of mouth, the playerbase doubled overnight.
When warsow was on giga TV for the first time the playerbase grew exponentially overnight.
In the grand scheme of things, after the initial burst of hype had died down, these increases were found to be quite minimal. The sheer amount of people that downloaded the game vastly outweighed the number of people who continued to play it after one week. One could look at this as how many potential players we lost, rather than how many we gained.
After these events I recall looking at the server browser and seeing list after list of full servers. There were games going on all day, every day. The IRC channel was full and there was constant spam from people looking for games. They found 4 pm’s waiting in their IRC windows almost instantly. We had so many players that anytime you wanted a game it was easy to find one. The critical mass was there; vinski and Icaros. You can see the shell that it left behind in the plethora of empty servers. During these times; the argument that people left because there was no one to play is utterly absurd. The question then turns into: what made so many people leave that those who wanted to play could not get a game?
Of course, nowadays the situation is different. And your points are valid for todays warsow scene. But back then, during the time when the things that you advocate – advertising, tv exposure and regular cups (excello, inquake, bamboocha) resulting in a lot of hype – were all present. And the playerbase was huge. For a few days. So your second reason as to why casual players is largely debunked. That’s not to say that is it completely irrelevant, as noted it is indeed a large factor today. Yet will this same situation not be repeated when we reach out to a new crowd through a new medium?
Regarding the game itself turning players away – “too fast, too action-filled, colourful quake-like etc” – I think you are brushing against a deeper point, a point that affects more games than warsow. Warsow is a deathmatch game with a steep learning curve. As everyone has no doubt heard, deathmatch has been announced as dead. Dwindling numbers of players in the Quake series (and possibly the UT series? I’m not familiar with but I’d assume that this is the case) whilst games that players can pick-up-and-play have no trouble keeping their players. It’s my opinion that this is because you can easily hop onto a packed out ET, CS or DoD server (They got their critical mass of players and they kept it) and grab a few kills. It’s easy.. but importantly it’s instantly rewarding and most importantly fun. You don’t need hours of practicing movement, map knowledge and an understanding of the ruleset. You just hop on and have fun.
Herein lies the reason why I believe that warsow deathmatch is undersupported. Look at instagib – the most popular gametype – in which one person can jump in, press a few buttons and have a blast. Now WE, a subsection of the hardcore who understand the intricacies of deathmatch, all know that there is more fun to be had in timing a red armour to the millisecond and stealing it away from your opponent, or a well co-ordinated quad attack, multiple air rockets or a perfectly executed trickjump. They don’t. The amount of variables, rules and skill curve that players must surmount in order to have the kind of fun, that WE know to be there, to get those first few kills that mean so much, is too much for your casual player. The same kind of casual player that got attracted to warsow through GIGA, prize tournaments. That is, I propose, the reason why we lost our players.
Furthermore since those times, despite being mentioned on both these popular media for gamers, the playerbase has not changed. The third, fourth and fifth appearance on giga TV brought little to no change in the scene. It’s my opinion that we’ve courted the hardcore crowd by having a hardcore game. And the hardcore crowd is small. How many of our current deathmatch players have originated from games outside of the Q/UT series? I’m willing to bet that it’s a tiny minority (perhaps i’ll be suprised – post in the comments!).
Regarding your statement that “Money and mental images are the thing that draws the silent majority” I’m not sure whether that is true. They money was, and is, there for quake4. And WE were ALL there for quake4. I challenge anyone who has been involved in the deathmatch scene to say that they wern’t hoping that quake4 could bring the magic back. However the game itself failed on a number of accounts which we are all aware of. At first glance, todays quake4’s scene isn’t much bigger than warsow’s (although don’t go nasty on me and check gamespy player #’s). We have similar numbers signed up for Euro/open cups. The money is there, the prizes are there, the game is now supposedely (I stopped playing after the first CB TDM season) good. So why doesn’t q4’s scene dwarf warsow’s?
Although I do agree that symbols and image are very important. Fragmovies are, imvho, our greatest weapon WRT converting casual players into our ‘world’. The image of a game in which the very best have 6 figure contract deals, supermodel girlfriends and travel the world playing games is a very potent one in today’s commercialized, heavily consumer-orientated gaming climate. Yet that image is not what brought about ‘pro-gaming’. Pro-gaming came from the underground, it came from people having the times of their lives fragging around on qw servers with 56Kers. The QW scene, which you could argue as being the starting point of both deathmatch and pro-gaming, was not heavily advertised, it was not heavily supported by corporates.. it was just fun as hell. Everything was new. It wrote the rules as to what players could do in online games, as to what the potential of such games could be. It was innovative.
It’s my opinion that a free, indie game does not need to be hyped, commercialized, or attempt to brainwash the audience with continual marketing in order to be successful. It just has to be fun. For everyone.
I do agree with you that Warsow’s release versions do totally downplay the state of the game itself – and it’s not a major issue within the team. I’d say that around 0.4 time (polished CA, wswtv) we should switch to 1.0 and make a real push by getting onto websites such as digg. The label 1.0 is a real buzzword and will generate an awful lot of publicity for sure. However in my opinion we must ensure that there are modes for casual players by having an extremely polished clan arena with multiple maps, better tutorials, tips of the day, newbie cups amongst other things. You know why? Because the vast majority will slip through our fingers otherwise.. in exactly the same way that exposure to the casual crowd has done in the past. That is why, for the time being, I propose that we keep a low-profile.