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 Post subject: What is the direction Geneshift should be going towards?
PostPosted: Sat 05 Jan 2019, 05:20 
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Joined: Sun 05 Jul 2009, 09:08
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I think it is high time we talked about this very uncomfortable but vitally important topic that has been easily overlooked and dismissed for a very long time.

What kind of game is Geneshift supposed to be?

Let's recap the game's history to get some perspective.

wall of text, skip below if you want me to get to the point wrote:
Geneshift started off life as Subvein. It was envisioned to be a GTA2 clone - in an open world, where players could earn the respect of one of two factions - Scientists and Rebels. As one stayed loyal and rose the ranks within each faction, they would unlock more perks like getting your own bodyguards or unlocking better vehicles. It is only natural that such a game would become an MMORPG, and what RPG didn't have a leveling system and a vast array of spells to cast? This was the foundation of Geneshift, and this ultimate endgoal is known as the "War" gamemode.

Of course, War mode is a very grand ambition and would be a long way to go. Vehicles didn't even exist! So for now, Subvein was a topdown arena shooter, with clear elements of Counter Strike in it and a touch of Soldat. Players spawned on opposite sides of a map, wearing opposing coloured shirts, buying guns from their home turf before setting off to face off their opponents in combat. Bullets were slow, characters were tiny, spells were dramatic. With every kill, players earned cash to buy stronger guns, but more importantly gained levels to further upgrade their powerful spells. Thus, players who could aim and evade bullets well would easily earn levels, growing ever more powerful and dominate the game. It was crazy!

A huge update came - a proper account system tied to a database, the addition of vehicles, and many new abilities. With it, the first step towards a true open world RPG began to show. To further differentiate the 3 different classes/skill trees and to spice up an ability often taken for granted, Barrier was added. Crouching now also doubled as a mana shield to absorb incoming damage, and each of the classes emphasized towards one of the 3 stats - Health, Stamina and Mana respectively. However, player retention was poor. Newbies were overwhelmed by the many things they needed to learn, for which they had no tutorials and were massacred 10:50 by the older players who knew better and were more skillful, not helped by how permanent mutants rather than quickmatches(where everyone started from level 1) became the norm.

The solution was to give mutant abilities a drawback. At first it was done by reducing the stats opposing the skilltree players were investing in, which had little impact and was messy. Then it was the poorly received disintegration, which directly reduced weapon damage based on the number of skillpoints spent, which only caused players to refuse spending their skillpoints. Finally, the penalty system was added - using the spells themselves would directly force players to suffer a drawback. While the strength and type of penalty imposed and whether every skill truly needed a penalty would be debated often, the general concept was accepted.

The penalty system worked, but it wasn't enough. The game was still complex and difficult to learn. It is at this time that the name was changed to Mutant Factions because of the perception that it would explain the game by name alone, though the name change always met huge resistance because it sounded very generic and a hassle to say out. From this point on, there was a gradual shift in the way the game was balanced.

Stamina was removed in favour of infinite sprinting, eventually settling on a sprintDelay where players would slow down to walking speed when shooting. Bullet speed became significantly faster while character sizes increased further at a steady rate. Spells became much less powerful and along with them, subtler penalties. Leveling a skill changed the way they were used as opposed to simply being more power and more drawback. In addition, level caps were dropped from 100 to 50 along with a max spell level reduction from 10+5 to 3+2. Getting shot at would slow your sprint speed down, especially when using a knife. Furthermore, the first set of chemicals were added for the first time as a way to create a base-building mechanic. In hindsight it became clear at this point that the genre was transitioning from RPG Arena to Tactical shooter - where tanky builds used to shine, glass cannons or even having minimal skills became the norm. Perhaps the influence of Dota/LoL, Running With Rifles and Hotline Miami were beginning to show. Eventually shifting was added alongside the change in name to Geneshift while Barrier was reworked and then removed, being replaced by Self Repair. Even the camera was made to be zoomed out to see everything at once by default.

Player retention was still a huge issue, a proper tutorial and new content were needed, so single-player became the next main focus. Zombies seemed like the obvious choice, and the Outbreak gamemode was born. It didn't work; it was stale and very forced, and speedrun leaderboards were hardly an incentive. So another new gamemode using the features established in Outbreak called Stealth was created; a very puzzle-based and scripted single-player mode, which would ultimately become the new and more action-focused Campaign mode. The need for smarter AI guards in campaign also foreshadowed the successful creation of actual player-like bots for PvP gamemodes.

With all that established, putting the game on sale on Steam and marketing it on Reddit to get yet another wave of new players. New 3D graphics were added to make it more appealing. Through Reddit giveaways, new ideas sprung up, and a joke about having a fast paced Battle Royale mode became reality. Partly to make the singleplayer worth the buy and partly to make learning the elements of the game less overwhelming, the user interface was reworked and many multiplayer elements had to be gradually unlocked through playing a lot of rounds. Synergy point leveling was even removed.

In short, the game's type of genre has changed in an attempt to simplify the game to reach a wider audience. It no longer emphasizes run & gun ability or leveling up your character like in an RPG. Nowadays, its all about being in the right place at the right time, and there is a huge luck factor. Frankly that is pretty alienating to old players and it doesn't encourage players to invest time to get better. The biggest strong point it has now is that it finally has bots you can play against and they are pretty convincing(even if they have their bullshit moments). The biggest weak point is teaching players and getting them to stay; having so many things to learn and controls to press and a lack of tutorial doesn't help matters.

As it stands, it feels like the game is still trying to be both an MMORPG Arena Shooter and a Tactical Shooter. It is in this weird zone where anything can change and thus any guides/tutorials made at this point would quickly become obsolete and have to be majorly reworked. The preferred gamemode has changed from deathmatch to conquest to battle royale. The user interface is also extremely difficult to navigate and in all the wrong places. Given the track record of having major changes to the game's mechanics, this is a very valid cause of concern. How would you teach newbies to play the game and streamline the interface, if the game isn't even sure of what its main focus ought to be? We as players also can't advise on the best course of action if we don't know what the endgame is.

So I'd like to ask again, what is the direction Geneshift is heading for?

What kind of behavior or skills do you want to emphasize in combat?
Should the emphasis be on an individual's abilities or a team's cooperation?
What kind of gamemode should be the focus of the game?
Is there a place for RPG-style levelups in this game now that there's random loot(or even fixed item spawn points)?
Why is there a need for singleplayer style unlocks for a multiplayer focused game?
Do all skills necessarily need a penalty if permanent rounds are no longer a thing and "no penalties" is a server option and even used in Campaign?
How strong should skills be relative to guns?
How do you ensure diversity in builds across the playerbase?
What features can be dropped without affecting the depth of the game?
Are we still going to have War mode?

Those are some of the questions I can think of off the top of my head.

You don't have to make all the changes in one go; in fact it'd be ridiculous to do so. But you do need a clear direction to work towards, and this is a direction I simply cannot see based on the game's current track record.

Member of [TG] Team Gamble
[[STM's Random Stuff]]
Credits to Illusion & Affle for my signature & avatar respectively!

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