MekWars Population Stagnation

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TigerShark
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MekWars Population Stagnation

Post by TigerShark »

It appears that each cycle draws less-and-less people. Roll back the clock 4 years and there were more than 1,000 games/week across three servers. Today, it's less than 200.

The question posed is: "What can we do to bring more players in?"

I realize people have opinions on cycle settings, inclusion of x Megamek settings, etc., but those are fixes for an already-present population. So if you have ideas, I'm all ears!!

Ironboot
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Re: MekWars Population Stagnation

Post by Ironboot »

For me personally its time. 12 years when I first started playing Mekwars here and other servers I had 3-5 hours a night to play. Today it's about 1-2 hours which I only play 1 game max.

plutonick
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Re: MekWars Population Stagnation

Post by plutonick »

I believe BattleTech TT was going out of style. New TT players chose other TT games such as Warmahordes or Infinity). This was reflected on Mekwars servers as well. I believe this is exactly what happened to FUMMBLE (Java based Blood Bowl).

However the Bloodbowl PC game made Bloodbowl TT popular again (and in turn FUMMBLE became popular as well as an alternative.

Same thing will happen to Mekwars when BattleTech pc game gets released.

I was taking a break from MekWars when MWO got released, but didn't it bring players to mekwars as well?
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TigerShark
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Re: MekWars Population Stagnation

Post by TigerShark »

plutonick wrote:I was taking a break from MekWars when MWO got released, but didn't it bring players to mekwars as well?
It brought people who were curious about BattleTech, not those who stuck around permanently.

Jackal
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Re: MekWars Population Stagnation

Post by Jackal »

Personally, I think there are a lot of causes for this. Some that we can't do anything about, some that are within our power to address.


First, let's talk about the major un-addressable issue--the march of time. Most players who really like Battletech are older, have jobs, families and responsibilities. It's not always easy to find time to play a game that takes hours. And at the same time, younger generations of players are more accustomed to real-time games that are faster paced. That's not *universally* true, but it's true for the most part.


So then there's the stuff that we CAN address. The biggest issues (and this is based on research I did while on Co6) are:
  • 1) learning curve
    2) the ability to get games
And beyond that we probably should also address:
  • 3) promotion – if we attract more players to the site, even if our 'churn' rate is high, we still should end up with more players.

For #1 we can try to get better about by doing things like creating better tutorial videos.
For #2 I think we actually have to have a automated attack feature like Legends had. every time i was on there (and I didn't really play on that server much) 80% of the players were in games. That kind of activity level helps retain players.

And for #3, that stuff takes effort, but these days the way to do it social media and SEO. Placing little blurbs on bulletin boards where people who might be interested in this kind of game hang out.

Many, many, people will 'churn' (the rate at which you lose subscribers) if you don't address the first two issues though.



I think Mekwars/MegaMek is a good product and you could turn new generations of players on to it. But it would take time, effort, and imagination to do it. And since all of us have busy lives the only way to pull it off would be teamwork. None of us, individually, has the time to pull something like this off alone.

TigerShark
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Re: MekWars Population Stagnation

Post by TigerShark »

[quote="Jackal"]
1) learning curve
2) the ability to get games
3) promotion
[/list]

It seems to be that (1) can be solved with having dedicated staff. Your server has a lot more chance of this than mine. But the more "veterans" we have, the better.

This could also be a long-term goal, though one with significant coding: Integrating the "against-the-bot" feature into MekWars. There are a LOT of players who'd feel better about stepping from bot opponents to human. But right now, there really isn't any way to make that transition in MW. It DOES happen in MekHQ, which is why players have shifted in that direction: They can play as difficult or easy a fight as they wish.

Would also solve the ability to get games if you could have, say, a "training" match which didn't count toward the campaign, but could be played against a bot. Eventually, you'd be able to chat with people and they could answer questions, eventually steering them toward human interaction.

Lumpi
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Re: MekWars Population Stagnation

Post by Lumpi »

Just adressing the matchmaking Jackal mentioned above.

First Thing to make it work should be getting rid of an economy.
make pulls free, onky award RPs, use the RPs to scrap make better pulls etc, disable scrapping except for RPs.
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Lando
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Re: MekWars Population Stagnation

Post by Lando »

Jackal wrote:Personally, I think there are a lot of causes for this. Some that we can't do anything about, some that are within our power to address.


First, let's talk about the major un-addressable issue--the march of time. Most players who really like Battletech are older, have jobs, families and responsibilities. It's not always easy to find time to play a game that takes hours. And at the same time, younger generations of players are more accustomed to real-time games that are faster paced. That's not *universally* true, but it's true for the most part.
I agree. We can't do anything against the flow of time. Therefore we won't see 100 players online at the same time again.
Jackal wrote:So then there's the stuff that we CAN address. The biggest issues (and this is based on research I did while on Co6) are:
  • 1) learning curve
I have written a description of the MekWars Interface in German. If someone can translate it to English, we can post both versions in the wiki and the newbie forum.
Jackal wrote: 2) the ability to get games[/list]
This is another major point. I will talk only about myself, but I don't think that I'm a "special one".
The problem here is "cherry picking" the games. I do that, and I think most of the people here do that. But why? For me there are mostly the following reasons:

a.) I dislike loosing a game.
I have no problems to loose an exciting game in a close match. But I dislike playing a match of two or three hours knowing from the first deployed unit, that I will loose that match. Yes I know, that I can win every game through some HeadShots or TACs. But that is more of a lottery than playing a game. I don't think that my opponent will enjoy such easy victories, so why should we play?

b.) Playing the campaign.
Lets assume I play 10 games against Baruk. With luck (Headshots, ...), and sometimes better army I can win 2 out of 10 games. The result would be that I will loose more land than I can win. So to win the campaign, I shouldn't do that. The only exception is, when I can attack and be able to choose a planet, where I can't loose anything.
In fact I like playing Baruk, because he is a very polite person, and helps me improving my playing style. But if I look at the campaign, I shouldn't fight him.

c.) The rules
I like playing tank armies or combined forces. Unfortunately often I can't attack my opponent with that. Yesterday evening I was active, when I saw Jackal activating. I could attack with a tank army, but there wasn't any planet I could attack him, with the exception of planets belonging to my own faction. I don't attack my own faction, because that will help my opponent to take control of our planets. so I decided to deactivate and stay in reserve. If I let him attack me, he would have the decent advantage to choose the terrain, and the chance to loose against him will greatly improve - which leads to point b.) playing the campaign.

d.) The unpleasent playing style of a player
There are players in the group which plays with armies it isn't fun to play against. Armies like 4 jumping spiders. I decide to avoid such players.

The result of this reasons is, that I play decent less games. Some weekends I was online Friday evening to Sunday night, with none or a single fight.

Well yes, I could stop thinking of the campaign and the rules. Then I would have more fights. But many of these fights would be at a disadvantage (tank armies) or against stronger players, and that would bring me to the reason a.) very quickly.
Jackal wrote: And beyond that we probably should also address:
  • 3) promotion – if we attract more players to the site, even if our 'churn' rate is high, we still should end up with more players.

For #1 we can try to get better about by doing things like creating better tutorial videos.
For #2 I think we actually have to have a automated attack feature like Legends had. every time i was on there (and I didn't really play on that server much) 80% of the players were in games. That kind of activity level helps retain players.

And for #3, that stuff takes effort, but these days the way to do it social media and SEO. Placing little blurbs on bulletin boards where people who might be interested in this kind of game hang out.

Many, many, people will 'churn' (the rate at which you lose subscribers) if you don't address the first two issues though.



I think Mekwars/MegaMek is a good product and you could turn new generations of players on to it. But it would take time, effort, and imagination to do it. And since all of us have busy lives the only way to pull it off would be teamwork. None of us, individually, has the time to pull something like this off alone.
True enough. I'm willing to help, if we make a decent promotion campaign, because I don't know how to establish a bigger player group here.
But it should be a well coordinated campaign. some single postings here and there wouldn't help.

Citizen
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Re: MekWars Population Stagnation

Post by Citizen »

This topic has been around for awhile, but as someone that just joined after a long, long time away I'd like to weigh in.

Some background: I first joined MegamekNet back in '05. I still have fond memories of being new and a kind housemate sending a Marauder-II my way. I also remember the harsh realization that some individuals take the outcome of games very personally. The FedCom civil war caught my attention, and then it was off to TotalTech. Things were faster, it was easier to get "rare" units, and I made the assumption that egos wouldn't get in the way of good games. In hindsight, the result was predictable. A score of other servers came and went and the results were fairly uniform: There were great times, and they represented some of my favorite experiences in the Battletech universe. The bad times were really, really bad and normally accompanied by someones ego. I realized that the cultural norm of letting individual games dictate attitude was starting to rub off of me, and I swore off multiplayer megamek campaigns.

Multiplayer Megamek-core campaigns have generated a reputation as being the places for powergaming, drama, and generally places where good sportsmanship isn't especially highly valued.
I'd like to think that the people that read this know the truth: There's a lot of good times behind the ugliness, and at the end of the day, these are places where likeminded people can meet and feel at home. That's what made me rethink swearing off multiplayer campaigns. It's nice to be back! (and it's neat to see the art I submitted to MM being used!)

With the rise of AtB integration into Megamek, it's no surprise that numbers are down. There were a lot of folks(myself including) that liked the idea of detail-heavy campaigns without the hurt feelings and sky-high investment. With that being said, I'm surprised the numbers are down as much as they are. The failure to capitalize on the flow of new players is especially worrying.

For my part, I was hoping to find the good old fashioned 3025 Succession Wars action with duct tape special 'Mechs. I was surprised to see lostech in the build tables, but even more surprising was the high frequency of extinct units. I'm left with the impression that I'm playing BT in an era I'm not familiar with, which is a bit jarring when one is expecting 3025. A dealbreaker for me? Maybe not, but it might be for others.

The very few opponents I've seen so far have been polite, kind, and quick. With that being said, I can tell that investment in winning is still high. While it makes sense that winning be a high priority, I've often wondered if the sometimes toxic attitudes are a result of prioritizing winning over having a fun game. I've long since learned to appreciate BT the same way I watch football: Celebrate the good plays, no matter who makes them. Boo the bad calls, no matter which team is impacted. When you let your night be ruined by a bad roll or three, your opponent isn't dumb - they'll realize. If they're decent folk, they'll feel bad for being the ones ruining your night. If they too are overly committed to winning, they'll take glee in your bad fortune. Neither is healthy, but the root cause of a persons night being ruined is the person allowing themselves to be invested to the degree that their night can be ruined.

Multiplayer megamek campaigns seem to encourage that investment, however. Between rare units that provide significant advantages and persistent percentages on worlds that your team mates would *really* prefer you not lose, it's accepted that quite a bit rides on those individual games.

It can also be frustrating to join a server. Personally, I was delighted to see complex repair rolls. I think they're neat as heck and contribute a lot to the feel of running a unit. That complexity is contrasted by the simple things a player is barred from doing: It makes sense to arrange pilots into the rides that suit them best, but they're locked in. I understand that there's a lot of room for powergaming in assigning pilots, but for a new player excited to micromanage their force, this is a bit odd.

A new player being the target of games with world percentage on the table can be taken as a harsh learning curve too. In my first non-SOL fight, I lost 13 points of Styk. That's a significant amount, and while I'm used to that kind of reality, a new person might be taken aback.

I can see that someone on a bad stroke of luck and getting pummeled into the low 1500s in ELO getting frustrated really quickly.

I'm personally a big fan of the expanded rules being applied to 3025 play. I laud the precision ammo choices for small-caliber autocannon. Maybe not canon, but we all knew that the AC/5 needed some love. I was surprised to see the target modifier for units that didn't expend MP present - I found that rule to be a common sense way to discourage camping. Individual initiative is pretty neat as well, and puts value on pilots with higher skills.

As an aside, I'm all for mechanics that make skilled pilots more desirable - especially that pesky piloting skill. It's sad to see people retiring 'Mechs because the pilot reached 3/4.

Okay, that's enough.

TL;DR learning curve goes beyond training and extends to matchmaking, consistency in complexity is a good thing, and maybe consider a return to more canon roots as far as unit availability goes.

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Salient
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Re: MekWars Population Stagnation

Post by Salient »

As for the 3025 server, I think that playing 2-3 SOL games isn't enough for 'true' noobs and a complete waste of time for those of us who at least have some idea of what we are doing. SOL should be retooled as the faction new players should be in for the entire cycle, and there should be incentives for veteran players to take the time to play with them. They should have units that get destroyed/damaged so they can learn how to buy/repair mechs. Perhaps you gain some flu or rp regardless of result if you play sol. Perhaps there should be a 'help' chat tab that is open by default for SOL players.

I think another problem is using this ancient forum. Younger gamers don't even know how to 'forum'. I've seen most gaming communities mass migrate over to discord. There needs to be an official discord for MMN, i found an unofficial one but its very dead.

Honestly I find it a bit laughable that TigerShark opened this thread. I was very excited to play on his server, i love 2750BT and joined day 1, but a big part of me leaving was his attitude and behavior in chat during a match. Don't expect people to hang around if the guy who made the server can't keep his cool, be positive, and put together fair rules to play by.

Tuco
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Re: MekWars Population Stagnation

Post by Tuco »

Salient wrote: I think another problem is using this ancient forum. Younger gamers don't even know how to 'forum'. I've seen most gaming communities mass migrate over to discord. There needs to be an official discord for MMN, i found an unofficial one but its very dead.
I don't see that for the one reason that the game itself has chat. If anything, some sort of open source voice com could be integrated into the client, and even this would not make the forum superfluous.
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Re: MekWars Population Stagnation

Post by Salient »

TigerShark wrote:
The question posed is: "What can we do to bring more players in?"
Yes but even discord chat is superior to the clients chat. Discords chat is persistent and searchable. Just saying if you want to increase the playerbase, you have to get with the times and go to where the gamers are. Voip is mostly irrelevant i think for MMN. This is more about making MMN more welcoming to new players.

TigerShark
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Re: MekWars Population Stagnation

Post by TigerShark »

Salient wrote:...and put together fair rules to play by.
Sorry things weren't to your liking. You were only on the server for a day or two, from my recollection. But if you could go into detail about which rules aren't "fair", that would be helpful.

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Re: MekWars Population Stagnation

Post by Salient »

More like weeks and was leader of one of the factions (long enough to put in several orders on factory upgrades). But w/e, was a long time ago now.

It doesn't matter anymore as I am sure the rules have changed. My point was mostly attitudes, people who have been here for a long time with a true love for BT should be trying a lot harder to make their games a positive experience. Or else you won't retain anyone, even old men who grew up on BT much less complete noobies who are just getting into it.

TigerShark
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Re: MekWars Population Stagnation

Post by TigerShark »

Salient wrote:More like weeks and was leader of one of the factions (long enough to put in several orders on factory upgrades). But w/e, was a long time ago now.

It doesn't matter anymore as I am sure the rules have changed. My point was mostly attitudes, people who have been here for a long time with a true love for BT should be trying a lot harder to make their games a positive experience. Or else you won't retain anyone, even old men who grew up on BT much less complete noobies who are just getting into it.
Yeah, those rules changed probably... 3+ years ago. Things are quite different.

And you're quite right. :) Hopefully (if you return) your experience will be better. (We're resetting the cycle on the 18th) Our current group seems to enjoy the rule set quite a bit. Had very few complaints!

Spork
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Re: MekWars Population Stagnation

Post by Spork »

Salient wrote:
TigerShark wrote:
The question posed is: "What can we do to bring more players in?"
Yes but even discord chat is superior to the clients chat. Discords chat is persistent and searchable. Just saying if you want to increase the playerbase, you have to get with the times and go to where the gamers are. Voip is mostly irrelevant i think for MMN. This is more about making MMN more welcoming to new players.
Would a public Slack channel work? I could set that up easily enough.
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Re: MekWars Population Stagnation

Post by Salient »

Spork wrote: Would a public Slack channel work? I could set that up easily enough.
That has a lot of the same features as discord chat, however the topic is how to bring in more players. I dont think slack is nearly as popular as discord. Note that, at least at the moment, it doesn't cost anything to make a discord channel/server/room. It's nothing like a teamspeak server or the like. It's basically Slack-like chat combined with optional voip and soon to have screen sharing and video call features.

edit:
If you havent tried the software before, i would reccomend making an account and joining the mechwarrior living legends server to get an idea of what its all about. Here is the invite to the server (which i think you can join via your web browser even without the desktop app)
https://discordapp.com/invite/3JkQ4s

Spork
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Re: MekWars Population Stagnation

Post by Spork »

OK. In the interests of giving it a go, I have created said Discord server, and there is a join link on the web site. I will also put an invite in the announcements forum.
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Re: MekWars Population Stagnation

Post by Salient »

I dig the widget. 8)

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Re: MekWars Population Stagnation

Post by Salient »

TigerShark wrote: The question posed is: "What can we do to bring more players in?"
The other idea I had is that there is no real entry point for true noobies to get into MMN. The 3025 server is a meat grinder when it comes to noobies. It's not a very good environment to learn in. Gamers these days need a LOT of hand holding. So I would propose a true noobie server.

I know the first complaint about this idea will be "player numbers are already too low, we cant break up the playerbase" However I would argue that player retention is already in the negative. How many true noobies hang around after losing 10 times in a row against veteran players that may not be too interested in teaching? Not many, if any.

So what I had in mind would be a very simple server. Only two factions would be available, with free force defection so that if only two players are on they can still fight eachother. Each side would have identical build tables consisting of very easy to use mechs with no real standouts. Probably only mechs that are heat neutral that dont easily explode when rattled. Not sure what era mechs would be best, but that's not too relevant atm.

The map would just consist of a string of planets each in range of the next. Essentially a tug of war map that will be reset when one side reaches the other's capital at the end of the string of worlds. Every match should give plenty of RP to the winner and the loser so that they can purchase and try out different lance combinations. If veterans come on this server, it should only be to teach others not to feed on or ridicule newbies.

Of course the front page would then point noobies toward this server, to learn and then join the other servers.

TigerShark
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Re: MekWars Population Stagnation

Post by TigerShark »

Salient wrote:
TigerShark wrote: The question posed is: "What can we do to bring more players in?"
The other idea I had is that there is no real entry point for true noobies to get into MMN. The 3025 server is a meat grinder when it comes to noobies. It's not a very good environment to learn in. Gamers these days need a LOT of hand holding. So I would propose a true noobie server.

I know the first complaint about this idea will be "player numbers are already too low, we cant break up the playerbase" However I would argue that player retention is already in the negative. How many true noobies hang around after losing 10 times in a row against veteran players that may not be too interested in teaching? Not many, if any.

So what I had in mind would be a very simple server. Only two factions would be available, with free force defection so that if only two players are on they can still fight eachother. Each side would have identical build tables consisting of very easy to use mechs with no real standouts. Probably only mechs that are heat neutral that dont easily explode when rattled. Not sure what era mechs would be best, but that's not too relevant atm.

The map would just consist of a string of planets each in range of the next. Essentially a tug of war map that will be reset when one side reaches the other's capital at the end of the string of worlds. Every match should give plenty of RP to the winner and the loser so that they can purchase and try out different lance combinations. If veterans come on this server, it should only be to teach others not to feed on or ridicule newbies.

Of course the front page would then point noobies toward this server, to learn and then join the other servers.
Problem is that it's easy to make suggestions. It's less easy to actually make the server, dedicate time to maintaining it, find staff, hand-hold new players, correct bugs, build a website, write guides for noobs, etc. etc. etc., ad nauseum.

So my reply would be, "there's nothing stopping you from making a noob server." You have a lot of ideas and suggestions. So the best thing to do would be to take the next step and work on this for the good of the community. The code is on Sourceforge and it's pretty easy to get a basic server started. :)

Unfortunately, the reply to this suggestion is usually going to be the same reason most Admins don't run multiple servers, simultaneously: "I don't have the time." There's no denying that a totally "noob" server that's linked to MekWars would benefit the community as a whole. And a lot of the grognards who lived in the 1980s and played in those days would probably swarm a "box set only" environment, free from any complex technologies. The issue is just finding the people to make it work, I suspect.

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Re: MekWars Population Stagnation

Post by Salient »

TigerShark wrote: So my reply would be, "there's nothing stopping you from making a noob server."

Unfortunately, the reply to this suggestion is usually going to be the same reason most Admins don't run multiple servers, simultaneously: "I don't have the time."
Well if you and the other server operators are willing to answer my questions, I have a linux box i could run a server on. Never said I wouldn't.

Especially since, at least as I envision it, It should require very little maintenance. Nor should it really need much of a website, as there is no lore or campaign.

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Re: MekWars Population Stagnation

Post by TigerShark »

Salient wrote:Well if you and the other server operators are willing to answer my questions, I have a linux box i could run a server on. Never said I wouldn't.
Sure. Fire away. :) There are a few threads on this in the forums already, and Tuco/Spork would have more Linux knowledge than I. But I'll assist when I can!

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Re: MekWars Population Stagnation

Post by TigerShark »

Any progress on that server?

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Re: MekWars Population Stagnation

Post by Salient »

I guess you missed the discord chat, instead im working on a newbie module for mekwars. Still learning my way around the code, but i'll have a test server up once I have something working to take feedback.

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