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Open Letter to Haxus from French Empire
#1
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Haxus, this is a big message for you that took ages to write, so we could give our view of the current state of the game. I guess it's kinda a mirror of Yetimal's post 5 years ago on the gravity well forums, that brought back the game (I hope you remember!).  Tongue

Like 5 years ago, first a disclaimer: as english isn't our native language, it's possible we may sound arrogant or insulting, but keep in mind that's not the idea behind this post. On the contrary, the idea, like 5 years ago, is to tell you the shocking truth, so things may improve. So yes this post won't be pleasant, of that we can guarantee you. But keep in mind while reading this that all hope is >not< lost, do not drop everything now. Because indeed, we're not happy at all about what is happening and becoming of this game, but we want your success above all. It's still your game obviously, so you can completly ignore what's following, we won't really care. Also that may only be our truth and maybe it's not shared by the community, but our guess is it's mainly shared... edit: This appeared soon after this post, I guess it's no coïncidence.

Also keep in mind we, the French Empire, are the last big empire that played through 9 years (though most of us came in 2013, a few like me are from 2011). (We are playing as "Galactic Republic of Champagne" this universe). We have seen many things and we keep exploring part of the gameplay that one-man empires don't. We'll start with an advice about just that: be wary of yes-men that agree with everything you say and do. You need critics. You need people telling you that you do shit when it happens. Of course those people need to do that properly without insults and in a constructive way. But I fear that's one of the main reasons the game is at its current state: people wanting to help, wanting to be nice, but actually destroying everything that made this game.. fun.

Community

So first, let's talk about the community, because I'm sure it's the best indicator of what's happening. Look at how many people are currently playing these days.. Only 2 months and a half after restart! And look at how many came back for the reset of U6 : roughly 30 to 40 actives (with by the way, more than 10 solely in FE might I point out). I heard back then some new people from U5 saying "wow that's epic, 30 people online!". When I clearly remember more than 80 actives on U4 restart, and I guess around 50-60 in U5 restart when the game required to pay. That's a shame. But that's also a good indicator of what's happening: this game is breaking apart and loosing everyone's interest. This, is the hard truth part. You can also compare that with the number of people that are registered in these forums. Or with the fact we're still first on the ranking when none of us has played seriously for at least 7 weeks. This game is a MMO. And a special MMO at that: everything is built by players. Without players there's nothing. Indeed, there's no PvE to speak of (unless you count killing other players empire's troops.. But they're still created by players). So the community shrinking means the game is basically.. disapearing.

There are a few reasons for that we think. For starters, the main problem is that there's no new players really, this thread may be a good start to know why.. Another, big one: you have a certain tendancy to refactor everything that worked previously, and quite a few times implement the new functionalities poorly with massive bugs. I guess what happened this last 2 months is also a good example. I mean, I'm also a developer so I know a bit of these things, but we can mostly inspire ourselves from success stories of one-man games, like Minecraft or RimWorld. True those games aren't MMOs. But that isn't the excuse for everything.

Development quality & testing

For starters, you have to really get better at testing, and the first thing to do right now may be to create yourself a real testing environement, like everyone else does on "state of the art" development nowadays. Why? Because we're not beta testers. We agree to test and report bugs for a bit, but not while paying and above all not when we can't play at all for more than an entire month, because that's what happened. First massive limbos, then your breaking of the game with Etherium. Yes you have absolutely the right to make bugs. Yes, those can pass through your testing and get to production, that happens to everyone. But there is a point when too many bugs destroys your user's faith in you. And your users are your customers... If you make big, huge changes to the codebase, you have to test those, for a month if need be, before even thinking of putting this online.

I don't understand what is the problem with creating a test server, a real one where everythings works as in SoH. You should be able to copy data from the game when you want. You could make this available for everyone to use for free if you really want us to help test everything, and I'm sure many here would love to do that. Keep in mind your community is mostly composed of hardcore gamers, because that's what it takes to play SoH, and it has its advantages: people want to help.

And please, please dammit, put HTTPS on your website... HTTP nowadays is lame, people are getting warnings everywhere that this website is not secure. The website is lame as a whole and it does everything it can to drive away potential new players. Your website is your "first door", it's where you should put your best efforts.. Hire someone if you're not comfortable with HTML or ask the community for help I don't know, just do something! When you know what you're doing, enabling HTTPS takes 5 minutes and for free, this should tell you if you should put your hands on that or not. Again, your community is composed of many developers who will love to help you in anyway they can. The only thing you need is to trust us, because if I remember correctly that was the main concern keeping us from helping you. I mean, we're actually wondering there if you should not create a private Github repository of your codebase so every volonteer could give a hand!...

Another point on limbo. (Yes Deantwo we know it's server crashes and not the old limbo but we keep calling it that way because it's simplier, please don't take this debate elsewhere like you often do). We don't understand, at all, why you're not restarting servers when they're in a frozen state or if they crash. I mean, it's not like one of the first computer science thing you learn is "If it doesn't work, try rebooting". State of the art software developement nowadays uses this everywhere. I don't know for games for sure because I don't work on that domain, but I don't see at all why it couldn't be applied there too. When a freeze or a crash happens, you save the logs and you restart, that's all. It can be automated. Or you could move stuck avatars into a working server, without second guess. No problem if there's a sort of a rollback of a few minutes or hours (more is a problem though). No, the bug won't spread and won't take down all servers each time - and btw this actually already happens sometimes so what's the issue anyway?... If it needs to crash it will and that's all. Keep in mind there's nothing worse than being unable to login to a multiplayer game while others can, especially when there are no protections at all for your stuff while you're offline. And remember angry people means less subscriptions (and less free advertisement done by the community for you game), you should make a simple calculation as to how much giving all those free days costed vs cost of creating a real testing environement and restarting servers. I guess it should be obvious.


Gameplay and implementing functionalities

That brings me to a second thing: gameplay and "product ownership". It's your game. You have a dream. That's completly fine. But you have sucked to implement it for the last 6 years at least. Yes we mean it. Look at Minecraft or Rimworld: they first made sure every functionality worked before implementing new ones. And they didn't refactor huge functionalities midway, like you did for colonizing twice within 5-6 years, or for designing ships (twice the try again). Those things were working nicely before, they are mostly broken now or at least harder to grasp, that's not helping new players to join. Another good example is the restart: when we came back, it was impossible to play correctly. Why? Because there lacked many buildings blueprints to create cities, we had to get our hands on the more-complex-than-needed-designer even before going on the moon. That obviously would have scared off new players! And that's a really good example of the state of the game, you don't seem to take into account the gameplay and the "user experience" as a whole. You want to change something that works? That's okay, but wait before you're stable testing-wise and community-wise first, ie: money-wise. That sole rule would have prevented the 2014 shutdown, which did huge damage to this game and its community. And in a MMO, community is everything, more so on Shores of Hazeron where everything is built by players.

About that, it seems your decay rules are getting harder and harder with each year passing. If I remember correctly, one of your first change about that caused the Toucan Empire and a huge portion of the community to leave (I'm not completly sure about that though, it happened when I wasn't really following the drama on the forums). Now cities decays within 3 days without land, and like a week after their land's avatar account stopped paying, that's lame (and an avatar can have very few systems in his land, lame again). I remember back when I started this game when I found another empire city's ruins, that's one of the things that made me love this game. Remember everything is built by players as I said. PvE gameplay is nearly absent, pirates are but a mere nuisance (they were more fun before too, back in 2012). If you don't allow people to play for a bit, go play something else for a month then come back and still find their stuff (or in the hand of another player at least) with this kind of subscription, you're going right into a wall. A huge, hard and impenetrable wall. Especially when you broke the game during a month or two... If you force them to pay to keep their stuff, most of them will play maybe 2 months and leave to return in a year or two, I'm not sure that's what you want.

Actually, we're not sure to understand why you're putting those kind of rules with such a low amount of time. Are you that limited on server resources? That's not normal. If this page is still correct and up to date, it's a huge problem that you have such an hardware monstruosity at your disposal and performances problems. Fixing this should be one of your (many now) top priorities. I mean, what do your servers do? They should just manage players and ships/vehicles positions, store systems/planets seed, store and compute cities production and send those to clients, that's all. You don't need 12 * quad core CPUs + 4 * 16 core CPUs for that... That's more than 3 CPU cores per active player at the U6 restart! Do you have a way to get your hardware usage? Also we've always wondered how much all of that costs you. Maybe we missed when you gave those numbers but you never really were open about it, not sure why. Is the game costing you more than we are paying ? We are guessing it is, based on your hardware, but we may be wrong, and that may changes everything.

Balance and size of the universe

So let's get back on "destroying things that work" (that's volontarily exagerated). Can you look back and know how many efforts you've put in refactoring the way cities work, and worse, the way designing ship work? Why refactoring all this when it was working perfectly? Personally I sometimes miss old block cities. And old block ships that's for sure. Now it takes at least a GTX 960 to load a planet in a correct time (a little example here), while eating 100% of CPU, and it takes a massive amount of time to learn to design a ship. All those things drive away new players (and actually old ones too). You have the right to implement that obviously, but wait when other parts of the gameplay are done and working, and balanced! Balance is important. I mostly think of ship combat and empire wars etc, as I said it's people that make other people play, otherwise the game is just empty and it's just a city builder. Interactions between these players are everything, and interactions often means conflict.

Why the hell the 20 galaxies? One is already too much for the current player base, and has been for as long as we've played. Emptyness isn't fun. This isn't the first time we say that, indeed the box, which was one of our suggestion back then, was especially created in that purpose. But back then it was too small for the number of players, and it mainly showed (again) the huge balancing problems that eventually make people quit when they are fighting each other. I saw an enourmous amount of suggestions to improve war gameplay, and all of them are better than the current system which existed since 2011 at least: people can come when you sleep and take/destroy your things, and you can't do anything about that. It's even worse now with orbital bombardment and the suppression of loyalty! And I won't talk about the TL system and those kind of things that doesn't put skill above gametime (the quality/patent system doesn't change that at all, it actually worsens it because you now mostly need to wait for researches to be done, and the patents for warp takes far too long to get, I mean 1 month for warp 4 wtf ? And 2 months for warp 8? While costing peanuts like 10k credits? What should we do while we wait for that?...). And last but not least you made high quality planets easier to find, another interest in the game lost. Instead we should all be limited in the SoH galaxy at maximum and Q250+ resources (and ringworlds) should be so hard to find that they would create conflicts over them.

The future: all hope is not lost!

So yes I guess, we're really saying this game is going backwards and has been for 6 years at the very least. The thing that's the most representative is maybe the Gen IV characters. Again, the Gen III seems fine when the Gen IV are ugly and seems to use far more hardware resources. And they're also quite unusable currently, you said yourself they're not finished. So why are they available with just a small warning when creating an avatar?.. Remember, you should make sure your functionalities are done and working before shipping them to users.

The only thing that was really nice and needed? The lag fix, which came far too late. It should have been your top priority even before 2010 (but I wasn't playing at that time so I dunno really). Of course there were also minor improvements, but minors sadly, like reproduction. I'll stop with one last example: the free period to try the game should have been done as soon as 2015 when the game came back, that's the other nice thing you (finally) implemented. A free test period is the best thing to drive in new players, indeed nearly no one in 2020 would try this game by paying head on with its current "presentation" and graphics. (It was like our 2nd or 3rd suggestion when we asked the game to be brought back 5 years ago btw).

I think it's enough. If you agree (partly is enough) to what have been said here, we can dive in and all give advices in every part of the game that need rework. Keep in mind all hope is not lost. We feared publishing this because we fear your reaction, do not drop everything now! Take a few days to sit back first if this is hard Sad . But we had to say this anyway, it might do good!

But yeah, if you take this message seriously like our last one from 2015, I think it's not a bad idea to wonder if restarting anew wouldn't be envisageable at all, if a change of game engine couldn't be done. I mean look at what's possible now technically...:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLIOiAZ6NHU
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W18kwxP4BNQ

And remember again we're many here that wants to help you, you're not alone.

TLDR (kinda)

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#2
I agree ! +1
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#3
I agree with what has been said in this message. I too believe this game has much potential and is incredibly unique, which is why I believe this projet is worth the efforts to either addressing its issues or restart from scratch.

I have very limited (and absolutely insufficient) knowledge when it comes to the technical aspects of making a video game but still, Haxus, just know that if you were to consider starting anew with the help of community members, I would be glad to contribute the way I can in rather artistic fields (composing music or helping with the sound design, for example). And I'm fairly confident that many people amongst your playerbase would be more than willing to help, whether you decide to fix and improve or to recreate the castle's pillars themselves.

The ball is in your court. It's your project, so obviously your call.
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#4
I have much to say about the topic, but sine it's work time, I only highlight a few point now.
(05-13-2020, 04:37 PM)StarOri Wrote: the first thing to do right now may be to create yourself a real testing environement
There IS a testing environment. The problem is that testing massively distributed system is not easy, and it may behave slightly different at a different scale. Ask CCP about it.

Quote:And please, please dammit, put HTTPS on your website... HTTP nowadays is lame
Please don't spread google-induced hysteria. No important information is transferred on the website.

Quote:We don't understand, at all, why you're not restarting servers when they're in a frozen state or if they crash. I mean, it's not like one of the first computer science thing you learn is "If it doesn't work, try rebooting".
Actually, you'd be surprised how young this motto it. "Simply rebooting" only helps when you KNOW the program should work fine, but somehow it does not. And you reboot to free the environment from external factors. I.e. isolate the testing case.
In cluster, like SoH, servers are not isolated, and the game itself IS an external factor. Simply rebooting the crashed server would either cause it to crash again, or propagate that same crash to other servers. At the least. At worst, it would cause corruption in the environment (means, destroying the game itself).

Quote:State of the art software developement nowadays uses this everywhere.
No? Can you name a few?
Quote:I don't know for games for sure because I don't work on that domain, but I don't see at all why it couldn't be applied there too.
See above.
Quote:When a freeze or a crash happens, you save the logs and you restart, that's all.
Restart what? It's not just a single governing server, that does everything. It's not Lineage2, where you have 3 server. World, NPC AI and logging. It's a part of whole system. A very SMALL part.
Quote:It can be automated.
Yes. It can be.
Quote:Or you could move stuck avatars into a working server
Into a random system, where they have no environment to replicate the crash state, so it does not happen again.

Quote:a sort of a rollback
What rollback? [Image: scratch_one-s_head.gif]

Quote:I guess it should be obvious.
No, it's not.

Quote:Gameplay and implementing functionalities
Here I would agree on one thing: The game now is both more complex to play and less challenging as a game.

Quote:About that, it seems your decay rules are getting harder and harder with each year passing.
I'd say, the problem is not decay rules per se, but a management overhead to maintain the colonies.
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#5
Quote:
Quote:State of the art software developement nowadays uses this everywhere.
No? Can you name a few?

Well I'm working in web development and yes we're always restarting server stuff when they crash. Because the condition that made them crash may not present itself again, so there's no point to wait for a human intervention while not keeping it available for other users, that's all. If it always crashes, it will without harm until someone fixes it, I don't see the problem here.

(05-14-2020, 11:14 AM)AnrDaemon Wrote: I have much to say about the topic, but sine it's work time, I only highlight a few point now.
Quote:We don't understand, at all, why you're not restarting servers when they're in a frozen state or if they crash. I mean, it's not like one of the first computer science thing you learn is "If it doesn't work, try rebooting".
Actually, you'd be surprised how young this motto it. "Simply rebooting" only helps when you KNOW the program should work fine, but somehow it does not. And you reboot to free the environment from external factors. I.e. isolate the testing case.
In cluster, like SoH, servers are not isolated, and the game itself IS an external factor. Simply rebooting the crashed server would either cause it to crash again, or propagate that same crash to other servers. At the least. At worst, it would cause corruption in the environment (means, destroying the game itself).
Quote:I don't know for games for sure because I don't work on that domain, but I don't see at all why it couldn't be applied there too.
See above.
Quote:When a freeze or a crash happens, you save the logs and you restart, that's all.
Restart what? It's not just a single governing server, that does everything. It's not Lineage2, where you have 3 server. World, NPC AI and logging. It's a part of whole system. A very SMALL part.

But yeah, since I'm not working on games as I said you may be right there. Maybe what I think is not doable in a game context. Those were examples so this post was not just critics but also presented solutions. They may be wrong, but that's not really the subject there as long as Haxus hasn't answered and acknowledged all of this for starters. There is no point in debatting solutions if the problem isn't even recognized on the first place.
And btw, this post is for Haxus, I would like an anwser from him and not from someone else, which may then convince him without even trying. And then, and only then, we can talk about solutions.

The way I see it, solar systems are isolated between each other, so if a server crashes that means something bad happened in one of its system. With that in mind, restarting it with its previous data just before the crash won't mean it will crash again, because that depends on players doing (otherwise why was it working on the first place?). And I don't see at all the risks of corrupting the entire game Huh . But again that may be a wrong lecture here, it's just a guess on my part, but unless Haxus gave you all the details of how his game architecture is built, you have nothing to say here for now, thanks. Wink

Quote:
(05-13-2020, 04:37 PM)StarOri Wrote: the first thing to do right now may be to create yourself a real testing environement
There IS a testing environment. The problem is that testing massively distributed system is not easy, and it may behave slightly different at a different scale. Ask CCP about it.

Well that's the precise reason why I said he should compare the cost of creating this vs continuing to test without good conditions, that brings him to deploy massive bugs that drives away players and the community as a hole. It's his call, not yours, as I just said previously.

Quote:
Quote:And please, please dammit, put HTTPS on your website... HTTP nowadays is lame
Please don't spread google-induced hysteria. No important information is transferred on the website.

Yeah sure, you obviously don't have to register or login on the website to pay, or in the forums!..
But anyway I mainly wanted to point out the browsers giving warnings everywhere, that's the main problem there.

Here are quick examples:

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This, is the main problem here because its scary to people, so that probably drives them away (again), thus the community shrinking.

(05-14-2020, 11:14 AM)AnrDaemon Wrote:
Quote:About that, it seems your decay rules are getting harder and harder with each year passing.
I'd say, the problem is not decay rules per se, but a management overhead to maintain the colonies.

That's entirely possible. However this post is there to signal problems originally, no to discuss solutions right away as I already said. Let's see if Haxus agrees for starters...

Quote:
Quote:Gameplay and implementing functionalities
Here I would agree on one thing: The game now is both more complex to play and less challenging as a game.

That's precisely the point here.
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#6
Quote:Well I'm working in web development and yes we're always restarting server stuff
That's the problem. You are confusing cause and effect, projecting your professional knowledge to areas where it no longer applicable.
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#7
(05-14-2020, 09:17 PM)AnrDaemon Wrote:
Quote:Well I'm working in web development and yes we're always restarting server stuff
That's the problem. You are confusing cause and effect, projecting your professional knowledge to areas where it no longer applicable.

Yeah that's possible, as I said. I would love to hear that from Haxus, not you. We're going circles there.

Quote:You are confusing cause and effect

What do you mean by that though?
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#8
(05-14-2020, 09:17 PM)AnrDaemon Wrote:
Quote:Well I'm working in web development and yes we're always restarting server stuff
That's the problem. You are confusing cause and effect, projecting your professional knowledge to areas where it no longer applicable.

>no longer applicable

From massive World of warcraft to your sister's minecraft server, every game server in that world is restarting after a crash. And no, World of warcraft and many, many others don't have only one rasbpery 0w in a locker. Plus of that, datas are stored on a separate physical sql server, not restarting servers is a lame.

As a system administrator who use devops tools on a daily basis, you made me laugh hard.

Errors and stacktrace can be logged, servers can restarted. Please stop deantwing.
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#9
(05-13-2020, 04:37 PM)StarOri Wrote: ...

No TL;DR section?
Shores of Hazeron Wiki Moderator
hazeron.com/wiki/ User: Deantwo
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#10
If you guys haven't time to read that or to respond clearly with concrete arguments (and especially if your objective is to answer in place of Haxus), can you please stop polluting this thread and instead send it to Haxus the next time he's online?..
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