Reclaiming the Value in Rookie Servers: Introduce Non-Rookie Coaches & Comms

NousWandererNousWanderer Join Date: 2010-05-07 Member: 71646Members Posts: 258 Advanced user
edited March 2017 in Ideas and Suggestions
Problem 1:
Natural Selection 2 has a massive learning curve on both micro and macro scales. It's difficult enough for new players to adapt to the twitch mechanics required to survive an engagement against a competent player, to say nothing of the more significant challenges in learning proper positioning or broader mechanics like lane awareness, economy awareness, or alert priority. The game is tough. And the game is tough at a time when fresher competitors offer big "playmaker" moments on tap. These moments offer obvious appeal. Something as innocuous as the introduction of random critical hits in a game like TF2 can now be seen as the harbinger of industry change, where the prevailing maxim is: make every player feel at least somewhat relevant at least some of the time (whether it's achieved through airstrikes, ultimates, inherent randomness, or some other mechanic). In the face of this, it's not unreasonable to say that a large fraction of the players who attempt NS2 rarely feel relevant, if ever. NS2 exists as a kind of half-formed creature which crawled into existence somewhere in the space between brutal, old school games with limitless skill ceilings, and modern, accessible shooters which seek a more democratic experience. Nowhere is this better seen than in the state of NS2 play in 2017. Nightly pub play can be characterized by a kind of holding pattern:
  • Great players have to deal with a low competition environment: there simply aren't enough talented players left in the community to sustain the standard of play that characterized the game a few years ago. Part of this is due to the steady abandonment of the game by players in general, and part of it is due to a loss of professional players in particular. Whatever the causes, the result is the same. Outside of gathers and the occasional lucky match-up, it's difficult for the game's best remaining players to push the state of play much further.
  • On the other hand, aspiring players are subject to the tyranny of the occasional server-clearing pro player who shows up with crackling energy and the uncanny capacity to vaporize adversaries left and right. Everyone has been there: good player appears and the server dies, or the kickvotes start, or people repeatedly F4 because shuffle is inadequate, and in the end we all waste a lot of fucking time listening to bitching and moaning.
It's easy to understand both sides. Nobody likes to be repeatedly crushed like a bug without the slightest idea of what to do better the next time around, and nobody likes to do their best (or even just better than the competition) only to be shit upon by a horde of clueless people crying "hax". Or, okay, maybe some people do like that last part a little bit--but it shouldn't be the community standard we aspire to, right?

What makes this problem even worse is the loss of any real combat mode. Excuse the soapbox, but whatever, the devs need to hear it: a combat mode is unquestionably the best and only serious way to quickly and routinely give players access to the wide range of equipment vs. lifeform scenarios they'll need to perform well in if they want to succeed in classic. Combat and simplified classic maps can also be used to teach basic lane mechanics. Yes, you'll always be able to identify a subset of players who, despite completely lacking in twitch abilities, still manage to commit to the game long enough to learn a little about the meta. But be real: these players are a minority in the already small subset of new players who seek NS2 out in 2017. So you need to provide some low-risk space in which players can acclimate themselves to the game's rigorous mechanical requirements without being subject to guilt or stress when they fail. A great many things can be said about NS2's learning curve. As a gamer who seeks games with incredibly high skill ceilings, I'm a fan. But another thing we might say is that a highly interdependent team-based scenario where it's not uncommon for individual rounds to require upwards of forty to fifty minutes invested per player (after we process the time required to find comms, shuffle one to four times, and suffer the inevitable reset or two) is not the ideal place for the basic combat acclimation process to happen. But, again, we don't have anything as efficient as a combat mode.

So what do we have? Rookie servers.

Problem 2:
Natural Selection 2 has a rookie server system which attempts to soften the game's steep curve into more manageable terrain. I'll begin with a small amount of praise: if the rookie servers have achieved this goal in any way, it's by providing new players an arena to learn the most basic aspects of the game in a social environment. By "basic aspects" I refer to such lofty goalposts as "learning how to walk on the wall as a skulk" or "why extractors/harvesters are important". To this limited degree, we can say that rookie servers offer an experience preferable to sandbox mode.

Beyond this, these servers offer little utility and may in fact be counterproductive.

Consider the case study of Chivalry: this medieval combat game (also made by a small studio with competitive player counts around the time NS2 peaked) has a similar rookie server system. New players enter a gated server cluster and adapt to the game's basic mechanics there. Swinging swords, loosing arrows, playing with knives, etc. Problem is: once they level out of the rookie server system, they get destroyed. And I do mean destroyed. Chivalry's somewhat esoteric mechanics offer experienced players the opportunity to perform maneuvers that can charitably be described as unintuitive, and less charitably as "exploits". Example: character models folding in half while swinging broadswords as they tornado around in wide arcs, utterly fucking any hapless fodder passing by into oblivion. The result is that the game simply can't onboard new players properly. The wall isn't worth the climb for all but the most dedicated players who, for whatever reason, find themselves especially drawn to the title. For most, the rookie experience amounts to a way to learn the game the wrong way (unbeknownst to them at the time).

Natural Selection 2's unique mechanics aren't as garishly unituitive as Chivalry's, but they're still a monumental challenge for new gamers. Advanced alien movement is a huge obstacle in itself, but so is mastering the art of retreat-jumping and juking as a marine. And that's just movement. These sorts of mechanics are not necessarily a bad thing: Natural Selection 2 preserves a lot of what made movement so skill-based and rewarding in the days of yore and Quake, and that's worth preserving as more and more titles go for the biggest piece of the pie, dampening experiences and lowering skill ceilings as a result. That said, the inclusion of these mechanics means that they need to be introduced to new players in a teachable way if the development team hopes to scale the game from its current state into a surprise comeback hit.

So, again, what do we have right now? Rookie servers. And as it stands, these servers teach people almost nothing about the Game Proper (TM). It's the blind leading the blind. The system is effectively producing a sequence of rookie generations who haven't learned much about the game outside of the fact that it offers things to bite and/or shoot at.

Problem 3:
Comming. As if Natural Selection 2 didn't already suffer enough barriers to entry. Here's the most special requirement of all: for a productive game to unfold, both teams require a relatively attentive, competent, and communicative commander who must not only volunteer for this role by turning away a more tangibly thrilling field experience, but who must also be willing to face stresses and insults uncommon anywhere else in the world of games. I could go on about the unique challenges faced in ensuring that the community has a stable population of good commanders, but suffice it to say that many of even the most experienced players avoid commanding entirely. You have a situation where people with over a thousand hours into the game still haven't really learned how to command properly. Of all of the bottlenecks the game faces, this is one of the most significant.



How do we fix it? One way is clear: better documentation, tutorials, videos, practice ranges, skill challenges, wikis -- that's all good and important, especially if your goal is to eventually breathe new life into NS2 via a F2P launch (or something of a similar scale). You're going to need things like skulk jump courses and, yes, a combat mode-like mode. But these efforts require a lot of resources re: design and management.

In the short term, elegant solutions which offer a disproportionately better cost:benefit ratio should be considered, especially if they're features which would remain useful even if we lived in a future world where every aspect of NS2 was meticulously documented in the most accessible way for a wide audience.

Potential Improvement:
Allow non-rookie players to join rookie servers as comms or as coaches.

Non-Rookie Comms in Rookie Servers:
The idea here is that an experienced player will be able to learn how to comm and manage a team in a low-risk environment. Rookie servers are designed to cater to ignorant, unskilled players new to the game. By placing non-rookie players into commanding roles, the non-rookies can acclimate themselves to commanding and all that it involves: hotkeys, communications, expansion, economy management, etc. The end result will be more competent commanders in the community in general. It'll even open up a new avenue for commander vs. commander gameplay, since there are unique challenges to be faced for experienced commanders in these situations, namely in the form of managing herds of cats to success - the capacity for which is a remarkable talent in itself.

Yes, this does mean that there may be less room for new players to practice comming, but it's really easy to come up with ways to mitigate that problem: have players rely on the normal eject feature, or - preferably - design the mechanic so that the experienced player has to request the right to command a team from the ready room, initiating a team vote among the rookies to permit the comm to join. Other mitigation methods would also work, and I won't enumerate them here.

The other obvious benefit is that even if an experienced player isn't great at comming, they undoubtedly know more about the game's mechanics than new players do. By having a knowledgeable presence at the top of the team hierarchy, rookie learning will accelerate. Where to go? What to do? These become answerable questions. The rookie servers won't just be places to learn basic mechanics, but may actually become spaces in which strategies are attempted with intent and purpose. If even a fraction of a rookie crop enter the pub servers with a working understanding of lane blocking thanks to the help of a knowledgeable player practicing their comming, it'll be a net gain for all of us.

Certain caveats and exceptions would have to be introduced. For example, the non-rookie comm shouldn't be able to eject - or, if he does eject, should immediately be returned to the ready room. Anti-abuse checks should also be considered, but I don't think anything too inventive would be required.

Non-Rookie Coaches in Rookie Servers:
You guys have already outlined this idea here. I'll copy the text over for anyone who doesn't feel like clicking:
An idea I've had for a while -- that has also been re-pitched to me coincidentally by another player -- that would allow veteran players to join rookie only servers, but be forced into a role as a "coach". Coaches will first-person-spec one (consenting) player of their choice, and can communicate only with that player.

When trying to get one of my good friends to play this game, it's incredibly difficult to 1) Get on the same server, 2) Get on the same team, and finally 3) Communicate with them amidst all the other communication (hopefully) taking place on the server. By making a coaches mode, we'd eliminate problems 2 and 3, as well as other smaller problems, like constantly being split up from dying, etc etc.
It's a good idea. Maybe consider certain hive skill limitations, or otherwise "advertise" the hive skill of the coach to the player receiving the "I'd like to coach you. Y/N" request. Gamify it, incentivize it, make it happen.

The rookie servers are low hanging fruit. Before you do any kind of relaunch, rebrand, resale, or whatever else, you should seriously consider how you can maximize the value you derive from these servers. The system is already in place. You just need to figure out how to create a more meaningful interface between two virtues you're seeking to maximize: the pool of talented players in the community, and the pool of interested players you hope to capture in the longer term. What I've outlined is one such way you can help achieve this, and the biggest benefit is that it's mostly community driven. This isn't just a stopgap until you have time to implement skulk racing and an in-game wiki: it's a good idea even after that, especially for this particular title and its unique challenges.

Virtuous cycles and maximizing value. Do it.
Post edited by NousWanderer on
BeigeAlertNordicHandschuh

Comments

  • BeigeAlertBeigeAlert Texas Join Date: 2013-08-08 Member: 186657Members, Super Administrators, Forum Admins, NS2 Developer, NS2 Playtester, Squad Five Blue, Squad Five Silver, NS2 Map Tester, Reinforced - Diamond, Reinforced - Shadow, Subnautica Playtester, Pistachionauts Posts: 2,825 admin
    First of all, I just want to say thank you so much for taking the time to make such an insightful, well-written post! :) With a lot of what we read on the forums, it's sometimes easy to forget that people actually like this game. ;)

    I like that you mention a "skulk jumping course" for rookie training -- I actually already have something just like this about 90% finished. It's a long, ~1 minute 45 second course made of several maps jammed together. Skulk starts in tram tunnels, ends in docking tram station, after passing through summit, mineshaft, and refinery. Skulks are given "medals" based on their completion time, and the ability to "race" themselves -- a hologram of their last performance.

    I love the idea of rookie comms/coaches. I think it would be great to allow non-rookies to join rookie only servers... but maybe with SEVERELY limited capabilites (eg marines cannot use weapons... only the almighty axe, and aliens cannot evolve, only parasite as a skulk).

    Also, one of my big, huge, pie-in-the-sky wishes for NS2 is to get a proper Overwatch-style kill-cam working. That way, even if you die, you can at least see how you died. I always feel bad for the skulk that's poking out around a corner and I blast em before they know what's happening.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on this. I will make sure to bring this up at our meeting tomorrow. :)
    antouNordicSantaClawsHandschuh
  • NordicNordic Long term camping in Kodiak Join Date: 2012-05-13 Member: 151995Members, NS2 Playtester, NS2 Map Tester, Reinforced - Supporter, Reinforced - Silver, Reinforced - Shadow Posts: 4,728 Advanced user
    edited March 2017
    This is a very well written post of an idea that has been brought up many times. BeigeAlert even added something similar as a potential project in one of UWE's trello boards. I have also seen Wooza and Rusty supporting this idea in the past.

    You clearly describe three problem area's with NS2. You also propose two solutions. In this post I will try to match the quality of your post, and describe why I believe your recommend solutions will not adequately address the problems. I will also describe what I think is the cause and effect, my own potential solutions even though they are equally nonviable to your own.


    Recommended Solution 1:
    How do we fix it? One way is clear: better documentation, tutorials, videos, practice ranges, skill challenges, wikis -- that's all good and important, especially if your goal is to eventually breathe new life into NS2 via a F2P launch (or something of a similar scale). You're going to need things like skulk jump courses and, yes, a combat mode-like mode. But these efforts require a lot of resources re: design and management.

    In the short term, elegant solutions which offer a disproportionately better cost:benefit ratio should be considered, especially if they're features which would remain useful even if we lived in a future world where every aspect of NS2 was meticulously documented in the most accessible way for a wide audience.
    UWE, or more specifically BeigeAlert, recently spent a lot of time creating new and improved tutorials. I do not know if you have checked them out, but I recommend you do. I believe they explain the very basics of NS2 in a short and easy to complete tutorial. Players are further incentivised to play this tutorial by only allowing them to play on rookie only servers while they are rookies. A rookie who completes the tutorial can play on any server.

    Advanced tutorials would be amazing. Completing the new improved wiki would be amazing (This is being slowly worked on). Somehow integrating the wiki information into the game itself, similar to how Depth does it, would also be amazing. I completely agree that these would be wonderful additions to NS2.

    The problem is that all things being equal, I think they would have a highly marginal returns. As things are now, I have heard that the tutorials have an abysmal rate of completion. I do not have exact statistics to quote. Perhaps this has improved recently, and I may need to revise my opinion.

    Assuming the present tutorials are severely under utilized, and they are, advanced tutorials would be used even less. Development time is precious and each minute has a very high opportunity cost. Advanced tutorials and more would be amazing, but I think there would be greater returns from development time spent elsewhere.


    Recommended Solution 2:
    Potential Improvement:
    Allow non-rookie players to join rookie servers as comms or as coaches.
    Coaching/mentoring would be unwanted by the majority of rookies. I know this because it already is. Go on any pub server with any amount of rookies and you will have a hard time finding even one that is willing to actually listen to you. These players only play the game for 2 hours and quit forever regardless of any training.

    Several coaching/mentoring initiatives have been attempted by the community in the past. They did not have much of an effect. Admittedly, hey did not have the benefit of being backed by UWE and baked into the game like you are suggesting. I don't think UWE backing would matter. Coaching/mentoring would be unwanted by the majority of rookies. To coach/mentor in NS2 is to act like Sisyphus pushing a rock up a hill every day just for it to roll back down.

    My argument is again one of marginal returns and opportunity cost. I believe this proposed solution, although positive, would have extremely marginal returns on the development time spent on it. Everything done by UWE has highly marginal returns at this point. That is true. I think the opportunity cost of this feature is just too high.


    As a tangent not directed at you Nous, ROOKIES DO NOT NEED VETERANS TO TEACH THEM! I am saying this preemptively because it comes up every time I make a post like this. In the spoiler below is a copy and past of my reasoning why. It is not related to this conversation, but directed at certain individuals.
    ROOKIES DO NOT NEED VETERANS TO TEACH THEM! Coaching and mentor programs have been tried before and have not had any success. This alone is enough to prove that veterans trying to teach rookies has little or no effect on player retention.

    Coaching/mentoring would be unwanted by the majority of rookies. I know this because it already is. Go on any pub server with any amount of rookies and you will have a hard time finding even one that is willing to actually listen to you. These players only play the game for 2 hours and quit forever regardless of any training.

    The people who would benefit the most from coaching are more intermediate players who are willing to seek it out already.

    Coaching, mentoring, or whatever you want to call it is just not worth any time or effort.

    Rookies really do not need veterans to teach them. If you do not believe me watch the videos in this spoiler.
    These guys have never played ns2.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpGxHqwfDb4
    These guys had some minor practice before hand but almost all of them are total rookies.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlXwGSVHC1U
    This is a full round on a rookie only server.
    http://www.twitch.tv/calego/v/38082162

    In those videos you will see that rookies do indeed learn the game on their very own. Sure, they do not play the way we veterans expect them to but that is not the point. Rookies are very new to the game and they do not know what things are. Let them learn at their own pace so that they are more willing to continue learning when they get to regular servers.

    Rookies do not need veterans to teach them.


    My thoughts on cause an effect:
    Problem 1:
    Natural Selection 2 has a massive learning curve on both micro and macro scales.
    Problem 2:
    Natural Selection 2 has a rookie server system which attempts to soften the game's steep curve into more manageable terrain.
    Problem 3:
    Comming. As if Natural Selection 2 didn't already suffer enough barriers to entry.

    I think all three of these problems stem from the extreme skill disparity in our little community. NS2's learning curve really isn't really any higher than some very popular games. I have seen many people cite Dota 2 as an example. The rookie servers although imperfect, are better than new players first game being with players like @Wob. Wob, and players like him, destroy me and I am relatively high skill. Comming is always an issue, but it exacerbated by the skill disparity. A rookie commanding rookies is not a big problem. A rookie commanding high skill players is a problem.

    Imagine the same circumstances NS2 has in basketball (or any sport). Imagine there are 192 basketball players. That is enough for 8 courts, each with large 12 versus 12 games of basketball. 12 players are professional NBA players. 72 players are high school varsity players. 108 players young children. How NS2 currently works is that each of the 8 courts is going to have a random set of players. Any given court might have 2 NBA players, 8 high school varsity players, and 14 young children. How the hell are you supposed to balance games with players like these? NS2 uses the hive skill system to try and make the teams even. NS2 would make two teams of 1 NBA players, 4 high school varsity players, and 7 young children. Sure, teams are "balanced" but the game won't play well, and nobody is really going to enjoy themselves.

    This is exactly what NS2 is like. Hive can not make games with 2 NBA players, 8 high school varsity players, and 14 young children work out much better than it already does. That is not the purpose of hive. Hive is not meant to group similar skilled players into different servers. It only tries to make the best teams out of the players it is given. Hive does pretty well at it's purpose, that is making even skilled teams. Hive does not make near skilled teams.

    Imagine if instead the players were put into servers with near skill players. That would be servers with:
    12 high skill players and 12 veterans, split evenly among the teams.
    24 veterans.
    24 veterans.
    12 veterans and 12 low skill veterans, split evenly among the teams.
    24 rookies.
    24 rookies.
    24 rookies.
    24 rookies.

    Those hypothetical 8 servers would have more enjoyable games on average. Lower skilled players would not be destroyed by higher skill players. Higher skill players would not have to deal with lower skilled players. The learning curve, rookie only servers, and comming would not be very serious problems.

    In my opinion, the true solution would be some sort of magical skill segregated matchmaking like system. Such a system would require many more players than we presently have to work optimally. Although I think the marginal returns would be massive, this solution is not entirely viable. We can not expect to get a massive influx of new players.

    Hopefully some of UWE's future plans will do some sort of skill sorting that will improve the current situation. We will have to wait and see.
    https://trello.com/c/Zk5778Qu/28-match-seeding-system
    https://trello.com/c/s7ONC9b7/21-matchmaking-system
    https://trello.com/c/Lf3KsPcI/2-competitive-ranking
    Post edited by Nordic on
    From my perspective UWE has been trying to both with what little resources they have given to the game. They don't have an AAA budget, let alone an indie game budget. They have the budget of a game that has been out 6 years. I want to say, don't half ass two things, whole ass one thing. I just don't think they have the resources to do it. Unlike many of the people on the forums, I guess I am just happy they are at least trying even though I may not like what they end up doing.
    NousWanderercoolitic
  • NousWandererNousWanderer Join Date: 2010-05-07 Member: 71646Members Posts: 258 Advanced user
    edited March 2017
    Thanks for the reply, Nordic. First, a point of clarification - when I said:
    "One way is clear: better documentation, tutorials, videos, practice ranges, skill challenges, wikis -- that's all good and important, especially if your goal is to eventually breathe new life into NS2 via a F2P launch (or something of a similar scale). You're going to need things like skulk jump courses and, yes, a combat mode-like mode. But these efforts require a lot of resources re: design and management."
    I did so as a framing device. Let me explain. I am specifically saying that while these would be amazing introductions, they require too many resources and offer too little benefit to the game's existing player base.

    Now, to be clear: proper in-game documentation and systems that introduce players to the game's fundamental mechanics (like those I described) will become necessary if NS2 is going to be reintroduced to a wide audience after some kind of "rebranding" effort takes place. That's because NS2 is a complex game, and new players shouldn't have to perform esoteric searches to learn about the game's mechanics. And when something as obligatory as good skulk movement requires mechanical input of considerably greater complexity than that required by most first-person shooters, it stands to reason that the mechanic (among others) should be explained to the unfamiliar user by in-game systems which seek to grow individual player skill and awareness.

    With that said: I don't think that features like these should be the top priority at this specific moment in time. The rate of community change is slow enough that less efficient methods of imparting information about the game are still sufficient. They wouldn't be enough if NS2 went F2P and saw an instantaneous multiplying of its player count, but they're enough for now. So I'm pretty much in agreement with you, and your arguments against what you've framed as my "recommended solution #1" are ones I agree with. The paragraph was meant to set those topics aside so that we could consider the humbler but potentially more immediately impactful proposals I made in the second half of my post. I'll respond to your criticisms of those now:
    Nordic wrote: »
    Coaching/mentoring would be unwanted by the majority of rookies. I know this because it already is. Go on any pub server with any amount of rookies and you will have a hard time finding even one that is willing to actually listen to you. These players only play the game for 2 hours and quit forever regardless of any training.

    Several coaching/mentoring initiatives have been attempted by the community in the past. They did not have much of an effect. Admittedly, hey did not have the benefit of being backed by UWE and baked into the game like you are suggesting. I don't think UWE backing would matter. Coaching/mentoring would be unwanted by the majority of rookies. To coach/mentor in NS2 is to act like Sisyphus pushing a rock up a hill every day just for it to roll back down.

    My argument is again one of marginal returns and opportunity cost. I believe this proposed solution, although positive, would have extremely marginal returns on the development time spent on it. Everything done by UWE has highly marginal returns at this point. That is true. I think the opportunity cost of this feature is just too high.

    [...]

    The people who would benefit the most from coaching are more intermediate players who are willing to seek it out already.
    Then one way to frame NS2's entire dilemma is as a question of how to develop the player base such that we can train players of intermediate skill so that these players can later become players of advanced skill and eventually "veterans" (with all that the term implies). You've introduced a good question about when coaching would actually be relevant to a player, and I agree that it's some time after they've learned the most basic mechanics. But I view that concern as a mere optimization problem. Coaching someone ten minutes into the game may not be ideal, but by the time that person is about to level out of the rookie server system, I think there's a strong argument to be made for the value of direct input from more experienced players.

    A lot of this can be solved by making the system opt-in. Taken together, that's actually a good argument for creating a coaching system separate from rookie servers. After all, why limit the benefits of the system to only the players that Hive designates as rookies? As long as the coach-perspective is limited to the player's perspective and has no extra information, there isn't a cheating risk. So give people the ability to flag themselves as willing-to-coach, and then gamify the system so that people can sort through available coaches. As a developer wrote on the trello card: "XP based system with ability to reward other players with an XP bonus once per week... players would get more bonuses to hand out at earlier levels (gamify making people want to help rookies... natural veteran/coaching system)". That's one idea to incentivize the scheme - I'm sure there are others. But the virtue is that the lion's share of the work will be player-powered. It doesn't need to be of value to everyone--it just needs to work well for the people inclined to take advantage of it. And to the extent that some would take advantage of it, particularly if it's nicely baked into the game, I think it would be an effective, pioneering effort.
    Nordic wrote: »
    I think all three of these problems stem from the extreme skill disparity in our little community. NS2's learning curve really isn't really any higher than some very popular games. I have seen many people cite Dota 2 as an example. The rookie servers although imperfect, are better than new players first game being with players like @Wob. Wob, and players like him, destroy me and I am relatively high skill. Comming is always an issue, but it exacerbated by the skill disparity. A rookie commanding rookies is not a big problem. A rookie commanding high skill players is a problem.
    I'm going to disagree with this one. NS2's learning curve is much higher than many popular games, Dota 2 included. The principal reason for this isn't because the game is organized in a more complex or less understandable way than the average game (although it is), but because the game requires a great deal of manual dexterity and twitch ability in addition to its other demands. Developing strong gamesense is one thing, but doing so while getting used to the game's combat conditions is another. NS2 may not be the most difficult competitive FPS to learn, but it's up there, and in the ways it is difficult it is uniquely so.

    Beyond this, much of the game is unintuitive. The realistic win prerequisites are blurry (if the performance of the average pub player is any indication) to say nothing of the win conditions themselves, and the game's underlying tech and lifeform timings are lost on the average player. The post-15 minute alien winrate, for example. Or the fact that a 3-2 alien-rine tech point split isn't a "close game" by any stretch of the imagination (usually). Or the strength of the tunnel comeback mechanism. And so on. Unless the game is completely rebalanced such that it's more or less intuitive in all aspects, player-to-player knowledge transfer is going to remain crucial.

    Comming ranks highly among the other ways that the game is uniquely challenging. In this case, I think it makes even more sense to let non-rookies have a role in rookie servers precisely because comming requires a completely different skillset than field play. It's possible to play the game for hundreds of hours without ever hopping into a chair or hive. By introducing new opportunities for players who may know the game despite being relatively inexperienced at comming to interact with completely fresh players, you create a decent learning opportunity for both groups. The new players pick up the basics more quickly because their commander at least knows what decent timings look like (and can aspire to them), and the commander fills in the gaps in their own comming knowledge/ability.

    So while I think the coaching system we've been discussing has merit even outside of the rookie system (precisely because those players of intermediate skill would benefit from coaching the most, as you've argued), I think that allowing non-rookie comms into rookie servers is an idea with obvious merit. And perhaps this shouldn't only be limited to rookie comms. If an experienced comm decides to offer services to a rookie team, no problem; it's fine as long as the non-rookie comm gets 1) the consent of the team being commanded and 2) cannot get out of the chair to dominate the field. If we define a "rookie server" as the safe environment for practice, then I see no reason to not allow comm practice - in general - there. For one, the community needs far more commanders. And for that to happen, people need the option of practicing in a lower risk environment. You might say that a typical pub game should be considered low risk, and I'd agree with you in principle, but in reality many people have an aversion to feeling like they're wasting their team's time and squandering the enjoyment of their peers. So if the goal is to create a better opportunity for comm practice - and that should be a goal (no scripted tutorial will ever be enough) - then utilizing the rookie server system to accomplish it offers a great cost:benefit ratio.
    Nordic wrote: »
    Imagine the same circumstances NS2 has in basketball (or any sport). Imagine there are 192 basketball players. That is enough for 8 courts, each with large 12 versus 12 games of basketball. 12 players are professional NBA players. 72 players are high school varsity players. 108 players young children. How NS2 currently works is that each of the 8 courts is going to have a random set of players. Any given court might have 2 NBA players, 8 high school varsity players, and 14 young children. How the hell are you supposed to balance games with players like these? NS2 uses the hive skill system to try and make the teams even. NS2 would make two teams of 1 NBA players, 4 high school varsity players, and 7 young children. Sure, teams are "balanced" but the game won't play well, and nobody is really going to enjoy themselves.

    This is exactly what NS2 is like. Hive can not make games with 2 NBA players, 8 high school varsity players, and 14 young children work out much better than it already does. That is not the purpose of hive. Hive is not meant to group similar skilled players into different servers. It only tries to make the best teams out of the players it is given. Hive does pretty well at it's purpose, that is making even skilled teams. Hive does not make near skilled teams.

    Imagine if instead the players were put into servers with near skill players. That would be servers with:

    12 high skill players and 12 veterans, split evenly among the teams.
    24 veterans.
    24 veterans.
    12 veterans and 12 low skill veterans, split evenly among the teams.
    24 rookies.
    24 rookies.
    24 rookies.
    24 rookies.

    Those hypothetical 8 servers would have more enjoyable games on average. Lower skilled players would not be destroyed by higher skill players. Higher skill players would not have to deal with lower skilled players. The learning curve, rookie only servers, and comming would not be very serious problems.

    In my opinion, the true solution would be some sort of magical skill segregated matchmaking like system. Such a system would require many more players than we presently have to work optimally. Although I think the marginal returns would be massive, this solution is not entirely viable. We can not expect to get a massive influx of new players.
    Here we are mostly in agreement. I've discussed the issues with the current balancing mechanics elsewhere, and I share your view of the problem (and the difficulty of solving it). So let me put it this way:

    The only way this game is going to get a significant number of new players is if it goes F2P or adds enough content and balance improvements such that it can justifiably be rebranded and resold as title worthy of the asking price. We have no guarantee that either of those things will happen. But even if they don't, the community needs to grow its midsection. In order for that to happen, we need new ways to transfer knowledge and talent between better players and worse players. In titles with large player bases, what you've described can take place in the natural course of play: because there's a large pool of players to balance from, everyone gets a chance to play with others who are below, at, and above their skill level. Our low population, highly compressed community leaves only room for a vanishingly small group of gamers who completely understand the title and represent the pinnacle of active players, a narrow band of competent players whose hive skill levels are wholly relative (with their hive skill values being dependent on their most-frequented servers), and a significantly larger body of players who range in skill from "incompetent" to "isn't on the bottom of the list, but doesn't really have any clue about how to reliably pursue a win".

    So, since we can't bet on numbers exploding overnight, I think we need to look at options that bring a lot of lasting value. Optimizations and balance changes should come first, of course. But my argument is that the comm/coaching ideas create more productive opportunities for those who would take advantage of them. In the case of the comming suggestion in particular, the change is sorely needed: I'd say that over half of typical pub games are marred by a brutal comm selection process and/or the presence of reluctant and inexperienced comms who take the reins simply because nobody else will. More importantly, though: I think these features would be absolutely critical IF the game did grow in popularity once again. If we limit our consideration of new features to only those which will offer utility to the game's current playerbase, making comm training more accessible is a no-brainer. The coaching idea would require more resources and planning, but I think it would offer comparable utility for the reasons given (namely: helping grow that body of intermediate gamers in order to create some upward momentum in the community).
    Post edited by NousWanderer on
  • NordicNordic Long term camping in Kodiak Join Date: 2012-05-13 Member: 151995Members, NS2 Playtester, NS2 Map Tester, Reinforced - Supporter, Reinforced - Silver, Reinforced - Shadow Posts: 4,728 Advanced user
    edited March 2017
    So while I think the coaching system we've been discussing has merit even outside of the rookie system (precisely because those players of intermediate skill would benefit from coaching the most, as you've argued), I think that allowing non-rookie comms into rookie servers is an idea with obvious merit.

    I do agree they have merit. These features would undoubtedly be a positive addition to the game. Our disagreement is about how much gain would these features bring. I think the gain would be extremely small. I will address each idea on its own.

    Coaching/mentoring players
    I think coaching and mentoring would be an extremely small gain. I think this because in my experience, very few players are interested in being coached/mentored. Those coached/mentored tend to not gain much from the experience. It would be a small pool, drawing from a small pool, drawing from a small pool.

    In hive 2 data between 10/11/2016 and 12/12/2016, there were a total of 37,285 unique players. That is about 601 unique players per 24 hour period.
    Rookies are players less than level 25. 79% of those players were rookies. This is an abnormally high number of rookies because NS2 had two recent sales.
    The average level of players was 18. The median level of players was 8.
    There were 7,826, or about 21% of players, greater than or equal to level 20 and and less than or equal to level 50. That is about 127 players per 24 hour period who are most likely in this intermediate skill area.
    There were 7203, or about 19% of players, with a level greater than 25.

    Assuming you had all 600 unique players online, how many would want to be coached, and how many would be willing to coach? I think it would be an extremely small amount. I will assume 5%, or about 30 players, would want to be coached. I will also assume 2.5%, or about 15 players, would be willing to coach. I think this is a very generous, but very rough, estimate. At most, 5% of players will get any utility out of this feature. I think the majority of the players willing to go as far as requesting a coach would have stayed anyways. I don't see how this would be worth development time ever. I am making a lot of assumptions in my example that are easy to pick apart. My point was to show a plausible scenario. I think a coaching/mentoring system would be perpetually underutilized. Regardless of how much the system is used, I think the gains would be incredibly small for the effort put in by the coaches/mentors and developers.

    I forgot to mention earlier that Planetside 2 has a moderately used community ran coaching/mentoring program based out of their subreddit. It has not been very successful by what I have read.
    Then one way to frame NS2's entire dilemma is as a question of how to develop the player base such that we can train players of intermediate skill so that these players can later become players of advanced skill and eventually "veterans" (with all that the term implies).
    NS2 needs more concurrent players. That is more people playing every night. Those players need to get passed being a rookie and hopefully stick around long enough to be a veteran. The median level of this cohort of players was 8. Most players are lost long before they lose their rookie status. To me this places this shows that there are bigger issues earlier in the players development. I would not find it unreasonable for a game to retain less than 50% of the players that try it. Maybe the focus needs to be on the level 8 to level 30 demographic like you are suggesting. I do not think coaching/mentoring will have much of an affect on concurrent players.

    Non-Rookie Commanders in Rookie only servers
    Allowing non-rookie commanders to command in rookie only servers sounds more worthwhile to me. It has more value. I am not a programmer, so I do not know how long it would take to program this. I am willing to guess it would be easier to implement than a coaching/mentoring system. I am still not convinced this would have enough utility to warrant development time. Who knows? Maybe someday after the NS2 Rebrand, if we even get there.
    Post edited by Nordic on
    From my perspective UWE has been trying to both with what little resources they have given to the game. They don't have an AAA budget, let alone an indie game budget. They have the budget of a game that has been out 6 years. I want to say, don't half ass two things, whole ass one thing. I just don't think they have the resources to do it. Unlike many of the people on the forums, I guess I am just happy they are at least trying even though I may not like what they end up doing.
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