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  • State of the game

    What is The Eternal-City?

    Theme/Setting/Genre: Roman Fantasy Role-Playing Multi-User Dungeon
    Core Gameplay Mechanics: Combat, Non-Combat, Magic, Free-form Emotes, Health-Points, Fatigue, Satiation, Thirst, Encumbrance, Movement, Speech.
    Monetization Model: Free, Trial, Basic, Premium, Micro-transactions.
    Team Positions: Administrator (Sceadu), Coders (Scolve, Pranzor, Tale), Customer Support (Siddhe), StoryGuide (Analog)
    Project Description: The Eternal-City takes place in the City of Iridine and its countryside where players will socialize, go on adventures, hone their skills and crafts, fight alongside or against each others and devise their own plots.

    What sets The Eternal-City apart?

    1) Unmatched real-time strategic combat mechanics.
    2) A very large and immersive gameworld set in the Roman era.
    3) Mandatory Role-Play.
    4) Classless skill system that allows players to craft their own play style and distinct personas.

    Some of the quotes below were directly taken from this book: Developing Online Games, An Insider's Guide, by Jessica Mulligan and Bridgette Patrovsky (2003).

    "[...] designers rarely move into development with a full and clear understanding of just what the player experience will be on a day-in, day-out basis over a long stretch of time."
    The above rings very true for The Eternal-City. The game as it is today has gone through many changes since its inception; some for the better and some for the worst. We should ask ourselves if the game as it is today meets both current and future needs/expectations of its players. Without a clear vision and proper leadership to attain such vision, where will the game ultimately end? Will it stray far off-course or will it simply stagnate and follow a natural course of erosion with its players finding new adventures elsewhere? Having a vision and course of action is the one thing this game cannot go without longer. That is why, I believe, this game direly needs a new team position to open up: Lead Game Designer. In the gaming development world, game designers are the ones who come up with a vision/narrative for its world and sets a course of action for other team members to follow up on. This applies to both mechanics and story elements.

    "You need a visionary who can dream up fantastic gameplay. A visionary who can write and talk like few. A person who is charming, committed; and efficient. A visionary who understands enough technology to include this aspect when he or she creates designs of fantastic worlds and gameplay functionalities. And very important: This person's greatest talent should be the ability to listen. To the development team, to marketing, management, and most important, to the players."
    This is exactly what is needed to help move the game forward; someone who can lead change and create a vision for our game world. Someone who is given the ability to do these things and to see them through. This is where The Eternal-City has failed its players for a very long time. There is no vision and no roadmap to go along with it. All change is done on a whim and is generally reactionary to how those in charge feel at any given time based on the circumstances at hand. Planning is required to succeed and someone needs to be holding a position that allows that person to follow-through with his vision. Communication will be a very important aspect of that position, both within the staffing personnel itself and with the players. The staff will have to dedicate themselves to said vision if they wish to succeed.

    This is what the game really needs the most at this time:

    1) Lead Game Designer and Game Designer(s).
    2) A long-term vision, both in terms of story and content additions.
    3) A road map showcasing where said vision will head.
    4) Viable communication means with game staff.
    5) Dedicated community manager.

  • #2
    Community Manager:

    I cannot stress enough how much communication matters and it has been severely lacking over the years. Changes are often made in the game and there are no actual notes detailing them which should never happen. If something is changed, no matter how it is perceived by the players, it needs to be openly detailed in the Minor Changes thread and be open for discussion in the forums if the players so decide. All players have a voice and without allowing them to utilize it, you are creating an environment that will only breed more toxicity. There have been some recent changes in regards to this with Siddhe taking a proactive role which have been met with what I would consider overwhelming positivity.

    The quotes below come from Zyloh, a Star Citizen community manager:

    Zyloh: "A major part of my job is being able to differentiate between true negative intentions and misplaced passion. I've said this on a few panels in the past, but I'd rather have a community member who is angry, than one who does not care at all. Being angry only means that you care about the game, so I make an effort to find the root of the negativity because there's generally solid feedback buried down there - I just have to dig a bit to get to it."
    Zyloh: "I've had a lot of conversations with people who were frustrated, and these conversations would likely stress out the average person, but I thrive in those situations because I always end up hugging it out and walking away with constructive feedback. I try to always help people gather their thoughts to deliver their frustrations in a way that is actionable, so that we can properly digest and act on player feedback."
    Zyloh: "It doesn't upset me, or stress me out - I welcome all feedback, both positive and negative. We're all geeking out together about a game we've always wanted to play, so I get where a lot of it comes from."
    The above quotes couldn't apply any better than our situation here with this game. Every single person that posts on these forums and plays The Eternal-City has a truly deep love for the game. A lot of us have spent obscene amounts of money and time, through the good and the bad times, and yet we are still here and demanding more. The experience here has the potential to be unmatched by any other games and it is our love for this game that fuels our passion although we will often come across the wrong way. That is not anyone's intention. Zyloh says "A major part of my job is being able to differentiate between true negative intentions and misplaced passion." and it deeply resonates with me both as a player and former staff member. Very few players that I have come across the 20 years I've been around here had true negative intentions when it comes to the game and its staff.

    Another thing that we have to keep in mind is that game developers don't necessarily have the innate ability to participate and engage in conversations with the players. You either have it or you don't, and they shouldn't be expected to do so because that should not be a part of their jobs. It is the community manager's job to gather feedback and engage with the players at large to get a feel of both past, on-going and future changes and to be able to communicate these feelings to the rest of the game's staff. We have in the past few years been kept in the dark and communication has been at an all time low, to the point where the forums were inactive. The forums are a breeding ground for feedback and is an invaluable tool for the game's staff to be able to adjust the course of their action to meet the players/customers' expectations. The current administrator of the game has done a poor job when it comes to communication and the game along with its staff are currently suffering for it. If you expect greater player retention, something has to change.


    • #3
      Who plays the game?

      "(Dr Richard Bartle) noticed certain types of common play behavior in MUDs and made the first attempt to categorize those behaviors. The categories he defined were Achiever, Explorer, Socializer and Killer."
      "1) Achievement within the game context. Players give themselves game-related goals and vigorously set out to achieve them. This usually means accumulating and disposing of large quantities of high-value treasure, or cutting a swathe through hordes."
      "2) Exploration of the game. Players try to find out as much as they can about the virtual world. Although initially this means mapping its topology (breadth), later it advances to experimentation with its physics (depth)."
      "3) Socialization with others. Players use the game's communicative facilities, and apply the role-playing that these engender, as a context in which to converse (and otherwise interact) with their fellow players."
      "4) Imposition upon others. Players use the tools provided by the game to cause distress to (or to help) other players."
      Explorers 30%. Socializers 25%. Killers 22%. Achievers 22%.
      Knowing that these are the main category groups for players, the game's staff can now use this to their advantage when creating new content so that specific groups can be targeted to make their gaming experience better. If you focus solely on one or two groups, the other two will eventually feel left out and their gaming experience will be diminished as a result. When creating content you should ask yourself, "Who does this cater to?" and "What group have we been neglecting?". When using a road map and careful planning you can target the different groups and evolve their gaming experience. Every single group of player will have something to look forward to.

      Player satisfaction is your ultimate goal. Happy players will not only spend more time playing your game, but they will also contribute more as a result. As a game that heavily revolves around social interactions, The Eternal-City needs has many players as possible to thrive. Every single character brings with them unique stories and content that will make the game come alive, but as game staff you must help them as much as possible to reach that status. Players can create their own stories and events, but ultimately those that matter the most and will forge the game's world are the ones YOU create as the game staff. They are the ones that will forever impact the game's world and trickle down into the character's daily lives, effectively creating new avenues of roleplay. Focus on creating content for every single group that was discussed above.


      • #4
        Retention/New Acquisitions

        If you wish to acquire new customers and players, you must focus on their initial experience with your game. There are several things here that NEED to be changed if you wish to acquire these new potential customers. Getting them to visit your site is the most important of all. If your players are satisfied with their gaming experience, chances are that they will vote for your game on the various voting sites and they will also share their feelings on the various social medias (reddit, facebook, forums, etc.).

        Here are some basic acquisition features: 1) Easy to register account, 2) Easy to use interface, 3) Easy to get started, 4) New Player Help, 5) Intuitive Game Play, 6) Rapid Rewards at Beginning, 7) Character Individuality, 8) Many Combat and Trade skills, 9) Up-to-date Website.

        The Eternal-City does offer many of these things, but it could use some work on others. Below I will discuss some of the things that I feel would help in these regards:

        1) Client freedom. As said above, "easy to use interface" signifies just that. Most modern MUDs no longer have their restricted game clients and allow their players to use various clients that have built-in features that greatly alters their gaming experience. Many players will NOT try out your game if it doesn't allow for custom clients. It has become a standard and one TEC should look forward to.

        2) Up-to-date Website. The website is quite frankly pathetic. Our three most recent pieces of News on the front page date back to 1st of July 2018, 7th of June 2018 and 14th of November 2017. Just looking at this a new player will think that the game is dead. We have no road maps and nothing of real interest posted there unless there are events listings. It doesn't even state anywhere that the game is Free-to-play which brings me to my next item of interest.

        3) Free-to-play system. Nowhere is it really listed that the game has a free-to-play mode. Players -have- to actively search to find that information. Furthermore, once a player's free trial period ends, our system is quite convulated and it doesn't make it easy for someone to just login and carry on with their gaming experience. You have to login to Skotos, go back to the game you wish to play and then choose your client. This is a really poor customer experience and should be fixed.

        4) Rewards. The initial experience is quite frankly horrible for a new player. I have just recently made new characters that were not veteran characters and the experience is simply jarring. Without past experience and deep knowledge of the game's mechanics, I was remindered why new players tend to leave before even reaching a few ranks. Combat characters should not start with only one rank in the basics of their weapon. They should start with rank 5 in the basics and rank 3 in several attacks/blocks. The practice dummies should simply be forgotten and we should head straight to Signal Tower Island which brings me to another point. Our best training spot for new characters utilizes game mechanics that are NOT intuitive for new characters. You have to WAIT for a ferry to get to the island and then WAIT to get back once you are done. This is quite problematic and doesn't make the experience any better. Please build a small bridge so that we are able to walk there manually without having to use a ferry. Furthermore, combat characters NEED to go pearl diving to make any sort of coin which is another problem. New characters will likely end up hurt and their gaming experience will be severely lessened. To forego this issue, please create a NPC that will 'watch' Signal Tower Island and reward characters for every kill they perform on the various creatures. The creatures already have a custom death mechanic and it would be hilariously easy to do and would solve many issues.

        Now let's jump to player retention. Here are some basic player retention features: 1) Server Stability, 2) Game Stability, 3) Player-owned housing, 4) Guild/clan features, 5) Advanced Social Features, 6) Regular Guild/Team events, 7) Regular GM ran events, 8) Regular Impromptu Events, 9) Frequent Content Addition, 10) Expansion Packs (large content additions), 11) Player-created content/Events, 12) Game Client Freedom, 13) Staff Communication, 14) A vision along with a roadmap.

        Once again, The Eternal-City does offer quite a few of these retention features, but there are quite a few here that have been lacking lately.

        1) Public Events as a whole have been lacking. In my mind this issue is created because of two things: Lack of Staff and Lack of Vision. We all understand that volunteers have other real life duties, but while I was a part of the game's staff both as a StoryGuide and a GameMaster, we had strict rules where we needed to spend x amount of hours working on the game or host x amount of events. We have very few staff members at the moment and the most concerning to me is that Sceadu recently said that "We aren't looking for additional staff members at the moment" when that clearly is not the case. Let's not forget that many of the current players are actually paying customers and they pay to receive a certain standard of entertainment which is currently lacking.

        2) The Vision thing again. I've discussed this at length earlier and I don't feel there is much more to be discussed. We need true leadership and a real vision for the game if we wish to see it move forward. It has been lacking for a very long time and the game has grown stagnant, leading to players leaving.

        3) Client freedom. As listed in the acquisition features, this is something that will help define a player's experience and make them want to stay. Quality of life features -are- important and should not be taken lightly.


        • #5

          "In the end, an online game is really just a mechanism to allow players to socialize in a context. [...] being with friends and associates online is more important than the game itself, or at least equally important. If both elements aren't present, the player really has no reason to stick around."
          "Team-based events and quests. ...if your game includes a mechanism to provide dynamic quest/mission generation and/or adventures, don't neglect to build in parameters and rewards that provide clear benefits to those who successfully perform them collectively."
          The Eternal-City is a social game and while we are an aging playerbase everything should be done to target this particular aspect. There have been several changes/additions made to the game over the years which have had real impacts on socialization. The game's world has gotten bigger, but the population has not which proves to be quite problematic. The game's player density is very low and while playing a newer character I have definitely seen this first hand. Future game planning should keep a few things in mind:

          1) A lot of players have less time to devote to playing games since we are all aging and a lot of us now have children or families to take care of.

          2) The time it takes to train skills every cycle is fairly high, especially if you have no rollover. This does not make it ideal for socializing. While sparring could've been seen as problematic, you would at the very least meet with other people and some times have a chat. It made players congregate in very specific spots which made player density higher and was a good thing.

          3) Overall changes need to be made to help with player density and without proper acquisition of new players and retention of older players, it will be hard to keep a desired player density.

          4) All of my favorite memories in The Eternal-City have been when I was out on adventures or events with fellow players. Make it easier for us to group up together. Make it so we are able to spend less time waiting to get to our destinations. Generally speaking, everything needs to be faster because we have less time on our hands.

          5) Host events for guilds/organizations. Spend time working on things for them to make their experiences better. Doing things for groups will require time investment, but will make a very large amount of people happy at the same time and have a high impact on their enjoyment of the game.


          • #6

            "The thing is that people want to express themselves and they don't really care that 99% of everything is crap, because they are positive that the 1% they made isn't. Okay? And fundamentally, they get ecstatic as soon as five people see it, right?"
            "To put it another way, linear stories can be a good thing in a standalone game, but it is never a good idea in an online game, if that's all you have. There is also the issue of self-expression which many online designers ignore or forget."
            "Designers also have the mistaken impression that they have to tell a story and guide the ignorant and silly player through it step by step to a logical conclusion. Few players want a linear story, and even fewer of them want you, as the designer, to tell the entire story; what they want you to do is give them an environment within which to act: set the stage, provide the props, speak the first paragraph, and then sit back and watch while they provide the middle and end of the tale."
            "[...]players are there to create their own legends and tell their own stories, both as individuals and as part of group; they are there to interact with the world, not solely to have the world act upon them. It doesn't make a lot of sense to spend inordinate amounts of time and resources building tools to allow the designers to tell an ongoing but hermetic story after launch, when what many players want are the tools to create and tell their own stories."
            "Note that prodividing a background story, the history of events, politics, diplomacy, and so on in your world to date is an absolute must, if only to assist the player in suspending disbelief and deriving more entertainment value from your game. There is also nothing wrong with providing ongoing events and situations that the players can pick up on and run with. This involves some work and resources on your end, but can be hugely popular with the players, provided they are "winnable".
            These quotes all perfectly sum up what has been missing from The Eternal-City with Japes' and Jenn's departures. They helped to shape the world that we played in and allowed us the freedom to participate and change the outcomes. Even in-between events players would discuss and attempt to affect the outcome. It created an entirely new world dynamic and something that I truly miss even to this day. Conflict is required to help us define who our characters are through their actions and form deeper bonds/rivalries with others.

            Find a way to end the everlasting war with Cinera and start up a newer and more interesting political plot which will involve new faces played by current and future staff members. It is past time that some of the old story NPCs are retired and it will make it easier for staff members to start fresh.

            We have a very interesting world with lots of lore and history, but very few of it is being utilized right now to drive stories. The Steps, Quartz Heights and The Tip all cater toward different social groups within the main city and could be used to create socio-political conflicts that would directly impact the players. We could have the entire game world fleshed out, but without story happening it just ends up being a waste of space with shops to visit every now and then when you need something very specific.


            • #7

              "[...] the "happening" places are widely scattered and hard to reach except through many minutes of boring travel, you're just wasting server space and the player's time."
              "On the whole, however, less is more, if it is well designed. If you are careful not to waste the player's time with meaningless yet required travel or actions, you'll have a much better chance of turning out a flexible, interesting content set."
              I will not be teaching anyone anything when I say that time is precious especially when it comes to our busy modern lives. For most of us, gaming is a way to pass time; to entertain ourselves and escape monotony. We always attempt to strike a balance between the amount of fun received and the amount of time we have. This is where game design becomes very important because needless lengthy travel time will make certain areas uninteresting for the better part of the player base.

              This problem becomes especially problematic when you factor in player density. What does the player want the most? For some, it may be making money, earning skill points or socializing, but what happens when you want all of it? You will be forced to make a decision and neglect some of your primary interests. At the end of the day, I feel that the social aspect is the greatest victim of it all. Driving players far away from the main social hub (the city of Iridine) to earn money is the main culprit. It divides our playerbase and changes this city from a bustling center to a downright ghost town at times.

              Our space is far too large and our content is spread out all over a gigantic map. Every single space has content that is unique to that specific area and will drive certain traffic because of that uniqueness, but with our current player base size it becomes quite problematic. More focus should be placed on the city of Iridine so that players will want to stick around and spend more time within the city walls to create more interactions. If the player base's size grows significantly, then the focus could be put elsewhere, but until such a time arrives, it would be best to focus on the main goal: creating as many social interactions as possible.

              "..if something in the game doesn't serve a planned, useful purpose as either an advantage or disadvantage to the player, it isn't content."
              The message here is quite simple: if you venture to an area once and explore, it is an adventure. Once the adventure is over, will you head over to that area again? Only if there is something that is either rewarding, very fun for you or that you desire deeply. If it isn't advantageous to you, why would you waste any of your time going there? There are many areas and hunting grounds that have fallen prey and have become poor content over the years because there are better places now to achieve what these used to.

              Let's take for example the alleys near the Stone Toga Inn. Even with very low monetary rewards, characters of all skill levels used to meet and hang out at the two intersections. At some point a change was made so that the skill level of the thugs and brutes matched that of the characters visiting the area. This effectively made it so that lower level characters could no longer participate and have fun without getting banged up really quickly. This also made it so that higher skill level characters no longer had as much fun fighting the thugs and brutes because they no longer had as much ease to hit them. It was fun as a social and combat hunting ground. Characters often shared stories in-between fights. Characters had fun with their ease of fighting and demolishing the NPCs. The money didn't matter. We had an amazing time and the low level characters could make a little bit of money. Nowadays the area is usually devoid of characters. Poor game design killed this hunting ground and it is a shame because it was a great experience that is still unmatched for me to this day.


              • #8
                Player-Created Content:

                "If you have depth and breadth in the design that allow players to have an impact on the world, you'll find players will be more than happy to create their own content. Player-created content does not mean giving them tools to build anything they want. ... What player-created content does mean, however, is giving the players access to tools that can be used to enhance their own gameplay and socializing online."
                These tools would give the ability to:
                1) Change the physical landscape within certain rules.
                2) Change the political landscape.
                3) Change the economical landscape.
                4) Change the social landscape.

                "These capabilities allow the player/character to become involved in the larger game world, beyong the strictly personal activities of combat, trade, exploration, and so on. These kinds of functions are not that difficult to plan, execute, and test, but many current games are missing them. These are the tools that allow the players to have a "game within the game". Be prepared to see players playing the game in ways you never expected or intended."
                The Eternal-City is one of the games that are currently missing these features and for a game that is so heavily focused on mandatory role-play it severely diminishes the depth of the role-play available. In terms of player-created content, the game as it is, is pretty much still the same as it was back in the early 2000s because it is not supported or rewarded by the game's staff in any fashion anymore.

                However, players were allowed to help build the gameworld twice and it was a success. Players built the Blackvine Road and the Blackvine Wall. It had a direct impact on the gameworld and gave many characters goals to achieve. More initiatives of this sort should be given to the players.

                Players could also participate actively in the political, social and economical landscape to help craft Iridine into something greater than it currently is. Having to vote and pronounce themselves, having the ability to participate in the social class system and even owning player-created shops selling goods. These are just small examples, but there are thousands that could be thrown out there. They are the things that allow players to craft memorable experiences and involve themselves with their hearts and souls into the gameworld.

                Furthermore, such things will breed more interactivity which will inevitably lead to more things happening in the gameworld and will help the players craft their character's persona. Socialization will grow exponentially and the game will feel alive once more. They will have goals to look forward to and they will know that they belong in the gameworld and will have the ability to leave their mark. We all play this game because of the things we can't do in all of those other commerical games. Here we can socialize and pretend to be someone else for a little while; help us to be that someone.

                Further Game Development issues:

                "The neat stuff syndrome occurs most often after the game design documents are completed and development has begun. It starts when someone on the team says, "Hey, wouldn't it be neat if..." and goes on to expound on some feature or mechanic the team didn't think of during design meetings. If this happened only every once in a while, it wouldn't be an overwhelming problem; however, with developers being creative types, it happens a lot."
                "This is a major contributor to "feature creep", the tendency of software designers to keep adding features under the rationalization that new features are needed or will enhance the finished design. The problem is that adding features adds moving parts to an already complex mechanism and usually occurs without full thought being given to the ramifications on the design, individual features, and game mechanics."
                I don't have much to add to these two quotes here because quite frankly they perfectly sum up the current trend that the game's staff does things. There is no vision, no actual design documents being made and all of the changes are done on a day-by-day basis where a specific staff just ends up thinking "This could be spruced up!". We haven't had any real large scale revamps or systems being created in a very long while. We always end up getting some pieces of the puzzle here and there to show up in a random fashion, but there are always some pieces missing and the puzzle will never be completed properly. This systematic failure needs to stop. The game is being hampered by this poor rationale.


                • #9
                  Warning: I have three posts that aren't showing because of the spam bot and they have not been approved yet. If you wish to see the full version, it can be seen here:


                  UPDATE: Until my posts are approved, here are the missing sections, in between the "Community Manager" and "Storytelling" sections: "Who Plays The Game", "Retention/New Acquisitions" and "Socialization" which can all be read on the Wiki. My apologies for triggering the spam bot feature.
                  Last edited by TEC_Ghuan; 04-06-2019, 10:08 AM. Reason: Requires GM approval


                  • #10
                    Thank you for the well-thought and comprehensive posts, Ghuan. Hopefully we can get some feedback on them from other players and maybe even staff. I copied this and another post into a google doc as well.
                    Originally posted by Arconn9
                    First time I used Sabinus today, since my old main got Cuttongued. So was the IC event for his change; was it him getting hit in the head repeatedly by someone? Because I think he's a retard now.


                    • #11
                      That was well though out and comprehensive and I agree 100%.


                      • #12
                        Really excellent post. I appreciate how well sourced and clear your points are. Excellent job.


                        • #13
                          What is trying to be achieved here?
                          Tale responds from afar, "Decided to give out t-shirts to all the people I murder. Three so far. This way you can all say, "Tale murdered me! .....and all I got was this stupid t-shirt!!""


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Felisin View Post
                            What is trying to be achieved here?
                            Siddhe recently asked for player feedback and what their wishes were for TEC. This thread is my answer to her call. They can heed my advice or simply ignore it, but my one and only wish for TEC is to see it flourish once more and these are some of the things that I see as wrong with the game that could improve the player experience. As said in the original post, a lot of the quotes come from an actual published book that details online game development. If it can help them re-focus and work on what the players want and need, it will have served my one and only goal. I wanted to discuss these things directly with Sceadu, but a request made back in December was met with no response, so I have decided to bring this here for discussion. There are no ulterior motives on my end.


                            • #15
                              so... your response to a thread designed to make it easy to find the answer, is to post a new thread, with multiple posts, instead of doing it all in one under the CODE key, that'd allow you to put it all in one post, and allow people to scroll through it at their leisure.  How about you delete this entire thread, and put it in the right place, use the code function, and do it in a single post.  That way it's on topic, and not looking like someone just doing what you're doing. It's the hashtag button by the way.