I've been thinking a lot about the progression of Deepworld lately, especially as "dupegate" unfolded this past week. We've wound a long and interesting road together, that much is for certain. Our team started as newbie online developers and we witnessed the growth of an amazing community, from the first screenshot of the day to fantastic current events like Race City. There's a lot to love in this little ecosystem of ours. But it has always felt like there could be more, especially seeing similar-ish games like Growtopia explode in popularity.
What is it that is fun about Deepworld? Personally, I was always most interested in exploration, building, and all the other creative possibilities of our sandbox. In retrospect, I think being a developer and therefore insulated from the "grind" and/or progression system partially blinded me, and perhaps that could be said for many game developers. We often keep things the same because they have a familiar rhythm, not because they make players happy.
With all the complexity of Deepworld, why is it that sitting in a market and haggling (or begging) is the most common activity? I'm sure part of it is due to our low online player count lately, and so market hubs become a natural place to hang out. And hanging out can be fun! But if players are begging instead of playing, it sure seems like something is wrong, because the playing should feel fun and rewarding.
So, I feel like a simple theory may have some truth, or a lot of truth: everything is too rare. We spent all this time and energy making multiple biomes, and yet they only spawn occasionally. We spent effort on devising cool machines and widgets, and they're expensive enough that few players get to experience them. We had beautiful art drawn up for all kinds of items, and they're so rare that duplicating them was the only way for more than a few players to decorate their home with them.
Like the real world, Deepworld has an income inequality problem. It leads to the bad kind of competition, the haughty negative kind. It leads to begging and users spending their time missing out on the real beauty of the game.
So. Should we do something about it? I think we should at least try, because I don't think our current path is very hospitable to most players, and maybe that's why so many people have written us off.
THE THOUGHT EXPERIMENTS
I've been doing some simple thought experiments to figure out how to make things more fun. For example:
How long should you have to play before you have almost everything? 1,000 hours? 10,000 hours?
How many people should have the rarest of items? 1 percent? 1/10th of a percent?
How much can we give away and still make enough money to run the servers? (this is important too XD)
What should we sell in the store, anyway? More decorations and fewer power-ups, as is the current trend in gaming?
I want to hear your opinions on these specifically, along with everything else I've talked about.
I have lots of ideas, and I'm sure you do too. Some of easy to implement, and some are hard. But here are a few that I think we could do soon:
1. Release more non-standard biome worlds in general.
2. Add super loot chests to worlds that announce their location when first unlocked and give loot to anyone for a short period of time. Would this help people tackle dungeons together and help players advance further in the game?
3. Provide more interesting loot more often.
4. Make progression generally easier and quicker. Naturally finding enough onyx to build a full suite of tools and accessories would take ages!
And last but definitely not least:
5. Make more rewards for playing the game, not lucking into the rarest of items. Provide many more interesting achievements for uber players to chase after, and more kinds of awesome in-game status for the ones that do it. These kinds of accolades can't be traded or bought -- only played for, like a pro.
I'm very curious to hear your thoughts. :)