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The release of Alpha 24 and the recent announcements about AOE 4.


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Hello. First off, this isn't an Alpha 24 bashing, I think everyone has had their say on the actual aspects of the game they like or don't like, myself included. :) I think getting A24 out into world was an achievement in of itself, and the technical discussions will be ongoing, so no mention of that here, other than a final pat on the back from me to all who made it possible. 

What I'd like to talk about, somewhat after the event in terms of the A24 release, but perhaps relevant given the pending release of Age of Empires 4, and the recent announcements made about it. 

So, to frame this historically, in Sept last year, when it was becoming clear that A24 wouldn't be released in 2020 as originally hoped - there were a lot of negative criticisms being thrown around, and in among a thread on the subject I posted this;

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If I've understood the current situation right, latter 2020 (i.e. right about now) is the date that was previously sort of tentatively touted as the intended A24 release. There has been some muted hype about it, and as a result - right now, there is a sense of expectation, and probably reading this thread and seeing the kinds of challenges still present in terms of getting A24 out into the wild, you're going to see a bit of collective disappointment. That has happened, and you're right, announcing that in Social Media now - probably not a positive thing to do. 

I reckon the only way you could still maximise the release of A24 is if you utilise a PR strategy in conjunction with the release.

Pick a time in the future, a decent timescale, say June/July/August - maybe even a Sept (a whole year from now) - basically a timescale that even the most overworked, time-starved volunteer dev could reasonably turn around and say, 'yes, even with what is outstanding, that is more than enough time to finish and make A24 ready for release.' And then you build a PR/Social Media/Video content strategy around it - all leading up to that release. Aim to build as much positive engagement and most importantly, momentum, to that release date. Make it become a seismic event with huge anticipation. 0AD is a niche game, in a niche genre. But the genre is a pretty big niche, and I see 0AD as a something of a 'sleeping giant' within it. I'd love to wake it up! With the foundations already in place, the community you have already got fully engaged and actively playing their part, there is potential to really move the needle. Don't trade forever on the 1m downloads of Sourceforge claim or look at the A23 trailer on Youtube having had over quarter of a million views, that's the past. There is plenty of time, there is a great existing community, 0AD could be something really significant, and a strategic release of A24 could be the transform the narrative from an unfortunate delay in 2020 to an epic triumph in mid 2021. Just a thought :) 

 

Now, as we all know, the approach I suggest wasn't adopted, Alpha 24 got dropped, in my opinion, somewhat unceremoniously on the population on what felt like something of a whim, catching a lot of people out with the suddenness of it's appearance. PR was limited to a few hinting messages the week before advising that a release date would be given soon, followed by the actual release (no actual pre-announement), accompanied by a hastily cut together trailer on youtube and social media announcements that the game was out. And that was it, any sense of build up to the release was completely sacrificed, as was any ability to frame the context of the release or pre-empt any of the criticism (fair or otherwise) that followed about the game itself.

In strategic PR and community engagement terms, I personally believe it was a massively missed opportunity. Not least because the game that 0AD effectively spawned forth from, is also about to release it's much delayed fourth iteration. It also was slated for 2020 release, but probably hit the buffers last due to the Covid situation. There has also been fan criticism about lack of information as to when it would finally appear, but lo and behold, this has dropped;

Now, you can bet, with actual money at stake, this game will be hyped to the ultimate degree and that PR campaign will not be cheap, but come the release there will be a massive buzz around it. 

My point here is, A24 was ready first. By a considerable margin. And the approach I advocated could have been done on a zero budget. As it was, just by virtue of the reach 0AD has and the established player base, it did make a ripple when it was released, but it was in my opinion a fraction of what could have been achieved with just a small amount of strategic planning. The hype that was generated is rapidly dying down, and this will be completely drowned out now by the noise created by the release of it's bigger, commercial cousin. In short, an opportunity to really boost the fanbase of this great, free game that is available now and to get in before the release of it's major competitor, has been entirely lost. 

Now, I'm not saying this is the end of 0AD, I'm certain things will continue as they pretty much always have, but this was an opportunity to truly boost the community and player base in a really meaningful way. How many new players, new potential developers, new modders, new everything, could it have attracted to the community? And it was an obvious opportunity from as far back as Sept last year. In the following 8 or so months, all it would have required was a monthly bit of social media engagement, setting a date - even if it wasn't clear that A24 was going to be ready until the last minute, it wouldn't have hurt to have given it an extra fortnight for pre-promotional hype, and a pre-release trailer. The community would have done the rest and a proper sense of excitement could have been generated and spread far and wide. In short, to give a footballing analogy, it was an open goal, missed from two yards out! 

I know this will split opinion a bit, and yes, I know this is a volunteer project - we are all aware and thankful to those that actually make the game possible. In my quoted post I addressed turning what on the face of it looked like a disappointing delay into a triumphant release. It was the kind of situation that a small indie game in the 21st century, in the most competitive landscape there has ever been, could not afford to miss. I'd love to know why it had to go down the way it did? 

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In my opinion it is necessary to have at least two volunteers with free access to social networks, publishing at least weekly with announcements of news for the new alpha and events in the communities / mods launched or under development etc. The important thing is to demonstrate that the game is alive and moving forward. I believe that on youtube we are well represented, maybe the official youtube account can be used more than just for announcements of new alphas, maybe something similar to what exists in the elenda est, short videos about news and new civilizations.

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11 minutes ago, Lopess said:

The important thing is to demonstrate that the game is alive and moving forward

It sure does not help that the main homepage has sections that have not been updated since presumably 2012

"Unit formations: Arrange your units in historical battle formations from the Phalanx to the Testudo and gain bonuses, such as increased armor. However, beware the costs that may come with them, such as lower speed! (As of August 2012, this feature has not been implemented yet.)"

https://play0ad.com/game-info/features/

 

But yes even something like a weekly re-post of a nice screenshot from the forum to the relevant social media platforms would be good.

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Posted (edited)

 

1 hour ago, Lion.Kanzen said:

 We set up different target to different audiences , We focus on a world in which they have abandoned, Therefore we are not a direct competition of the saga, and more if we seek to differentiate ourselves  we are mutually exclusive

Apologies, that makes no sense to me whatsoever. The belief that 0AD is somehow detached from the rest of the RTS playing world or the gaming world in general is completely absurd. You are vying for new players and new interest in the project just like any other 'game'.  Yes, there are differences, and you are specifically targeting a small niche that will always gravitate to 0AD, but beyond that is a wider player base - they exist, they could potentially be happy to play 0AD, or at least give it a try. It's easy to speak to the converted, it takes a bit more effort to speak to the rest of the world.

Edited by mysticjim
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3 minutes ago, mysticjim said:

 

Apologies, that makes no sense to be me whatsoever. The belief that 0AD is somehow detached from the rest of the RTS playing world or the gaming world in general is completely absurd. You are vying for new players and new interest in the project just like any other 'game'.  Yes, there are differences, and you are specifically targeting a small niche that will always gravitate to 0AD, but beyond that is a wider player base - they exist, they could potentially be happy to play 0AD, or at least give it a try. It's easy to speak to the converted, it takes a bit more effort to speak to the rest of the world.

I have already told others about 0 AD.

In fact it had an active page in Spanish.

I am not saying that it is completely apart from the rest of RTS. But it has its unique things that appeal to specific players.

What set you in the ancient world and is historically stricter than AoE  visually, makes it striking, without saying that it is made for different platforms such as Mac OSX and linux, besides being free, and easy to modify.

The only thing missing is that we have updates like seasons  with the balance.

 

They always ask me if it is in alpha, yesterday I contacted a gamer influencer.

Screenshot_20210321-081615.png.2cfab4c4cbe5773e638426b220d90c30.png

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Quote

They always ask me if it is in alpha, yesterday I contacted a gamer influencer.

That is my point - 'yesterday.' Not in the days, weeks, months leading up to the major event, i.e. the actual release of the new alpha. Not in any co-ordinated, strategic way. 

I get that you're doing something different with the game, and we all appreciate that, and how it does cater very specifically to a niche group, and certainly - it occupies a unique place. And I commend you massively for the achievement of making it such, that is something I would never want to diss you for. :) 

But I still feel there was a clear opportunity missed to give the game a massive amount of exposure without compromising any of your core principles. It was a freebie. I guess I'm suggesting that the game needs a better PR strategy, and that it needs to much more closely entwined with the development and releases of the game to produce a co-ordinated, slicker and much more professional approach. All games need new blood to survive, otherwise they stagnate and never truly reach their potential. And I see 0AD as having lots of untapped potential, but you've got to play the PR game a lot smarter than it's previously been done. 

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I would like to see a standard PR release schedule designed and layed out for all upcoming releases to use. A roadmap, as it were, for the team's volunteer PR dudes and dudettes to follow. Make it easy on people. Just follow this roadmap (with your own twist on it) every time. I know the game release has a roadmap already, but a specifically PR roadmap I don't think exists. Y'all have an opportunity to develop that right now, in a nice easy Outline format. There are months to go before A25 is ready.

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10 minutes ago, wowgetoffyourcellphone said:

I would like to see a standard PR release schedule designed and layed out for all upcoming releases to use. A roadmap, as it were, for the team's volunteer PR dudes and dudettes to follow. Make it easy on people. Just follow this roadmap (with your own twist on it) every time. I know the game release has a roadmap already, but a specifically PR roadmap I don't think exists. Y'all have an opportunity to develop that right now, in a nice easy Outline format. There are months to go before A25 is ready.

I totally second that. And 0AD is a strategy game after all, we should be masters at this! :) 

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But to stay on topic, while Stan is on vacation, maybe @Sundiatacould shine some light on the topic and explain if there is a official PR strategy / policy about promoting the next alpha before its release.

I would guess the reason why A24 was not more promoted, is that the team was busy with development and no one had spare time to do it?

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57 minutes ago, maroder said:

I would guess the reason why A24 was not more promoted, is that the team was busy with development and no one had spare time to do it?

There's basically three reasons:

  • we don't have the time. Remember that nobody is doing this full time, nor is making any money off it.
  • none of us particularly want to do it ('cause we're mostly developers)
  • to call the A24 chaotic is a massive understatement. The release was nothing short of a miracle. I don't think we actually wanted to communicate too much, in case it ended up being completely buggy or unbalanced for some reason.

Yes, communication could have been better with some more planning, and we certainly could use more help. But I think you're mistaken if you think 0 A.D. has even a remote chance to stand against the Age of Empires PR machine. Even Age 2 is much, much bigger than 0 A.D. is. We benefit because more people play RTS games, but we lose some because people prefer those games.

0 A.D. is also still quite laggy, and needs a fair few improvements before I think it's ready for a more mainstream audience. I would push towards dropping the 'alpha' from the name, but that doesn't mean it's quite ready.

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thanks for the explanation :)

53 minutes ago, wraitii said:
  • we don't have the time. Remember that nobody is doing this full time, nor is making any money off it.
  • none of us particularly want to do it ('cause we're mostly developers)

And yes, my statement was not meant to be accusing, that is exactly what I thought was the reason :D

It is is good that the developers are developing and the players are playing, if they would do something different it would be a waste of resources.

The only thing that is missing for 0ad are influencers that influence @mysticjim?

1 hour ago, wraitii said:

But I think you're mistaken if you think 0 A.D. has even a remote chance to stand against the Age of Empires PR machine

sad but probably true. But the goal does not have to be to be as big as AoE, but to attract new player and maybe also new contributors to the project.

 

1 hour ago, wraitii said:

0 A.D. is also still quite laggy, and needs a fair few improvements before I think it's ready for a more mainstream audience. I would push towards dropping the 'alpha' from the name, but that doesn't mean it's quite ready.

Fair point. I personally think A27 would be good to switch to beta. Then the alphabet is completed.

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@wraitii - I totally hear what you're saying. No, I don't believe 0AD with it's limited resources can compete on an even level with a commercial juggernaut that is any iteration of AOE, and for sure, I can see that the dev cycle of A24 was cruel on it's devs. And as I said at the start of this thread, this ain't an A24 bashing. 

But 0AD does have a long pedigree, you only have to Google it to see it's not some lone indie dev working on a vanity project, it has made a relative impact. And 0AD has one huge asset, it's community. Devs do dev work and they don't get paid, but a far greater number of people play the game, and of those who are very enthusiatic about it write about the game and produce content relating to the game in order to push it further (I do however, refuse to use the term 'influencer!). They also don't get paid. But they'd really appreciate just a little more joined up communication between the two areas. I don't think @wowgetoffyourcellphone's suggestion of a PR/Strategy road map is out of the question. I don't think it would cost anything save the time of the volunteers who take it on (not unlike the devs). And if the people who do the dev work want no part of it, that does not mean it shouldn't happen. It appears there are a number of people who would be very interested in being involved. I'm going to leave this reply with a quote. I'm pretty sure currently one or the other definitely applies to 0AD's community engagement and communication in general, I'm just not sure which;

quote-strategy-without-tactics-is-the-sl

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9 hours ago, mysticjim said:

But 0AD does have a long pedigree, you only have to Google it to see it's not some lone indie dev working on a vanity project, it has made a relative impact.

That is true and false. 0 A.D. is the product of over 20 years of work, and has the advantage that it won't die when the maker company drops support, since there's no maker company. Our 'budget' to make the game is theoretically infinite, and in 100 years hopefully it'll become the absolute best game of all time, no questions asked.
But it also means our priorities aren't quite the same as most other games. Short term marketing has little value when we'll still be here in 5 years and players might have moved on. That doesn't mean we don't want it, but time is limited and priorities shift.

----

Anyways, I agree. I do think we could make better use of our social media, and I think we could communicate with content creators etc. better (and I am hearing you-as-a-content-creator specifically). Truthfully, 0 A.D. having an actual 'community' is not that old a thing, and A23 has definitely been on a different level than before with the mod support and all. It sounds a bit weird, but we kinda weren't ready for it.

Having a list of content creators to reach out to about releases would be great, and I think it's something that ought to be looked at for the A25 release, which hopefully will be more orderly.

The social media itself is trickier. It's not so easy to do since you need to be fairly involved in the community / dev possibly, and it takes time. I don't think we have had too many candidates in the past, but perhaps we've also not been asking all too well.

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11 hours ago, wraitii said:

That is true and false. 0 A.D. is the product of over 20 years of work, and has the advantage that it won't die when the maker company drops support, since there's no maker company. Our 'budget' to make the game is theoretically infinite, and in 100 years hopefully it'll become the absolute best game of all time, no questions asked.
But it also means our priorities aren't quite the same as most other games. Short term marketing has little value when we'll still be here in 5 years and players might have moved on. That doesn't mean we don't want it, but time is limited and priorities shift.

----

Anyways, I agree. I do think we could make better use of our social media, and I think we could communicate with content creators etc. better (and I am hearing you-as-a-content-creator specifically). Truthfully, 0 A.D. having an actual 'community' is not that old a thing, and A23 has definitely been on a different level than before with the mod support and all. It sounds a bit weird, but we kinda weren't ready for it.

Having a list of content creators to reach out to about releases would be great, and I think it's something that ought to be looked at for the A25 release, which hopefully will be more orderly.

The social media itself is trickier. It's not so easy to do since you need to be fairly involved in the community / dev possibly, and it takes time. I don't think we have had too many candidates in the past, but perhaps we've also not been asking all too well.

@wraitii- it's very interesting and really positive to hear that from you. It does sound a bit weird as I only started playing 0AD not long after A23 was launched, so I guess I've not really known any different - but glad to know that you've perceived a growth and strengthening in the community. 

I think part of the issue is that there has been a really unfortunate disconnect between the dev side of things and the wider community. For instance, just in the course of this thread it's emerged just how much of a crunch/struggle there was to bring out A24 - I honestly can't imagine what it's been like since the launch with some of the criticism thats thrown your way after the launch after all that. If we can find a way to bridge that gap in the first instance, I think there will be a lot more understanding and cohesion. 

A list of content creators would help, for sure. And certainly a lot more engagement in the run up to the release of A25 would definitely be helpful. For example, just in case timescales slip, there would be better means to manage expectation, but mainly - a new release is an achievement and it should really be framed as such. A24 dropped without much fanfare, to a fair bit of confusion, and there was a higher degree of backlash that there really ought not to have been. A new release should, in my opinion, be a positive celebration of the hard work that's gone into getting the project to that milestone. 

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16 minutes ago, mysticjim said:

A24 dropped without much fanfare, to a fair bit of confusion, and there was a higher degree of backlash that there really ought not to have been. A new release should, in my opinion, be a positive celebration of the hard work that's gone into getting the project to that milestone. 

A24 dropped just like every other 0ad alpha release. People just got too used to the status quo, not understanding this is an alpha. 

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Just now, wowgetoffyourcellphone said:

A24 dropped just like every other 0ad alpha release. People just got too used to the status quo, not understanding this is an alpha. 

or people greatly overestimate the Alpha state. Or new generations already do not know what an state Alpha is.

 

I've heard people claiming to test 0 AD until I get out of the Alpha State.

Just as we have heard people complain about an Alpha as if it were a triple A and how it was a definitive game (1.0 v)

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Slight aside, here, but do think part of the problem is the connotations attached to the word 'Alpha?' I know we're getting into semantics here, but if the wider world don't understand the concept of an Alpha state, and it's become a stick to beat the project with, maybe going off-piste and labeling it something else might be an option? 

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From a player POV i would say the alpha tag is still proper though. But it's a very playable alpha. And once the performance enhances and runs smoother than it does now when there are alot of units, i would say thats when you should switch to beta and start hyping things up (first impression matters). Because from a player POV that's what you would probably expect from it- a semi smooth experience. Recently i invited someone to play 0 A.D., after a few games he said he liked 0 A.D. but was put off by the lagg and would come back if this was fixed. This in turn also shows that the community really loves the game if they keep playing it regardless.

I also think that alpha and beta increasingly lost their meaning over the past 5 or so years because of big companies. 'Early access' tag is part of the problem and is much more familiar these days. It semi replaced beta and alpha (and is now more of an excuse to sell a game that isnt finished yet).

Edited by Grapjas
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"Alpha" is supposed to convey an 'unfinished' state. While Beta is supposed to convey a 'mostly finished' state suitable for final testing. It really doesn't help matters that there are WFG devs who disagree with even this very simple distinction. So, the messaging is muddled, but I personally think the term "alpha" is very appropriate. I considered a more modern term like "early access", but what kinds of connotations does that term convey?

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At some point we will have to call  them seasons,  you know with this Z-gen trendy of generation z.

 

Another important thing is that YouTube now has very short videos.

We could have video of the best players teaching them how to use or micromanage a unit.

 

One of my favs in mobile is a pay to win Clash Royale.

So check this.

https://youtube.com/shorts/iOPnXJs37D4

Or this all uses of a unit.

 

 

 

(I have a hard time being certain tricks with that ice unit).

 

 

 

Edited by Lion.Kanzen
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