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


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6 hours ago, Grapjas said:

I also think that alpha and beta increasingly lost their meaning over the past 5 or so years because of big companies

very true. The best example is probably Fortnite, where they call they call it "Season" when they bring out a new beta and add more stuff
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortnite_Battle_Royale#Seasonal_changes

 

10 hours ago, wowgetoffyourcellphone said:

A24 dropped just like every other 0ad alpha release

Yes and I think this was the problem, after a pause of ~2.5 years. After such a long time the regular player got very attached to A23 and a little more preparation and communication could have saved some of the negative comments aka "what have you done to my civ" ect.

But the whole: is it an alpha? discussion is sidetracking the original topic.

This is my point of view:

  • 0ad has a decent sized player base, who don't closely follow the development process and are caught off guard when something new happens.
  • In order to keep the project alive for many years to come, it is important to continuously reach out to the public and new players, as some of them may choose to contribute to it.
  • Getting more people involved is of course more work, but division of labor takes the pressure of of individual people, which would be positive in my eyes. (See Stans vacation announcement)

The key to reach that is , again from my point of view, a better communication strategy, not only in the forums, but also to the public over social media or other outreach opportunities. I can completely understand if the devs don't have the time and don't want to prepare a public announcement for everything they do, so I think this would be a good opportunity to get the people from the community more involved. Maybe something  similar to the Council of Modders. The "Council of PR" for example (maybe with a better name) :D

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12 hours ago, mysticjim said:

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've been around for 11 years at this point, and I'm not even the 'oldest member' in this thread. I remember a time where the game didn't have walls or technologies or trade. I certainly remember a time where it didn't have an active multiplayer lobby :) 

----

I won't go too much in the Alpha debate, but what I think is:

  • The game certainly wouldn't be releasable as a paying, finished product tomorrow. Mostly because of the lag, also because of the very limited SP. That makes calling it an 'alpha' fairly logical.
  • Conversely, it's also very playable (e.g. in 1v1 MP), and it's largely feature complete - or at least there are enough features. That makes the 'alpha' moniker weird, particularly if you compare with e.g. alpha 10 - now that wasn't playable whatsoever.

The 'disconnect' I see is that we have a user base, in MP, that nowadays has expectations about the game - expectations we didn't expect having to meet. The dev team can call this an alpha all it wants, it has a player base that treats it like a released game. This is really the reason why I would drop the 'alpha' from the name.

There is also a 'historical' reason, which most of you won't necessarily know. The idea, for a very long time, has been to actually release a "Version 1" of the game at some point - a finished product. This was the idea from the start, including after the open-sourcing in 2009. And for the early years of the 2010's, it was still the idea - there was a fundraiser in 2013 hoping to 'finish the game', and more talk of leaving alpha than I'd care to recall. In that context, we're still in 'alpha' or 'beta' at best.
However, I think those were a bit fool's hopes, looking back on it. I think we are (and perhaps always were) in a 'perpetual beta / seasons' release model. The game won't ever be 'finished', because the distinction makes no sense -> we already have players, so in that respect it's already finished.

I wouldn't even call it early access, which also implies a 'finished' product. No, we're just releasing incrementally more complete versions of the game, but there won't ever be a point where we can say 'now it's done'.

1 hour ago, maroder said:

Yes and I think this was the problem, after a pause of ~2.5 years. After such a long time the regular player got very attached to A23 and a little more preparation and communication could have saved some of the negative comments aka "what have you done to my civ" ect.

You might be right, but in truth we always would get some of these comments. People have strong opinions about their video games, and there is basically no chance that we'd get 100% approval from our players.

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2 hours ago, maroder said:

similar to the Council of Modders. The "Council of PR" for example (maybe with a better name) :D

Incorrect terminology. In real life, there should be about 50 programmers per PR manager. Then he is constantly loaded with tasks to present the results of the work to the public.
There is no such flow of resources and content in the game. Only the "Council of content creators" can be discussed. That is, people who independently create public content where the game is only an auxiliary tool.
This Council sounds logical. If most people who constantly create content about the game do not like the word "Alpha" - why not change the name

Edited by nwtour
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It'd be nice if there was some form of team of pr team indeed. But even most people right here on the forum have barely any clue on what is really being changed. For this you would either need to visit trac.wildfiregames.com or visit IRC dev-chat daily. People ingame that dont visit the forums even more so have no clue at all what to expect, and imo as a QoL you shouldnt need to go to a forum to see what is being done.

It would be nice if there was an automated process to view the up-to-date changes from trac (is RSS an option?) in a 'message of the day window', along with a 'read more' button on game start up. Also, imo, the programmers/artists need to get some proper creds (meaning more visibly) for their work so that people can thank them and in return boost morale. So i would suggest that the ticket owner name would be visible too.

EDIT: 

Quote

@wowgetoffyourcellphone

I considered a more modern term like "early access", but what kinds of connotations does that term convey?

I think the term early access is only applicable to pay to play games, but im not really sure.

Edited by Grapjas
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The content creators are already there, all it needs it that someone shares content of other youtubers for example on Wildfire games distribution channels like social media, website etc. I think there are enough ppl willing to do content. All it takes is to centralise and occasional short posts about news / new alphas.  It is less about having programmers to make hour long trailers and videos, but just about utilizing what is already done.

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8 hours ago, maroder said:
  • The key to reach that is , again from my point of view, a better communication strategy, not only in the forums, but also to the public over social media or other outreach opportunities. I can completely understand if the devs don't have the time and don't want to prepare a public announcement for everything they do, so I think this would be a good opportunity to get the people from the community more involved. Maybe something  similar to the Council of Modders. The "Council of PR" for example (maybe with a better name) :D

Yeah I was one of the founders of CoM.

Stan was the other and the rest are longer here. May be some times Niektb lurks in the forum.

 

I generally had a Spanish version for the page, That later served as a model some ideas for the current page.

On the page I gave and promoted chaos mod that I saw that they could go very far, or that they were semi-official.

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This process here could be updated to include the PR things each release needs.

https://trac.wildfiregames.com/wiki/ReleaseProcessDraft

 

I think between packaging and release there should be a 2 week span of time that our community partners get "early access" to the release candidate. We then (respectfully) ask for an embargo until release day. 2 weeks gives enough time for playtesting, video creation, written copy to be made, etc. 

Edited by wowgetoffyourcellphone
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Or something like this:

 

  1. Day 0: Feature freeze
  2. Day 3: String freeze
  3. Day 6: Translation freeze
  4. Day 6: Commit freeze
  5. Day 7: Packaging
  6. Day 8: Release Candidate early access to community partners
  7. Day 15: Final bug and balance review (based on feedback from partners)
  8. Day 20: Final Fixes freeze
  9. Day 20-21: Re-Packaging (if necessary) Final Release Candidate released (if necessary) 
  10. Day 23: Release

 

There you have 15 days between when community partners are informed of the pending release and given early access and final release "to the public." It also has a built-in 12 day window for final "oh @#$%" fixes.

Edited by wowgetoffyourcellphone
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5 minutes ago, wowgetoffyourcellphone said:

There you have 17 days between when community partners are informed

You describe in terms of project management and testing (Quality assurance). As I understood in the topic, we are talking about marketing, "influencing" and "hyponomics".
For the first, everything is already clear. More time, more effort.
For the second, so far they have offered to change the name of the game... :huh:

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4 minutes ago, nwtour said:

You describe in terms of project management and testing (Quality assurance). As I understood in the topic, we are talking about marketing, "influencing" and "hyponomics".
For the first, everything is already clear. More time, more effort.
For the second, so far they have offered to change the name of the game... :huh:

I'm talking about how to integrate the marketing/influencing into the release schedule. It's all related.

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Indeed, to return to the original topic (sorry, that was my fault, I mentioned the Alpha thing!)

In trying to boil the issues down to a few points, I can see;

_an apparent disconnect between those making the game and everyone else. Obviously there are a few people closer to the dev side than others who hear bits and pieces and pass it on, but that generally leads to rumor, speculation, etc and isn't really that helpful. On the face of it, the offical 'mouthpiece' of 0AD - so the website, the news/announcements section of the forum, the official social media channels, are largely mute for extended periods of time, including in the run up to the release of a new iteration of the game - a time which is an unprecedented time of opportunity to expand the audience, but overall is symptomatic of the wider comms issues.

_currently, a tiny number of devs working unpaid to make the game - who by their own admission, are both not having the time to deal with PR themselves and, understandably, not wanting to give up more of their time to take this task on / or - also understandably, personally not having any interest in that element of the project. I think it's fair to say that the 'talent' in a given field quite often does not want to be involved in anything other than the thing they are most passionate about. Again, totally understandable - if you want to get the best out of the individual - grant them the freedom to do what they are best at.

_The 'influencers' (still hate that term), content creators - the non-deving evangelists of the game who do want to spread the word further, are left scratching around for anything to talk about coming out of the project in terms of tangible current or future developments. 

So, I see a lack of PR (actually prefer the term community engagement myself) in general, exacerbated at times when a bit of a push in the promotion stakes are a logical step, like a new release (that I'd consider to be heading into marketing territory, but as the game is free,  I guess it's not technically marketing, really.) 

Because there is no money, profit margins, general business pressure related stuff involved, essentially a very simple strategy could be employed to address all of the above.

To achieve it I think it would need;

_at least three volunteers to form some kind of committee with the blessing of the devs

_an acknowledgement from the devs that as things stand, good old Sun Tzu would probably put you firmly in the 'tactics without strategy' camp as far as 0AD community engagement goes. 

_the committee to draw up a proper strategy, say from now until whenever A25 is approximated to be released, detailing where things should be by that time, and the steps that would have to be realistically taken to get there (what Sun Tzu refers to as the tactics :)

_the aims to be fairly obvious, really, but mostly to engage and further develop the community of 0AD players and enthusiasts as an ongoing process, to help raise the wider profile of the game and the project as a whole through positive communication, to take on the horrible PR jobs that no-one likes, like social media postings, etc, and to ensure that when A25 drops, it is communicated well, in a professionally co-ordinated way and garners as much warm, positive attention as possible. That does actually encompass quite a lot, but all the little jobs would essentially feed into the mains aims in order to achieve the overall objective.

_the above happen with a commitment from the devs that while the day to day business of community engagement and promotion is being done well, in order to allow them to focus on their strengths, that there is at least a quarterly Q&A/interaction between them and the committee to establish what is happening with the ongoing developments, what features might be added/changed or removed in the next alpha - basically a chance to put the community's questions forward, to understand if things are or are not running to plan and understand why, but above all - to get a clear, consistent and factually accurate picture of how things are proceeding to be projected back out to the community. I guess this could be a proper video/audio chat, an instant message chat, or even just an exchange of a few emails, but something where there is an open dialogue.

_and of course, any screenshots/sneak previews of features or fixes, or anything basically so cool you'd want to announce it, being shared on an ad-hoc basis. 

_at the end, when A25 is released, an evaluation as to whether the aims were met, whether the approach has benefited the devs, the game and the community. What could be done even better for a potential future strategy, maybe to A26?  

That is really just a 'back of an envelope' speculative proposal of one route that could be taken. It's a bit big on words, light on detail, but proposals are always like that! :wink2:

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(sorry if I ignore some of your points for now)

1. I think "influencers" is an unfortunate term as well, but it is definitely useful in this context as an all-encompassing term for Youtubers, streamers, bloggers, et al. :)

2. I think there is no easier way to see what is happening with the development of the game than to just bite the bullet, install SVN, and get the SVN development version of the game so one can easily get the latest updates. 

3. One question that needs answered is: Do we need to do a bunch of PR blitzing at this stage of the game's development? @wraitii I think has hinted that WFG has neglected PR because the game simply isn't ready yet. We can debate that point for sure, but I don't think it hurts to amend the standard release schedule to include extra access for a list of trusted influencers. 

 

Just some rando thoughts for now. :) 

 

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45 minutes ago, wowgetoffyourcellphone said:

One question that needs answered is: Do we need to do a bunch of PR blitzing at this stage of the game's development?

My answer would be no until we have at least specs asynced, ideally with perf optimizations and network rework.

Look at this post that is on first page on hacker news atm: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26558180

My first idea of sharing gameplay was to post this video for reference:

After inspecting it for a bit notice how much attention is brought to lag and having to kick specs, the trees inside walls, lack of hotkeys, having to use low graphic settings, etc etc... It was just embarassing, eventually I had to edit the post.

Edited by badosu
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38 minutes ago, mysticjim said:

_the committee to draw up a proper strategy, say from now until whenever A25 is approximated to be released, detailing where things should be by that time, and the steps that would have to be realistically taken to get there (what Sun Tzu refers to as the tactics :)

That should be fine as long as folks are self-starters and resolve to do this without WFG developers, who are not influencers or marketers, needing to prod this along. Say, if you and @ValihrAnt and a few others get together to decide what they want to do and what support they need from the devs, then awesome. :) 

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3 minutes ago, badosu said:

After inspecting it for a bit notice how much attention is brought to lag and having to kick specs, the trees inside walls, lack of hotkeys, having to use low graphic settings, etc etc... It was just embarassing, eventually I had to edit the post.

I agree that the game can be quite ugly at times. It's mostly the terrains, IMHO, and I'm (quietly) working on revamping them. But also because streamers need to lower the specs in order to take video at a decent framerate. That is a def a problem.

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1 minute ago, wowgetoffyourcellphone said:

It's mostly the terrains, IMHO

None of the issues I pointed out present on the replay are related to the terrains for that matter, in my opinion the bottleneck is somewhere else. Not saying there's anything we can do at the moment to address it immediately with the manpower we have, just pointing things out.

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Some feedback there:

> The biggest problem in this game is the networking. It seems to have the same sort of networking issues Age of Empires did before the HD revamp, except worse. Once you hit a 100+ units for each player, the gameplay slows down dramatically. If the multiplayer desyncs, the game is over and there's no way to continue. The unit pathfinding is pretty janky as well.

> I've played it, we liked it, but the multiplayer issues made it a non-starter for us. And while other changes have been made, it doesn't seem like any real networking optimizations have been made in years. The only recent change that might help is them adding a global population max in addition to a per player one, so you can keep the lag from getting too bad but add more units per player as other people get eliminated. But it's not enough.

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20 minutes ago, badosu said:

None of the issues I pointed out present on the replay are related to the terrains for that matter, in my opinion the bottleneck is somewhere else. Not saying there's anything we can do at the moment to address it immediately with the manpower we have, just pointing things out.

You're right. I accidentally added my own 2 cents without directly addressing your comment. 

 

19 minutes ago, badosu said:

Also, biome features looks incredibly awesome in this release btw

The feature is awesome, the biomes themselves are not. It's hard to show someone a video to get them jazzed about a game when the terrains and game world looks ugly, is what I was getting at before. Speaking about marketing and PR here. And yeah, for sure, it's also embarrassing to try to showcase the game to a skeptical community on another site when the game starts to lag so horribly and players have to fight to get formations to wheel around a building without getting stuck. 

21 minutes ago, maroder said:

Another problem is that interesting mp games are played on mainland instead of nice looking maps

Agreed. I annoys the Hell out of me that everyone plays the ugliest maps. lol Time to improve the ugly maps I guess. ;) 

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52 minutes ago, wowgetoffyourcellphone said:

One question that needs answered is: Do we need to do a bunch of PR blitzing at this stage of the game's development? @wraitii I think has hinted that WFG has neglected PR because the game simply isn't ready yet.

I think that is exactly the point. The game has been around for a very long time and as @wraitii said, it doesn't seem like " the final version" will be ready anytime soon, because there is always something to improve. So the options are 1) to lay low, let the few people who work on the development side do their thing, until they don't have the time or fun anymore and let 0ad be a project that is only something for enthusiasts or 2) try to actively get more people involved and grow a bigger community. Because in my opinion 0ad is already a great game and you can have a lot of fun playing it. We don't need to hide that it's an alpha and that there are flaws, we can tell people: yes indeed and if you want to help fix them you are more than welcome.

In an age where game develogs on youtube get millions of views, it think there are enough people out there who find game development interesting and may want to help, but they never heard about the project.

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25 minutes ago, badosu said:

None of the issues I pointed out present on the replay are related to the terrains for that matter, in my opinion the bottleneck is somewhere else. Not saying there's anything we can do at the moment to address it immediately with the manpower we have, just pointing things out.

In alpha 24 seems the simulation code took a heavy downgrade in performance, you can look at it when opening the profiler with F11 midgame and see the erratic msec/frame times that gives midgame and lategame, what's worse is that 99% of that time spend in simulation code is defined as unlogged so that means something went very wrong there. 

screenshot0005.thumb.png.cbe622abf12edf9342c62e9065eb77a1.pngscreenshot0004.thumb.png.74935ad73515a3c048665bf97f350b66.pngscreenshot0003.thumb.png.1702742a9ee7f6141a283652498f8ad5.png

 

This means is simulation lag not network lag.

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The unlogged time in general has always been UnitAI, which has almost always been the slowest JS code, even going back several alphas. I think this time around attack-walk was particularly slow - I'm not sure if it was a new thing or not.

You _are_ correct that the networking code is a bit old & could use improvements however. I've started some for A25 (namely, I restored the turn lengths to be the same in SP and MP). Then we need to make sure observers don't cause lag. Then we need to actually work on improving the responsiveness (the game has a built-in lag of 800ms in MP).

I think @wow's idea to modify the release planning is good. I'm not sure on the details, but certainly seems like it could work.

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Short Rant :

Yes, the PR could have been better. And yes from an external point of view, it looked like a rush. Internally though it was a three months agony. Anyway I am responsible for PR so I am the one to blame here. Sundiata tried to help, but it’s difficult for a non dev with a pay per MB internet to be active enough to catch up.

Anyway it’s nice to dwell on past failures, but what I believe now is for people to step up. You’re unhappy about the PR ? Suggest things, ask for permission to do things. The more we stay on dev’s and community’s shortcomings, the less it is likely to change.

The key word there is step up. Wanna change stuff? Go all the way, because as much as we would like to we don't always have the resource to make it halfway. Sometimes even less than a quarter.

We can take time and patience to give you the knowledge we accumulated over the years, but we need to kill that idea that we are some kind of elitist people who look down on everyone. If your patch/idea is rejected, it's not that we don't care, is that we don't have the (pick multiple) time, motivation, skills to get things right.

Long rant, this is my attempt at some transparency, and may not reflect how other members of WFG see things. So take it with a grain of salt.
 

Spoiler

 

> hastily cut trailer.

I am Hurt cause I made that trailer, and while it’s nowhere close to AAA trailers, I think it was pretty good and it matched the previous releases. It’s about 48hours of work recording, cutting, putting together and trying to make something somewhat coherent of two years of complete madness with me having very little experience about making videos. I'm no youtuber.

> Lack of communication

It’s also hurtful cause I tried to reach out as much as I could for help. With documentation, with Sound, with balancing, with programming, even with videos, interviews hoping someone would step up. Some did. But I made it a priority to be available to discuss it on Discord, Mastodon, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Telegram, What’s app Reddit, Facebook, IndieDB, IRC so people could reach me.

But it’s funny because I used to think the same about organisation. A few strategic people here and there and boom ! Everything works fine now. The truth is it doesn’t here. It does for a company, where if the goals aren’t the same they are reunited by money.

Here it’s a free for all where planets sometimes align. Which is why I find a PR strategy funny, because there is no way to know what will get done in the next few months. I planned June for the next feature freeze, but maybe we will not have much to show then and A25 will be an insignificant release. Maybe no artists will show up, cause of life issues. Maybe we will lose developers like between A23 and A24 where we lost 6-7 (I don’t want to count, it’s hurtful enough as is) people and a lot of them irreplaceable. Life got in the way, stuff went down (leper was banned creating a split in the developpers aka the ForkAD), there were unrecoverable disagrements, insults and low blows were made. And here we are. And the only thing that matters now is what we do to keep this project alive.

If tomorrow @wraitii has to go for any reason, including him wanting to leave, that means no pathfinder threading, no unit behaviour improvements, rough macOS support, and a lot of things you don’t usually see but improve the game as well or other stuff he has planned.

If  @vladislavbelov goes, that means no graphics optimizations, no improved performance / quality and probably a decrease in C++ quality as well.

Every time someone goes it’s a blow to morale, and time & motivation are everything.

We had to get it out. If we had waited 6 more months, it would have been a complete disaster, there were about 50 bugfixes so close to the release. 6 more months meant probably hundreds of others.

Another funny thing is Linux support. Windows and Mac it’s easy you set a date you provide and exe / dmg, and voilà. Linux / BSD ? Well Ubuntu still doesn’t have a working build of 0 A.D. and we had to patch things for Debian, Fedora, OpenSuse, Slackware, Gentoo. It can take months for the release to get out there.

> And the approach I advocated could have been done on a zero budget.

This… is wrong. There is no such thing as a zero budget. Time, is a budget. Motivation is a budget, Give someone unlimited resources and no time and it’s unlikely he’ll get anything done. Give people limited time, money, and motivation, and they might get farther. Give 0 A.D. millions, 40 full time developers, and a deadline, and maybe we’ll be able to match an age of empires.

But this isn’t the goal we aren’t making a competitor to age of empires. The pressure is too high. It’s like Dave Mustaine comparing his success to Metallica’s the guy sold 25 million albums, but Metallica 140. Is he a failure ? If we do that we will always be frustrated, and we will likely burnout.

 

 


 

 

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First of all I don't see any reason to compare a free and open source project with a corporate, big-budget product. Second - one needs to look at 0ad not just as a game but as an interdisciplinary art project that is a collaboration between different artists (IT, historians, graphic designers, translators, writers and so on and so on...) 

If somebody is unhappy with how the PR is being managed and wants to push more capitalistic, neo-liberal path of teasing and waiting to build hype for a few months before a game is released -  one should not criticize but make constructive suggestions with some objective examples of similar types of projects - and that is for sure not age of empires 4

In my opinion free form art like this should not be advertised by being a tease because it is not here to make you pull your wallet or make you anxious in waiting for it to come out - the community is too small to be teased like that and let down once the alpha released does not fulfil their expectations - imagine a world in which you had constant announcements on weakly basis on all social media and you get into a game and it is not something you are happy with - one must ask himself a question "is it morally right to tease people who like this project with something that they know is not a polished product and is still in development?" - after you ask yourself such a question then you might be more sympathetic with the developers choice of just putting it out - less build-up of expectations = less false promises and less overall unhappiness with the next stage of the game - because it is not a finished product you cannot expect it to be represented as such and build hype around something that will be changed/fixed in a few months or a year
 

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