An update to our 2020 dev roadmap

#1


A screen shot of our latest interceptor skin.

It’s been quite a hectic few months since our Early Access release last October and I wanted to provide an update on what we’ll be doing as we progress through 2020 with an eye towards getting Infinity: Battlescape to “done” by the end of the year. Back in October we provided a roadmap of what we would be working on in the coming months. This was put together based on the deluge of feedback we were receiving at that time from players both old and new. Broadly speaking the feedback can be put in one of 2 categories:

  1. The game needs more retention features such as missing gameplay, more ships, weapons, skins, unlockables, etc.
  2. The game is too confusing, too difficult to learn, and I have no idea what I’m supposed to do.

From October to the end of the year we focused on bug fixing and implementing items from category #1. We hoped to have capital ship anti-missile systems (AMS) and a number of other features, including ship upgrades, finished by the time the Christmas sale began but unexpected issues kept popping up and we weren’t able to get it done until early January.

Once we released the AMS patch we took a look at what we wanted to do for 2020 and plotted a course that mostly consisted of working on category #1 retention features starting with the ship upgrade system. The reason for this is that, while our initial Early Access sales were quite healthy, the number of active players in the game has dropped precipitously and lack of players is currently one of our top complaints.

Over the last week or so, after talking to more players, it occurred to us that we may have tunnel vision. Most of the feedback we receive is from players who have already suffered through the learning curve and emerged victorious. After some conversations with people who struggled with the learning curve we decided that it represented a more immediate problem than ship upgrades, etc and decided we needed to shift our priorities.

What this means is that features such as ship upgrades, additional weapons, and weapon balancing will be deferred by a few months. Instead we will be focusing on the new HUD, AI, mission system, spawning, situational awareness, team communication, and the star map. It’s going to take some time to get everything polished up but our goal is to see a material increase in average players on our servers by the summer.

Your patience is greatly appreciated. We know we have something special here, we just need to properly nurture it as it grows into something we’re confident will be one of the best space combat experiences you can find.

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Fixing Retention - Battlescape's last chance
#2

Focusing on making everything usable and intuitive is a great move, it’s probably the absolute best thing to focus on right now. Im sure these are on the radar already, but here’s some comments about things in that area that seem especially important:

Subtargetting so new players can even know they can shoot pieces on stations, turrets on ships etc is pretty vital. You will never know without being told that you can actually shoot and destroy specific parts of stations, which parts are destructable/important etc. Its like all that work on making them destructable and having unique pieces just gets hidden because only a few of us know they are there.

There’s a lot of things like that, a lot of them are in here: Slashing the non intuitive dragon's head

On “how” the game is made more inviting for new players, i wanted to bring up an old point. Right before the early access release a lot of time was spent on implementing then rebalancing the game around the small autoaim cone. At the time i commented that the issues with new player experience were not because of aim difficulty, but because of everything else, including the UI, gameplay loops, lack of information and guidance. Autogimbals ended up having i think a fairly small impact on encouraging people to stick around.

Meanwhile the automatic element has meant that the chance to form a smaller but more persistent ‘competitive’ minded dogfighting community around the EA release was lost. I haven’t really been playing much lately because despite the flight improvements which at least made the mechanic more than just sitting at 1km and autoaiming eachother down, even if i force myself it’s not fun having my guns miss for me. And thats while also knowing that even if we did have manual weapons my hitrate would still probably be lower, it just takes out the viscera of it.

Changing that right now probably wouldn’t do much to save things because the EA release window for that kind of community forming already got missed, and i wasn’t convincing enough at the time i guess :p, just going forward i think it’s worth considering that improvements without downsides need priority. For example, the energy and shield numbers were removed from the UI, those were very useful and were pretty much the only way newbies could figure out what overcharges did and how power and shields worked without asking someone else. Now it’s less intuitive even if the visuals have improved slightly.

I think it’s a little vain to be sacrificing that new player experience to reveal a few pixels of fancy visuals when long term gameplay depth is already getting sacrificed just to make the first hour of gameplay easier.

11 Likes
#3

Really glad to hear you guys are focusing on what needs to be done. Good for you for listening to all the feedback and drilling down to the good stuff with that focus on getting and keeping players engaged.

If I can add my 2 cents; I think one of the biggest issues with getting and keeping new players has to do with the feedback loop around the meta goal. Specifically, with how your team “wins” the war. For me the flight engine and combat is spot on. I love it and all the tweaks to UI and such are just making it even better. Right on. The problem is that while I love “how” I fight in the game, I can’t get engaged with “why” I’m doing all that. I may have a great round where I take out dozens of enemy ships and feel like I’ve really helped our team. Then when I check the stats when I respawn, we’ve actually lost ground in the overall battle. That’s depressing and feels like nothing I did matters. Sure I’ve got more credits for a bigger ship, but we’re still losing. Having played long enough I know now that the only way to win the war is to play the objectives like attacking stations and bases, but that almost feels like an alternate way to play the game and honestly isn’t as much fun. I’d love to see ship losses have more of an impact on the war. I also think that will reward new players as they are more likely to just jump into dogfights in the beginning.

The second issue is actually a bigger one and it’s about game time. I know one of the big ideas around IB is this epic system-wide war that can take hours or even days, but that also works against it. I’ve told dozens of friends about this game and they get all excited until I tell them that an average game will take at least a few hours. My experience has often been that I will jump into a game partway through and a few hours later when I sign off for the night, it’s still going. This isn’t a selling point for the game, it’s a roadblock. Everyone I’ve tried to talk into trying the game agrees that they would rather have a system more like Battlefield where games wrap up in under an hour so you can get in multiple games in a night.

I know this is counter to the primary game design, so rather than change the main game, I think offering another game mode that limited the number of bases, reinforcements and health points on targets to make for shorter games could really help to get new players excited. Even something as simple as having the AI be more aggressive about attacking bases and stations in order to move the war along could help. I don’t know if anyone else feels that way, but shorter battles seems to be of the big things that I keep hearing about when I talk about this game.

9 Likes
#4

Each time I return to play again, I’m confronted to the same issue, and I suspect newer player may as well: the lack of point-to-rotate movement.

At first glance, FPS-like point-to-rotate movement, where the mouse moves a cursor as in a FPS and the ship rotates to point there with zero lateral movement, would seem inadequate: after all, in FPS, movement is instant.

However, some prominent games like War Thunder(1) use this method to great effect, and more players than you think are accustomed to it. It doesn’t require less (or more) skill than existing schemes, but it is much more comfortable than current schemes for a keyboard+mouse player that is accustomed to those. It is not even that existing schemes are that harder to use - it is that they feel clunky and uncomfortable.

(1) War Thunder has received lots of flak in recent years from balance and monetisation scheme issues, but one has to recognize that it has been and still is a popular game, and its core mechanics are solid. It may be an atmospheric game, but the scheme transposes pretty painlessly to Newtonian space games in my experience. One example that comes to mind was (still is?) the FOSS Elite remake Pioneer Space Sim, who has an option to flight this way.

In fact, something like that already exists in I:B, for capital ship movement. Unfortunately, it is unusable for small crafts as the max rotation movement using that scheme are shot to hell, due to being optimized for slow-rotating capital ships.

Compared to the amount of efforts optimizing it for small ships, this feature would probably be a big help for many new players, to help them getting the hang of a rather unfamiliar Newtonian flight model, and for anyone feeling more comfortable with this scheme.

3 Likes
#5

guess it makes sense to get the newplayer experiance polished before implementing the player retention mechanics that will bring a new wave of players in.

the argument that matches last so long that most of the participants will never see their resolution is totaly true and a real problem.
my suggestion would be to present the battles in progress(missions) as sudo-matches. make sure the player knows that he is helping while he is participating and gets a nice display of all his achivements at the end of the battle.(enemy ships flee into warp and a nice battleresult screen is offered[not forcefully displayed])

you also want to give players a resource(whatever that will be for progression in I:B) income boost in some form for the first 1-2 hours per day. this way they are encouraged to play every day, but not to long to burn themselfs out. psychology ftw! :wink:

2 Likes
#6

Great stuff.

I confess I’ve been very absent from the game for quite a while and it’s great to see I-Novae being critical of their own vision. It makes for a good development team.

I agree that streamlining the gameplay with these aspects will help massively, as the core mechanics are already fun. One of the biggest has to be the mission system - it can provide smaller goals to help give you something to aim for, and worry less about the overall war. Have simple match goals like, “Kill xx interceptors”, “Intercept a hauler” and bigger ones like “Win the battle for xx station”.

If we could then select one as ‘Active’ then perhaps there could be additional guidance on your HUD pointing you in the general direction of your mission target.

3 Likes
#8

All I hear is how priorities have been refocused. But nothing about how development will get back on track with the “original” roadmap.

(Nov 2019 Roadmap review)
:white_check_mark: = Fully implemented
Short term:

  • HUD cleaning / decluttering / making things more clear :ballot_box_with_check:
  • Team chat and improving communications :white_check_mark:
  • Helper screens and more alerts and contextual info tips in game :ballot_box_with_check:
  • Ship upgrades ( first iteration; we won’t necessarily have much new content there. Maybe a new weapon and EMP missiles ) :x:
  • Battle reports / statistics / player stats / team stats :x:
  • Making the star map more useful and interactive :ballot_box_with_check:
  • Game balance: another pass on weapons / locking, corvette repairs / rewards :ballot_box_with_check:
  • Credits redistribution and team scoring ( / ladder rankings ) :x:
  • Input event and control scheme unification ( a lot of players are confused by the way the current system works, and think their controllers do not detect pitch / yaw ) :white_check_mark:
  • Allowing the carrier to repair / resupply ships like the corvette :x:
  • Anti-missile / torpedoes laser counter-measures for capital ships :white_check_mark:
  • Auto-repairing turrets / modules on stations and other installations :white_check_mark:
  • Revamping / increasing static defenses :x:
  • Sub-systems targeting :x:

I mean, it is an OK progress. But at this rate v1.0 will come in two years rather than one.

4 Likes
#10

Ocean, trees, space legs, clouds, mining, hauling. All (except space legs) old place holders all super easy. Nothing else you do will retain anyone to pay for or play your game. 0 players for months.

#11

Just want to highlight Matt’s post above regarding auto-aim and it’s effect of putting off certain players.

You need to A/B test this because I’m inclined to agree with him. Just try disabling it on one server and see what difference it makes. Let players know it’s disabled and see which server they prefer.

Also do this with convergence for weapons. I was trying to hit a small turret today and one shot was going to the left of it and the other to the right.

“I know, because I’ve tested it” always beats “I think” or “I feel”.

4 Likes
#12

This is a great idea. The servers are there, let’s use them.