Community and I-Novae - An open letter

#1

Dear I-Novae, specifically dear @Inovaeflavien, @inovaekeith and @INovaeHutchings

I hereby deliver this open letter, concerning community relations, communications and sentiment to you. Please take the time to read it thoroughly.
This letter has been created with and after much effort, consideration, thorough discussion and there is no levity in the decision to change the approach we usually employ to talk to you.

We really wish to reverse the trend and help bring back a positive environment or even beyond, one that will enable Infinity: Battlescape to be a success. Let us do it together.

See Images atached or access the PDF here.





Discussion concerning this letter may be conducted in this thread.

If you just stumbled upon this thread and haven’t heard of this endeavour before feel free to also participate here by posting your thoughts and feelings or, if you just agree and would have signed the letter, liking this post.

I wish everyone involved a happy 1st of May.

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#2

To bring everyone involved in I will ping them here: @aCRAZEDgunman, @Aleon, @Argopeilacos, @Arkenbrien, @LyskTrevise, @Crayfish, @cybercritic, @IvanGronzniy, @Lomsor, @martindevans.

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#3

To bring everyone involved in I will ping them here (another one due to max ping limit): @Mattk50, @omegador, @Pendrokar, @pictbrige, @playbenni, @Sab1e, @Tjafaas.

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#4

It saddens me that I’m one of the people that has slowly drifted away to other games. It almost feels like I:B development is grinding to a halt when I know that’s not the case.

I believe a large part of this, as said in this very eloquent letter, is that I-Novae don’t seem to engage much any more, or instigate discussion about particular goals. We get some patch notes every so often, then a “community event” (most of which I miss because of the timings). And that’s it.

I hope they rethink their engagement, not because I feel entitled to be involved, but because I believe this community is good at delivering feedback to help I-Novae make informed decisions.

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#5

It’s unfortunate that they don’t engage more sincerely, but there can be good reasons such as simply being too busy. The tipping point here seems to be that now instead of simply not engaging, they have spent limited efforts on antagonizing, negative engagement with the community.

Like, a collective community can forgive a lot of shortcomings but when that only goes one way it’s obviously going to break down. Respect of that kind takes a long time to earn and is easy to destroy.

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#6

Yes, you make a good point. I do believe they’re working hard at the same time as juggling their lives (even more difficult now thanks to the virus).

Both the community and I-Novae have certainly been through a lot as the game has evolved, and I believe both sides have a real love for what has been created.

I really hope positive engagement can be rediscovered.


On another side, I also think part of the difficulty is that we’ve entered a more “boring” stage of development. As the raw mechanics were emerging, we could spend weeks debating how warps worked etc. Now the design is more nailed down, there seems to be a greater focus on tweaking smaller aspects.

The fact that development is slow (as it always has been) just magnifies this effect. We, as a community, perhaps aren’t as interested in what’s being developed.

This still raises the question: how can we be engaged again?

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#7

The three of you should respond to your community.

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#9

That’s on INovae. If you’re not engaged by what they’re doing, move on. A bunch of people have. When the company has something worth your time, you’ll hear about it and you can come back. There are far better uses of your time than standing on the sidelines cheering heroes who don’t seem to have any time to sign autographs. Find a company that shows how they value you as a customer/supporter.

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Infinity Community Discord Server
#10

This is the sour fanboy thread here. I care about the game so thats why I participate.

This letter is supposed to improve the situation. Inovae can just ignore it if they want, but those of us that still care (personally very much) wanted to air our worries. At least that is how I feel.
Of course we aren’t entitled to any response, they very much might feel that we have a warped view and our “demands” are stupid and useless, that’s on them to decide.

They said multiple times they want to ramp up marketing when the game is in a more finished state. Well customer engagement is the most important part of marketing and in the last few months/years they continued to engage less and less even though this part of marketing comes for almost free if you have established channels like they do.

Sour fanboys are nothing new really, Star Citizens fanbase has an almost fixed rythm of fans beeing “fed up with their bullshit and lack of progress” and these same people spending hundreds of dollars on jpegs after they did another content reveal.

They big problem here is we don’t get these content reveals that keep us engaged and the community is very small to begin with. Inovae has steadily curbed customer engagement for years now. Starting with the unfortunate purge of the old forums and further and further curbing any dialogue that could be interpreted as unprofessional coming from a business.
In effect it has netted them a continuously deterioating business to customer relationship. This was some of the things adressed in the letter.

Another thing is their developement decisions are not rational to most of us, and they are only discussed internally. Retention features like progression, ship upgrades and a scoreboard have been pushed back multiple times. Those are some of the big items that are crucial to keep customers playing and engaged.
They felt that other to-do’s were more important though. While the improvements they implemented in the meantime were very significant, they didn’t really improve the situation much, most hate threads on the steam forum discuss the low player population and not things like HUD improvements, starmap and laser countermeasures.

It might be true that an investment in the community isn’t worth the effort at this point though and they are better off ignoring the drama and chugging on.

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#11

The tale is over. Hello harsh reality. Guys got experience.

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#12

Pretty much this. We released the game to Early Access and received a veritable deluge of feedback. Based on that feedback we created the development roadmap for this year, which we released to the community back in October 2019 with an update in January 2020. The first big ticket item of this year was the new HUD, for which we released a prototype prior to starting work in order to solicit community feedback, like we’ve always done. For the bulk of this year we’re working on accessibility and onboarding issues that put the game out of reach for many new players. The simple fact of the matter is that this is not particularly sexy for veteran players, and the unfortunate reality of our development roadmap for this year is we have months of unsexy work remaining.

Eventually, the boring stuff will be finished and we’ll start work on things that are likely significantly more interesting to those of you who frequent these forums. This will include a proper squad system, electronic warfare, orbital bombardment, planet improvements, etc. As we start work on these systems we expect the community feedback loop will tighten to levels some of you are more accustomed to.

I’m not sure where these accusations of being opaque, using corporate speak, or hiding behind a facade are coming from - we’ve always been upfront and transparent about what we’re doing and why. To that end, it’s unsurprising that the list of grievances is notably light on examples. Have we ever used corporate speak before? Well yes, we’re a company, and sometimes we have to use corporate speak for a variety of reasons. Despite that, 1 or more of our developers are usually sitting in our Discord chat during most hours of the day. We regularly speak with the members of our community in real-time or across one of the 6+ other mediums of communication we use, including these forums, which takes a tremendous amount of work. We frequently disclose not only our own opinions on a variety of subjects, but personal details about our own lives. Furthermore, we know that the signers of this letter, more so than most, are aware of all of that which makes this letter, from our perspective, quite disingenuous.

Are we perfect? No, of course not, however we do our best to learn from our mistakes. Could we be better at community engagement? Absolutely, and it’s a subject we’ve personally discussed with many of the signers of this letter. Why don’t we have an official community manager? Because it costs money, our scarcest resource, and we believe it’s better to spend that money on developing the game.

We greatly appreciate all of our community members, particularly those who have stuck with us for years. That being said, we have 10’s of thousands of customers, and we can’t always make everyone happy. Sometimes there will be miscommunications and misunderstandings, this is a natural side-effect of a creative business that can inflame people’s passions, but we will always do our best to work through them with all of you. The game is currently going through a less exciting period of development. It isn’t the first time this has happened. For those of you who remember the year of networking (2017?), that was an extremely slow and boring year. I assure you it’s as painful for us as it is for you, but we will get through it just like we did before and move on to more exciting things.

Lastly, for any of you who are skeptical about whether or not what we’re doing is worthwhile, please read this thread on our Steam forums.

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#13

Honestly that is not the response I hoped for. If that is you view on the situation I guess there is nothing left anybody can do anymore.
The chugging continues :white_check_mark:
Community ignored :white_check_mark:

OK

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#14

You don’t have tens of thousands of customers. Your customers are those that are currently using your product.

How many people are currently using your product?

To be generous you can quote your monthly active users.

Pretending that we are a tiny fraction of your customer base is just disingenuous. It’s also an example of you trying to appear corporate and being opaque. You wanted some more examples of that.

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#15

this thread is just a “LOL” moment… Sorry, but these devs dont know what theyre doing! 14 years since joining these forums, and the game is exactly the same except for some minor improvements! Might as well just have sold the Combat Prototype, because that’s what we have now!

Improvements since combat simulator:
Space stations
Clouds (LOL)
Procedural planets (but we can only actually fly to like 3, so wtf was the point of this feature lol)

???

That’s all I can really think of. Honestly, feels like the dev’s didnt even want to make Battlescape. Everyone wanted to make Quest for Earth, and everyone wanted to play Quest for Earth, and instead we are stuck with the same game from 2007 lol.

14 years to develop clouds, great job!

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#16

This is a whole separate issue and everyone involved is aware of it. People have left the community because of that issue and we have not created an open letter due to this, as it is less likely that we can convince you or expect that much can change there.
Unlike the topic of the open letter in this post.

People have signed this letter because of the issues of community relations, communication and interaction with its sentiment.
Many people have been explicitly clear that they would not sign if it was about the issue of current state of the game or game design and many did not sign because they have already left due to the issue of game state and game design and as such don’t see any point in making anything better for the community.

Feel free to discuss this separate issue here too but it is not considered an answer to the open letter! It is considered an answer and additional service to the community that would be apreciated if it would also cover one of the most important things, emotion. More about that further down my response.

Many of us have read this post. It’s great and many of us also have agreed that it’s ok or good that you are handling the UI thing … still. Off topic.


Concerning the second part of your reply which directly references the open letter.

It seems that there is still some misunderstandings happening.
We hoped the letter is exceptionally direct and clear about what is going on.
It clearly states “Our perception is that it seems that a certain topic is such and such” for every issue that has been brought up. It is paramount to understand that the issue lies in the communication.
INS may be of the understanding that everything is ok but our perception is otherwise. This is what needs to be tackled here and now.
The current approach of us sharing our feedback and INS coming in to explain things or dodge the topic does not work! A change of approach is desperately needed as clearly described in the letter.

The letter specifically did refrain from listing examples as it is about documenting our perception, stating our discontent and sharing our motivations as well as putting forth options to alleviate the issues.

It is our perception that communications are opaque, using corporate speak or/and are part of a facade. This is due, what we theorise, also mentioned in the letter, that issues brought up by the community are not resoved or ansewerd.

The community has real concerns and fears about the dissolving of itself, the state of the game and the future. Yet INS does not resolve these concerns and fears. As seen as a prime example here and many times in the past.

There are many ways to resolve these concerns, many not entailing removing the issue all by iteslf. This is why we repeadetly suggested a community manager as this person would be able to answer the concerns, unlike INS who shown to not be able to.

But you asked for an example. In the last couple of years there was not much signs by any of you that there is any fears concerning the failure of the game, the low player numbers and the dissolving of the community! The only thing I noticed is when I said “the last chance of I:B being popular” in Discord and Hutch doing a small affirmative sound.
In every other official statement every ounce of emotion towards that topic is not present.
The community is concerned and afraid but you choose to explain rather than share that, “yes we are also afraid but we do our best, please keep supporting us”.
That would have alleviate most of the concerned and you would have been left with many more community members willing to still care.

There are many more examples that can be given … if you want I can share but I will keep this answer “shorter”.

The dissolving of much of the old community is imminent. That’s what is meant with “reversing the trend”. If no investment is made now you will not have many if anyone left to help you market the game when it goes 1.0. If you don’t think we are needed during the 1.0 release, please be direct now and here so we can save us hours more of effort of discussing as this is about saving the remaining old community from scattering into the wind.
We don’t need a full time community manager. We need at least some reasources to keep the community afloat and grow it a bit.
One of my personal reasons why I am pressing this so hard is because we suggested and tested a discord bot for implementation and more then a month later the 30 minutes to do it have not been invested.

What I personally envision is a freelancer 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week. I looked around beforehand a bit and saw some offering for 30$ an hour. This would be more then enough resources to cover most of what we want and could do.

I personally have dozens of ideas to do stuff to help bring back engagement. We have walls of data concerning what this community or this kind of community likes and we can adjust all that from a “hobby project/dreamer community” to something with a real product and run with it. I would be willing to put in some hours for that.
Yet, if so many signs from INS show that they are unwilling to do their part to work together and do their part and with the Discord under their control I don’t really feel motivated to do my part either.

It’s one thing to say and another to do. People are leaving and the community is dissolving and nobody at INS seems to talk to us about it or do anything to stop this. Instead the community has to come together and put a finger on the underlying issues.

We care. We still care. We are here.


Please go over the letter again and read what it does say directly. There’s almost no ambiguity in what has been written and signed.

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#17

Its unsurprising that the list of improvements to your game is light on examples.

You’re two nerds who haven’t ever delivered a product working from home, not Activision Blizzard or EA.

“Am I out of touch? No, its the community that’s wrong!”

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#18

Multiplayer games are very hard to make successful.

Even harder if you ignore some of the golden rules.

You think you can’t afford someone who understands the principles of marketing and community management. The truth is you can’t afford not to have someone on your team with these skills.

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#19

It’s good that this is being worked on, because I think we all agree improvement is necessary to make the game friendlier to new players. This is tangential to the point the letter raises though.

I don’t see why that shouldn’t still be the case for the “unsexy” work too. The people that have spent many hours playing this game probably have a good idea about how the interface and the game generally could be made more accessible. In fact, I’m incredibly confident, based on the years and years of threads based solely on UI

I’m not sure I can agree with this. I understand that some of this was down to lawyers being involved, but we struggled to get any information about why INS parted way with two of its developers shortly after the KS campaign ended. Those developers were also ejected from the community Discord without warning, which given the community Discord was actually run by the community at the time, was rather upsetting.

Ok, but as part of the discussion we had as a moderation team, we strongly suggested that at the very minimum, we should integrate a moderation bot to make our jobs easier, given we are purely volunteers, and make sure that we can remain accountable to the community. Sure, all of these bots take maybe an hour or a couple hours to configure properly, but even this hasn’t been done.

I also still believe that if you’re intending on making a multiplayer game, community management is one of your most important functions. If you don’t have players, your game can be pretty as hell, but no-one will play it. The game itself has very little incentive for people to come back to it at the moment (there’s another thread about that though), so the absolutely second best way to counter that is to have an active and healthy community that use the game to play together. Happy community members also offer free advertising through word-of-mouth, which can get you more bodies in game and more sales, both of which you desperately need.

Even single-player games benefit from good community management, and I believe we’ve given No More Robots as an example of how a dedicated community management team can help an indie publisher overperform. But even here, INS has an advantage that NMR doesn’t have. You have well over a decade of community engagement and creativity to tap into, a lot of it provided by those that have signed this letter.

The other problem is that it really doesn’t matter how much money you throw at your game if it isn’t going to convince people to buy the game and keep it. A dead game with a dead community won’t sell your game and will likely lead to more refunds than fully converted purchases.

Ok, let’s just quickly talk about that, because SteamDB esitmates between 0 and 20,000 players, but it also says there are 13,905 followers which either suggests the actual number is less, or these are the people that are interested but failed to convert. It also tells us that its recorded average total playtime is 3.3 hours, with 0 minutes in the last two weeks.
But this also tells us more. In the last ~6 months it has kept records for, your player peak has been between 200-250 players, but for some reason on October 9th last year you had over 14,000 people watching the game on Twitch, with about 50 people playing at the time.

Between these points, clearly we’re seeing some number of people buying the game (but it seems to be generous to call it tens of thousands), but the vast majority aren’t playing it. It suggests that even with a healthy number of twitch views giving visibilty to the product, there’s not enough there to convert people.
So again, we obviously understand you can’t make everyone happy. But most of the people who buy the game just aren’t playing it, and probably aren’t actively invested in its development. Whereas the people in this thread have followed this project for over a decade, and have funded and fought to get this game to exist. If you can’t make the people that already want you to succeed happy, you’re going to struggle with everyone else.

Believe it or not, we get that. But that’s why a community manager is invaluable, because they can drive community engagement whilst the development team has their nose to the grindstone. They can manage expectations, curate community suggestions for whatever comes after, and generally keep morale up and maintain order. And yes, as you pointed out earlier in the post, communicating across multiple channels is a lot of work. That’s why it’s a full time job people are paid to do, and why it’s an important role to fill especially for multiplayer projects that rely on a healthy community.


Just to wrap up, I think tone is important here. No-one here wants you to fail, if anything because people have their own money riding on it not failing now. I get criticism is difficult, but it’s worth looking into why. And I feel this letter covers why. There’s not been any sense that community engagement has improved since the Discord server was handed over, and since then there have been heavy-handed decisions made that have hurt those who were among the most active and most willing to support the team.

The two roads forward suggested in the letter are for INS to take a step back and let the community look after itself again until you’re ready to get more engaged, or INS properly invests resources into community management, so that the fanbase that’s supposed to help you sell your game feel looked after.

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#20

They are so out of touch with the reality of 0 customers using their product right now, don’t waste your time on corporate speak. They think because they made it “big” on steam and would rather roll around in early access dough by trapping ppl into a dead game based on “corporate speak” they can just step on the little guy, what goes around comes around.

INS has 1.5 customers a month lmao.

THIS ^ I also hacked in a cloud layer on the screenshots haha I did more planet updates than the devs lol.

It’s nice to see the head honcho actually admit the planet tech is lacking. That’s the key to retention and actually getting closer to the 17,000 player retention of nms and away from the 0 player retention they have now on dead planet’s and moons. That is why NMS and SC invested in the planet tech first before all this other nonsense " gameplay" like a hud and lasers, newtonian tweaks auto aim ect and all the other crap.

ROFL your passion is"inflamed".

#21

Your customer base and community issues a letter of grievances to you.
What is your response:

  • A) Acknowledge the problems and provide detailed explanations, promise improvements and ask for patience and more support
  • B) Say everything is going fine, and that you are doing your best, and call them disingenuous

CEO: B.

I expected a non-response, given the more recent track record and lack of resources, which is one reason why I didn’t sign the petition. A clear aknowledgement of the grievances brought forth would have been nice though. The “disingenuous” remark is just another validation that better community management is needed :wink:. But I think the core issue is the lack of fun the game is providing in its current state, which is why so many people are upset. I think nobody would care about community management If the gameplay worked right now.
Given that nothing can be done about that at the moment (according the Keith, If I understood him correctly), its better just to accept it, step back and wait for the games hopefully glorious 1.0.0 release. :slightly_smiling_face:

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