It has been quite some time since you last heard from us in an official manner. Over the last two months, we've performed a great deal of backend optimization and bugfixes, all the while discussing internally where the game should go next. Today, you will all finally learn of the fruits of this labor, as we break our silence with this announcement of the game's new direction.
Community Driven Development
For nearly a decade, the fate of the game has been out of the hands of the players; beholden to the will of the game's owner, but no more. Starting from this point forward, all mechanical changes will be designed and voted on by the community in cooperation with the development team. This means that YOU, the player, will decide what type of game it is that you want to play. This process of course will move much slower than traditional development, but we feel ultimately that this will yield a more satisfying gameplay experience. We will of course take part in these discussions and provide our thoughts, recommendations, and preferred direction, but our opinion will just be a part of the discussion that can be weighed together with the community.
There are rules involved in this though, due to the manpower involved in development. The scope of the suggestions will be tempered by development, and "♥♥♥♥♥♥ to an older version" will not be an acceptable suggestion. This of course does not mean that we will not allow certain mechanics to move towards something closer to what we had before, but that we will not devote the manpower to reverting every mechanic of the game. In addition to that, it is important to realize that there is nothing to be gained from it. Both this and previous incarnations of the game have all had their flaws, and it would be better just to move forward towards something better.
The specifics of this new system will be revealed in the coming weeks, but we recommend that you begin discussing and suggesting things on the forums for the time being. This way, you can all begin discussing game mechanic changes and helping us see what it is that you would like to focus on first. From our own queries to the community, we discovered a few common complaints that we felt should be addressed; which were presented to the community during the meeting with a very positive reception.
- Many players have expressed a desire to add more consequences back to the game in relation to open ganking. Our suggestion was to increase cloning time based on the amount of penalty points a person has, which prevents back to back ganking without consequence. It was also discussed and agreed that such an implementation adds a lot more value to owning a prison. This suggestion received a unanimous "Yes!" at the meeting and thus will likely be in the next patch. Note: We could add some sort of functionality to not give penalty points in duels/events. This would need to be discussed a bit.
- It was brought up at the meeting that factions should be more difficult to create and maintain, potentially through minimum amount of faction members and price to initially found a faction. Upkeep was also brought up as being very important to this matter, scaling based on active perks and faction members. This was unanimously agreed upon as being an important suggestion for the next patch, although specifics for the patch were not yet determined and requires more discussion.
- One subject that the players in the meeting specifically raised was with faction types. One alternative to the current system is to remove the types and have a finite number of perks; where-in a faction can decide if they want to specialize in a specific perk tree, or become a lesser jack of all trades, with less specific value. All trees (military, economic, infiltration, etc) would be available to all factions, but the number of perks is limited, making it important to choose the perks that are best suited for the goals and culture of your faction. Another alternative would be to adjust/add perks for each faction type to give more depth to the existing trees and value to the types themselves. Infiltration factions in particular need a lot more love, which both the community and ourselves agree upon if we are to keep the faction types.
- The subject of war/conflict was also brought up during the meeting. Currently, it is far too easy to ninja steal a territory or service while another faction is asleep / away from the game for some reason (school, work, real life in particular). There is also no alert that another faction is attacking you, and due to the number of worlds in the game (and likely more to come if the state of the game calls for more) and timezones, it is hard to determine if you are to be at war with someone because they are attacking your property. The proposed fix is to implement some type of war declaration system, where factions declare war on each other, alerting the targeted faction and allowing them X amount of time before the process to attack them and take their stuff can begin. Declarations of war would have a cost, and for the amount of concurrent wars you declare/take part in, the cost would increase. Factions at war would not get penalty points when killing the opposing faction's members, so battles would not be affected by delayed cloning and arresting. This topic can use more discussion on specifics as this is all we touched on at the meeting so far. This topic received major support by community members that attended.
Another issue that we raised during the meeting was met with a less positive/decisive response however. The above listed suggestions received almost 100% support at the meetings, whereas this one resulted in quite a bit of debate between players. The suggestion was to remove or alter weapon skills to remove their impact on combat. While some players were very determined to have these skills removed, some believed that the player progression involved in the system was necessary and that we shouldn't change them at all. Others suggested that we remove the damage bonus in favor of something else or at least nerf the damage bonus (cut it in half), but it was made apparent at least by the meeting that this is a subject that deserves more attention and discussion.
These topics and anything else you deem immediately necessary should be discussed at-length, that way we can build a consensus on what the community wants us to focus on and how they would like to see it brought to life.
Business Model Change
In addition to changing the way we develop the game, we are also changing the way new users pay for it. One issue that players have brought to light since 2009 is the vast myriad of problems brought on by the free to play model. Having a small subset of the community able to perform vital actions has created a divide, which we believe we have an adequate solution for.
Our solution is the Buy-To-Play model. In this business model, players simply pay a one-time fee to gain access to the game unrestricted, with no further costs required to access critical functions available to players. This means that you will not have to pay a monthly subscription to do things such as lead a faction or choose a vortex node. The benefit of this system is that, for the most part, all players will be equal footing, and it is a lot more cost beneficial to the customer (pay about one or two months current cost of premium to unlock the game rather than paying ~$120/year in subscription fees). We discussed this with players in-game and everyone really liked the idea of such a low one time fee to open up possibilities previously reserved only for premium accounts. This system also helps limit the amount of alts running around, as previously, you could simply make a free account and go at it.
Existing free users will keep one of their accounts. That account will have all of the current free account restrictions, and will not be the same as the new paid account (has no restrictions). After the transition is made, only the first account you log into from your home will be accessible without purchasing a copy of the game. If you would like to keep your alternate account, you will have to purchase the game for that account to unlock it.
If you have already paid for the game through Steam prior to the Free-To-Play release, or have purchased the Deluxe Edition, Standard Pack, Ultimate Pack, or Lifetime Premium, you will be given a free full account and will not have to re-purchase the game. Backers of the appropriate tier can also claim a free full account upgrade. If you have a free account after the transition, you will be able to continue playing as-is without being forced to pay. However, you can upgade your account by purchasing it through Steam or our website if you desire to remove the restrictions and have a full account.
To give purpose to Elementum and users with premium, we will be keeping the existing premium model, minus the restrictions that have been removed from the game. Premium users will have boosts such as faster skill training, increased space, etc. To supplement this change, we will be reducing the cost of premium.
In an effort to help new players and veterans alike understand the game mechanics, we have begun working on filling and updating the wiki with relevant information. This is a large task though, and we and the Wiki team would appreciate any help you can give towards it. If you are interested in contributing to the Wiki, please take a look at THIS LINK to get started.
We are very excited about all of these changes, and we cannot wait to see what the community comes up with for the game together!