The last dozen or so posts we've made have been more or less pragmatic, to inform everyone about updates & what to expect next. It's been a while since I made a post about the server and its direction in general. I want to open a honest dialogue about where the server currently stands, and how we can move onwards and upwards from here.
There's no sugar coating it — we're in a tough position right now, from multiple angles. The player base has been stable for quite a while, but took a major hit in the recent week or two. We had a day and a half of downtime recently caused by network issues and a DDOS attack, and after bringing the server back up we're seeing peak numbers that are lower than we had during the premium only pre-release. Saying it's sub optimal is putting it mildly. I will do my best to avoid any excuses and focus on facts, problems and solutions.
If you ask ten people, you'll get ten reasons why the player base has declined. I'll dive into details of some of the issues we currently face. We've solutions for some of those problems, but I'd like to extend the discussion of how to handle some of these issues to you, the community, as well.
Failure to manage expectations
I feel that one of the issues we had from the beginning was our failure to manage the expectations. Handful of us worked on the gamemode for roughly two years, in the spare time we had when we felt like it and weren't working or otherwise busy. The aim from the beginning was to create a barebones MVP, which we could then expand on. I feel that I failed to communicate that, and as a result of that, a lot of the community expected us to be an equal competitor from day one. This led to a massive spike in interest initially, with the player base dwindling over time once more people realized that the experience we offer isn't as complete as they might need. Other players seeing the decline in player base could be another contributing factor to further decline.
I feel like there isn't a simple solution for mismanaged expectations after the fact. I will use this as a much needed learning experience.
Development not keeping up
Another major contributor to the decline in morale and by proxy in player base is the way development progressed after release. We simply aren't doing enough to measure up. Initially, our main focus was on ensuring stability of the server and fixing critical issues post-release. We got some much-requested features out, but we haven't had more than a handful of completely new features come out since release. That's a major problem.
With only a few exceptions (big shout out to Imperium, who has been carrying the team for the past month or so), the majority of our Development Team either became increasingly busy with work after release, or simply burned out. This was my case as well, as I started a new job in May and had to do a lot of adjusting and some travel; the time I had left was mostly spent on maintenance, handling technical issues, legal/biz aspect and managing the server as a whole. The timing was unfortunate, because we all knew that the real work begins post-launch to make sure the needs of our community are met. While some aspects of this can't be affected by me, I still came short — I failed to keep the development team motivated and to make sure people don't burn out.
This, in the end, lead to some promises left behind, which is something I really wanted to leave in the SA-MP era. Unfortunate.
There's several solutions that can be applied here. We'll be once again taking in more developers in the coming days to help us with the amount of work that needs to be done. I'll also look for a way to offload my work with managing the system infrastructure, so even fewer things are reliant solely on me and can be handled by another developer as well.
Leadership & Communication
I feel that a significant chunk of us in the core team (leadership, team leads and devs) switched to a coasting mode too quickly. We got comfortable and complacent. I believe that motivation and strength comes from top to bottom, and we as the leadership must do better to innovate, push forward, show face and communicate everything with the community. This became harder in the recent weeks and there's no other way about it, we simply must do better.
Of course the list above isn't exhaustive. We're aware of the frequent shootouts, abundance of weapons in the server, frequent shootouts, jobs becoming stale, etcetera. We put together a two-week plan of action of things we'd like to accomplish. I'll share it with you, but please take it with a grain of salt as it may change and some things may be added, or taken out.
- Communicate the current state of the server (this post)
- Add more developers to the team
- Reach out to player-owned companies and factions to make sure they've everything they need
- Reach out to admins regarding long report times, and not answering difficult reports
- Fix vehicle loan payments, and transfervehicle after paying off loan
- Ability to "trade in" a leased vehicle, with the ability to get a % of your principal back
- Add more clothing mods
- Make Horsepower affect vehicle performance
- Level requirement for equipping a weapon (across all characters) to curb DM
- Add interior presets & interior change
- Add separate group for /setprop access, so property reports aren't reliant on Leads
- Adjust mechanic / vehicle part prices (wheels, etc)
- Some gambling script (even if just slots, lotto or blackjack)
- Add more vehicles, whether existing GTA ones to pdm, or modded
- More trucking routes
- Investment into marketing
- Schedule another community meeting
To reiterate, we probably won't be able to do all of these, but these are some of the things we've identified need immediate attention.
Despite the admittedly grim situation with the player base right now, I believe we can turn things around. The entire situation is very humbling and has been a big reality check and a learning experience for me. We've a lot going for us — we've a great staff team, a lot of knowledgeable and dedicated folk on our side, other major servers providing us assistance whenever we need it. But most importantly, we've fostered an awesome community which is what I focus on when it's time to push forward no matter what. I'm sorry I let some of you down, it hurts especially because I know a lot of people really believe in the project and want it to do well.
This is where I'll turn the post towards you. If you're good at something and want to use your skill to help us make the server better, please reach out. If you've opinions you want to share, please do so below. I welcome opinions of anyone with the best interest of the server at heart.