[b]Life is Feudal game longevity[/b]
So I wanted to write a post that to re-engage a topic that was a sticking point for some of the players, but to highlight why this is a topic I feel needs to be re-addressed, I wanted to do a little bit of a round-up about phases of play in the game, and the impact of the server on those game types to illustrate why now is a good time to make some changes.
So, Life is Feudal is primarily tagged as a Medival survival openworld crafting rpg (at least by steam users). It has far better graphics than many other world builder games, and it has a rustic charm to it that keeps many players returning. Obviously it has bugs as well.. a lot of bugs, and those bugs are a continuing issue for the game since there are so few hotfixes and patches released.
There are different phases of gameplay that I have noticed that people tend to go through in the game:
[i][b]Phase 1 - survival[/b][/i]
This is when a player just starts out in the game. They will spend a great deal of time learning basic mechanics, and eventually building their own hut and potentially also a monument if they have been advised to do so.
Players tend to be pretty enthusiastic about the game at his phase.
[i][b]Phase 2 - expansion[/b][/i]
Players in this phase will already have an area, a hut, and a monument (building one if they didn't in the earlier phase). They are now looking to build the better buildings, such as the blackmith's shop, warehouse, kitchen etc. They will also spend a good deal of time teraforming the surrounding area building basic walls, learning how to farm and get better trees as well as the basics of combat and keeping livestock.
Players at this phase are generally still interested and enthused by the game, but will likely have come across bugs or frustrations that are part-and-parcel of the game itself.
[i][b]Phase 3 - more stuff, bigger walls[/b][/i]
So at this stage players will have almost all the various buildings built, as well as fairly substantial fortifications. It is during this phase that most players that are interested in combat will likely start engaging in it with other players. Both those who are interested in pvp, and those who are not will go on a renewed effort to build defences around their town and safeguard resources. Warfare and banditry are commonplace, non-pvp players tend to bunker down and disengage from the active server community.
Players during this phase will tend to alternate between liking it from an active server point of view, to disliking it for its limited pvp capabilities on a non-judgement hour server, or disliking it because they are sick of their town and friends being attacked.
[i][b]Phase 4 - peace and larger goals[/b][/i]
Although the time of warfare and banditry was likely to come and go relatively quickly, without that going on many of the pvp players will have left the game, having got bored of the lack of pve goals in the game, and the pvp itself. Likewise pve players, while relieved about the lack of warfare will have become used to being quiet and so are not seen in the global chat nearly as much as they used to, making the server appear emptier than it is. All players during this phase will be looking to find new goals, or something to work for in the game, which the game sadly tends to lack choices of. Many people who were in larger guilds or who were active in pvp will focus on building larger walls and bigger defensive structures (this involves a lot of grind for getting thousands of granite blocks), others will try to upgrade their monument (involving mining gold; the most time-intensive mining type). Most players will try to max out different skills, both for practical reasons as well as for getting the achievements in steam done.
Overall players that are still playing during this stage will try to find reasons to play, but the game offers little other than maintenance of your property and grind to build vast structures. Many players become disheartened if they even made it to this phase and will play less, even if they do enjoy it when they play. At this phase the active players will drop significanly to the point where there are almost no players online at the same time.
[i][b]Phase 5 - new players[/b][/i]
This is a phase that happens due to an event, usually a server wipe or the influx of enough new or returning players to re-ignite the server population.
In general, the different settings that are put onto the server will drastically impact on the type of players that come to play on the server. Pvp players will generally avoid a pve server, younger players will generally want fast growth while older players will want a more relaxed sort of atmosphere and are happy with longer growth periods etc.
The way the server is currently set up, with no judgement hour and long days encourages pve players who are either a bit older (late 20s upwards) or players who are starting out in the game and want a non-pressurized area to play in. The setup also encourages builders who like creating their own little settlement because of the low player numbers means that there is space to make their own little village without as much danger of overpopulation causing friction between people who are too close.
The main issue with how the server settings are set up as I see it is to do with the livestock timers. In general, you would want the livestock timers to be in balance with the days, so that the dung from one or two small barns could sustain one or two small fields of crops with a little left over for expansion.
What we currently have is a system where the feeding/breeding/dung timer on the livestock ticks over far faster than the rest of the server. A player with perhaps 7 pigs in a small barn cannot leave them for more than 10 hours without the barn becoming overrun with dung, reducing the quality of the pigs or killing them outright. Likewise the dung produced far exceeds what is needed and the amount a well managed barn produces in meat goes beyond what can be used.
When it can take weeks to increase the quality of the livestock, and yet one half day is too long to leave it without being checked, that is a problem. That sort of thing is what will encourage longer-term players to leave. It can also end up a problem when this ends up making logging into the game a chore rather than a pleasure. You want players to log into the game because they are enthused about doing something in it, rather than the 'I had better log in or all my pigs will die'. And if a player doesn't manage to log in that quickly, they already know that all their livestock, that they took weeks to upgrade, is now downgraded or dead, it isn't really incentive for them to log in again. So they take a break, but at the same time knowing that the same issues will be there when they return. For people with lives, jobs etc, as the older members of the community tend to be, this is an issue. People react to rewards, not punishment in games, and sadly the livestock system in general is extremely punishing.
When the issue was brought up last time, a rather vocal section of the playerbase was very against turning down the breeding/feeding/dung timer. This was partially because of the type of players they were (more combat focused, but also impatient), but also because they didn't in general understand the breeding system of livestock as much as they thought they did. They saw the fact that their animals had bred very little in a set time and were getting frustrated, not understanding that animals above and below a certain age will not breed, and that they tend to require things like straw in the stable to maximize the breeding process (as far as I have observed). To them, the proposed change to the timer for livestock was horrible, because they were already struggling with getting animals to breed, but also because they wanted to level up their armour skills and needed the leather for that etc and they were not prepared to wait.
The other issue that was brought up against the changing of the livestock timers was that 'this is a cooperative game, you should team up with others to look after livestock and it would be fine'. The main flaw in this is that this is not a server that encourages large communities living in the same town. Players that will come to this server are ones that will be playing largely solo or with one or two others, and those that play with others will generally want to be online at the same time as their friends are. This means that even if people are teamed up in the same property, they are online and offline at the same times, which does not help the livestock issue.
So we are now in a position where the vast majority of the players have left the server or are taking an extended break. Most of them are currently playing other games. Those that are left are mainly in the Phase 4 category, working on roads, and generally maintaining their properties. Most have given up on keeping livestock because of the issues with maintaining them. The majority of animals on the server are now languishing in warehouses rather than stables and barns.
This has a knock-on effect that you need dung for farming and herb growing, so there isn't so much going on of that either. All the different buildings and items need things from either crops (rope from flax), bones for glue, leather for different constructions, herbs for flux and naphtha. So it isn't really too much of a surprise then that even those who would usually have stayed on during phase 4 have now left, and those who were against the livestock changes generally left during phase 3.
[b]Time for change[/b]
So what I am suggesting is that the timer for the livestock be reintroduced as being longer once more, and given a proper trial of at least a couple of week minimum before taking feedback from players and adjusting it if need-be. This should hopefully allow more players the ability to keep livestock and once more engage with the game without as much punishment in the process.
Now is the perfect time to implement the change, because the server has so few players. This would mean that when new players come to the server, this slower livestock timer would already be in effect and would, just like the tree and crop growth, be something they would get used to.
It is in the best interests of the server, in my opinion, to try and retain a core playerbase who are happy with slow but long-term goals, and will help the server maintain a population even during the periods where the population drops. Because people during Phase 4 will play a bit less, even if they are happy staying playing the game in general, the enforced livestock logging-in is a big off-putting thing, since you can't even take a full day off from the game. Changing the livestock timer to be more lenient will address this, I think, and encourage players to keep playing.
What I am hoping will happen is that over time, as more of the long-term players that are in Phase 4 stick with the game, it will give the server more population generally being seen online, and thus encourage new players to choose this server and thus encouraging the population to increase again as it should. Players will, after all, log into a game far more if they are not there alone.