One of the biggest challenges for FML into the future will be making the game attractive to new users. The current trend of ever opening new worlds cannot continue for long, if nothing else the cost of hardware and staff to constantly grow the number of worlds will become prohibitive without a stable long term viable base. It’s therefore reasonable to expect that the day of no more new worlds is fast approaching, so attracting new users to older worlds is a necessity for long term survival.
From day one of launch the exploit of new users has reared it’s head in a variety of ways, from the simple cases of prior knowledge of the data base and game mechanics through to competition abuse like the infamous DYM invites. Each of these is dealt with in time, the taxes on profits, early sales tax and limits for private transfers were all introduced to reduce the impact of exploitation of new users and to limit the rate of progression of those with prior game knowledge. Even the introduction of controls on player movement, world types (beginner, semi-pro, pro) were in part responses to teams looking to move to fresh worlds in order to get ahead by exploiting others.
But with the end of the line coming for new worlds, there needs to be a more focussed push on the protection of new users moving into established worlds. While many would argue it’s already the better option, and to a point the forums back up that argument, the more settled environments of older worlds is a better place to play. What they lack is the opportunity of quick success, but then the intention is for a long term game and the sooner people accept that culture the greater will be their experience.
Should new users be given bonuses to enter old worlds, should they have bonus skills or extra cash? A long debated issue on the forums, the simple answer is another question. Should the experienced users have their time ignored? To give bonuses to new users would certainly impact on the value of time spent already in a world by the more experienced users.
At the same time though ending a world would have a greater impact on the time already spent by those members, so somewhere a balance needs to be found. No more new worlds means old worlds can survive – but surely then the new users who join to help maintain activity levels in those worlds need to be protected, need to be nurtured into that environment.
Without them the worlds will eventually die out.
If I think back over the time I’ve spent involved with FML I can recall many, many occasions where a team has joined a well developed world and progressed quickly through the rankings. The game certainly allows for quick team development, with limited player locking and wage auctions allowing player purchases at low prices, but these teams are generally a minority. The vast majority of teams that join a world several seasons in are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the clubs around them, and thoughts of progression seem a long way off. Somewhere there needs to be a balancing of game objectives that entails a sense of progression for these new teams, without undermining the value of the long term manager.
A manager in his first season needs to feel he has a chance to win something important, and if he doesn’t win then he needs to know he has progressed. And next season maybe, or the one after, maybe it never actually happens but the opportunity needs to be there. At present it’s not, for those that wish there is a new users FA in every game world, but even that is only a one season chance for a few and then a forced move to another FA where your at the bottom of the pile again. Many managers choose the “real” FA from day one, but then what chance do they have. In the bottom tier of any FA there will be a range of more experienced users with better teams, even worse when a high profile team may have switched FA’s that season and so is starting at the bottom with them.
So some major flaws in the basic rules governing inter FA movement add to the difficulties experienced by new teams, surely these are relatively easy to fix, but doing so will again impact on the experience of more established users. None of the choices will be easy, and before any can be made a fundamental decision needs to be made by the games developers.
Should new users be protected?
If we look at the early days of any new world we see there is already a level of protection for those who join beyond the first hours, with the pre-assigned squads every team has a team of equal ability protected for them whenever they sign up in those first 7 days. So it would seem fair a similar level of protection be afforded to new teams joining a world several seasons in. Ideally this would be by having a squad pre-assigned to them of a similar ability to the teams at the start of the world, how practical this would be is another matter though. Perhaps it could be done by re-locking a certain number of players at the end of each season to be held for 7 days in readiness for teams joining.
Although a far easier solution would be to provide an extra initial cash fund, that would be sufficient to enable the purchasing of such a team. Although providing a “new” team with a cash boost at the beginning will make them more attractive to the wolves who will lie in wait to fleece them of their starting bonus.
Fleas the size of rats sucked on rats the size of cats
And ten thousand peoploids split into small tribes
Coveting the highest of the sterile skyscrapers
What ‘Future Legend’ awaits FML, will it be worlds where new users are seen as fresh meat to be devoured by those already ruling their worlds. Or will there be a way to embrace new people into old worlds, were they can feel a sense of progression amid a protected environment. The latter is the only way to ensure the longevity of all game worlds, it will require a degree of coded protection for all new users – but it will also require an acceptance amongst existing communities that their future is entwined with the hopes of the late comers.
Protection of new users will be crucial for their extended enjoyment in established worlds, and the evolvement of FML. It will also protect the established users, as their investment in the game and community they have built will be enhanced by fuller worlds.
|Written By Mark Burton
A moderator since May 2008 in a number of beta worlds and now GW Fowler, he strives to highlight the community aspects of FML and inform new & experienced users about future game development.