Oct 06

Are Game Worlds Dying? Part 2 – Mergers and Larger Worlds


Last week we started this series, looking at the reasons behind the perception of dying game worlds.

As mentioned, this week we’ll take a look at the common suggestion of game world mergers or larger game worlds. Both of these are touted on the forums as the obvious ‘wonder cure’ for dying game worlds. Are they? Would it make any difference?

Is it even feasible? We’ll look at those questions and more this week, as we continue to unravel the fundamental issues behind the perception of dying gameworlds.

Larger Game Worlds

Are they possible, would they solve anything?

“Larger GWs is something we certainly want to try, though we need to do further optimisation work in order for the servers to be able to cope with it.” - Ov Collyer

That answers the first part of the question, possible at some stage, although not quite yet. To answer the second part of the question: No, it won’t solve the current issues.

How do I know that?

Because it’s been done before, in fact you’re playing in them now – When I first came to FML back in To Madeira (GW2) it was a 500 player game world, half the size of what we have now. That was a long time ago, and the game has changed a lot since then, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the amount of active people in a game world. Back then it was beta, it was free, and still the numbers floated around 200 regularly active managers. As each successive beta world opened the overall numbers grew, but the basic numbers of active people didn’t. Sure being beta it was never hard to invite a new batch of testers, and these would swell the numbers in a given world for a period of time. But after a while it always dropped back to around 200-300 people who were regularly logging in.

What does that have to do with live game worlds today?

The same pattern is occurring, sure some of the more recent worlds may still have greater numbers but the vast majority of worlds hover around 200-300 regular active members and the newer worlds are getting there. People come and go, the number stays the same ~ Why?

That’s the big question isn’t it, there is an all too similar pattern with the numbers across all worlds (forget the beta, just look at the live worlds). I don’t mean the overall subscriptions, yes some worlds show higher numbers than others – what we are looking at here is the numbers of active managers (let’s say last signed in 7 days). There has to be some reason for this, some basic underlying reason why every game world has such a similar pattern, why every game world bottoms out at the same level of activity. There is a reason, and it’s really a fairly simple one ~ Expectations!

Why GW Ranking Has To Go

It won’t matter if the game world has a capacity for 1,000 managers, 3,000 managers or 10,000 managers. Nobody wants to be 978th, nobody wants to be 553rd, and nobody wants to be 381st ~ not for any length of time anyway. It won’t matter how big you make the game worlds, as soon as these lower ranks have a chance to jump to a new world they will.

It’s all well and good for those in the top 100 or even the top 200 to say it gives them something to aim for, a good measure of where they are and how they are progressing. The basic truth of it though is these are the upper echelon of teams, if your down at the lowest rankings in the game world it’s just too hard to climb, it’s an insurmountable task ~ or at least it appears that way.

For the very same reasons people balk at joining older game worlds, everyone wants to be near the top, everyone wants a chance. What they don’t need is a daily mail reminder about how far down the ladder they actually are.

Progression, progression, progression

It’s the new catch phrase in FML, and so it should be. Progression is the only answer to the above, no matter where you start (or when), there needs to be a sense of progression. Not just a pathway, a sensation that you’re actually getting better (maybe, even if you aren’t). The original FA structures were set up with a pyramid structure to give the impression that you’re never far from the top ~ that thinking needs to change.

It can’t be about getting to the top, very few people are ever going to do that and as with GW Ranking most will simply give up, or jump worlds in search of an easier route. There needs to be more recognisable achievements, more realistic objectives to keep those who are never going to get to the top interested.

And it needs to work from the top down as well, getting to the top should only ever be half the battle ~ staying there should be just as hard. It’s far too easy now for the top teams to sit on auto pilot and plough through season after season with little real effort required maintaining their place at the top.

Merging Game Worlds

Same applies, everything we have already covered is going to apply ~ the same basic principle that only the top echelon of managers will hang around in any game world. It’s not about being more active, more passionate or better at the game. It’s about being more realistic, having more realistic objectives; it’s about changing the perspective, the expectations of the people playing.

Game world mergers are brought up on occasions in the forums, but they always come from an attitude of not losing out. No one wants to completely give up what they have already spent time achieving, and why should they! Talk of merging worlds is always backed up with “I want to keep my stadium though” or “I want compensation for my world class squad” or “Can we replace our players with regens of a similar CA”. How about you get to keep your world ranking too? Keep your place in the premier league? Because without them half the people are going to run off to another world at the first available opportunity!

Merging game worlds won’t fix any of the issues that got us in this state to start with, it will only offer a short term solution to the few that survive and prosper in the new world. If your going to do it, then at least restart completely ~ give the managers at the bottom now a second chance to exploit the game in those first few weeks, but until all the issues surrounding the dying game worlds are dealt with – there’s no real point to any of it.

Sort it out SI!

Progression is the first step, and the recent actions to revitalise the FA set ups is a good first step, bigger and deeper tiered associations offer more opportunities for people to take the small steps up the ladder that they need to feel they are getting better. There are problems with them though, and we’ll look at that next week.

Giving us something to play for, Gareth Millward’s article emphasised the lack of purpose behind the current competition set up, the lack of a reason to do better. Although much of that article focuses on the monetary aspects, the same principles can be applied in another way. This is in large part the focus of the new reputation system, still in early stages of beta so I’m not going to discuss it in any great depth here. But increasing the number of reputation levels (up to 20) and linking reputation to individual competitions will enhance there value, making them more important and more rewarding.

Adding both of the above together will go some way toward to improving the opportunity lower level managers have to feel like they are going forward. Missions are also on the roadmap, and present an opportunity to really address some of the issues around being at the bottom of the pile. Even here though it will be important to ensure completing “mission one” is an achievement, and not a reinforcement of where a club is in relation to the rest of the game world.

Talking about achievements, this is another very under utilised area of the game. There needs to be more celebration surrounding some of the achievements, not just a quiet mail item that gets lost in a few minutes. Don’t ask me if a I want to “share” that news item with my friends either ~ just push it out there, and don’t dare give them an opportunity to block it. They might get annoyed? Well I certainly hope so, how else am I going to rub it in if it doesn’t annoy them when I get the silverware first!

Patience is going to be important, not just from the users ~ yes it’s going to take time to address all the issues it takes time just to write about them. But patience form the development team too, the important thing for now is no more new worlds, ignore the pleas in the forum, ignore the temptation, get the issues sorted out ~ make the game long term enjoyable for all 1,000 managers and then we can look at bigger worlds or mergers or new worlds or whatever else the forum mob are calling for this week.

Reward Points offer another step in the right direction, the opportunity to unlock extra features. But more gameworld wide stuff, the Gameworld Champion Crown was a good addition but these things tend to mean more to lower tier managers so maybe some stuff that’s attained more through luck than actually being good – Golden Boots awarded to the last team/player that scored a hat-trick that sort of thing. Unlock videos, or tactical set-ups or whatever might actually help these managers get better, or at least enjoy participating.

Rant Over!

Next – Football Associations and other Competitions: What’s wrong with them and how do we fix that?

If there’s an issue you feel has a detrimental effect on your game world, or the game in general then post a comment below.

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.
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  • Carlos Patrocínio

    Interesting article. I think one solution to help with the problem solve is to reduce the number of FAs in each world and make this fewer FAs more structured, with more divisions, 3 for example. So if you are in the 2nd division you can be promoted or fight to avoid a relegation. It would be more interesting and group the active managers in the same FAs, because of the fewer options. I think i was able to express my opinion even with my poor english... :D... Thanks and congratulations for your great site...

    Carlos Patrocinio - Real Recanto FC - Callaghan - NFA Premiership

  • Mark_Burton

    Your English is fine Carlos - and agree FA's are a problem, that will be the focus of the next article in the series.

    Not sure all will agree with my views on how to fix them, but i think we all agree there are many problems with them.

  • Great article that succinctly summarises the current situation GW's find themselves in.

    The GW rankings has seemed so meaningless to me for the whole time I have played FML, in either beta or live. Why should I care if I am two places behind a team that is not in my FA and that I have never, or rarely, played? I care much more about my league position in my FA and how I can finally get the players to push for promotion!! Which brings me onto the next point....

    Pyramid structures in FA's are such a bad thing. Teams that are in the mid-lower part of their league, with no chance of promotion and no relegation to worry about, have no incentive to play for the latter part of the season. What is the point in playing your league match when win, lose or draw it means nothing? A linear league structure would surely spice up the end of season if you are fighting against relegation.

    Added to all that, managers need more to do when they log in. Setting contract renewals, repairing your stadium and searching for players you can't afford or don't want can only satisfy you for so long!

  • Kevin

    Excellent article and summarises my feelings exactly. I've never understood how merging 2 worlds together will achieve anything. Never mind the technical impossibilities of trying to merge 2 databases sharing common "unique ID's" but how do you convince existing managers to give up their last years work?

  • Dural

    Clearly having bigger GW's won't help for the simple reason that we cannot fill the current sized ones. I can see the logic in merging existing gameworld, you have 300 active users in this GW and 350 in this one, merge them together and hey presto 650 ACTIVE maangers. But all you'll get from this is people moaning that they now can't compete with every and want to move on. After a few seasons numbers will decline once again.

    Although i agree that having deeper FA structures will give people a sense of progression, I'm not sure how many managers will be happy being stuck in the championship for seasons upon seasons, unable to truely progress to the prem, much like the situation we have now/before, where it is even easier to reach the highest league but people still left because they couldn't make it. Will the change actually increase the number of people leaving GW's? Lets face it most people want to be number one, obviously not everyone can be, and now even less people can be in the highest league. I'm not sure how we can achieve progression and giving people the feeling of being good. Maybe giving people other things to be good at is the answer with these missions and tokens, who knows.

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