Olvand is a little multiplayer sandbox RPG, where the players live in self-built towns and can go on all kinds of adventures together. Imagine living with your friends in a small town in the mountains, or creating a new group of friends in a pub in the metropole you all live in. There will be several minigames the inhabitants of a server can play together, among which will be combat based games like King of the Hill or Capture the Flag. You will be able to play against other people in your city, or as a city against another city, or as a whole server against another server. The combat works with self-built guns, in which all kinds of powers can be combined to create unique effects. You can sign up to be a tester on olvand.com.
Some pictures of what I want to add in the future:
Hi all, first of all: [the poll to pick the name of the next version] is gathering quite some votes, so that's something that seems to be working. Right now Olvand Violet seems te be in the lead; interesting!
The three main problems
You may remember that I [emailed all the recent players] to find out why they all stopped playing after a week or two. I recently did this again (with other players), with similar responses. These are the three main problems:
1. People are confused about how the game works
2. There is nobody online to play with
3. People don't know what to do / are unaware of what the game has to offer anymore after some time
... and thus they quit or lose interest. As for the first problem, I include some new stuff to make things a little clearer every new update. That definitely seems to work: the number of 'early drop-outs', people who start the game but get no achievements, gets smaller with every new update.
But the second and the third problem are much harder to solve. This blogpost, I'll focus on the first problem, next week on the second.
Keeping players online
It's a problem all smaller multiplayer games have, and Olvand is no exception: no other players online. I think for Olvand in particular the main problem is that a substantial part of the features I've implemented so far, are things you can only do together (races, fishing contests, etc.). If you're alone on a server, these things are not really interesting, so you leave... which means the next player that logs in will also be alone on the server. It's a vicious cycle: the server is empty because people leave, and people leave because the server is empty.
How to fix that? A solo activity with lots of replayability, of course! And if I scroll through the [list of future features], one feature in particular seems to fit really well: caves. What I have in mind is some kind of minigame-like process where you battle your way through a cave of randomly generated monsters (much like what is called 'dungeons' in other games), alone or in a group, and that there will be a boss and then some rewards at the end.
How to keep this interesting, so players will stay on servers longer? I think there are two main approaches when it comes to replayability:
* Giving the player something completely new every time. Spelunky is king in this genre of games: a beautiful new level is generated each time you start the game. If you die, the level is gone forever.
* Giving the player exactly the same challenge every time, but make it just a little bit too difficult; this way, players will try over and over until they mastered it. For me, Super Meat Boy is the perfect example of this. I think one design decision in Super Meat Boy in particular is brilliant to encourage 'trying again and again': there is no 'waiting time', delay or even a dialog box when you are dead. You are simply teleported to where you started, and you can start right away. There's no time to wonder whether you want to try again; before you realize it, you've already started.
Mixing the approaches
Which one of these approaches should I choose? I figured that Olvand might actually be a nice opportunity to do both. That is, the landscape will, from the next update on, be scattered with caves you can enter, and each cave will contain a unique layout with rooms and corridors to get lost in, randomly generated monsters with randomly generated AI (attack strategies!), randomly generated puzzles and randomly generated timing challenges, much like a Spelunky level. On the other hand, once you're inside, it plays like a Super Meat Boy level, where the challenge will be always the same, and you can try over and over. If you die, you will be transported to the beginning of the cave instantly, so you can try right over.
Will this work? I have no idea. I'm excited about it in any case, so the basis is there.
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