A quick backstory of MR
As most of you know and I’ve probably repeated myself multiple times, this project wasn’t really supposed to be what it is nowadays, this was originally a practice project used for learning animation blending after I stopped working on my first horror game, using FoM’s animation stances as references, from there it evolved into a combat simulator, which is when I started to make things public back in 2017, and once the fommunity found out, it slowly started becoming into a proper FoM spiritual successor. The idea of making a FoM game has been in my mind for many years, around 7 precisely, when I started tinkering around with UE4 and made this arena shooter test, also built MVA using BSP tools, which would’ve been cool to see, but sadly it’s lost in the depths of Nex’s forum database.
Who knew 3 years later I would actually pull through and do that lol. The idea of creating an MMO by yourself, with barely any knowledge of how the networking and other dependent services work, was probably one of the most retarded ideas I could’ve come up with and executed, pretty much going against the advice of any sane developer, and a piece of advice I’ll give out myself as well, but if I had to do it again, I would gladly repeat the same mistake.
The prototype phase
The 24/7 decision
Pre-alpha drama and the great purge
Like I previously mentioned, I was naive in my thinking, regarding the attitude of players during the playtest. Since the inception of 24/7, the amount of visible drama was ridiculous, I was waking up to 20-30 DMs per day, player A was complaining about player B being toxic and ganking him constantly, faction drama was rampant, groups of players just excessively ganking anyone in sight, the wild-west nature of the pre-alpha, combined with sandbox gameplay, was essentially a breeding ground for toxicity, it was slowly chipping away at me and draining my sanity, since I had to balance the development of the game, the drama, my day job (which was ongoing a crunch period), and IRL.
I was doxxed, threatened with legal action, publicly framed as a racist, people were looking me up on LinkedIN and contacting my professional contacts/clients to get them to fire me over false allegations, all of this stemming from in-game related drama in a pre-alpha playtest of a hobby MMO project, based on an obscure dead MMO that barely anyone knows. I don’t want to picture myself as a victim, as this shit happens frequently in this industry, and what happened to me is nothing compared to what FoM developers went through.
After carefully thinking it through, and going against the advice given to me, I will be unbanning everyone involved in this purge, it was because of me that you’re all reunited once again and re-experiencing this collective miasma, which predates way long before I got involved with FoM, and plays a huge part in your childhood nostalgia. My goal is to ensure we all get to experience this for years to come, to get that definitive version we all deserve and I personally don’t want people to miss out in being able to play a part in this, after all, I am just the person doing all the heavy lifting to ensure this collective miasma lives on after it’s initial death, the amount of friendships, adventures, enemies and experiences throughout the years, that still exist till this day, must continue, it is my duty, as the architect of this new iteration.
The things that happen in this new iteration, are linked to me, and thus I take full ownership of what happens, even if I didn’t directly cause it. I won’t be entertaining any more discussions over these issues, nor hold any grudges against anyone. I have taken my time to analyze what happened, what went wrong, what could’ve been done better, and will be applying these learnings over time to ensure we don’t repeat the same mistakes in the future, or at least be better prepared for when they do happen and calibrate efficiently, I hope everyone else has done the same, let’s move on, the door will be left open, I won’t be standing there waiting, there’s way more fish in the sea, and all it takes is a few emails to open the flood gates, and we will be prepared to curb-stomp toxicity as soon as it happens.
The pre-alpha shutdown
After a year of pre-alpha, we finally decided to shut down the servers. Gamesparks, our backend provider, has been deprecated for years and will be finally put to its coffin this year, during the last few months of the playtest, instability grew rampant, servers started crashing, massive lag and eventually culminating in a massive dupe exploit due to code that hasn’t changed in a year, strangely started failing due to platform-related issues, we weren’t the only Gamesparks project that had this issue, other developers expressed having the same problems during this period as well.
We had a few dupes, but this one was what pretty much killed the pre-alpha, in terms of long-term play investment. The other big issue was player burnout, this is completely normal, it happens in every game, the initial hype slowly dies down and players stop logging in, between the pre-alpha aspect, the lack of content, and the drama, players slowly started phasing off and started lurking around, waiting for advancements in development, this started happening all the way back in 2017 after the first few playtests.
I also explicitly told players to forget about the game, move on, and wait for new updates, to make this process much easier, which is why the general hype over the game has died down and the discord/forums are silent, don’t let this worry you, as people are simply hibernating, our analytics still show strong numbers, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, data doesn’t lie.
//The development burnout and a long sabbatical
//Frontier backend updates
The backend has been live 24/7 since August 2020 and has already been integrated into the game, at least the bulk of it. But this still wasn’t enough, we had to completely overhaul our entire backend infrastructure, website, forums, support, analytics, and other tools. We had to take a look at our current infrastructure, and plan a better approach, what providers to use, how to host these instances, which instances/resources to use, and configure these to lower the costs as much as possible while providing the performance needed to support the game.
As of recently, I am spearheading this new infrastructure, to ensure I know how everything works and be more involved in the backend process, since it’s a core aspect of the game, thus it must be treated with the same care and attention that I’ve given the Unreal Engine 4 portion of MR. I have hired another backend developer, so right now we have me, Fickey, Pety, and Toky, these 3 are experts in their field, and with my leadership, knowledge, and resources, we will ensure that our new backend infrastructure is as solid and efficient as it can be, which is the backbone of the entire game, and without it, this is just a regular Unreal Engine 4 dedicated server game.
//Design changes and overhauls
The territory system was undeniably one of the hardest mechanics to implement into the game, it took a lot of iterations to refine and fix the majority of the bugs, but still, it was rather scuffed. The pre-alpha gave us a lot of data, through the constant iteration, that showed us what worked, what didn’t work, and what can be improved. We will be moving forward with the territory system being the primary form of faction takeover gameplay, ditching the other planned colony control system (for now), or better yet, merging both, as territories allow more dynamic and fluid content, since a single world can host multiple territories, thus more emerging content opportunities. Here’s a few key improvements that will be done to territories:
- – The takeover process will be multi-staged, similar to how colony takeover worked in FoM, also heavily inspired by New World’s territory system.
- – The territory control deployable will be removed and instead, these will be statically placed in each territory
- – The influence generation stage might be getting a revision because once faction goals, campaigns, missions, etc, come into play, other factors might be introduced and we’ll have to gauge if we want to keep them in, remove them, or have them work alongside the other new features.
- – Factions will be able to upgrade their territories, there will be different “skill trees” to choose from, each one specializing in different areas, depending on the territory type, this will be a mix of UC investment, time, territory use and resource investment done by players.
More cross-faction collaborative content
I had the pleasure of playing Death Stranding from start to finish, sinking over 60 hours in it, and apart from blowing me away as a gamer, it taught me a lot of good game design lessons and was quite insightful, mainly on player behavior with the asynchronous multiplayer mechanics. I will be exploring more collaborative faction mechanics, things like improving a world’s infrastructure by donating resources, PvE events, etc, because apart from the usual toxic PvP behavior found in sandbox games, deep down there’s also an inherent intrinsic motivation to help others.
I spent countless hours building highways and figuring out ways to help out other players, which you never interact with directly, it became part of the experience itself. You didn’t get any rewards, except the acknowledgment of your good deeds in the form of likes, and I’m probably one of the most selfish/solo players out there. It was pretty cool logging in and seeing all the likes that I got due to going out of my way to build infrastructure and help out other players, plus starting pissing spots where other players urinated to create mushrooms that give health items (yes that’s a feature in the game lol..), I strongly believe these small collaborative things can be integrated into the game seamlessly, and with a bit of extrinsic motivation, it will prove to be a nice inclusion in the game which will provide many benefits, and also incentivize good player behavior.
The crime system that’s been implemented has surpassed my expectations, we haven’t had the time to fully test it, but the little time we had, it proved to be quite successful and a huge improvement over FoM’s crime system, and even other MMO games. We will be doing some adjustments to it, such as:
- – Reworking the illegal item system, mainly removing all armor and the majority of implants from the list. This is one of the things that sounds good on paper, but in execution, it’s atrocious and extremely abusable. We’ll start off with just drugs and a few equipments as illegal, and from there we’ll let the players and their roleplay dictate the new list, which will be controlled from the backend, we’ll be able to make items legal/illegal without requiring a new patch.
- – Penalty Point assignment will be increased drastically, especially for murder. PP and prison time is one of the huge game systems to combat ganking and PvP toxicity, we want to ensure that within CPC protected worlds, those who wish to carry out crimes keep in mind the harsh penalties that come with them and that the wrath of Ord is always omnipresent and ready to be unleashed.
- – Most areas on Earth will be protected by static crime watches, similar to static turrets, these will respawn after being destroyed.
- Crime watches will also get a buff, similar to territory controllers, these will have a shield that will prevent damage, and likely will be able to be hacked or destroyed during certain periods, set by CPC, this will prevent the constant ninjaing that occurs during downtimes.
Weapon spread changes
Removal of physical Union Credit item
The hacking system has been received quite positively and has been effective in its job. Initially, it was too easy with the 4 digits, a difficulty system was introduced, which increased the number of digits needed to solve, this made it a bit too stressful, at least to the majority of the players, as it either requires a strong memory to remember the string of digits or having a notebook next to you, which makes things a bit unintuitive. The difficulty system will be getting adjusted, and instead of more digits, it will be replaced with more batches/blocks of digits to solve.
For example, in medium difficulty, you’ll have to solve 4 batches of 4 digit strings, such as: xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx, each batch will be handled individually, so you’re always figuring out 4 digits at a time, and once you accomplish that, you’ll have to solve the next batch of 4 digits. This will make hacking less stressful, while still retaining the difficulty increases, alongside a few other curveballs that will be thrown at you, similar to how alarm nodes worked in FoM’s hacking system. In regards to the overall hacking system, I’m pretty happy with the one we have, and we’ll keep this moving forward, but I do want to include another form of hacking in the future, FoM’s had the mastermind and node-based hacking, we’ll explore something different way later in the future.
Badges & Accolades
Improved PvE gameplay loops
PvE is one of those things in the fommunity that is shunned and discouraged, mainly due to how badly implemented it was in FoM’s, and most players viewing anything PvE related in MR through the lens of how it was before in FoM’s. I want PvE to play a bigger part in this iteration and it has been one of the main goals since its inception. I can say the current implementation is rather decent when compared to FoM’s and other MMO games, but obviously, it’s lacking a lot to be worthwhile. The main thing I’ll be tackling is replacing the current AI framework (it uses a heavily modified marketplace asset) which is horrendous and you’ve already seen drones shooting through walls and other crazy stuff.
That will be getting replaced with another, better-developed AI framework, which will allow better tools, faster development, fewer bugs, and more interesting AI behavior. I believe a strong AI foundation is essential for healthy player retention, especially for combat-oriented players, because sometimes we just want to log in and shoot some dumb stuff for a bit, also having interesting content to do that doesn’t rely on other players, will in fact, indirectly help other content that does rely on players, due to increased player retention. Some core changes will be:
- – AI won’t be safe-spotted anymore, when it detects an unreachable path to the player, meaning it can’t move next to the player/s for x seconds, it will reset itself, similar to how other MMO games handle this, a good example of this in another game is trying to shoot down the zombies/ghouls in New World while standing on-top of a house, once they detect they can’t reach you, they’ll reset back to their original spot.
- – We will be removing UC drops from AI and instead moving that into contract payouts and loot drops, alien/drone parts that can be scrapped for UC or used in production, some rare parts will be exclusive materials used in certain PMODs, allowing combat-oriented players to participate in the economy supply.
- – PvE level design will change drastically, the main problem with the alien world is how big and plain it is, there are no interesting landmarks or “arenas” for combat, thus most of the combat just relies on zoning out the aliens or safe spotting them from close to max weapon range. Think of how Necars Field had clear landmark areas, each with its own layout and “strategies” for hunting aliens effectively (even if it was just safe spotting lol). We’ll either revamp Aurora, or finally create Getha, the alien world, and will focus on more intricate landmarks with space catered towards better combat engagements, alongside more interesting AI behavior outside of the usual run towards a player and hit them.
The new character creation system
Ditching Crypto/NFT integration
Like every dev blog, we reach this part and I mention a few things that most aren’t achieved or considered, something I have to own up and take more seriously. In the upcoming days, me and the backend team will be going hard on the new infrastructure and getting the new website online, but my active development time will be invested into my horror game for the time being, because I have to get a playable demo out asap. I have to finish what I started before jumping back full-time into MR, that horror game has unexpectedly blown up, a lot of big YouTubers played it, it has multiple videos with millions of views.
I have multiple six-figure and above content creators anxiously waiting for the demo and even big name publishers have contacted me, interested about the game. It’s a rare opportunity I sadly have to execute because indirectly, it will help out MR in the long run. Once that demo releases and is in the hands of content creators, I will switch to MR and keep the war machine going. I estimate this might occur during late January, early/mid-February at most, but the backend will still be worked on regardless. In the event of the game magically blowing up and I start receiving offers, I will use that money to delegate the development of the horror game, as most of the core features are already built out and it just needs content, which means all my time will still be in MR, regardless if it it’s a success or failure.
Finalize backend in-game > Test > Faction tools > Test > Syndicate faction gameplay loop > Test…