My Steam review and concerns


#1

Today, I updated my Steam review for the game, and added some of my more recent concerns. I feel like reposting it here, with the intent of starting a discussion and/or getting an official response.
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+ The only game of it’s kind that’s not targeting kids

  • Fun
  • No microtransactions
  • Updates
  • One of the best devs I’ve ever seen

- One of the worst devs I’ve ever seen

Let me explain that last point. Imagine a group of friends working on a Gmod mod. The had worked on it for years, but recently, they hit Source’s (and Gmod’s) limits, meaning they can’t progress anymore. They come up with a solution- instead of moving on, they’re going to make the mod into it’s own game.

While the initial Kickstarter campaign fails, the following Indiegogo one succeeds and the game enters development. As I said, the devs worked on the mod in their free time for years and with little to no repayment. They’re all very nice people who often interact with the community and seemingly love their work.

The problem is… their development schedule. You see, the way their company functions is… strange. Every developer gets to work on what they currently feel like working on. Projects gets started and stopped. The priorities are often wrong, unimportant stuff, gimmicks, and things no-one cares about get worked on before the features most of the community wants. Time and money are wasted on what quite frankly seem to be the devs’ personal projects put into the game. Many devs have multiple projects they jump between. Big features needing most of the team almost never get worked on, since everyone’s doing their own thing. Updates are few and far between. New moneysinks and things to save money for are rarely added.

All of this hurts the community and the game as a whole. According to SteamSpy, about 145,000 people own it, but there are only ever about 300 players online. I want to love this game and I have great expectations for its future, but watching the development slowly kills me inside.

Examples to back my claims:
-Fishing (started, stopped, started over from scratch, stopped, started)
-The rollercoaster (Literally a one-time gimmick. You sit in it and watch your character have fun. The head dev claims it had to be made due to it being an Indiegogo promise, but there are many other such promises that don’t get worked on)
-The laser projector (One of these “personal projects” I mentioned. It’s a programmable laser projector. You can do really cool stuff with it, but it’s something almost no-one uses. One of the programmers worked on it for quite some time, too.)
-Project 39 (A “community condo” map. It was blocked out and left at that.)
-Planet Panic (A crappy, unfinished gamemode that I to this day think got released only to have the promised 4 gameworls “ready” for early access.)
-Containership (A map for a gameworld that’s not even started development)
-Virus weapons (A number of weapons for a gamemode called “Virus”. About three are very high-quality, about two are ok and the rest are crap. They only get worked on when a dev feels like going back and remodelling one, so the arsenal’s in this weird development limbo.)
-Weather affecting surfaces (Like snow covering the ground, or rain making everything wet. This was shown on a development stream quite a while ago, but it never got implemented.)
-The Arcade (One of the most anticipated features, according to votes on the official Trello page. Again, it only gets worked on when someone feels like it, which is not enough for such a big feature)
-The monorail (A small train that goes between two points of the main plaza. Literally no-one uses or cares about it.)
-The problems with the casino’s anti-afk system (They’ve been around for a while, and considering that the casino is the game’s most popular feature, should be a priority.)
-Really, any feature being developed


#2

I agree with everything you said, And i think we need more gameplay or things to work towards, this is why i think Steam Achievements, Stats, Leaderboards, and Badges/Milestones should be introduced as soon as possible. give players things to strive and get people motivated.

Just my opinion tho ¯\ _ (ツ) _ /¯


#3

Never thought I’d see the day where I’d like one of your posts.


#4

[quote=“vtipoman, post:1, topic:25515, full:true”]
Every developer gets to work on what they currently feel like working on.[/quote]
Must have been inspired by Valve.


#5

I have explained the reasoning behind Fishing here:

To expand on it for you, it got delayed because of an unforseen requirement that Valve put on us, which came during a time where we planned to make a holiday event. The Halloween event was a test of multiple upcoming planned features (cooking, fishing, metal detector, minigame/event system, dialogue system, seasonal events).

Fishing has been put back on full development for the past month now, if you read my daily logs. I am working as fast as I can on it. However, keep in mind that we also just had to update to the latest Unreal engine version, which has kinda put my focus on fixing regression bugs that came up. We upgraded the engine to solve several commonly reported bugs such as: D3D crashes (the most common crash report), 1/4 screen issues with Condo, media player FPS, Minigolf physics issues, and several other issues.

The gameplay that was previously being worked on was scrapped for very good reasons. It was: dull, boring, and not fun. It was not up to our standards and I spent a lot of time prototyping to find gameplay that is exciting, interesting, and most of all, fun. I would say scrapping what we had was the best thing for Fishing.

I have explained this to you in the past, but I’ll repost it.

To sum it up, it was NEVER a focus nor did it slow down progress of any other feature. It was simply just finished off because we solved a seat bug (a bug that needed to be solved anyways).

The laser projector could have waited, but the work done on it was done by a part time programmer. It also was a test of systems Zak was working on for Arcade and Condo IO.

That’s kinda how it has to be right now. Lifeless and Johanna have been busy with plaza events and fixing up the current Plaza map, along with developing other maps for Zombie Massacre. They can only really take up so many projects at one time. I do wish things can just be made quicker, but these things take time and that’s really gonna be a factor here. There has been more work on this than just a block out.

Planet Panic was my mistake for keeping it in the dark for so long. I have been trying to balance as much as I can, but I run out of time in the day (hell, I worked Thanksgiving just to get stuff done on Fishing). I will be returning to this game world soon after the Winter events.

This is how game development works. We need blockouts of maps and ideas to start developing gameplay for it. We’re using Container Ship to establish the art style, gameplay style, and mood of SDNL.

Krionikal has been working on animations for the weapons still. Matt and Johanna are nearly done with all the weapon models. Weapons take a lot of time to model and animate, unfortunately, and when you combine that with other things coming up, it tends to be less prioritized. We do have an internal deadline for the Virus weapons, though.

This was taken off development because it is a lot of work and not something that is super important right now. I mean I’m going through this list you’ve posted and there’s already like tons of other more important features that we could be spending time on. That’s why it’s not implemented.

We’re finishing up smaller stuff that lead into the Arcade development. We decided to get Zombie Massacre out before Arcade. Arcade is a very large project that will require complete focus on. Thus, Fishing needs to be done and out of the way before Arcade development can begin. Another major factor is Arcade development will slow down updates to a grinding halt as we gotta focus on this one. Johanna has finished most of the models for the cabinets, Zak has put a lot of work into the 2D API and it’s nearly there, and I have put a lot of work into the 3D gameplay backend,

So it’s not like we’ve forgotten or don’t put any thought into the Arcade. Everyone on the team knows it’s one of the most anticipated features, which is why we’re taking our time with it and making sure it’ll meet the expectations.

The monorail was not a very difficult feature to finish, but it was a feature promised and finished so we can get it out of the way. It also added some life to the Plaza. The monorail was also the same code used for the rollercoaster.


I think the main thing I can take from this is that we’re not doing a good enough job at explaining why we’re focusing on this feature instead of that other feature for you. It’s easy for us to look at the game and plan out the best course and direction to go in terms of game development, but it’s not clear to the public sometimes.

That’s what the daily logs were designed to help with. They are there to inform the public what we are working on. It is not entirely clear why we are working on the things we post on the log, which is the disconnect I’m seeing here.

In the past, I posted bi-weekly summaries of development progress, but I stopped as it ended up taking more time out of my development day than I anticipated. Maybe that’s what we can take from this. Instead of doing daily logs, we can combine the daily logs into a weekly (or bi-weekly) summary that explains why we’re working on this feature instead of that feature.


#6

Person who isn’t in the company thinks he has an expert knowledge of how the company operates.


#7

Welp… While I don’t agree with some of your points, I have to acknowledge most of them make perfect sense and explain quiet a lot. I’ve removed the Steam review. Won’t do the same with the forum post, for obvious reasons.


#8

As one of the developers, I’d like add my two cents.

It would be nice to be able to work solidly on one thing at a time until it’s done, but unfortunately I think that one of the side effects of working on such a small team on such an ambitious project is that I get pulled around a lot. The fact that I’m an artist and level designer at once further compounds this.

A perfect example is recently: I was working on my big, new minigolf map, Odyssey. I get asked to help decorate the plaza for Halloween. That ends up morphing into implementing the entire seasonal lobby system, which put Odyssey on hold.

The fact that Tower is not just one game, but so many games in one also makes it a more difficult game to develop for. We have to balance our time between adding new content and fixing/improving content that’s already in the game. This is why you’ve been watching me jump between working on the winter plaza (new content), and also doing bug fixes in the Underwater Condo (bug fixes) and remodeling the Virus sci-fi weapons (improving existing content).

My work schedule tends to be like this:
If I’m asked to help with art or mapping work on an important new feature, or do bug fixing or art improvements on an existing feature, I will stop what I’m doing and assist. If I am not currently urgently needed anywhere else, I will default back to working on new maps for game worlds. There was a time when you saw me working almost exclusively on Oasis, or Underwater Condo, etc.

These days I’m getting tossed all over the place. Development on Odyssey isn’t abandoned, but rather temporary shelved while I work on more important parts of the game (more important meaning art required for a new feature, rather than just another new map). Same goes for C_LobbyOne (project 39). Although that one was a weird exception where I wanted to get some of the difficult initial work out of the way early, and continue working on it once we as a team shift our focus toward community condos.


Winter Developments Announcement
#9

Agreed


#10

I am breaking my vow of silence because finally someone else says almost the exact same things that I was emphasizing and others are finally showing agreement to, (aside from the whole RNG event which I won’t get over until items are made purchasable during events for those who need 100-200 of a decor item to do themed building - if we could just buy duplicates once we have the first one unlocked…) .

There is a counter-argument for some points that could be made and it’s been bugging my OCD nature to the point that I have to post. To make the scenario a little interesting from here on out for now and an future postings, consider myself on the opposing bench, I’ll be one of those who criticize and pick at things and push for answers/change. You already have plenty on the other bench, the “followers” or “Yes” men, who simply go along with whatever is given, but don’t speak up or challenge something. People on this side of the bench are just as critical a component of EA as others, and the EA phase will be a long time still (Let’s be honest, you aren’t going to make the estimated early Spring 2018 goal of leaving EA, not by a longshot, and that should be obvious to anyone watching the progression compared to the Roadmap)

Onto the points:

We decided to get Zombie Massacre out before Arcade
Everyone on the team knows it’s one of the most anticipated features

You admitted Arcade is “one” of the most anticipated, it is fair to say it technically is the MOST anticipated feature at this point, and has been for a while. Why would you focus on something that is less cared about in comparison - ZM? That directly comes off as showing that player feedback really isn’t important or coming through, it’s like this:
(You are saying one thing “Claiming you know we want Arcade the most” but doing something else yet again “Making a different game, and focusing on something the players aren’t as eager for in comparison” It’s exactly what the original post was talking about, and ZM isn’t a quickie like Fishing).
You are making these games for the players. Your players have asked for Arcade to be next since a while, so it just makes no sense to pick ZM the one that is less asked for, over Arcade, the one most asked for. From the looks of the Roadmap, ZM has a lot of objective counts too, it isn’t just some small and simple feature that’ll be done in a week or 2 either.
.
We can assume ZM will require more than 1 player, if it can be single player, this becomes irrelevant, but the next paragraph emphasizes something important. Assuming it can’t be played alone, it will see a fraction of the playtime that Arcade would bring since like the Casino, you aren’t reliant on waiting for people to show up. THIS is literally the biggest issue with many games - it could be solved by inserting AI players, something is better than nothing.

This follows into a long term issue I’ve had since buying the game - How do you expect people to play games like these that have a requirement of 4 players minimum?
When I play, the game itself has 108 online approx. Most of those are in EU. Our US server only has 16 players in one server, and 10 in another, and maybe 4-5 in the rest - My play time sits somewhere around 11pm-5am PST. Before someone says play earlier, that is not a valid solution, it is 2017 and we live in a world that runs 24/7, gamers especially are notorious for being up during the night. The issue here is player requirement counts and lack of players that needs to be addressed.

Continuing on with the minimum player count requirements being a big issue due to the extremely low player count, the only games that allow for single-player are Casino, Typing Derby, and I think Bowling (haven’t played it again since 3 months ago when the pins would be half down and half stuck in the ball holder thing)? Why does mini-golf require 2 to start? It can be played alone just fine, same for Ball Race. If it’s rewards… well Cash is for singleplayer content (condos) anyway, and if that is even an issue, just cut down the reward by 1/4th or something if playing alone. You are still far better off spamming spacebar as fast as possible on Double or Nothing if you want to grind cash, compared to games.
I won’t go into Virus or LC because those are obvious, but when there are 16 people in the server, most being afk / in casino, starting these become impossible. For the duration of EA, it made make the most sense to enable more of these to be single player, until there is a sizable player base that can support these requirements. Either that, or implementing AI to play against.

Arcade development will slow down updates to a grinding halt as we gotta focus on this one

Let’s be honest with this one. Since early Summer, there really haven’t been any noteworthy updates in terms of gameplay content (the other half of why boredom has ensued). We saw a temporary event, (yes, we heard the reasoning of it being for testing, but it doesn’t change that the content has come and gone and is not available now) and 2 Ball Race maps added. The maps are unfortunately a miss and added nothing (Waaaay too easy or just feeling really bland and unexciting) and Khromidro & Galaxy still remain the most entertaining and the only 2 that feel like that have any form of challenge, not to mention the song on Khromidro is too good to give up.

Not on the list anywhere, but 2 very key bits for discussion. The first fits into all of this and would alleviate a lot of the “lack of gameplay content” situation, and take pressure of Devs and give power to the players:

1) Why is there no player course designer for Minigolf & Ball Race? A map on its own is no where near as significant as a full new game, sure, but when multiple players can make them and have them downloadable in the workshop. Even if you only play them a few times, it’s better than nothing. And just maybe, someone creates a gem that exceeds the current ones.

Point: I am quite confident I can design some courses that would be more entertaining than quite a few of those available now. I am a very creative individual and I like designing, it’s literally what I have been doing for the past year for income, in a “freelance” way, building stuff with plenty of YouTube videos to back that up…. I would do things far more wacky and challenging as all the maps are waaaaaaaaay too easy for my enjoyment (Minigolf especially). I am sure there are others who are the same.

How about utilizing people who are creative and want to design courses?

To keep it in one place for discussion rather than jump all over since it’s short, but an issue I’ve had from the beginning, and others must feel it too:
2) Why is every Minigolf map and Ball Race map soooooooooooo easy? For Minigolf, none of them feel challenging at all (The biggest challenge is the ball physics). It is the most straight forward it could be, lack of hills, obstacles, wackyness. Sweet Tooth is the only one that comes close. Same for Ball Race, Khromidro/Galaxy are respectable. The cloud map could have made it, but it is so overly white, it’s immersion breaking. The holes that could be challenging - the ones that require timing to go into and out of the moving pipes at the right time for the good hole, aren’t, due to camera angles preventing you from seeing the moving pipes. This wouldn’t add much of a challenge, but it’s something. Minigolf GLXY is probably the best case for being way too easy and straight forward.

I haven’t played a Minigolf game that was this straight forward and easy (In real life or video games)


#11

Stop describing valve dammit.


#12


It doesn’t require 2 players. Ballrace and Minigolf have always been playable in single player.


#13

Hello again.
I will repeat what I said to you on the Steam Discussion forum:
stop lying


#14

Thank you for that video Derak.

EDIT: Thanks for reminding me Nallout, Wolf you are well within your right to try and make some maps for the pixeltail development team for say ballrace or minigolf, you know incase you feel like it.


#15

Along with the mis-information spread by your post you come off as pretentious and egotistic. Insulting the level designers and artists in the team while saying that you are so much better than them, doesn’t matter if you are or not all you’re being is rude and you’re making yourself look like an ass. Should’ve kept your ‘vow’ of silence.


#16

It seems like a lack of single player content is a major concern for you, which I understand as finding a game for certain game modes can be inconsistent with the current player base.

However I feel like this is a silly time to complain about that, as the devs are spending a huge amount of time currently working on multiple aspects to aid this.

Fishing can be entirely single player, and is making steady progress at the moment and seems to be a big focus for Mac. Fishing will also add a new aspect to grinding and depth in the game, as well as a new source of units.

Its been pointed out Zombie Massacre will be single player, adding a whole new type of gameplay to the game for all. The last substantial updates to gameworlds (besides new maps here and there) were the weapon rework for virus and the addition of Little Crusaders, so its been a while since gameworlds got some love. The devs have voiced they try to balance between lobby, condo, and gameworlds so none feel abandoned.

Also global chat is meant to come with the winter update, which will be a huge aid in finding players for games and connecting with others.

That is three of the main focuses devs are pushing for in the near future, with global chat being around the corner and fishing shortly after.

only games that allow for single-player are Casino, Typing Derby, and I think Bowling

Yes bowling too. As well as Minigolf and Ball race, which is technically half of the game worlds at the moment. Also if minigolf not being singleplayer was a big drawback for you, I don’t see how you haven’t attempted to play it singleplayer or listened to others telling you its possible.

I understand your frustrations, don’t get me wrong. I’m just trying to explain I feel like these concerns of yours are being addressed in multiple ways.

Arcade is going to require an insane amount of development time with the variety of games it will offer, and none of that will really effect the rest of the game (besides maybe development for the Condo IO system). Casino is an existing example of this, a well executed and very isolated portion of the game that players are happy to camp inside. At this point in the development, arcade will mostly just be another cave for players. The rest of the game needs some more care before this is a focus. Hence ZM being a new gameworld, Living Lobby updates, fishing and condo tools being up before hand.

Also we can’t ignore that Arcade has been worked on passively for a long time, as mentioned majority of the machines are fully modeled and there is great progress on the 2D API including a test preview for users to experiment creating their own games while they wait, available here on the forums.

For the holiday events, I get how you can see those as something that can be low priority but they have more purpose than just testing future systems. They are an immediate sign that the devs are trying to keep the game alive and evolving. Its a very small thing, but having the title screen and plaza change with the seasons and a handful of new events and items is exciting and makes the game development feel less stagnant when waiting for bigger updates, while helping test those future updates and taking little time away from other areas of development.

You already have plenty on the other bench, the “followers” or “Yes” men, who simply go along with whatever is given, but don’t speak up or challenge something. People on this side of the bench are just as critical a component of EA as others, and the EA phase will be a long time still

I think chalking up the small, enthusiastic and patient playerbase as blind followers who ignore issues is a disservice to the developer’s communications. I’m not kissing butt here, sometimes there feels like there is a content drought and there hasn’t been a substantial update in a while.

However with the trello, daily dev logs, developers streams with community Q&A, the discord and forums where the developers are constantly active I always know whats planned and worked on with daily updates. Some things take longer than they should, but the developers let us know why.

I agree you should be vocal with your dissatisfaction with any aspect in the game, this is the game to do it with since the devs are so accessible. However many of your points have already been addressed multiple times, and some were just false assumptions (no singleplayer minigolf).


#17

I just want to make a comment on the events. These are not one and done events. The halloween update, for example, will be played again next year, but with all of the improvements that were made after this year’s halloween event, and with improvements (more events and items). This goes for other events like the winter holiday event.

A lot of the development time that has gone into these events has actually been used to implement the seasonal plazas, which was a feature in the original GMT. It just so happens that it was better to develop these features in tandum. For example, many of you may have noticed that lately I’ve been spending a lot of time working on the winter plaza. 95% of this development effort has been for the actual seasonal plaza itself, with the remaining 5% going toward the holiday specific event art. The amount of time we’ve actually spent on the halloween and christmas events has been minuscule in the grand scheme of things. And with a great payoff: yet another thing that makes the plaza seem more interesting and lively. Which is a goal of ours for the finished product that is the plaza aspect of the game.


#18

Nothing more fun than annoying the carebears on any game, this makes it worthwhile to see others get worked up always, especially cause I don’t care what others think in the slightest, it is the internet afterall xD

It’s amusing to see that in every game, there are those who have their faces glued to the rear of a dev and think every dev is some perfect god. They aren’t the best in the world. You might like the courses, I like 3 in total between Minigolf/Ballrace, and it is completely reasonable to straight up say that many of them are boring & easy, it’s how art works, because the courses are on par with art, it’s valuable info whether you want to admit it or not. I am not going to include rainbows and unicorns and toss on a bag of sugar on any criticism I have, deal with it.

There are plenty of people out there who could definitely create some better maps, hence give us a map editor kit like Golf It! has for example, and let those who want to, make some maps. It can only be a win/win scenario.

And the SP minigolf/ballrace is news to me, I’ve only played games through Plaza for the 88 hours I put in and never once clicked those other tabs as the Plaza contained everything in it. Going off the Plaza, those definitely asked for 2 players, so maybe they should be changed to 1 to be consistent. The Plaza comes off as the place you are supposed to go to due to accessibility, so unless you go off the beaten path, odds are many others out there aren’t even aware.

Its been pointed out Zombie Massacre will be single player, adding a whole new type of gameplay to the game for all

The info is scattered around hundreds of posts, only those with that form of memory can remember this. Those who are blessed with a strong photographic memory only, have no chance at remembering every little detail (since some might not understand how that works, I can remember visually images, routes, house layouts, etc to the tiniest detail from 10+ years ago, but I can’t remember a conversation or what I read 2 days ago) Fishing is of 0 interest to me, a completely pointless addition to me I’ll never touch, it’s a game of patience rather than action, something I have none of.

Well, this should make for some more entertainment for me tomorrow.


#19

This is unacceptable behavior on the forums. I’m sorry, but we’ve been pretty nice to you and have replied thoroughly.


#20

oooh sorry hard