My Observations (Very Lengthy!)

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My Observations (Very Lengthy!)

Post by Arilious » 11 Jul 2008, 22:12

The Mana World
Observations and Advice for Future Development

While many of you may not know me, as I am not active on the forums, many others may have an idea of who I am by seeing me on the game. In any case, in my rather brief time here playing The Mana World, I have noticed some key issues and problems which, in m opinion, must be resolved in order for this project to move forward completely, and not relapse into the situation it is currently in. While this post is rather long, I suggest to all that you read it, and “listen” to what I am saying. Please don’t discard it as the ramblings of a newcomer.

Main Content

The first issue, and perhaps the most important issue, is something which can be developed and tested right now. This is the games main content, the developed content. Currently, game play is somewhat fun, for awhile, but due to a large imbalance in the economy, which I am informed was caused by a hacker pouring at least 600 million GP into it, obviously leaves fun to be desired once you get past level 30. Were it not for the wonderful community the staff seems to take for granted, you may not have anyone to test “The Mana World.”

Currently, new content is coming, or so I have heard, and apparently this has been a long time coming. I am unsure as to why it has apparently taken so long to release, and I’m doubtful there has been any good reason for it but slow development. This will be good for testing, however with the plan I have heard will be enacted in the near future, I fail to see what this new content will accomplish but satisfy upper level members.

The current plan I have heard from the staff is that a complete account wipe will occur. I am not sure exactly how complete it will be, but this will also be accompanied by a complete redo of all in game content. While I admit, this in part may help fix the problem, if the content is still unbalanced, as it is now, the staff will not know until much later after the restart. This will mean they will have to enact this plan over and over, making many players angry, and causing many to leave.

Sure, staff may say this is only a pre-alpha development stage, but you still need players to test your development. A player base of 100-200 is much better than a player base of 20. There is a much better solution to fixing in game content than countless account reset and mere “guessing” that you have balanced the games content. What is this solution? Test in the current situation. While you will still have an economical imbalance, if your new “balanced” content fixes game play for new members, then you KNOW you are on the right track. A blind test could reveal that you did the complete opposite of what you hoped to accomplish, and now you’ll have a worse game with unhappy players. No the most willing community to help anymore now is it?

In short, staff, you must let the community be your eyes and ears when it comes to things they want. Development may be slow, but you need to be motivated. If you are unmotivated, it will reflect in your content and will reflect in the attitude of the players. If you do not have passion for this game, if you cannot see the bigger picture, if you do not care about the opinions of others who test more actively and avidly than you, how can you ever expect for TMW to succeed?

Graphics and Mapping


Graphics are a large part of game play, and can greatly influence whether someone will play a game or not. These graphics you start with form a core of game play that is very difficult to go back and fix. Being a free community project, you will always encounter problems with graphics, but some can be fixed at their roots. Right now, sprites and monsters see great. Generally all have very similar form and style, and this is wonderful, however tiles are not as great.

Currently, there are many people working on tiles, and with the base tiles, such as the general land tiles, they are in great sync with each other, however, when more detailed tiles are done, the style differences become painfully obvious to all. Tiles right now are viewed as “oh, well you did a good job” and not “well, did you try to match a general style so our game will have continuity in the end.” The reviewers are obviously other pixel artists who judge based on the criteria of good pixel art, not of a general game-style.
I suggest that staff meet and form an overview committee of staff and community members, who would review tiles and make sure they all match or are very close to being the same style. This will help the game look whole and continuous from place to place, versus thinking you walked into a completely new game from land to land. It is important to fix discontinuity now, before developed has become so heavy that changing this would be too difficult to implement.

Of course, the lack of enthusiasm from some of the graphics artists does not help. I have heard some say it would take them 10 minutes to finish, but they just don’t feel like it. These same people also find the game boring and wonder why people play it. I am sure this only adds to the lack of morale that plagues graphics developers, and this would be solved by the content development being improved. It is a symbiotic relationship in which both graphics and content must work together more closely, making sure everything fits together like a puzzle, versus how it is now where you kind of just gather what you see and try to make something out of it.

This graphics problem also plagues the mappers, or if it doesn’t, it should. If you go to overview of any map now, you will see one thing; literally. Bland, repetitious, uninteresting, similar landscapes filed with emptiness and lots of monsters. While having a lot of monsters and plenty of space is good for an online game who expects to have many players, it is not impossible to make good maps which follow realism in their design that allow for this space. Right now the maps are so boring I could be put to sleep just staring at them. This is something that needs to be addressed to the graphics developers. They need to develop many side-items and spicy things that can be added to make maps more interesting: grass growing through cracks in a cave, a vent in a wall, more flowers or patches of overgrown grass for grassy areas. There are many things that could be done, that aren’t. Right now its either an empty save with lots of bats, a wooded area with a boring square road and lots of repetition, or an empty desert with too much emptiness. Beautiful does not mean cluttered, but functional does not mean empty! I urge mappers, community, and staff, to scrutinize maps more carefully and KNOCK OUT THIS CYCLE! Maps, along with graphics, should undergo the foremost observation and scrutiny before being accepted as part of the game. Right now, TMW seems so desperate for this kind of content that it will take anything, not looking for these key flaws, and letting sub-par content be added.

Code

Code, of course the foremost thing on the minds of many, as TMServ is the main concern of the programmers. It is sad that this concern is something many players feel will never see the light of day. With this in mind, I must urge the programmers to, while still developing TMServ, PLEASE pay some attention to the current eAthena server! This is where content is being tested and you MUST do everything you can to ensure that the test environment not be contaminated by hacked GP or botting players. There are simply security fixes that would not take more than maybe an hour to add, and nothing is done! While programming is an important job, and you want to develop TMServ, you must help the developers to fix the content. If you have a server with no good usable content ready, then TMServ will never be used to its fullest extent, yet if you can help the developers have an environment where testing can go unhindered by outside forces, you will be doing them a great service. They will be able to have content ready for moving to TMServ, content that will hopefully be up to par, and greater than that even! They cannot do this along though. You must not forget that testing for the content which TMServ shall house is on eAthena. You must not forget that this is where your community is at the moment. Pay them some attention, or you may regret it when the time comes.

Conclusion

In conclusion, TMW staff and community, I hope that you can walk away from reading this rather lengthy message with some ideas of how to better this game and fix some things NOW before you are in too deep later. I am sure this will get mixed reviews. A “we’ve heard it before” or “we’re already doing this” from the staff or “go away you n00b!” and those are fine, but take a step back and see if any of that is really true. Is the staff LISTENING or simply HEARING? Is the community thriving, or surviving on the backs of those willing to help and motivate? Community needs the staff as much as the staff needs to community. Please take heed, and do something. TMW has great potential, and it’d be a sad day to see it all ruined because of some mistake that could have been avoided and fixed now.
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Re: My Observations (Very Lengthy!)

Post by Crank » 11 Jul 2008, 22:45

Jesus couldn't have said it better himself.

Thats why I decided to create my total conversion. But I guess staff here will flame you for doing that.
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Re: My Observations (Very Lengthy!)

Post by Len » 12 Jul 2008, 13:35

I agree with you! (basically) but I would feel bad if I didn't flame you a little...(so lets get to it)

My Reaction to Your Redundant Observations (Graphics and Mapping)

First off read this! http://forums.themanaworld.org/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=3575
If you don't wish to read it, at least know that I said, "I believe we should start looking at maps as compositions rather than a bunch of stand alone objects." That statement alone makes most of your Observations Redundant.
Speaking of which lets look at your Observations
Graphics and Mapping


Graphics are a large part of game play, and can greatly influence whether someone will play a game or not. These graphics you start with form a core of game play that is very difficult to go back and fix.
I've actually made it my personal mission to go back and fix the tilesets within TMW, but keep in mind most of us have a life outside of TMW.
Being a free community project, you will always encounter problems with graphics, but some can be fixed at their roots. Right now, sprites and monsters see great. Generally all have very similar form and style, and this is wonderful, however tiles are not as great.

:cry:
Currently, there are many people working on tiles,
Many!? I can only think of a few (and most are inactive)
and with the base tiles, such as the general land tiles, they are in great sync with each other, however, when more detailed tiles are done, the style differences become painfully obvious to all. Tiles right now are viewed as “oh, well you did a good job” and not “well, did you try to match a general style so our game will have continuity in the end.” The reviewers are obviously other pixel artists who judge based on the criteria of good pixel art, not of a general game-style.
Its been rather hard to come to a consensus of what TMW's style actually is (some even feel we don't need one) http://forums.themanaworld.org/viewtopi ... 08&start=0 (take a look for yourself)

Image
I personally believe most of the older tilesets need to be thrown away or heavily reworked (also keep in mind this game has been going through a transition of sorts! The game was actually low rez at one time!)
I suggest that staff meet and form an overview committee of staff and community members, who would review tiles and make sure they all match or are very close to being the same style. This will help the game look whole and continuous from place to place, versus thinking you walked into a completely new game from land to land. It is important to fix discontinuity now, before developed has become so heavy that changing this would be too difficult to implement.
This has always been our goal (it doesn't happen over night)
Of course, the lack of enthusiasm from some of the graphics artists does not help. I have heard some say it would take them 10 minutes to finish, but they just don’t feel like it.
We are not payed workers and can get sick of looking at something for hours upon end (Also you misquoted me I was actually trying to convince my self to do some work)
These same people also find the game boring and wonder why people play it.
I look at what the game can be and not what it currently is (which is lame)

BTW, don't say people when your talking about me :lol:
I am sure this only adds to the lack of morale that plagues graphics developers, and this would be solved by the content development being improved. It is a symbiotic relationship in which both graphics and content must work together more closely, making sure everything fits together like a puzzle, versus how it is now where you kind of just gather what you see and try to make something out of it.
I always look at the big picture but all attempts to work more closely with the content developers have failed (it seems some people are content to keep things as they are.)
Image
I’ve even suggested that none of the newer tilesets be released, until the older ones can be brought up to the same lvl of detail
This graphics problem also plagues the mappers, or if it doesn’t, it should. If you go to overview of any map now, you will see one thing; literally. Bland, repetitious, uninteresting, similar landscapes filed with emptiness and lots of monsters. While having a lot of monsters and plenty of space is good for an online game who expects to have many players, it is not impossible to make good maps which follow realism in their design that allow for this space. Right now the maps are so boring I could be put to sleep just staring at them. This is something that needs to be addressed to the graphics developers. They need to develop many side-items and spicy things that can be added to make maps more interesting: grass growing through cracks in a cave, a vent in a wall, more flowers or patches of overgrown grass for grassy areas. There are many things that could be done, that aren’t. Right now its either an empty save with lots of bats, a wooded area with a boring square road and lots of repetition, or an empty desert with too much emptiness. Beautiful does not mean cluttered, but functional does not mean empty! I urge mappers, community, and staff, to scrutinize maps more carefully and KNOCK OUT THIS CYCLE! Maps, along with graphics, should undergo the foremost observation and scrutiny before being accepted as part of the game. Right now, TMW seems so desperate for this kind of content that it will take anything, not looking for these key flaws, and letting sub-par content be added.
We know this and are working to rectify the situation :mrgreen:
In conclusion, TMW staff and community, I hope that you can walk away from reading this rather lengthy message with some ideas of how to better this game and fix some things NOW before you are in too deep later. I am sure this will get mixed reviews. A “we’ve heard it before” or “we’re already doing this” from the staff or “go away you n00b!”
I'm going with “we’re already doing this" becouse I can't say "we heard it before" because it was the developers who first said it. :lol:
and those are fine, but take a step back and see if any of that is really true. Is the staff LISTENING or simply HEARING? Is the community thriving, or surviving on the backs of those willing to help and motivate? Community needs the staff as much as the staff needs to community. Please take heed, and do something. TMW has great potential, and it’d be a sad day to see it all ruined because of some mistake that could have been avoided and fixed now.
"LISTENING or simply HEARING" Hmmm I should think that I hear my own words...Listen if you truly want to do something meaningful and stop preaching to the choir... you need only understand that here at TMW the community and the staff are one in the same (so rather than constantly complaining about how slow things are progressing and repeating what has already been said over and over get your hands dirty and help)
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Re: My Observations (Very Lengthy!)

Post by Platyna » 12 Jul 2008, 20:29

The economy is what it is, because it isn't developed at all (since we couldn't do anything at all when there were evil bugs in eathena and no one willing to fix them), now the situation has changed and the economy development begun. The community is ourt eyes, but we will not do everything they want, since the game is supposed to be challenging.


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[The rest of this signature was censored by TMWC's "Freedom" and "Free speech".]
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Re: My Observations (Very Lengthy!)

Post by Crank » 12 Jul 2008, 21:58

As someone of great power on this server once told me...

"T.M.W. is an open source project with closed minded staff."

Thats my only grudge with T.M.W., although, I do agree with a lot of what the OP suggests. Me and Arilious were talking on MSN and were saying how cool it would be if we branched away from tiled and made our own Map Editor with multiple mask and fringe layer support. Would open LOTS of opportunities for beautiful maps.
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Re: My Observations (Very Lengthy!)

Post by Platyna » 12 Jul 2008, 22:33

Judge Harold T. Stone wrote: I try to keep an open mind, but not so open that my brains fall out.
William Orton wrote: If you keep your mind sufficiently open, people will throw a lot of rubbish into it.
Regards,
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Re: My Observations (Very Lengthy!)

Post by Matt » 13 Jul 2008, 01:58

go away you n00b!
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Re: My Observations (Very Lengthy!)

Post by Jaxad0127 » 13 Jul 2008, 07:11

Crank wrote:As someone of great power on this server once told me...

"T.M.W. is an open source project with closed minded staff."

Thats my only grudge with T.M.W., although, I do agree with a lot of what the OP suggests. Me and Arilious were talking on MSN and were saying how cool it would be if we branched away from tiled and made our own Map Editor with multiple mask and fringe layer support. Would open LOTS of opportunities for beautiful maps.
Tiled (and the new client, for that matter) supports that, but the current client doesn't.
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Re: My Observations (Very Lengthy!)

Post by Matt » 13 Jul 2008, 12:09

If you need some more features e.g. for the map editor just get the latest developer version and get your changes in there and commit again. I don't think its good if you start a fork or something, if you commit it to the main branch it won't get lost.

And honestly, every tmw fork until now failed after some time.
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Re: My Observations (Very Lengthy!)

Post by Shaggy » 13 Jul 2008, 12:48

Matt wrote:If you need some more features e.g. for the map editor just get the latest developer version and get your changes in there and commit again. I don't think its good if you start a fork or something, if you commit it to the main branch it won't get lost.

And honestly, every TMW fork until now failed after some time.
Firstly, let me say that I hope TMW does continue, but frankly, I find that, as TMW are concentrating on TMWserv, which is quite some way off being ready, the current user-base is becoming restless, and are starting to vote with their feet.

Unless more effort is put into maintaining the current version, I have to question your comment, "if you commit it to the main branch it won't get lost"

As an example of what I mean, how long have you had new_21-1 before release?

As for other forks of TMW, I cannot comment, but I can see that TME is developing much faster than TME at the moment.

Please re-think your strategy, TMW, before it is too late!
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Re: My Observations (Very Lengthy!)

Post by Matt » 13 Jul 2008, 13:28

Well if TMW fails TME will still be there so users can play :)

We have 500-700 players / day atm, but I see nothing wrong with falling back to 10-20 like in the old days ;)
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Re: My Observations (Very Lengthy!)

Post by Crush » 13 Jul 2008, 14:47

Shaggy wrote:As for other forks of TMW, I cannot comment, but I can see that TME is developing much faster than TMW at the moment.
That's common for every project which has just started.

The project seems to grow with an enormous speed while the beginning enthusiasm lasts. But when the first wave of enthusiasm is over the members of the project realize that there is other stuff in their lifes which is more important than the project. The progress slows down or even comes to a complete halt.

I've seen that a hundred times. Not only in game development.

And TME is already showing signs of falling into stagnation. I mean it is down for how many days now without anyone doing anything?
  • former Manasource Programmer
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  • NOT a game master

Please do not send me any inquiries regarding player accounts on TMW.


You might have heard a certain rumor about me. This rumor is completely false. You might also have heard the other rumor about me. This rumor is 100% accurate.
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Re: My Observations (Very Lengthy!)

Post by GonzoDark » 13 Jul 2008, 14:54

Crush wrote: And TME is already showing signs of falling into stagnation. I mean it is down for how many days now without anyone doing anything?
it is because of something called holidays :wink: :lol:

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Re: My Observations (Very Lengthy!)

Post by Shaggy » 13 Jul 2008, 15:17

Hmm, let me see now - Kraant has made a patch yesterday, and we are just waiting to add it.
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Re: My Observations (Very Lengthy!)

Post by Crank » 13 Jul 2008, 15:34

Lol, did a developer just derail this topic off? But anyway...
And honestly, every T.M.W. fork until now failed after some time.
I think everything will fail every once in a while. But isn't that the point of making an open source project? To eventually take it and change it away from the original? Forks from the project is going to what makes this project strive.

Just saying that makes you seem like a jealous school girl trying to stir up drama in peoples projects to keep yours the most popular. You boast the 100% free part until someone does something original, then you get all pissy :3. Haha.

@ OP: This is beginning to be one of the most controversial posts. Seems that only the hardcore members can disagree, but of course they will, its their project and they are proud. I would be too. But its gonna take some new perspectives to keep this server afloat. Also, does anyone even advertise this game? No one really takes initiative to find players, only let players find them. Shame shame.
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