A Feedback Letter to FDev: After the Expo

Yesterday I attended the Expo, and had the occasion to have brief chats with Sandro, Lloyd, and Steve -- and yes, I’ve also taken a selfie with Lord Braben himself, I’m somewhat ashamed to confess. I’m writing this as a sort of feedback letter to FDev as a whole, but also as a testimony to the rest of the community. You might not share my opinions, but I am just presenting them as they are. I am a relatively new player (PS4 cohort – those wide-eyed enthusiasts), and to be honest this is the first gaming convention/event I ever attend, so I have little to compare it with, and I won’t comment much on the organization of the event itself.

While I understand that the you are not our friends -- we are your customers, and you are our service providers, and it is therefore your job to be nice to us -- I think it is only fair to acknowledge the enormous amount of time (and energy) you all have spent in organizing this event and in interacting with guests (I’ve seen most of you standing around surrounded by groups of people from 11:00 to about 20:30, when I left). What I understood at the Expo is that your passion for the game, and your willingness to improve it, is genuine: (tbh, if I was working on a game during office hours I would most definitely not want to also play it in my free time, but many of you seemed to suggest that you do just that). I think that this event was -- on balance -- a good idea, and that your openness to the community is admirable -- and I say this as someone who (if I was in your place) would probably hate this kind of event, and dread to be surrounded and questioned for hours by eager spaceship nerds obsessed with the minutiae of a videogame.

While there’s a lot in the game I would like to see changed or tweaked (from small QOL improvements to major features) the impression I am left with after this event is that these shortcomings and occasional poor design choices are not due to carelessness, incompetence, or lack of interest (as some people want to suggest). I think that the stuff we have been shown are all steps in the right direction (especially the dialling down of RNG. Sandro, Steve, really: less RNG will both make the game better and the community happier – it’s a win-win situation), and I hope that along the way there will be the occasion to add more minor tweaks.

I could go on writing a few pages detailing what these minor tweaks could look like, but I am more interested in highlighting a more general point here. I hope the experience of this Expo will push you further towards the realization that the majority of the community is composed by passionate but ultimately reasonable people. These might very well be people with strongly-worded complaints and detailed suggestions about how to improve things, but still we are talking about individuals who love the game and are ready to be treated like the adults they are. In practical terms, this means that it would much better to tell us more -- even if the more in question is: “this is very hard”, “I don’t know when this will be ready”, “no, we can’t work on this” and so on -- than it is to keep a cautious silence due to the fear of over-promising or disappointing us. Silence, mostly, breeds toxic speculations, and time and again your community mangers have had to chime into threads here or on Reddit to quench absolutely arbitrary speculations. In a recent livestream Sandro promised a higher degree of interaction and exchange with the community while designing improvements and new features. Please do that, keep people in the loop, even when you hit a wall, and you’ll be surprised how the general tone of the conversation will improve. More than that, I think that it is in your best interest to tap into the hive-mind of the community to extract interesting design options (or spotting unwanted unexpected consequences) you would not have otherwise thought of. And this goes from listening to committed explorers to hardcore PvPers through spreadsheet-happy alien-hunters. We all realize that to create a game is hard work, and that Elite is an incredibly complex system (as someone who works in science reporting, I was really impressed with Anthony’s talk about the Stellar Forge, and the mix of physics and coding that is behind Elite’s galaxy) where every change in a given domain can easily end up having unexpected repercussions in others, but when the development process is hidden behind a wall of non-committal silence it is natural that doubt and second-guessing start to develop. A more “participatory” process would be both fairer to your fans and make the life of your community mangers much easier.

Finally, a few random comments:

  • Ed, you are objectively really good at your job. While not exactly an imposing presence (sorry), your showmanship is undeniable. One of those people who are just at ease in the spotlight. I'm sorry we didn't have the chance to say hi, but you were one busy bee. You must have been absolutely knackered last night.
  • Sandro, you look much better in person than on video. Are you working out much? Thanks for the “No ETAs, No Guarantees” audio sample. You know I’m gonna meme the core out of that.
  • Lloyd, it’s been a real pleasure to have a chat with you about PS4 development (and bugs). You seem a genuinely nice guy, and as I told you when there your frequent participation to forum discussions is really, really appreciated. Keep it up!
  • Steve, thanks for taking the time to chat to us late after the show, while it’s been hard to get much out of you in terms of extra details about the new engineering, your matter-of-factual and open approach is really what the game needs.
  • Finally, a huge thanks to Michael Gapper: you're a star (you know why).

As I mentioned above I am a new-ish PS4 player, without the Alpha/Beta backer pedigree many other have, but myself and the other admins of the PS Discord server and subreddit have put a lot of work and passion over the last few months in making sure that the PS4 community can hope to catch up with the already-established ones on PC and Xbox. We do this because we love the game: while we are well aware that there are much more important and urgent things in life than having a texture bug fixed, we also want to help you making Elite ever better since, for better or worse, it is now part of our lives too. Keep talking to us and we’ll keep helping you (i.e. relentlessly opening bug report tickets :) ).

See you next time,

CMDR WilfridSephiroth (Brett please change my Forum name already!)
 
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stormyuk

Volunteer Moderator
Seconded mate, was really great to meet you and spend a good chunk of the day with you. Echo totally what you say. o7
 
It disturbs me GREATLY that so many seemingly smart people think the RNG is what's wrong with this game. It isn't, and when you have less RNG (and more crying) and not the actual issues fixed, I hope you'll remember that I said this.
 
It disturbs me GREATLY that so many seemingly smart people think the RNG is what's wrong with this game. It isn't, and when you have less RNG (and more crying) and not the actual issues fixed, I hope you'll remember that I said this.

What's so great about modules being buried behind 3 layers of RNG?
 
What's so great about modules being buried behind 3 layers of RNG?
Apart from the most important facet of all, for any game, that players are rewarded more for more time put in (cos TIME is the ONLY resource that matters) which is working perfectly CURRENTLY, yeh, it's not perfect, I'd reduce one layer (the gathering part), so it would only be 2.5 layers of RNG. Yes you could say that this means that I do in fact agree that RNG is part of the problem and it is, but not in the context being used by the OP and others in other threads (the randomness of the rolls). Quote myself from the other topic...

Also, this means that if the mechanics the op describes are implemented, slowly everyone will eventually get every module god rolled. When that happens and everyone is on a level playing field again, just as if we were all A rated, then what the hell was the point in the engineers at all?
The only problem with the engineers is that many grade 3 or 4 Mats are harder to farm than many grade 5s, and that certain mats can only be gathered by doing activities that a player may not want to do (like shooting innocent traders). If loot generation were normalized and an exchange system introduced, engineers would be fine as they are.
I've bolded the critical part. The point is that without changing t\e engineers or upsetting balance, we give people a better chance at more rolls, that's the way to fix this, imo. Mainly because rolling is fun, most would agree. I don't gamble in real life at all, can't imagine risking what money I have to chance, but the Engineer casino is something I look forward to as a reward for my materials gathering. :)
 
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While I welcome the constructive change to the RNG fiasco, I personally would have preferred the complete elimination of said.

If for no other reason than to watch the RNG/MMO true believers faint dead away...LOL. ;)
 

stormyuk

Volunteer Moderator
While I welcome the constructive change to the RNG fiasco, I personally would have preferred the complete elimination of said.

If for no other reason than to watch the RNG/MMO true believers faint dead away...LOL. ;)
Baby steps :)
 
While I'm not sure I necessarily agree on the point you make about incompetence/carelessness, because to me the silence and seeming resistance to listen to feedback if it's strongly worded, but also non-toxic and genuine, is kind of indicative of a certain level of those traits, pretty much everything else you said is spot on.

Many people have been saying it lately: "We criticize because we care." If we didn't care at all, we'd just leave, and sure a lot of us take months long breaks due to the inherent tedium of a large portion of the game at the moment, most of us always come back, we WANT this game to be the absolute best it can be, and difficulties in programming such a complex system aside, the game, sadly, is kind of falling short in a lot of areas at the moment.

So I agree with the OP, more communication, even if it's "Sorry, this isn't working like we wanted right now and we're having trouble crafting a fix", would be GREATLY appreciated, because, again, as the OP said, they're not our friends, per se, but it IS in their best interests to keep us happy, and they seem to be rather coming up short in that regard, if forums across the internet are anything to go by.

+rep for a well thought out and eloquently worded post.
 
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