server morale - making it through the reboot of the new version

  • How is peoples' morale with the server?

    I get the impression server numbers are really low right now, although I haven't been on.

    We all know there are some good reasons why people might not being playing as much right now, and that once more of the bugs etc are worked out, some of that will probably be resolved, and it will be easier to build server numbers again, if people want to...

    I mean, you're kind of back into a 'beta-testing' state right now.

    So it is kind of natural for numbers to be lower right now.

    If people come to play with their friends, and there are not many friends that they have on the server right now, then naturally they will come on less... there are lots of other games people can play by themselves they might like more, as well.

    Getting rid of solo quests (with raising people to 6th level min) may mean that less people go on when noone else is on, which is another 'positive' feedback loop (with negative consequences). (Positive feedback loop means a bit like say, a fire... as the fire gets bigger and hotter, it spreads and increases, finds more fuel, etc, so it kind of reinforces itself. A negative feedback loop would be where as more of something happens, something decreases... let's say the more you heat water, the more water evaporates and leaves the pot and cools the pot down, etc, so in some cases it counteracts a change you are making, possible stabilizing things to minimize a feedback loop that can just increase completely out of control).

    Now that the enhanced edition is being verified again, and allows for nicer machines, and might even not work as well on older machines... people have a higher burden of cost to even be able to play the game now... the few places where people could play essentially for free (on an old game, for folks who might have older machines, etc) so that demographic might have almost completely been wiped out with the changes. So basically you are competing with the steam crowd etc only now pretty much, with every other game on steam, for similar costs potentially. That is not an insurmountable problem, but people need to be getting something here they are not somewhere else, or preferring to get it here, instead, etc. For some people, I think the kind of personal closeness and friendships they made on the server were what made it so memorable, and why some people kept coming back. Or maybe that was just me.

    For me, I really liked the originally potential of a collaborative medium, where I could contribute to the community, creating content, and becoming more skillful in transferable skills in computers, scripting, storytelling, multimedia, and social activities, etc... by now, it is probably quite possible for more easily programmed (and contributed to) open source versions of similar projects to be made, which could be free, could be wholey community owned, instead of essentially creating content for free for a medium that a private for profit company owns, can kind of act as gatekeepers of, and can potentially take what was intended to be put in a public or community domain and essentially turn it into a private resource for private profit which people will have to pay those with monopoly control of that resource in order to access, including possibly losing access to their own content, or not being able to use the medium for which they created their content, etc.
    I think Beamdog is doing good work, and deserve money for their work, but I don't want to volunteer my time for someones' private profit, where if say, Beamdog decides to sell their stake in the asset, to whomever they sell it now gets this exclusive control, and can hedge me out of this work I might have spent years committing myself to, etc.

    So there are some negatives, but it doesn't necessary detract from the good that is possible.

    If people currently in this community, City of Arabel, wanted to keep their thirst of nwn:ee, folks could play on other nwn:ee servers in the mean time, make friends there, become connected to the broader nwn:ee community... for instance... this could poach players permanently AWAY from COA... but if COA gets things working again, it could certainly bring more players here as well, even if those players still keep playing in other communities as well, but it might make coa 'fun' enough to draw a bigger player base, such that more people might start coming, or might stay if people introduce it to them.

    I know polls have been done. I know Spiffy has done some analysis on what different kinds of players want (I watched some of those videos he linked on like the four different kinds of players, -killers, explorers, achievers and socializers- etc). So City of Arabel was advertising itself in its original incarnations as serving a certain need and playerbase. So you could potentially clarify if that is still what the current stakeholders want to do, what those particular things are, and how in particular to do that, if you want to. I'm sure there is a lot of gaming wisdom online, even for free, on how other game designers do this (when they are looking to actually make a profit from their games, as well, even).

    I know another issue might be, in the short term... hmm... prioritizing the work, ie so you have to do the least amount of work in the short term to get to the point where is fun again, because I know this is not a for profit enterprise, so if the people adminning, running the game etc lose the fun in the game, it may never get to the point of blossoming again, if people just don't want to put the time in anymore, because it feels like a waste of time, their morale is low, they don't feel like they are having fun, or they feel like others aren't, etc.

    So, changes could happen, it would probably have to be the current organizers and regular players that figure out what those are, and what changes they want to make, what kind of work they want or are willing to put in.

    To get things fun in the short term, with the minimum amount of work, folks might want to just figure out how to make it more fun with a small group of players and dm's... just be careful not to railroad yourself into making it impossible to scale it back up if more players start showing interest, so you don't destroy the fun of the current and regular players in order to appeal to new players... you don't want making it fun for small groups to be in opposition to it being fun for large groups as well, so you might want to find middle grounds when planning and designing, and consider the small group thing an intermediate stage, so you don't optimize it to the point where it excludes being workable and fun for larger groups, ie using 'private' methods of connecting to join games, that are more efficient (like doodle) that essentially might exclude any new players, etc. Even the discord may be something that has this effect, as well.

    A know when people are volunteers, things are just being done in peoples' free time, sometimes people are creatures of habit, and they don't consider the effect of their habits; it works for them in the short term, so they do it, and then in the long term it has consequences, but noone really bothered to consider those, etc. So stepping back, and observing habits, and then trying to be more intentional in creating the gaming space, including what 'habits' people choose or pass on to other players as 'good gaming practices' in coa, as something which perhaps serves some of the higher goals, in the case people thing higher server numbers may be more fun, get more energy towards making the game rich and more volunteer interest and energy in doing work or providing resources that the server needs, etc.

    I know sometimes my comments and thoughts aren't welcome, so I will stop 'helping' if the regulars and organizers make it clear that the things I'm doing aren't helping or are essentially unwanted, etc.

    The problem with problems, is that we need to understand them, before we can solve them, so if even talking about problems creates unsolvable or unmanageable problems, then it can make communicating to understand and solve problems impossible or extremely... difficult, etc.

    I'm not sure what the best way to deal with communication issues is, but I feel like the polls that the dm team did before solved a lot of the problems, while still getting a lot of feedback, so I would encourage considering trying something like that, if open discussion of some issues might be too controversial, etc.

    I would like to help; I'm sure there are many others who would like to, as well. People who can guide others who are interested into doing more things which can help coa and could be useful - but if you don't think carefully about what you want and need, and then get it, and then complain or shut people down when you get it, you may kill all the support you might have been able to get, etc people will feel disheartened, go elsewhere, etc.
    I know these things are self-evident, but sometimes they bare repeating.

  • there is an short video clips called 'a japanese technique to overcome laziness' which talks about an idea called 'kaizen', or wise (and slow) change (ie slow consistent work rather than trying to do things in short bursts, etc) that I think might be helpful on this as well. I think it is posted by the brightside group on youtube.

  • I've played CoA around a decade ago, so I missed all its recent history and have no idea of what happened.

    That being said, here go my 2 cents.

    You need content to keep people online, craft system, quests or auto-generated events (like slums invasion back in CoA 1.0) or just tons of places to explore (yay me).

    Once you have people online you need Player-driven factions to keep players interested in RP. The first majority of player-driven factions should be more inclusive (it won't work if every faction has evil-half-halfling-half-dragon requirements). Something like "guild of crafters", "adventurer's guild", otherwise the RP could suffer and an evil Orc of doom would be forced to walk with a paladin gnome of helm just because there's nothing better to do.

    Really specific concepts/application or guild probably won't work until you already have a big player base and it'll probably just give DMs more work.

    After that, you put DM-driven factions/NPCs to work with the player-factions and drive the server to the events they plan.

    I believe DM-events to single group only works with our current number of players (and it's probably the best way to keep them interested and still playing), but once we have more players I take it won't work.

    I like the server and I'll keep playing, I'm one of those players that have fun just by exploring the maps. But if you ask someone like me, who has no experience in running a server at all, I would say "focus on the basics" which is automated scripted content, with a few server-wide stuff and things will grow from there.

  • Former DM here. Used to torment the player base and wield the Banhammer under the name 'The King in Yellow'.

    In recent months I've been contacted by old players and DM's alike wanting to know suggestions on how to 'fix things'.

    I love CoA. I made friends here and spent amazing fun times with family, my wife and my best friends playing. But the cold truth of the matter is it may be too late.

    After the Legion Rebellion days, many many years ago, and I became a DM. I and a few others started seeing the big problem. Back then I didn't have the proper name for it, but now I know it is called 'Community Managment'.

    I could go into a long - long - long rant. But the TL;DR version of it is, the staff have always been more concerned with higher player numbers, than weeding out toxic elements of the server. The single biggest problem is allowing bigots, sexist, racist, homophobes and transphobes to continue being on this server with a slap on the wrist punishment, and the crying defence 'Wellllll technically it just skirted the rules... we'll talk to them...'

    City of Arabel needs to start over from scratch. Burn the forms and the lore to the ground. Start with community management, decide what kind of player, what quality of the person, you want to be sharing this world with. Make rules, stick to them, and when someone breaks them, ban their asses and don't let that toxic garbage back in. Set age limits. Adhere to them. If you are going to let children play this game, you need to ruthlessly protect them. If you are going to allow mature 18+ content, then you make that choice.

    No one wants to be the heavy. Shocking enough, not even me. But where this server has failed its players and it's DM's time and time again is allowing vile garbage people to remain on the server and slowly drive away and demoralize the ones we should have been protecting.

    I once belonged to an international LARP group, it managed a shared living chronicle across the globe. It wasn't perfect, but it did it better than some of the organizations. And one of the key things was two separate chains of command. Storytellers and Co-ordinators. Storytellers handled plots, rules calls, and character approvals. Co-ordinators handled community management, advertising, outreach, mediation, and was the final arbitrator on players being banned from games.

    Anyway, this was a meandering rant that I think only half expresses my feelings. I'll be honest, I have a lot of bitterness to see my warnings go unheeded and the server end up in the state. I'm not a know it all oracle, but this could have been avoided. And before the 'Why didn't you come back and fix it' question I get. I told the team I would have returned if I could handle Community Managment with zero interference. The offer was politely ignored.

    Anyway, again, I love CoA, I have many friends in this community that still care. I talk to many of them frequently. But ya all let poison taint the community and now it has salted the earth.

    -Terris aka KiY

  • Terris, it's a bit far fetched to suggest that "bigots, sexists, racists, homophobes and transphobes" are the biggest source of our beloved servers problems as your post appears to make it out to be. Now I do understand that is your point of view and it is the reason that drove you out- but can you present evidence that is why others have followed suit and left? For to the reasons of my departure- that is not the case at all.

    That being said, my reasons too fall into the category of "Community Management". To me- it is the broken trust in the capabilities of the current team and in it's methods to handle the servers matters with the wisdom and reason I've come to expect of them over the years. To address underlying issues instead of keeping them swept under the rug. To know how to reach out and listen to the problems of the community and to resolve these issues so that there will not be backlash and sour grapes.

    I understand that now less than 10 active players remain. To point out any specific reason as to why that is the case is beyond us all- but ultimately it boils down to the fact that needs of the people who have left remain unanswered. Even so, these ten players have the resources as good as any of us in the past to breed new life to the community, if they manage to see past this time of hardship and instead focus to tell the amazing stories they originally set out to make here. In the past, I've ever emphasized the importance of movers and shakers as the lifeblood of this community, and that remains the case. They were the ones who made the storylines we logged in every night and day to see unfold- and they are the ones that will eventually bring the people back. And with NWN:EE bringing new players into the fold- now is a time as good as any to step up and show what you can do!

    My advice to the members of the team that still truly care and have the will to do something- is to listen to these players who remain, and ensure they are provided with what they need to make the best out of their IG time to tell the stories they have set out to do. What you Terris suggest as remedy however appears to serve the opposite. The server does not need a dictators grip anymore, it needs to move past that. We had our time where an iron hammer was used to strike down all ye unworthy fools, and it worked when the server did have a healthy population and 55/55 days. Today, in terms of player numbers, we have returned to the early stages of the community- and during that stage, we need to be tolerant, understanding and respectful of each other as equal contributors so that we can grow. And if you have a beef with another player, bring it up, and try to get it fixed. That is how healthy organizations do it in real life aswell. But banning someone, should be the last option to consider.

  • from one of the remaining, i guess i must be one of the vile garbage.

    numbers attract numbers, i will not mention what i suggested numerous times in the past, no one needs to hear it one more time.

    guiding and helping new players will be paramount when this is turned around, there will always be grievers, cannot be helped, just make sure they do not set the rules and drive away plyers, i had people in the very distant past send me tells telling me i have to do follow them other wise i was metagaming..we no longer have that problem, our problem is numbers

    bottom a single phrase "numbers attract numbers"
    there is no end to suggestions on how to make this happen

  • I agree that the server should start from scratch. I would suggest removing any current storylines and wiping all the vaults. From here pick a date to have a grand reopening and make it a big event with a sensational, original story. Combine this with -A TON- of advertising beforehand to ensure it is well attended. Encourage players to share it on Facebook, twitter, discord and with all of the former players they are still in contact with. Unban everyone and give all players a fresh start.

    I would also consider taking the server back to its roots by returning the starting level to 1 and bringing back similar storylines/factions to when there were 55 people around.

    If the DMs and current players could collaborate on something like this I believe it will breathe new life into the server.

  • i do not like the idea of a wipe, but if it were what is needed to save the server, i guess it is needed

    keeping that in mind who will a wipe remove from the playerbase as to who it will bring in? but sitting in the server 1/96 something needs to be done. but i have made my suggestions to the point of irritation

  • @darlene-te-len yes the team needs to compile our suggestions and address this in the announcement fourm. We all need to come up with a solid plan before it's too late.

  • Really like Arabel. Think the split with Netheril hit the server hard, think we moved to a higher and moved to a higher level cap a bit too quickly.

    My main issue is PvP is much harder.

    For a long time I think players stuck to principles that were right with a large population (you need to earn priveleges, no soloing, pvp is largely for good against evil not evil against good). Evil PCs were the lifeblood of the server, and really need coddled and supported.

    Id open everything up to solo play. Id remove any restrictions, massively increase loot. Id certainly have a light reboot, start afresh. I liked the lore, but insisting on a LG setting really means we are at Arabel's endpoint. Good won, and evil has been removed. Remake Arabel into something threatening and focus entirely on accomodating solo players.

  • @Ethika id have a level 6 starting point but make the max level 10 or 11. Really you want players reasonably powerful causing shit with no grinding. But make everything soloable with no level/party restrictions imo. Id certainly roll a PC and try and solo a few quests.

  • I honestly think the wipe / fresh start might not be the best idea. It requires just too much work to create an entirely new module with the risk of getting rid of what Arabel has best, it's history.

    If you wipe the current module and don't have tons of hours dedicated to the server, might cause the opposite and end it all. And we all know pretty much no one has time for that.

    Remove all the quests that do not work (fix it later), the working ones remove the party requirement, with the time left focus on developing something that could shape the city into something more friendly (more welcoming to new players, doesn't matter the alignment). I think that could make let the server alive around 10-12 players online while deciding the next steps.

  • Now, I did not mean to imply that the remaining people on the server were trash. @Darlene-Te-len I absolutely adore you to itty bitty bits, and I hope you know that. But I will agree to disagree with @Kingsman that I think improper community management has been one of the biggest problems. As my time as DM, I've literally seen players who item transferred a bloody ham be punished more severely than someone who 'accidentally' sent a sexually explicit message to a minor.

    Starting over fresh will be hard. But that begs the question how bad do people want to save the server? If it is too hard, then just keep it with the current numbers and be happy. If you want it to grow, you need to tend it and take care of it. That includes burning the whole darn thing down.

    One of the best D&D games I ran to date started with a small map, that slowly expanded with the actions of the players. There is an opportunity for organic world building if you just scrap the old, and start fresh. You free yourself from ages of 'cannon' baggage. You make it so new players don't feel they need to research a god's damned encyclopedia just to get familiar with the world lore.

    Small map, some simple areas, a few quests. Just to get started. Expand from there into new areas as dictate player interest. Build a new world, or grab the base FR setting and build from there. Some people would be enticed at the chance of trying something completely fresh that they had input into the creation. It will be hard work, for sure. So it again begs the question, how hard do people actually want to work to keep the server going. DMs and players need to be honest with themselves in this regard.

    But, at the end of the day, it won't mean a darn thing if there isn't some form of proper community management. And CoA is in desperate need of a branch of the administration that has absolutely nothing to do with storytelling and can focus on the more important part of the game. The players, a healthy relationship between them, each other, and the Admin team.

    Anyway, I am sorry I got hot headed in my post. I stand by what I said. People kept handwaving my suggestions as heavy-handed or authoritative, and thus dismissed them. Yet, everything seems to have happened just as I said it would. This isn't an I told you so, but a desperate plea from someone who really loves this game.

  • I come and go as my life fits, meaning that it depends on how much time I have to spare.
    I am one of those who would've come back a month ago had I not seen all the bugs and inactivity on the forum. To me it seems that changing the server's lvl cap etc. including making haks function was waaaay too much work for a couple of ppl who manage this server voluntarily, even though their efforts have been heroic.

  • I've never played on any other server since way back in the v1 era of CoA and just trying my hand at some other servers right now and gaining some perspective on what it's like to be a new player. I will try and keep this concise:

    CoA has always felt like a living, real world setting to me complete with political intrigue, secrets to discover and a stable of great top-tier RPers. It has always been dependent on the players to generate personalities, conflicts and develop the lore of the server. I last played a few months leading up to the end of Manzahar and have never ever in 15 years here met a better cast and been privy to such wildly entertaining stories than in those few months.

    What happened? A lot of players left. Some wrapped their last epic character and retired from the game, moving on other things. I know a few who were disappointed in how things turned out over PvP and DM decisions on setting/events. A few were tired of some players constantly forcing them into actual fights and constantly being harassed. Some just felt like CoA wasn't going in a direction they cared about and it was easier to start over in a friendlier realm both personality wise and mechanically. Then the rest of us looked around and the people we liked playing with were gone.

    Darlene's right; numbers matter. You can't attract new players with a 0 player count. Those of us who have been playing here aren't going to login at a 0 count to explore or quest; CoA is too dangerous to solo explore or quest and we've seen it all anyways. There is literally nothing to do solo here whether a new player or an old one.

    Even with half a dozen players on, CoA isn't CoA really. How much conflict can you have with 10 players? How much political intrigue? I can get RP lite hack n slash stuff on much easier servers that I don't know very well and are more fun mechanically for that stuff. (I noticed back when NWN2 came out that the CoA playerbase didn't transition and didn't translate well to a server with 10 players on ToM, just not enough breadth of characters to support the depth of character we come to expect).

    Looking at this is a new player would; CoA is confusing; layout-wise, where to get supplies, where quests are, etc. The new new player area is great but then you're thrown into an inn in an empty quarter. Without actual players around to show a new PC the ropes you're going to lose them. If they manage to find a quest, they'll probably die on it because the difficulty level is so far off from vanilla NWN and they'll log when that happens and likely not return.

    Some options are:

    If you could get 20 old players to come on and lay out what they'd like to do, DM stuff for them, have them set out into factions or lose groups based around some plot and see if that's fun for everyone. Like a bigger table top game. It would give new players something to see and take part in.


    Remove everything broken or overly-complicated. Up rewards, increase drops on spawns in wild/dungeons, reduce xp loss, put all vendors in one place that's easy to find, point way to quest givers for 1- 6lvl quests*.; specifically list 1-6lvl quests in game, where they are and who the quest giver is. Get a few old players to hop on and play and quest with newbies and start building some groups and factions.

    I'm not sure 20 players is enough spread over time zones to be interesting. I'm not sure there's 20 people who would commit to coming back. Asking for another design change is cruel of me- it's just that new players don't want to have to search an entire large area to find one person who sells healing kits, one person who sells just metal armor, etc. I'm not sure my suggestions are enough to make a dent in the issue.

    I just don't know if I have it in me to try and come up with a new character, to run the same quests, to try and build something with so few people. I'd like to say I'd try because they players left are really great players.

    But the first time I go and log in and no one else is around...

    *yes I know lvl 6-10 or whatever. I'm not sure I liked the level range change.

  • I stopped playing here because I found the server boring.
    There was nothing to do you couldn't solo around as the spawns kept being made harder and the server more dangerous, the last straw was when you nerfed the XP. Making the only way to advance your character through scripted quests this was the single biggest mistake ever.
    The DM's attempt to force players to only advance through direct DM intervention or by grinding out scripted quests with decreased rewards.

    I just can't imagine what was discussed when this idea was being put into motion, who in there right mind thinks punishing players for wanting to do different things than "quests" is a good idea, and who thinks lets make the server harder and lets make it so the players get less for there efforts.

    Who votes yes to this terrible idea?
    Who thinks this will make players want to play here?

    The people that killed the server.



    I enjoyed that little rant but if those issues I mentioned have been changed so the server is more open,welcoming and above all FUN then I would be happy to give it another go.

    Peace out.

  • I have become too big of a cynic to trust the care of the server in the hands of any one man, Terris- even you, though I know you'd mean well. For power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely (John Dalberg-Acton). Even a group of people such as the DM team can become blind and deaf to the needs of the playerbase if they are consumed by the bubble that has formed around them. I would even go as far as to empower the playerbase itself to have the only voice on who sits on that pedestal and who doesnt, for Arabel is not the property of any one player, team nor ideology- it belongs to those who play here.

    Scrapping the servers lore is out of the question, but continuing the story somewhere else like Moonshae is not a bad idea at all. It is just something where focus needs to be put on. Is there a single member in the current team that has the time and energy to devote themselves onto making it happen? Radical changes need to be made for the server to improve and perhaps a fresh system is what we need, but these changes should not need to consume a hundred manhours to accomplish- if there's nobody willing and able to do them.

  • @kingsman All would be King in Yellow dictatorships aside.

    There is a reason comics, movies, and shows do full on reboots. I mean, there are lots of reasons. But look at the Ultimate marvel universe, or even the newest season of Dr. Who. These were meant to be jumping on points for people who didn't have the time to wade through years of complex continuity.

    You may disagree, but the best way to attract new players who want to engage with the setting in a way that is additive, is for a complete restart. Very few people want to wade through the insane amount of player generated lore to just be able to not be mocked in character for not knowing this or that about the setting.

    People can not like it, but it is the truth. A fresh start coupled with an aggressive marketing campaign is the best way to revitalized the server. And honestly, the easiest.

    People want to have their cake and eat it too.

  • Admin [DM]

    @terris said in server morale - making it through the reboot of the new version:

    @kingsman All would be King in Yellow dictatorships aside.

    There is a reason comics, movies, and shows do full on reboots. I mean, there are lots of reasons. But look at the Ultimate marvel universe, or even the newest season of Dr. Who. These were meant to be jumping on points for people who didn't have the time to wade through years of complex continuity.

    You may disagree, but the best way to attract new players who want to engage with the setting in a way that is additive, is for a complete restart. Very few people want to wade through the insane amount of player generated lore to just be able to not be mocked in character for not knowing this or that about the setting.

    People can not like it, but it is the truth. A fresh start coupled with an aggressive marketing campaign is the best way to revitalized the server. And honestly, the easiest.

    People want to have their cake and eat it too.

    Quoting terris here.

  • @amy-veln said a lot of what i feel, i try to limit when i explore now, i have found a lot of things that can see invisible characters, and even with my summons i do not fully feel safe in many areas, i still try to explore, but the distance i will go is limited to how long my duplicate spells last, the exploring set, and when they wear of, the ones to get me home

    there are a awful lot of things in the land now that can see you while invisible, and i am discovering more as time goes on. in the past if i came across a new creature, i would sometimes test it, or retreat depending on where my characters spell situation was at.. far too often i find myself scrambling when to my horror i find a creature that can see me, and i have found a few of them, granted the creatures according to their kind should be able to see invisible, but that is taking a toll on my in game morale when it comes to exploring