Screeps World Review / 2018-08-01

  • Dev Team

  • We closely monitored the recent events staged by the community on their own initiative, and we are excited to announce the start of the development of a new game powered by the Screeps-based engine. It will offer a completely new experience for those who want a faster, more dynamic gameplay. Screeps Arena will become our second project and a separate Steam game as a match-based RTS with the same engine but a completely different take on game content. A separate page for this project is coming very soon to allow you to follow all updates. Stay tuned!

    So let me get this straight...

    After having seen zero development for five months, the announcement of Room Event Log (which fell through), teasing about power creeps with zero changes to prod, the snafu with Pull Requests getting shut down with no explanation, and lifetime subs becoming a thing, there is now an announcement for a new game that isn't Screeps?

    You realize how bad this looks, right?

  • Dev Team

    @knightshade Arena will be a separate project with a separate dev team. All plans for new features are still in place. We struggled with some temporary difficulties, including:

    • organizational matters due to expanding the team (1 team member left, 2 other members joined);
    • the summer vacations period;
    • my personal family circumstances.

    But it is now over and we hope to deploy something interesting to the PTR in the following weeks. Really sorry for the bad feelings, I promise we'll make this up!

  • Dear Artem,

    I've tried my best to be supportive and hopeful regarding Screeps, but you're not making it easy.

    I'm glad to hear about some mystery PTR version in some future. However, I feel the need to provide some friendly advice especially considering this apparent growth in the team behind this game so dear to me. Find a way, some way, anyway, to reserve 2-4 hours for engaging the dying Screeps community out of the regular 40 hour week.

    I've been an administrator of the Screeps slack for some time now and can tell you that engagement is at an all-time low. It has been steadily dropping since it's high point 1 year ago with the shard event.

    Forget some form of communication once a week, how difficult is it to provide some sign of life once a month?

    And I must ask, this upcoming PTR version, where is it being developed? Are you guys using some hidden private repo and then pulling into the public one? If so, why?!

    If you check out the activity on the engine repo there hasn't been anything in 3 months. What magic can we expect in the following weeks? As a humble developer, I have heard of things like frequent atomic commits and git strategies and so on that people are supposed to pay attention to, but you seem not to.

    As the original organizer of the Screeps warfare championship, I have difficulties understanding how "Screeps Arena" would solve any of the systemic problems faced by the Screeps game.

    Let's cut a different page. I've been involved in entrepreneurship for 7 years now. I've built up a tech startup from 0 employees to 20 and I've seen it grow from 0 revenue to 3m euro+. If you want my advice you need to make some drastic changes to how you manage the community and the development of the screeps engine.

    1. Engage the community on a weekly basis
    2. Identify small, simple improvements to the UI, engine and game balance
    3. Find a way to make relevant progress on the big topics in parallel
    4. Provide regular updates to the service (eg every 2 weeks)

    These regular updates don't need to be world-shattering changes. You need to provide the feeling of love and care rather than the current perception of general neglect.

    Yours faithfully,
    A concerned citizen

  • Dev Team

    @atavus Yes, you're right. But please consider the fact that in the previous months the only active developer was me (since we lost another dev team member), and I have had some serious personal and family circumstances that took a lot of my attention. Unfortunately, my work week was more like 5-10 hours a week instead of 40 hours mentioned by you, and it was all spent on organizational and technical matters like fixing broken host services, hiring and interviewing new people, helping them to join the team and start development.

    I also believe that you can (and should) reach to @o4kapuk with all these matters, since he has a lot of internal info of how our team works and what is it up to. This was the reason why we hired a separate Community Manager, since developers don't always have enough time for community engagement. For example, he can answer the question why the Arena is needed and what it will look like.

    As to the PTR development - yes, we do have private repos, a lot of them.

    I admit that things must be (and I hope will be) better regarding community involvement, but let's please not judge a 3-person part-time team with standards of an AAA project with many full-time developers and managers.

  • @atavus I think you've touched off something very important here, in that the community no longer has any faith in the development of Screeps, and that the Screeps team has done nothing to combat this opinion.

    Words are cheap, and frankly we've seen a lot of them (as I linked in my previous post). Actual development and engagement, on the other hand, we've seen very little to nothing of is the last year. We've heard lots of promises, to the point where Power Creeps have literally become a meme on slack.

    Atavus also touches on another extremely important point- regular changes matter more than sweeping updates, even if sweeping updates look better for marketing and make you feel cooler. The games with the most forgiving communities and engaged devs (Factorio, Space Engineers, so on) have regular updates, even if it's just a post saying "Hey, this is what we've been working on, but it turns out that what we're working on is really hard so we had to make a tool to make it less hard, and that's all we really got done.", and in-game updates are incremental- signs that the devs are still alive and tweaking the game, even if they aren't releasing anything huge.

    I feel like we, as a community, are being asked to take a very great deal on faith here that I don't feel that the Screeps Team has necessarily earned.

  • @artch

    let's please not judge a 3-person part-time team with standards of an AAA project with many full-time developers and managers.

    We're not. We (as a community) would just like some sign that you haven't died or suffered some horrible accident.

    As for speaking to the Community Managers- I get a strong sense that they don't know anything more than I do. Both of them are loyal to you and to Screeps almost to a fault, but I don't think they actually have anything we don't aside from maybe a private email.

    I know I've brought up issues with communication and lack of a roadmap to both of our CMs in the past and was promised improvement, which means either those concerns never made it to you or you disregarded them. Worse, I feel like they've been put in a very untenable position- Both CMs have tried to reassure us of plans for Screeps, discussed concerns and handled questions, but without hearing from you all of that falls by the wayside. CMs exist largely to handle the day to day BS that comes from having to deal with any online community- they aren't a get out of jail free card for community engagement.

    I understand that life happens. Things happen that you aren't prepared for, things go wrong, and sometimes you just get screwed, but when you vanish for months at a time there are consequences for that. The truly sad thing is that the slow bleeding out of the community doesn't have to happen in cases like this. Ten minutes of "Hey guys, was really busy this week- a quick rundown" would do wonders, and give the people trying to support both you and the game something to point at when people like myself start complaining about the lack of engagement, the lack of activity, the appearance of lack of direction, and so on.

    If nothing else, help those people help you.

  • Dev Team

    @knightshade The CMs have access to:

    • Our internal Slack;
    • Private Skype and other instant messengers of the team members;
    • Our Jira tracker with all backlog and ongoing development tasks and their workflow;
    • All private GitHub repositories.

    So if @o4kapuk says that the team is really busy and not just died in a car accident, you can believe him as much as if I do.

  • @artch Fair enough. I see my accusations were at least partially misplaced.

    @o4kapuk @Dissi I guess you guys are partially to blame for this as well. I'm disappointed, though I know you both have lives like Artem and can't live Screeps.

    The issue remains that player engagement is falling, the community knows almost nothing about what's going on behind the scenes, and we're left with drafts and promises that go nowhere. I'll admit I'm one of the more irritated people about this, and I've been attempting to keep my irritation to myself up until now, but the issue does exist, and I don't feel like it's being addressed.

  • Dev Team

    @knightshade I suggest waiting until the end of August and see if we manage to satisfy you a little 🙂

  • @artch I'm sorry to hear about the troubles you've faced. You have my best wishes and I hope the worst has passed. It is certainly not my intention to affect your motivation at the moment when you've finally resurfaced. If you need a sympathetic ear or business/technical advice do not hesitate to contact me. I hope I can be of assistance.

    With that said, the issues with engagement and community (mis)management are not recent problems. They may have been exacerbated by your recent misfortunes, but they have been part of the public discourse for years now.

    If you were hoping that @o4kapuk and @dissi would be the key to resolving these issues, then there has been some fundamental mistake or miscommunication somewhere. The two of them have done a good job of acting as mediators between the community and the dev team in certain critical moments (such as this one). However, looking at the steady decline in slack, forum, and in-game activity, their impact has been negligible in terms of user retention and community engagement.

    @artch, you have created a unique and extraordinary game that I love. You have a small but fanatical community behind you. Capitalize on your years of hard work! What you need to do is not difficult, it is not complicated. You've already overcome some incredible challenges.

    On community:

    1. Get the monthly reviews back. If necessary delegate the responsibility to the CMs or the community at large. They don't have to be complex affairs. One page blog posts are enough.
    2. Find a way to get a weekly (or at least bi-weekly) dev blog post out. Nothing fancy, just a few words so that the community has some idea of what's going on. If no option, then delegate the responsibility to the CMs although you are the best option to handle this.
    3. Get the community engaged in a dialog on features and improvements. Have the CMs moderate if necessary and provide you with a relevant weekly summary.

    On the code:

    1. Get in the continuous deployment mindset and establish a bi-weekly or at least monthly release cycle.
    2. Deal with the PRs in a timely fashion and reward/engage the community for further development.
    3. Offer practical targets (eg test development, code styling etc) that the community could help you with.

    These are just some random things off the top of my head, but there's such vast potential here. You have hundreds of willing developers and gamers at your fingertips just hoping to be involved in the development of this project. Let us help you.



  • Dev Team

    @atavus Sounds fair. I'm not sure whether all of it is viable in our situation, but it is definitely what we should move towards.

    Also, your reasonable and helpful attitude is really appreciated.