So this is Christmas
And what have we done?
Nectaris just begun…
There’s been a lot of vehement opinion and even, I daresay, some very real anger expressed at a few of the recent changes to the game. While this always serves to keep the conversation active in the Feed, it also has an impact on player retention — a topic close to all our hearts, I’m sure. After all, if new players stop coming and old players keep going away, our beloved game won’t last long.
An aside: I recently got in touch with Stefan Reuther, creator of the PCC tool for use with the original client software. Between us we concluded that there really aren’t many old-school alternatives remaining to Planets Nu. A few games exist out at Planets Central, but I think that’s about it. So if Nu dies, so too does our game.
The Fury / Fascists
Let us address the most controversial and least substantial change: the name of the Fascist Empire — least substantial, that is, in the sense that it doesn’t actually impact gameplay in the slightest. Nevertheless, the new “Hordes of Fury” name is startlingly unpopular, as we saw in our unofficial poll a few weeks ago, in which The Marauders won by a large margin:
Two things we’ve demonstrated clearly: “The Fury” is unpopular no matter how we count, and there’s almost no crossover between “Fury” and “Horde” fans.
So, yes, a lot of players got extremely upset. This isn’t surprising; any game where the players have stayed loyal to for thirty-some years would of necessity have a group of adherents who dislike change in general. Against that, however, we have to weigh the benefit of having a name that isn’t immediately off-putting to the so-called “woke” crowd. (Thinking of you when choosing the word, JonnyDoh. Hope you don’t mind. :o)
League play overall was probably a good idea, but the execution was lacking. In evidence of this one need only examine League team participation and game numbers. The first year was impressive, but in the second “lackluster” would be an understatement. Thus, making changes was a wise choice.
We dealt with this at greater length in the first NuNiverse Review article (seen here), but we’re mentioning it again solely in terms of player interest and engagement, which leads to player retention. FixedTurn in place of TopAdvance and AFoF directly addresses many of the dissatisfactions expressed by players, and thus will likely have a positive impact overall.
Again, it’s curious: There have been several objections to the Home Sector nonstandard game environment, this despite its complete lack of impact on the game proper. Considering that it’s entirely optional, and mainly intended as a fun and accessible add-on intended to educate new players, one might be excused for prematurely dismissing these complaints entirely. However, it’s worth noting that the top billing given to the Home Sector over multiplayer games can be genuinely irritating, as indeed can be the flashing button.
The biggest change to Standard this time around is the limited reduction of Priority Point cost for frigate and destroyer class ships. As a balance redress, this is a long-needed correction, one that finally permits small-ship races to compete more directly with those that have solid advantages to production and combat.
Unfortunately, this does nothing to benefit the Robots, long the whipping boy of the Developers, yet helps their pet race the Federation more than any other. In specific, the Quantum Torpedo Thor is excessively powerful as a shield-scratcher against even the heaviest of carriers — a difference that grants a skilled Fed a tremendous, and entirely superfluous, boost in ship-stack combat. In the Paper-Scissors-Stone of Planets positioning, the Feds can now fight anyone in the game, while the Robots have once more lost ground overall. Only the Privateer has improved against Feds (with Elusive), though a skilled opponent might simply arm a handful of their Lokis with Mk8s to neutralize that.
One change that has provoked no negative response at all has been the new ship and character art that’s being introduced into the game. We all understand the necessity; spoof of space opera though Planets may be, it’s always possible that the Evil Empire will come along and sue us (by which I mean Disney) — and that would be the end of Planets. The further we distance ourselves from identifiable sci-fi properties, the safer we’ll be. Similarly, introducing more in-depth backstory for the various playable factions enriches the world in which our games reside.
The Bottom Line
As players who enjoy this game, I’m sure we’re all quite pleased at the continued development of both Planets and the Nu environment. Further, most of the changes are actual advances, aimed at improving both playability and accessibility, and thus improving new player retention.
It would be nice, though, if the developers could be observed to respond to feedback from the player base.
The Developers have, once again, declined to comment on this article. -Editor
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