On 3/30/07, Rado S <regrado at web.de> wrote:
> You think newbs will like a feature enriched Paradise game more
> than Bronco for starters to get hooked up (and later maybe learn
> about Bronco)?

That is how I got into netrek. One group of my friends was playing
paradise so I started going to the the computer clusters to play with
my friends and eventually I after a few weeks of paradise I noticed
sometimes my friends played bronco so I asked them what it was and the
rest is history. Having knowledgeable players in person to give you a
model XTREKRC file, to explain the keymap and buttonmap, to explain
how macros work and how to make them, how RCD works, to yell at you
when you are doing something dumb, and just to watch others play in
person even if you are not playing (I observed many CMU clue playoff
games this way which they usually won heh) is extremely helpful and is
probably the ideal way to learn. Most new players will not have a
chance for that learning (and also that is the most fun way to play
netrek in my opinion) which is sad so we must accept this and develop
the best way to train them remotely.

> Once the wiki is setup, we might create a section for PR plans,
> tasks and people doing it, so that we have a better overview about
> chances for success or what wholes have to be patched.

Dave Ahn cryptically said last week that he has decided on what wiki
the Netrek website will use and it will not be MoinMoin, but he didn't
say what he decided will be used so we must just wait and see :-)

> I guess advertizing is useless before the landing zone is well
> prepared: places to play with real in-game activity, places to learn

Exactly and this happened about 5-6 years ago when a player posted to
slashdot about netrek just at the same time that Karthik and then some
others were working on a new plan (forget the specifics) to attract
newbies, so while the player probably had good intentions their
preemption did not do much to attract and retain new players.
According to Joe a lot of new players have tried netrek in the past
6-12 months and I have noticed this myself anecdotally, but obviously
we are not retaining enough of them. So this is the question we must
focus on. I think we should approach this from two tracts: the server
and client efforts. On the server side I think a paradise server and
even a fun chaos server will help. and it would be good if they had
something on the motd or login screen that made it clear that the
purest form of netrek is bronco and once players learn the basics they
are encouraged to play on the bronco servers. In the past having a
good newbie server with bots also seemed to help. So if someone could
run one again that would be good, the code is already done for that.
There are also some tricks we could do with the metaserver and client
to "strongly encourage" users to play on bronco servers if decline of
bronco t mode becomes an issue again in light of new non-bronco
servers ;-) On the client side many have talked about this in the past
many times including myself but I think for the sake of the discussion
it is worth repeating: must focus on better graphics that will make
the tweens, teens and college students say "Wow this looks cool!" and
very good 3D sound comparable to what they get in other games, this is
what their expectations are and while we all realize the real strength
of netrek is in its' rich strategic and team gameplay and coordination
of group efforts the typical newbie will not yet appreciate this so we
must put a very nice worm on the hook to lure in the fishes :) OpenGL
graphics and SDL sound seem to be the way to go since their are
toolkits/APIs for these which are multi-platform. Some have suggested
a single client codebase and I'm not sure what the relative
merits/weaknesses of that are right now but it may be something to
consider. We could still have individuals responsible for different
flavors of the client (something like skins) and instead of having
BRMH client, COW client, XP 2006, XP Mod, MacTrek we could have Netrek
Client + BRMH theme/skin, Netrek Client  + Eric's mod. The newbie
would be able to ideally easily switch and try different themes
regardless of what platform/arch they are using. Another idea I had is
to allow players to create mods (the whole borg issue would need to be
considered) so that they could easily change certain things like ship
types, sounds, GUI look, etc.. Modding is very popular in many games
right now. I also feel whatever we do it is imperative we design a
more intuitive help system and configuration system comparable to what
the typical user will be used to from most major games (there are
about 3 or 4 basic designs I've noticed with minor variations). One
part of successful marketing it's finding out the end users/customer's
expectations and meeting them. Just some things to think about.

> live and by reading, diversity of those place for different tastes
> of learning and playing, responsible teachers and protectors
> (against lamer abuse).

Without very active server goods with tons of time to police the
server enforcement of this will be very problematic. The days of the
server god who also actively plays (as in 4+ hours each day) and has
lots of time to deal with problem players are likely over. There is
the whole censorship issue to consider also. I daresay most if not all
the active server gods have a more liberal view on this and prefer to
let people say what they want even if it is offensive, racist,
bigoted, hateful etc. A certain degree of verbal harassment should be
expected tolerated by players seems to be the case. We can debate
this, and I think sometimes there are some players who truly are there
(often they are not players but just hangout on obs slots) just to try
to humiliate, viciously personally attack other players and no other
major game tolerates this. That may be since they are commercial games
usually they're wary of potential lawsuits so their policy is enforced
to mitigate this liability but in playing some popular free games I've
also noticed a much less liberal view of what constitutes acceptable
speech than we see in netrek. And I am not talking about the historic
type of trash talking and joking which has always been a part of the
game. Thankfully most players are not that disturbed or malevolent but
the few who are seem highly motivated and will resort to changing
ISPs, proxies, etc. to try and circumvent any player ban. Any real
enforcement on this issue ultimately comes back to security and the
reality of what can be enforced. There is no perfect solution I
recognize however I wonder if we could be doing more security wise.
Perhaps this could be discussed.

> Right. Since the game mechanic alone doesn't beat them, there must
> be other areas to surpass them, like the above listed support.
> A game doesn't see itself anymore by the code alone, especially
> not one such complex as netrek.

Word of mouth advertising also helps. I wonder how many regular
players tell their family, friends, coworkers about it. Or if you have
a blog or website mention netrek and provide helpful links. This may
seem trivial but it can have a very good cumulative effect if everyone
is doing it!

> And then we need patience until enough mass has gathered to
> attract others just by gravity (as it was in the past, just now
> the mass must be greater ;).

Right and once we get critical mass we can get a healthy clue scene
going again. As I've said in the past there is a symbiotic
relationship between the two. A healthy pickup scene will fuel a
healthy clue scene and vice versa. Clued netrek is the most intense,
exciting and educational and once players advance to that level many
will be "hooked" and be lifetime players heh. In recent years it is no
coincidence that as the clue scene suddenly dropped off we saw a
massive correlated drop off in pickup and many regular long time clued
players decided to retire for good, and others who used to regularly
play pickup now only pop in once a month or every few months. I don't
want to get into a chicken or egg mode but you could also argue that
the clued players lost interest because the quality of pickup had
deteriorated so much (and I personally saw players express this view
numerous times) and there were so few clue playing regular pickup.
There decision to retire then exacerbated the problem. Since netrek
has a steeper learning curve than most popular games we must recognize
it will take years before a player advances from a newbie to semi-clue
to clue to high clue (if they ever get that far) and I think we'd all
agree that having clued players around to teach the newbies and
demonstrate clued play and to test and push them is essential. So we
need to also be focused on retaining clue and even luring back clue
that have retired or got tired of netrek. For some their family and
professional and social commitments/priorities make regular netrek
prohibitive. I know some who would really like to play but have said
they just can't find the time to do it. But as the old saying goes if
something is really important to you then you'll make time for it. And
I think the majority of clue who've stopped playing have done so for
the other reasons I mentioned so there is at least a glimmer of hope
of bringing them back :-)