I don't post here often and I play under a different Steam handle, so you may not recognize this name (unless you played a fair amount of DoW2: Ret). Rest assured, I am passionate about this game and have been since before launch. I have purchased 3 copies of DoW3 (for myself, my wife, and a friend). I have tried to play at least once a night, though sometimes it can be difficult with a 2 year-old to get the time. I am not the most skilled player, so this isn't a balance whine post. What this is is a plea to Relic (and to community members) to do what they can to rejuvenate the community.
When I sit down and queue for a round of DoW3 I have precious little time to enjoy. Since July, wait times have been astronomical and the resulting matches (1v1, 2v2, 3v3, I play em all depending on if I've roped in friends or not) tend to be extremely one-sided. This is not due to any balance issue in the game (though there may be those, I'm not expert enough to make that evaluation) but rather a skills gap. Due to how few players are playing (http://steamcharts.com/app/285190), the matches can't be made as fair as they could be in a more populous community.
I'm not going to lie, as much as I love DoW3, the thought of spending 5+ minutes in a queue to get slapped down in 12 minutes by someone is not super appealing. It may not be long before DoW3 stops being a game I load up as frequently and that number on steamcharts goes down another notch (I suspect many people are in the same boat, as are would-be new players).
We need an influx of players. Obvious, I know. But it needs to be stated. We don't need to have 500,000 average concurrent players or even 50,000 to be sustainable and fun for all skill brackets. But we do need more than 600 (I think 1500 average is the low-end benchmark where things feel "good").
For many games, the problem is saturation; How do we get people to buy the game? And the easy answer is you put it on sale. But DoW3 doesn't have a market saturation problem. It has an image problem and an excitement problem.
From the onset of the first gameplay trailer, the image of DoW3 has been negative in the wider gaming community. That's a tough thing to overcome and it has only gotten worse with time. I think a UI redesign for the main menus could help smooth over a lot of negative sentiment. It seems silly, but it's the first thing you experience when you launch the game and it has a variety of obvious problems. Personally, if I encounter a bad UI it colors my perspective of everything that comes next.
Here are some examples that should be solved:
- When you are forming a multiplayer party (A thing that should not be as slow and clunky as it is) and you have the invite list open, the "Cancel" button is directly over the "Search" for a match button. There is a way to accidentally click both at once and sometimes clicking dead center on the Cancel button will even start the search. This can happen without you realizing it, and suddenly you're in a match and your buddy who just finished loading is asking for an invite on Voice chat while you scratch your head.
- Elites swapping in and out animation is cool, but it is clunky. Having the elites displayed in the background on a plinth is neat. But we don't really need all that screen real estate taken up by showing off those models when the more important information (Elite skills, Command Skills) is another layer deep. Why make model oggling the primary purpose of this screen? Fold that into the Army Painter.
- Command/Presence doctrines are far too confusing. Elites should ONLY have a presence doctrine. The command doctrines should be unlocked the same way others are. Although the unlocking in general is kind of a terrible idea, imo, sorry guys. This is a multiplayer affair, don't put players on weaker footing just because they are new. Give them all the options, but provide some preconfigured layouts for each race for beginners.
- While the new elite/doctrine selection menu along the sides is better than it was, it is still needlessly confusing. There's got to be a better way to do this. Perhaps a drag and drop? Also, the quick menu when you are in a party only shows some of the doctrines you have, not all. Seems strange and counterintuitive. Just disable this option if it's not going to give the full selection.
- Allow color switching/Army Painter while queuing. There's really no reason not to allow this that I can see. If it's a programmatic problem, I am confident it is one that can be solved. Being able to mess around with paint schemes while in a long queue would do a lot to alleviate the boredom.
- Army painter needs a color "search" bar. When I unlock a new color through leveling up an elite and all it shows me is that stock gray swatch, it is really hard to find the color.
- Why does going to change my Avatar fail so often or even lock the UI completely? This should be so quick and simple because it's such a minor thing. Yet clicking on my avatar to go to my profile is a mighty crapshoot.
- Keybindings: Let people change their keybindings, c'mon. This is a PC game, every keybinding should be fully customizable.
These are just a few of the issues with the main game UI that I have run into. Addressing some or all of these will go a long way to demonstrating a willingness to put in the elbow grease to polish the product and bring it to a proper state. This kind of thing is VERY important on a surface level to attract and retain players as well as generate good will that can drive out the most negative elements.
The game released, a lot of people bought it, a lot of people played, a lot of people didn't "get" it. Now a lot less people are playing and nobody's talking about DoW3. How do we reclaim that excitement and get people streaming and launching DoW3 again to "give it a shot"? Well, again, there's an obvious answer: major new content. The new maps and skins have been great. But the slow trickle of little items will only reinvigorate people who are close enough to the game to know about it (i.e. current players and their immediate gaming buds).
The best remedy here is a new faction. IG, Necrons, Chaos, it doesn't matter who. If a new faction were released especially as FLC but even if it were DLC, the buzz would bring people back.
Another option is a co-op mode like "The Last Stand" from DoW2: Ret. That's the only mode of DoW2 I ever got my wife to play much and I imagine many people know more casual players who would maybe toe into multiplayer sometimes if they were more familiar with the systems by playing in a mode like TLS.
Relic could also save up a lot of new maps and release a pack of FLC maps at once instead of doing one at a time here or there, inject 3 at once and make versions of them for 3v3, 2v2, AND 1v1 each. The result would essentially feel like 9 new maps to play on. That would be incredible!
But it doesn't even have to be new content. I saw on another thread the developers were considering increasing the hitpoints of line units across the board to reduce the lethality of huge abilities against infantry. Doing this in conjunction with removing the refunds for lost squads would be big enough to bring many RTS players back to take a look.
It could also be more detailed community updates. How about a dev diary from the folks who are working on DoW3 @ Relic so we can know who they are, identify with them when they post on the forums/twitter, and have tangible evidence of what's going on there and how it's going? Not everything has to be so cloak and dagger. You can tell us you're working on something before you announce when it is coming out and we'll still be just as pleased when it is ready. If we know what's coming next, Relic, it will be easier for fans to defend, support, and get excited about the game.
It also doesn't have to all fall on Relic. We (the community) all have a responsibility to behave with civility and try to excite our friends about the game we are passionate about. So do your part. Leave the bad manners and "gg ez" for the toxic pits of actual MOBAs. We should hold ourselves to a higher standard and engender a reputation for civility that will make new players feel more comfortable giving the game a shot.
These are my thoughts, I thank you for reading them and I hope something happens to bring more players back to this great game.