25 September 2019

Cube World Beta - The Biggest Issue Right Now

I've played the Cube World Alpha for multiple hours and had a lot of fun. With the beta release, I've already spent 30-ish hours. As such, I feel entitled to give my opinion and criticism on the game. Even though I already have like three topics/posts I could write about.

What Is Cube World Gonna Be All About

Screenshot of the Cube World
Pre-Beta Title Screen
You can't give good criticism if you don't know how to play the game. This means we need to figure out, get hinted at, or be told how to play the game. If you look at the game mechanics, there's a lot of items and unlocks that only count towards one region. Additionally, there are a few items that count more globally. These can be found in areas that can be considered as end-game within their region.

With this and the information gained from the game developers, it is clear. This is the goal: Climb up the gear ladder inside of a region and unlock all the unlockables. With the top gear, you collect the artifacts. Afterward, you move on to the next area and start anew. Rinse and repeat.

That's a Terrible System Who Would Come Up Wi-

This is in and of itself is not a terrible system. Look at roguelikes or idle games. These games have been using similar mechanics for nearly forever. If we take the Binding of Isaac as an example. If you die, you lose everything and have to start over. However, you will retain any unlocks you've made or coins you put into the bank. This gives the game a sense of progress and changes the experience each time you achieve something. 

Another example would be the famous Cookie Clicker. Here too you are encouraged to start the game over. But, compared to your first run, you will have it much easier and faster this time around. This allows you to get much further than before.

Now, when we get back to Cube World and look at the artifacts. They do two things. Firstly, they increase your level, which does nothing mechanically. It's basically the count of how many of them you have. Secondly, they'll give you a small stat bonus. This bonus is limited to traveling abilities.

The Vicious Cycle Of Demotivation

That's all nice and everything. To make the game fun, we need player motivation. Motivation in video games is too big of a topic. So, I won't go into detail on that. 

In the current state, I would say, players who seek exploration are satisfied. It's an endless world, and it's unlikely to find areas that are too similar.

People who want to play with friends or want a community should also be satisfied.  My experience in online mode is quite decent and fun. The only thing I could complain about is getting no loot if you died and couldn't get another hit on the enemy. Though the steam servers can't deal with too many people. Thus it would be nice to have the ability to host an own server that can deal with large scale multiplayer.

The third group of players is the issue here. There's a progression inside of a region but moving away from it resets the progress. Even worse, the artifacts only give a bonus to traveling abilities. You don't need a bonus to these if you stay in the area you have been in the whole time. This means there's no reason to get the artifacts. Everything falls apart, and this is the problem why a portion of people complain about the state of the game. This is also the reason those people prefer the alpha release.

The Solution

As big of an issue this seems to be. It's rather easy to be solved. All the game needs is a long-term progression. It's not even hard to implement this. Artifacts provide a bonus to traveling stats. If there would be additional artifacts, which provide a more meaningful approach to long-term progression (such as minor stat increases). It would give the third group of players the incentive to travel and gather the artifacts.

More Issues Targeting This Audience

A few more minor issues, which also target this third group, can be easily fixed as well. For example, completing a region gives no reward, and you don't know when you are finished with it. There's also no big reward for getting the lore to 100%. Also, since it's unknown how many key items the region contains, this can result in the player searching for hours until the motivation dies out.

This can be solved by giving a completion percentage of the region. Providing the player with a special message for completing it and potentially a worthy item. For example, one guaranteed equipment piece for their class, which works in other areas around the completed one.

The unlocks should always be visible but blacked out, so that you know which can be found in the area. This gives away a little bit about the region, but it helps those who are searching aimlessly for something, which doesn't exist. If the quest doesn't exist, it will be blamed on tough luck.

Alright, This Is Long Enough

Now, I have addressed the biggest problem. I still have two blog posts planned about Game Development Lifecycles and the special relationship between players and developers. The blog post turned out to be less of a criticism/review than I had planned. Well, I can analyze problems and try to solve them by giving suggestions using my experience. I'm not good at reviewing, lol.

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I'm a B.Sc. Games Engineer and I created this blog to share my ideas, theorycrafting, thoughts and whatever I'm working on or doing.