This morning a question blossomed into my head, prompting me to check out an old game named Planeshift. It is an MMORPG that differentiates itself by asking players to roleplay in character and not break the illusion. They’ve developed a deep and colorful backstory – all taking place inside of a hollowed out stalactite! By elevating story-writing and art as equal importance to coding new features, they’ve built a wonderful alternate universe.
I decided that I’d like to come back to this game, which remains exactly as lovable as I remember 6 years ago when I volunteered 3d models, and contribute in a different way. Publicize it, share it, optimize their Customer Acquisition Funnel and build a pipeline of new players into the game. There are a few hurdles for them to overcome first and as a thought process I will list them out here.
Remove Barriers to Contribution:
Think about how quickly someone can go from hearing about the project, to seeing the code, to submitting a change to fix a typo or comment. This should be minutes.
Unfortunately with Planeshift it is weeks. This is problem is compounded by the fact that active development is happening in a private branch that potential contributors don’t even know exist. This is a big no-no for two reasons. First, it makes the project look dead to outsiders, and second it literally prevents first-time contributions.
Move Code to Github
— donato borrello (@codeassault) August 2, 2016
SVN is now a barrier to entry for new developers. I know there is inertia in such things, but making the change to Github is well worth it. At JW Player we made the switch about 2 years ago and have had great success.
Optimize the Tutorial:
This is as much a level design issue as anything else. The tutorial is too damn long. It has too much text. There is a great set of tips for how to teach new players mechanics in this YouTube video. Playtesting will help incredibly here too. But ultimately, the strength of Planeshift, is roleplaying with other people and we should fast-forward them to that point.
Define Your Values:
I include this because there is a certain level of cynicism in the forums and IRC communication venues. Feedback from outsiders related to code, other software and new technologies is not received well. I’ll leave this up to the team, but it simply has to include a bullet point for “Inclusiveness.”
As a lover of the game, and a stakeholder in the success of Planeshift, I really want the best for it. It’s a beautiful and thoughtful game that should and definitely could have 10x more developers.