Last night I clicked 'yes' and, poof, I was no longer a Tribes: Ascend player. It was the end of an age as my team, ACD, played the last competitive Tribes: Ascend match. I streamed it with a somewhat heavy heart, filled with sadness much like that of a long time friend who burned all his bridges and chose a destructive lifestyle despite your unwavering commitment to help him.
Shh... No tears now, only dreams.
The last 2 years have been a bumpy ride, but at the same time a (painful) learning experience. In 2 short years HiRez Studios shows us something incredibly valuable: what not to do if you want your game to be successful. Primarily, it was their lack of investment (both financially and in their efforts) in the community and introducing new players to the game. TotalBiscuit recently did a video where he explained this reasoning, but put the blame on the players rather than HiRez; something I can't even begin to understand. If an infant dies of malnutrition, the headline will not read, "Child dies, refused to feed itself."
The sad truth concerning the Tribes franchise is that it had the potential to be one of the most exciting and unique eSports in existence, with a Twitch.tv viewer-base that could have rivaled CS:GO or League of Legends. Of course, we can't ignore the fact that so many mistakes and bad decisions were made when it came to how the game was monetized or the lack of game-breaking-bug fixes, and I won't. These were terrible. HiRez chose to release blatantly overpowered weapons and, when enough players had paid money to get them, they were quickly nerfed, citing 'game balance'. Even something as simple as changing your clan tag wasn't free. Among other things, the thing that made Tribes what it is today--player modifications [read: the invention of skiing]--was never on the radar for the developers of T:A. I could go on and on...lack of demo support, poor server performance, yada yada yada...but all of these things, as impeding as they were, pale in comparison to the disregard of community. Let me just put these in list form, for the sake of time:
- A community manager was not hired until the game had been 'out' for almost a year
- Aforementioned community manager was not given the resources needed to manage a community
- Despite having a dedicated "eSports Manager", HiRez almost completely ignored the T:A competitive scene
- There was one tutorial in the game [how to ski] and it was abysmal in quality
- No tutorials or information existed on how the game should be played (roles, objectives, etc)
- No web portal community existed
- Player statistics were arbitrary, unreliable, and most of all LATE (released closer to end-of-life)
- The best player statistics interface was created by a player, after pulling teeth to get a stats API
- HiRez shut down their official forum and claimed /r/tribes was the new support area [without asking first]
- Players who were skilled at game development, graphic design, and related areas had their efforts ignored despite offering them for free
- Lies. Everywhere. All the time. Even LIVE on stream. From the executives. 'Trust' is not a word that the tribes community understands anymore.
- I'm just going to stop here...the list is getting too long.
Out of this game, which many of us have loved since we were children, came a few 'inspired by the true story' games. All of which are still under development. I made a post on /r/fpsz asking for the developers of these games to approach me, if they truly cared about the success of their game, to receive help with the problems that ultimately killed Tribes. I'm not the greatest at what I do, but I can guarantee that I care more than anyone out there about the subject of user experience...and if that's not what a game is all about, I'm not sure what is. I don't truly know if any game now or in the future will be able to fill the void that Tribes has left in our hearts, or if they will be even remotely successful... fortune telling is not what I do. What I do know is that I want to be part of it. I feel an unsatisfied calling to somehow 'make up' for the travesty committed by HiRez Studios and many other developers who see their games fail.
If any developers out there are reading this, there is something you need to hear and understand: A functional game does not make a good game. You may run error and warning free code, you might even create innovative game mechanics and fresh new concepts for controls. Those are great things, but they are only a means to an end. If you don't cultivate your community, if you don't introduce new players to the game, and if you cannot create a stellar user experience for your audience you will fail. That's all there is to it. You cannot succeed if your primary focus is debugging instead of those who are playing.
Get your priorities straight.