Boost new player retention by increasing starting packages

Caveat: I do not pretend to fully understand the economy, so am fully prepared for this to be shot down from an economic perspective.

Background
I have been discussing the following idea in the Discord with only a small number of players so far; but I think we can all agree that there is a pretty significant issue with encouraging new players to stick around.

The Problem
The single biggest complaint is generally “the game is too slow” which certainly is true in the first few days. Once you build the recommended buildings for your starter package, and you send one of your ships off to the CX to go buy inputs for your recipes there isn’t a whole lot more to do.

Yes the common counter argument - is you need to be planning, and researching, but I think a lot of potential new players are looking to have a certain itch scratched right away to at least get a taste of what is on offer.

TLDR Version
Increase starter packages (specifically more money) and move one of the starter ships to the CX to give new players more to do in their first few days.

My Suggestion (more detail)
So my thought; was why not increase the size of the starter packages? Only just enough that it allows a new player to start expanding almost immediately rather than having to wait two or three days in before they can do anything meaningful. This would be a small enough increase, that it shouldn’t have any significant impacts to the economy as a whole.

My suggestion was to increase the packages in the form of cash since the liquidity would give the new players the CHOICE and freedom to use it how they please; which will force them to do their own research, and plan ahead - which ultimately is the fun of the game.

Now I do also realise that handing a player more money, will likely result in them potentially making some poor business decisions - but I guess that is part of the learning curve.

Alternative to Cash
The counter suggestion is to increase the number of building materials they start with; and if they wish to sell them - they can. My argument against this, is as a new player if I was given enough materials to build an additional FRM and RIG - that is probably what I would have done which defeats the point of encouraging me to make that decision myself.

Move one starter ship
Additionally, I think it would be sensible to have one of the starter ships start at the nearest CX. This also means the new players are able to start buying and shipping supplies to their base immediately from the start, rather than having to wait a day for an empty ship to fly to the CX.

Tie in to the Tutorial
Finally, Fire and Rain on the Discord suggested making the additional cash a reward as part of the tutorial process to hopefully encourage completion of the tutorial.

Galaxy Reset Issue?
The only big flaw I can see in all this, is in the event of a galaxy wipe / reset; I am not sure how this might upset the economy in the infancy stages.

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I and some other players have already suggested to the devs to increase the starting packages. I did that one year ago. For some mysterious reason they haven’t done that and don’t plan to do that. Very unfortunate.

Personally I think the starting packages are far too much. We ought to get one ship with half the cargo capacity, no additional starting fuel, and half the cash. That way the players would spend longer in the building-up phase, which is what I find most appealing, compared to the later logistics-management phase.

In any case, increasing the starting packages won’t help to entice anyone to stick with the game who isn’t already inclined to play a slow-paced management sim. No matter how many buildings you start with, and wherever your ships are, there will still only ever be a few minutes of “things to click on” at the start before your production lines are running and your ships are in flight. At that point, anyone expecting action based gameplay will decide that the game is boring. PrUn is never going to appeal to that type of gamer, and it shouldn’t try to.

Also, there is already enough of an issue with there not being enough end-game content. Increasing the starting packages will decrease the amount of time that it takes for players to reach the end game. So effectively, this suggestion is akin to saying “The devs should make the game shorter”.

I don’t find it mysterious that they choose not to do this.

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So I certainly see the points you make.

For example, the building up stage to me definitely WAS fun. It was so exciting to finally get my first new building, and then the next and the one after that. I had such a sense of achievement.

HOWEVER; that first initial expansion - is still a week or two away. I think most starter packages make around 2k per day - and a single new building (from what I remember) is around 12k which is 6 days not factoring in the cost of fuel!

To clarify, I’m not suggesting taking the starter packages straight in to mid-game; but instead simply giving them a nudge to skip just that very first week (heck even just those first couple days) so that getting that first new building can be done within a matter of hours rather than a week.

For your point about decreasing the time taken to reach end game - I am coming up to 6 months time played now and I would say I am only just entering mid-game and am certainly still a long way off end-game level. So I really don’t think reducing this timespan by a week is the end of the world.

Now your point about those are inclined will stay, and those who wont, wont regardless - now that point has some validity. And that’s where some market research (above my paygrade) would need to determine if this could be a potential solution.

I guess the question is: Is there a group of players, that WOULD like this game, but just don’t quite make it past the first few hours because get lost in the first day or so waiting; perhaps they don’t realise just how much things ramp up.

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Imo the game is very poorly balanced. It puts all the difficulty at the very start, at the risk of frustrating the new players. But as one grows and progresses, the game actually becomes very easy. Fully upping the first base and opening a second one takes more than one month and good planning. Going from 5 bases to 6 takes less than one week.

I would suggest increasing the starting packages and introducing an upkeep system for the higher level headquarters. The HQs could consume different materials, a bit like the POPI, the higher the HQ level, the higher the consumption. If the upkeep is not provided at all, than the company takes a global production efficiency penalty. If partial upkeep is provided, than there is a partial efficiency penalty. Also, the upkeep should grow with the HQ level in a super-linear way (that is faster than linear). Not exponential. This would be too hard. But maybe like some power. In this way the higher the HQ level, the harder it would be to run a profitable business. This would require careful financial planning from big players and would push them switch to the most profitable production.

Until players hit the logistics ceiling, base growth is exponential. In general, if it takes X days to add building number N, it will take X * N / (N + 1) days to add building N+1. So the speed at which buildings can be added is an ever-upward-sloping curve. If you move beginner players far enough along that curve so that they can add a new building every day, then you’ve fast-forwarded them past many weeks of gameplay. I don’t think the game would be improved by that.

Alternatively, due to the nature of the curve, if it takes a week to get the first building, and your proposal is to skip just that week, then it means the first building will come after 6 days instead, which isn’t going to blow anyone’s socks off. All those players who think the game is boring will still think so - all you’ve done is shorten the initial build-up phase by a week.

Okay, but as things stand, if a new player sells their starting fuel (as will be recommended to them in chat) and uses their initial funds wisely, they can already add a new building in however long it takes to fly to the CX, buy the fabs, and return. So it seems that your proposal is already implemented. Players get one bonus building at the start. This seems fine to me - except that most starting packages allow for more than one bonus building, because, in my opinion, the starting position is actually too much.

@Yang_Mills, I agree with everything you wrote, and HQ upkeep proposals have been made before along the same lines. I think this would be a great addition to the game, but we’ll have to wait to see whether the devs go for that idea or not.

The only thing I would do differently from your proposal is that I wouldn’t increase the starting packages. Balance the game by making the end game more difficult, not by making the beginning easier.

I don’t profess to know enough about mid/end game to be able to comment on the balancing issues.

However, the specific problem I’m trying to address is the retention of new players.
I think we all agree that we need more players in order for the economy to work (especially with the numbers of CXs) - so how do we achieve that?

I would be curious to know what percentage of new sign ups are still active after 1 month - call it a population report for the server. Perhaps this isn’t even an actual problem.

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After the release on Steam the player count went from slightly above 2K to above 6K in two weeks. Now the player count is slightly above 3K. So the majority of those who tried after the release on Steam abandoned the game.

The other thing that should hopefully help with retention (which is already being done) is more videos from content creators showcasing what the game becomes after the first few weeks.

We discussed this issue after the Steam release. Enough of those players who abandoned the game left reviews that we could get a sense of their reasons. And the general theme was that there wasn’t anything to do. They wanted EVE style spaceship fights, or Cookie-clicker style immediate growth and feedback. None of those players would be impressed by “you get your next building in a few days instead of a week” - they wanted things to do now. So without completely redesgning the game to make it something else, there’s no way to appeal to them.

Which is fine, PrUn can’t be everything to all people, and shouldn’t try to be. It should develop its strengths, which is depth of economic simulation.

In terms of ways to retain players that might actually work, my top ideas would be adding spaceship trading, and making higher tier materials more in demand. That way people can see more interesting ways to develop their companies in future, rather than “add another base full of FRM”.

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I don’t have much to contribute here but I’ll say this.

What personally got me interested was seeing another, heavily developed player, manage and execute decisions and expand and accomplish things. This is why I am reasonably transparent about the operation of my company. A degree of it is ego and showing off, sure, but a degree (hopefully) is showing to new players what the endgame is and having something they can strive for.

Much like city builder games show huge developed metropolises and MMO’s show the best armor in the advertisements, I think PRUN could show off the end-game and finality of the game a lot more to newcomers. This would probably help new players find goals and understand the scope a little easier.

This also being said it doesn’t have the instant-dopamine hit many shitty mobile games have these days where you constantly get rewarded every 8 seconds with Canadough and other stuff. It’s very much a “long tail” experience. How do you convey that? I haven’t the slightest clue. I’m a backend optimization guy, not a marketing person.

There could be a couple intermediate or advanced tutorial videos maybe - not saying any of the intermediate or advanced players NEED a tutorial; but they would serve as a showcase for the potential of the game.