This MMO needs more multiplayer gameplay

I’m a relatively new player, so maybe I’ve missed some gameplay elements that are unlocked later on, but it seems like the game severely lacks multiplayer at the moment. And for a MMO “player-driven” simulation, that’s kind of a big problem in my opinion.

I’ve been playing for a few weeks, and so far I have not had any meaningful interaction with any of the other players. And it’s not like I purposely kept to myself, I actively looked for ways to engage with other players, but there really isn’t much of that kind of gameplay in the current version of the game.

Multiplayer interactions at the moment are limited to :

  • Trading on the exchanges, it’s technically multiplayer interaction, but it might as well be all bots, it’s all very impersonal. It’s also not particularly interesting, beyond a few edge cases, like instances of market manipulation. Trying to predict the market, the gambling, is a lot of fun, but you are not interacting with any one player, you are interacting with the entire playerbase (which is great, but it’s not the multiplayer aspect I’m talking about). And that’s when the low volume makes individual input quite significant, it will only get more stable, and less personal, as the playerbase grows.

  • Local market contracts, that’s probably the most meaningful interaction you can have with another player right now, and it’s pretty bland. The entire thing resolves without exchanging a single word, you fulfill a task, then press a button, the other player does the same, contract is over. It’s also limited to PRO license owners, so new/f2p players won’t even get that limited level of multiplayer gameplay. Contracts are a huge missed opportunity I feel, they should be a way to build a, potentially lasting, relationship with another player/company, you should be able to draft heavily customizable contracts (long term or recurring contracts for example, and more complexity), haggle over the price/terms, maybe have to solve legal problems, there could be so much interesting back and forth, instead of just posting a standardized ad (it would also make the local market more functional, right now it works effectively as a shitty, inconvenient exchange. If I want slightly different terms, I’ll simply skip that contract).

  • Corporations, not much to say about it, it’s the most basic multiplayer feature, the ability to group with other players, and it’s also partly limited to PRO users. There is very little to do as a corp in the game, the only features are corp projects (there is potential there, but it needs more content), and dividend payouts if a member is governor, everything else is just meta. There isn’t much incentive to join, or make, one, which is probably why most of the corps have only one member. The fact that corps have no identity at the moment, and that you can’t apply to one, certainly doesn’t help. Just a customizable “home page” and the ability to apply to corps, instead of joining being invite only, would dramatically increase player grouping, but, ultimately, without multiplayer gameplay incentives there is no point to joining a corporation.

  • Planetary projects, once again not really a player-to-player interaction, and in practice only managed by governors, who are a tiny percentage of the playerbase. Elections are the only way for other players to participate to a minor degree, and the election system is only functional. What about campaign ads/promises ? Even if most of that is intended to be part of the metagame, there should be a way to consult a “campaign page” ingame for every candidate at least. Players not using the forums/discord will essentially ignore elections and all associated gameplay features.

That’s it. Did I miss anything ? That’s the full extent of multiplayer interaction currently, close to nothing, not meaningful or personal, and mostly locked behind a paywall. I believe this is the main reason the game isn’t attracting a larger audience, or retaining the current one. I can’t see the game surviving a subscription system if that isn’t fixed. It’s not like the community isn’t interested in multiplayer. Forums/discord are pretty active, and some players have gone to great lengths to try to make those kind of interactions happen, despite the limitations imposed by the game (pirate RP, CUOP). Those are what would make this game fun, and its universe feel lively.

Now, some of the things I mentioned are on the roadmap, but they need to be prioritized. I think this is even -more important- than QoL features, which are also sorely needed. Mostly because the main QoL problems come from players over-expanding, because there isn’t much else to do (there are very few ways to engage with other players, and so the “end-game” is just early-game micromanagement on a larger scale, at which point it becomes more tedious than fun). A reset wouldn’t solve that, but it would delay it becoming a real problem again, buying time to improve multiplayer interactions.

Right now it seems like most players are integrating vertically and effectively playing PrUn as a single player base building game. I don’t think that makes for a good experience, and I don’t think it’s what most of those players want either, it’s just what makes sense in the game right now. On top of the lack of meaningful multiplayer features, so many of the mechanics are dis-incentivizing engaging with what little multiplayer there is. Resources being so scarce for example, when a planet only has one type of resource, it means there is only one viable industry on that planet. It makes the single player base building trivial, no need to plan or think about it twice, and it kills the possibility for multiplayer interactions because there is no incentive whatsoever to trade on that planet with other people who produce the exact same resource at the exact same rate. When you have multiple resources, there is a choice, different players can build different bases, exploiting different resources, and potentially benefiting from trading with each other. The only other use for single resource planets right now is space, but it’s just not viable when the cost to ferry resources from and to one of the 3 exchanges is so high. The only incentive for interaction on those planets is the need for ships, and that will disappear as well when players can simply build as many ships as they want and no longer have to rely on other player’s ships. The single most meaningful multiplayer interaction currently in the game (shipping contracts) will mostly be gone once ships become common.
Trading is the only other sort-of-multiplayer interaction in the game, and it will decay more and more as players can just build entire self-sufficient empires, and are incentivized to do so. That should be a barely viable playstyle, not the norm. Trading is the core of any economy simulator, and trade relies on specialization. Without division of labor, all players have the same needs and the same resources, and so trade is non existent. I think that, in addition to of a few changes, meaningful multiplayer mechanics are the way to incentivize division of labor.

Here are a few ideas that could improve the multiplayer experience :

  • Corp home page and identity (customization), and ability for players to apply to corps.

  • Corp projects content, especially content that incentivizes different gameplay styles (for example building a research lab that provides a global bonus, or better a special perk, to one type of industry, it would promote corp identity, and incentivize specialization for the corp members, without making it unfair for new players, as they can join a corp from the start and benefit from the same bonus/perk).

  • Significantly increasing the amount of different viable resource deposits on each planet, ideally balancing it around expert categories to promote planetary-wide and system-wide trade outside of exchanges. It would make the current expert system actually do its job of incentivizing division of labor.

  • Adding a small tax to every trade on the exchanges.

  • Letting players trade with each other directly and draft all kinds of custom contracts, which wouldn’t be subject to the small exchange tax, making it more attractive to engage directly and personally with other players.

  • Making the contract drafting process more involved, it should be a negotiation between 2 parties, not just players posting/accepting ads. You could have long term contracts with regular renegotiating.

  • Letting players breach contracts and even giving them incentives to do so, like the ability to open and use/sell a shipment you took from someone. This would make the rating system useful, and also incentivize building long-term relationships with trusted parties, instead of not caring about who takes on the contracts you post. It would also allow for a real “outlaw” playstyle.

  • Heavily balancing ships around specialization (for example a liquid-only cargo tank much more efficient than the all-purpose cargo bay, to the point that it makes sense to build those specialized ships and buy shipping services from specialized haulers even if you can afford to build your own ships).

  • Letting players trade more than just commodities. Base and storage space, renting and buying ships, buying/selling contracts, facilities from a corp, etc…

  • Co-op gameplay, like 2 players grouping their fleet to travel to reduce damage from pirates or something like that. Group purchases. Group negotiating. Corp/group contracts. Base sharing. Anything that a group of players has to coordinate to achieve (for example, resources that require more than one company to exploit, and the terms would be decided using a custom contract).

  • Governors (or population through vote) being able to set policies, beyond just fees, on planet/sectors they control. Banning or regulating the production or trade of a specific commodity. I guess CUOP was an example of that to a degree, unreasonably high fees on production are a soft ban. More ways for players to react, to counter abusive things, like the ability to refuse to pay the fees, or to call an emergency election if enough people vote for it. Perks instead of just bonuses would be nice, like all bases on a planet have an extra storage for example.

  • That’s more a long term thing, but some kind of player-driven justice system, to prosecute contract breakers or companies engaging in unlawful behavior, litigation. The goal being to have a real “bad guy” playstyle that is viable, but to keep things fair by giving lawful players a way to fight back. You could have lawful and unlawful systems, black markets, two competing economies. The lawful playstyle would be safer and more consistent, while the outlaw playstyle would be high risk/high reward.

What do you think about this, and what suggestions do you have to improve the multiplayer experience ?

Would you agree it’s more important than QoL ?

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While I do agree with lots of the points you wrote down, I just want to say that there are production chains running with few players that are cooperationg. You can’t see it ingame, but all the planning / task sharing / … is done on discords mostly.

I, together with some fellow members of GTU have a fuel production chain running on Boucher.
I have more of these projects running with multiple people, few of my bases are vertical. ( I think only my montem prefab base, and my mcg base are ).

But you are right in the fact that it’s still a minor part in the game. You can’t see who is cooperating with who , and what they are making.

I do like some of the things you propose, but I also think QoL additions should not be forgotten.
They are also very needed.

There should indeed be more corp options and things to do within a corp

Broadly, I agree. Though it does seem that much of this is on a rough road made. Cooperation does tend to fall away as you get to Techs+ which is a distinct shame and helps contribute to some of the drag larger players feel.

I broadly do agree that content updates are currently more important than a full QoL changes. But there’s definetly some quick wins in the QoL department that could drastically help.

It has also been hinted that the next major update is a ‘politics’ type expansion. Which I imagine will focus on corps and such.

No … … no it is not