Survival games. Sigh. There are so many right now on steam in Early Access that were well received by the community but they over-stayed their welcome in the Early Access. With some being in early access for well over 3 years. This definitely is annoying and frustrating for the the player base. But still, they have their own hardcore fans who stick to one game even if another 10 variants of that come out in the market.
So coming to the point. Designing them. I am going to talk about what differentiates these survival games and what works the best for the players and the developers?
If you look at the Steam Stats at this moment. I can guarantee, at least two of the top five most played games are survival games. And there might be one or two more in the top 10.
Currently(April 2017) the two games in the top 5 based on survival have the same objective. Battle Royale. You spawn on an island with 100 other people and then try to be the last man standing. PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS(PUBG) came out towards the end of the March 2017 and its competing against H1Z1: King of the Kill(KOTK) came out two years ago. The designers and developers on PUBG did exactly what KOTK went wrong with. They listened to the community and made sure things worked rather than KOTK which still has nasty bugs after two years of Early Access. PLAYERUNKNOWN(@BattleRoyaleMod) was the person who came up with the original idea in Arma 3 and that idea was used in KOTK but he decided to go along with an Indie-ish company based in Korea to develop an eSport game that would be well updated with community feedback and well maintained, and it looks like its working out really well for them. The game amassed a million sales in 12 days, which is really big for an early access game.
This goes on to show that, how the same idea can be implemented by two different developers and they both can be so differently welcomed by the community. A game came out 2 years ago and it is having a tough competition with a game that is barely two weeks old simply because the design was really well implemented in the game.
Coming to more traditional survival games where you have to go about and collect resources, craft weapons, build houses and SURVIVE. One of the first survival games I played was a survival server on Just Cause 2 Multiplayer Mod. I have spent a good 1000 hours playing on that server which I mostly spent building bases and raiding other players.
Our clan in the game was pretty well established and this is a screenshot of one of our clan bases that we had build upon. The only building blocks in this game were walls and doors. Like literally the base is made using only rectangular walls.
On the other hand, the following was the first base I had made in Rust solo.
Rust has an even advanced building feature where you can craft building items that have various shapes and types. You can build a support base and then build walls on top of that with windows and have an intricate stairway inside. Now take the game Rust and add Dinosaurs to it.
And that’s Ark for you. This addition of features works out for some people and is totally hated by others.
Ark came up with a Battle Royale-ish mode for their game and it was definitely not welcomed by the community, but the players enjoy the normal survival mode by them where they tame dinosaurs and use them to fight others and raid other bases. Also H1Z1 had a survival mode at first which was played by users but the users jumped onto KOTK as it was the first stand alone battle royale mode by them and the survival mode isn’t that famous.
On one hand there is the good old Minecraft that has a really well balanced and simple survival mode which is well customizable on custom servers according to needs by the server admins. On the other hand there is DayZ, which well, went horribly wrong in the dev phase and it should have just stayed a mod on Arma3. A great mod/concept ruined by over-ambitious developers. Sigh. When the game came out, everyone was so excited for it. I hope the developers get it out of the Early Access soon and release a stable and well balanced version of the game.
What I feel is, the game should have a goal and the design decisions and plans should revolve around the goal instead of adding more and more features that cloud the gameplay and might frustrate the players. In such games, community plays a big role too. There are some great suggestions that work out really well in a game but sometime, these changes might not be the best things to implement in-game because not every player can think of the pros and cons of some design decisions.
PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS: http://store.steampowered.com/app/578080/
H1Z1: King of the Kill: http://store.steampowered.com/app/433850/
H1Z1: Just Survive: http://store.steampowered.com/app/295110/
Just Cause 2 Multiplayer: http://store.steampowered.com/app/259080/
Ark: Survival Evolved: http://store.steampowered.com/app/346110/
Ark: Survival of the Fittest: http://store.steampowered.com/app/407530/