I feel like it's time for an update on beacon persistence. This is a really knotty issue, and one that has huge ramifications for Boundless. We've put a lot of thought into it, and read all the comments and suggestions, and we've come up with a proposal that we'd like to try out for size.
Let's start by looking at what we're trying to achieve:
- We want to prevent "ghost towns".
- We want to clear away unused builds in the wilderness to return it to a more natural state.
- We want to allow active players to re-use key areas of land (e.g. in the middle of a town) which have fallen into disuse.
The proposal we've come up with is a simple system, which delivers what we want, and will not take an age to implement. In my experience, when there are many options of varying complexities for a particular system, none of which is a perfect fit, it is normally best to start from a solid, simple base. From there you can see how it works in software decide if iteration is needed, rather than committing to something big which may not work.
After describing the proposal I'll come back to a couple of extra elements.
What we've come up with is this:
- Placing a beacon does not reserve the space until fuel is added.
- "Simple Beacon Fuel" is hand crafted from a small number of trunk and leaf blocks.
- Adding beacon fuel to an un-fueled beacon reserves the plot.
- It doesn't take much fuel to fully fuel a beacon, a beacon fully fuelled with "Simple Beacon Fuel" will stay around for two months (exact timings TBD).
- Using more complex and rare resources you can craft two more advanced beacon fuels which can keep a beacon around for up to four and six months respectively (exact timings TBD).
- If a beacon gets low on fuel, a graphic is displayed in game, and if the player has registered an email address with the game, then an email is sent to them.
- A number of emails are sent up to the point when the beacon will be out of fuel.
- If the beacon is not refuelled, then at the moment the fuel runs out the protection from the beacon is removed. At that point anyone can access the contents of the beacon, or it will naturally regenerate back to the original world state over time.
I'm satisfied that this system covers what we want it to do, and is simple to understand, easy to implement and reasonably forgiving for players. The two areas that give me pause for thought are:
- Player Control
- Beacon Contents
My thoughts on those are as follows:
There is a strong case in a player-led, and community game like Boundless to have more player control in the removal of beacons. Some of the suggestions in this area have been very good, although they often end up being very complicated. It's something we should consider adding in future; however, I do have a reservation about it, which is that if removal of a beacon is reliant on you guys "voting" or some other such process then we may fall down on the goal of clearing up the wilderness of detritus. Things would stay messy, until someone found them and took an action to clean up, that seems quite problematic to me.
The idea of returning the contents of a beacon to players when that beacon is removed is interesting and would certainly mitigate some of the pain of losing a beacon when you didn't want to. For that reason I'm quite drawn to it; however, there are a few problems:
- It would be a bit odd, and against the regeneration concept, for a whole build to disappear in an instant.
- There is a possibility of an exploit where someone deliberately allows their beacon to expire to get the resources back, and transport them elsewhere, without needing to break the blocks and physically move them.
- It prevents someone else beaconing, and so preserving, an awesome build. For example if whoever built the dragon is dragon's watch stopped playing the game and the beacon expired other people in the town could club together to save their iconic statue, rather than have it disappear making the name of the town a bit odd!
- It's difficult to implement, with a new system having to be built to allow players to recover possibly thousands of blocks and items somehow. It's time probably better spent on more fun things.
So there's a proposal and some background thoughts. I look forward to hearing feedback, and hopefully we can get to a position where as many people as possible are happy with this stuff.