Lately I have been asking myself this question – To Portal Network or Not To Portal Network
When @142857, @reapa11, and I started the Fire Caverns Portal Network we did it as an experiment to see if another network could compete with existing ones and to provide data to @james and the developers about some challenges around it.
From my understanding based on posts by the devs, portals are not supposed to be plentiful in the game. They were harder to achieve and keep running. The developers want us to use temporary warp conduit portals to move around more than permanent portal conduits. For those networks that do start up, they expect it to be more of a community type thing or smaller isolated networks that then connect to each other across the whole Universe.
Unfortunately, the community really seems to prefer to have permanent portals everywhere connecting things with large networks spanning each planet that are run by one or two people. Clearly these are two different directions in approach to portal management and uses in game.
One of the biggest things people want to do in Boundless is run a portal network especially since footfall income is so important in this game. Yet I haven’t seen much feedback given on the challenges and results… So here is some observations:
# Design: Currently we connect to every planet for a total of 18 portals across our whole network with almost every capital city covered as well as key places player gather. Here is a list of what we currently connect to: Eden (Berlyn), Excalibur Square (Therka), Knytefall (Elopor), Munteen Paradise (Munteen VII), Toxic Oasis (Nasharil), Unincorporated 1.0 & Oortians of the Lake (Vulpto), Karokendo Hub (Therka), Moebius Plaza (Therka), Aquatopia (Solum), PixelGate (Solum), The Hive (Epsilo), Alturnik, Gleams (Vena V), Andooweem, Septerfon City (Septerfon), Dragon’s Watch (Solum), The Shrine of Oort (Munteen VII).
Notes: We had additional spots to Voxel Plaza, a roof portal coming from Munteen Paradise, and one to Septerfon Tower that 142857 uses but I did not include those in my calculations since 2 of them we to spots very close to our Munteen Paradise portal anyway. Additionally, this doesn’t include the 2 portals I run in Eden, the multiple Reapall has at Kyntfall, and the few 142857 has in his houses, etc.
# Location The current planet we settled on was Munteen VII because we wanted to be in the lava caves and we found a nicer place there than others. Additionally, because Solum and Therka consistently have the most people in the game it made sense to be close to that. Lastly, of all the ring worlds Munteen VII and Alturnik are the best locations that do not have atmosphere problems like Nasharil and Vultpo. Since a hub really needs people to be able to see and not have atmosphere risks, this was the only place we could be.
Challenges from this location resulted in us needing a few larger portals to connect to farther planets. Additionally, we wanted to have as many connections as possible in a single room versus a network like @Jeffrotheswell has where you have to go through a lot of portals.
Changes needed related to locations We still feel that ring world connections should be on the starter planets and not hardest planets. This would solve the atmosphere issue as well as make it easier to connect key locations that give beginner players the best access to the Universe. While not every portal network will be in this situation ensuring ease of connection in any way possible for at least a key group of planets will help in access to as many planets as possible. In the future when atmosphere is of importance those trying to create portal networks on the safer planets will be greatly hampered by the ring world design in its current state if trying to create a more centralized network.
# Traffic The current state of the game has a very limited amount of players. The recent releasing of the game to pre-bought players and the Thanksgiving sale has brought in a rush of new people but still the attrition rate is pretty severe after the first 1.5 months. Trying to balance a portal network design so 3 people get a share of the traffic is not easy and ultimately some just get more than others. The income rate given for footfall is ok but overall due to the actual low player count in the game results in a much smaller than expected income stream.
I was unable to do a perfect survey of the income all three of us get per week from the network because there are no easy tools provided to track income per beacon as well as still no clear direction from the developers (that I could find) that showed exactly if friends give footfall or not. Also we don’t own all the spots on both sides of the portal so we lose some amount there.
In any event, Reapall and I did a basic average and figured that as a group we bring in about 16,800 - 23,100 coin per week. This can vary a lot based on where people using the network are going and doing. It has increased due to the recent rush of players to that higher end but still there are times it drops even lower than listed.
Suggestions related to traffic changes There is no actual “reason” to be a portal owner and footfall doesn’t ensure enough of a reason. Maybe as the developers look at different specs or jobs, there can be something that makes it more lucrative or interesting to be a portal owner. Maybe a skill tree that reduces portal costs. Or the ability to link portals together to create a different type of grouping versus traditional portals that lowers costs or increases income - kind of like you plan to do with the beacon towers and having a central one. Maybe a portal owner gets income for the actual passing through a portal as well as the footfall traffic. Right now with the current players numbers in game they do not create enough income or reward to fully support the hassle and challenges of running a portal network. If the developers want portal networks to exist then they should get something that makes it more of a reason to do it.
# Time Beyond initial setup and design, there isn’t too much demand on you to run the network beyond ensuring portals stay fueled and the time it takes to actually get the fuel. Otherwise it is just working relationships to get good spots and making areas that maybe other players can rent space to be added to your network. There is some burn out though and I can see many situations where portal networks will come and go since outside time issues with real life can affect things.
# Donations Donations were never expected by any portal network owner but clearly they are of low priority to people even when baskets are clearly shown. After the hunt today people were nice and I was given about 60 stones and a nice shard amount in our donation baskets but prior to that for the many weeks that the baskets have been there we had barely had any donations. Now I did have the baskets set later today to purchase stones at a cheap price and a few people were very nice and gave us a few hundred. I also know that 142857 has received some purchases and a while ago on like on our first hunt people were very nice and gave us some. Plus Prozee had given me a big donation after he left to support our network and I know @Spoygg gave Jeff a lot recently.
Suggestions related to donations I don’t think anyone wants to charge or expect donations. But, I think some ideas on making them more relevant need to happen. If not that then at least the ideas where people can submit shards to portals to keep them going or something (if the owner of the portal selects that) would be helpful. I believe portals should always be free for anyone but would like something to help keep the “helping out for you using it” more of an option especially considering the next section I am about to cover.
# Costs To put it simply running a network is very expensive. Currently with the portals I listed above it costs us 31 shards an hour to the tune of 5208 shards per week. This comes down to about 520 Oort stones a week not considering the mass craft shard bonus.
Now taking into consideration the actual going market rate on Oort stones, costs to make Spark, and the actual Mass Craft Bonus it costs us 10,901.08 coin a day to run the network. Per week it costs 76,307.61 coin. When you consider that we are only bringing in on average 20,000 coin a week from footfall you can see that we are losing a HUGE amount of money.
Since donations have been very minimal for us (which we completely understand why), it has only been because of our bi-weekly hunts that we are finding the ability to fund the Oort to keep the network alive. But, considering the recent nerf in Oort drop rates due to changes in how animals spawn in large player groups we are not even pulling together the Oort needed during the bi-weekly hunt to fund the network. This means we would need to move to a weekly hunt model or increase donations or start putting any cash earned into purchasing Oort to close the gap or put more pressure on the developers to fix the spawn rates for large group hunts especially related to Oort.
On a side note, remember that each of us have other portals outside this network that we keep open and pay for. I didn’t include those costs but it can easily add up to another 150 stones a week at least.
Suggestions related to costs Of course cost is based on your design and what places you choose to go to, but overall with all things being equal it still can get costly if you are going to cover most of this Universe. Whether you have a more cost conscious design like Jeff or the cool large design like @Havok40k some serious conversation should go into on what the developers think about the feasibility and support of Portal Networks. Especially considering that when 1.0 comes we will have maybe 10 times the planets it can be assured portal networks like we see now will not exist unless larger groups of people team up. With the current footfall and plot rules this can lead to some big challenges in team work and other problems.
If we are going to expect networks to be run by guilds then we do need tools to make it work for groups of people that maybe don’t want to be part of the guild. Something to help make it easier to manage traffic, plots, etc. Just like shops, portal networks need more tools and support. We should NOT make it so only guilds have the opportunity to run portal networks because it is too hard to do in a small group or as a single person. It wouldn’t be fair.
Final thoughts I must admit for me it has been very fun and I really enjoy providing a service to the community to help them out and make it easier for them to get from place to place cheaply instead of having to build their own network or use cash to jump via warp conduits. If I wasn’t teamed up with two other great people, though, it would be very hard to keep the network alive as a single person.
If there aren’t some adjustments I do think it will be harder to have a consistent network in the game and instead we will see ones coming and going as people find interest but then burn out or want to do other things. This is ok but certainly can lead to challenges for new users when new networks might not be as inclusive of planets and locations as the more established ones were.
I hope people find the information above useful and it does cause some conversations around whether “portal networks” should be a specialization like we are trying to do with shops, miners, etc. Just note that I did this for a data purpose, not to try to get people to feel they need to donate or do things to help. Obviously all donations are welcome and there is a basket in the fire caverns under the sign for them… but overall this data needed to be provided for the developers to really understand a players experience from running the network.