Future of the Reinforcement Program
In August 2013, Unknown Worlds (UWE) launched the ‘Reinforcement Program’ (the ‘NS2: RP’). This program offered a bunch of cool stuff, like Shadow Skulks and Elite Assault Marines, to anyone who wanted to support Natural Selection 2 development.
Over the course of its life, the NS2:RP has raised $260,000 from approximately 4,900 people. The original target of $550,000, which may have allowed UWE to fund a new major free expansion (Like Gorgeous and Reinforced). That target was very ambitious, and at UWE, we consider the sum raised from NS2: RP to be a great success. Without it, NS2 would look very different today, two years on from its release.
Today, the NS2 Community Development Team (CDT) develops regular updates for NS2. The ongoing sales of NS2: RP and NS2 on Steam are what allow UWE to provide the tangential support that CDT needs to get updates into your hands. Because of these sales, NS2 receives updates directly on Steam, the CDT has direct engine access, and various levels of support can be provided for what the CDT wants to do. Without them, community volunteers would now most likely need to make the changes they want via Workshop mods alone.
Like all older games, NS2 goes through ups and downs. Player numbers ebb and flow, the mood of the forums swings back and forth, and both good and bad decisions are made. Through these ups and downs, I think something is becoming quite clear: There is a core group of people in this community that have the drive, energy, will and dedication to take take this game into the truly long term.
When I was at GDC earlier this year, I attended a remarkable presentation by Valve discussing long term player trends in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The point of me raising CS:GO is not to compare it directly to NS2. They are very different games, of wildly differing sizes, business models, and gameplay types. The comparison is indirect.
The graph showed CS:GO player numbers. At some stages, they hovered, fell, rose a little, and generally oscillated. At other stages, they exploded, leaping in bursts of tens of thousands. The reasons were varied, and the reasons are not important or relevant to the idea I am trying to express: CS:GO tried things. Some things didn’t work. Some things worked really well. Over time, great decisions accumulated that have caused CS:GO to be a massively played, wildly successful long term game that will create mountains of fun for years to come.
I want the CDT to have the chance to try things. I want them to have the opportunity to make more decisions, both good and bad. I want them to have the ability to break things, change things, improve things, and learn things. Over time I am confident that the accumulation of ideas and decisions that CDT makes could yield changes to NS2 that help it live into 2015, 2016, and beyond.
For this to happen, UWE needs to remain involved in NS2. We need to continue to be the conduit through which updates make it to Steam, provide occasional technical advice, set up and maintain financial systems for initiatives like Kodiak, Reaper, and more, provide baseline funding for big events, act as adjudicator of last resort in community disputes, offer our social media and marketing assets, and shoulder the risk of customer service issues when things go wrong.
Here is one UWE proposal: Take a few parts of the Reinforcement Program, and package them up into a ‘Reinforcement Pack’ for sale on the Steam Store. The pack will be offered for $6, just like the Reaper and Kodiak packs. Together, these packs can be promoted, included in Steam sales, and act as long term add-ons for those that enjoy NS2 and want to customise their experience more than the base game allows.
First and foremost, the Reinforcement Pack must recognise that those that purchased Shadow, Silver, or any other tier paid much more than $6. So it cannot contain the best stuff. No Shadow Lerk or Shadow Gorge, no Elite Assault Marine, and absolutely no in-game or forum badges of any kind. Instead, it would contain only:
- Shadow Skulk (only, no other Shadow lifeforms)
- Standard Shoulder Decal
- Standard Assault Marine
- Expanded Soundtrack
All other Reinforcement Program perks will be retired. All Reinforcement Program customers of Silver tier and above will be emailed a complimentary Steam key for the Reinforcement Pack. Reinforcement Program in-game and forum badges will never be available, ever again. It is certainly the case that one could look at a Steam Store ‘Reinforcement Pack’ and say: ‘That’s not fair!’ But I suspect that many of you have supported this program not so much for the value of a few skins, but for the value of knowing that you are directly, personally, and recognisably (through the Badge system) responsible for the long term survival of NS2.
This is a proposal. It does not have to happen, and UWE is not going to force it down your throats. This post is intended to act as as a spark of discussion, and I especially want to hear what existing NS2: RP customers have to say. Your support for the Program has been instrumental in NS2 receiving updates throughout 2014. Your opinion will now determine what happens into the longer term. Thank you for reading!