Feedback on current systems
Let me get off the sideline and hop on the soap box real quick (does Gen Z even know what this means??). I, like many people, recognize the potential for Starmourn and want the game to succeed. On Discord or elsewhere, I generally see a lot of community comments asking for "more content", or wanting classleads, or pitching Spacedudebob's idea for a new feature. I believe that all of these things are important and valid, but for a game that is still in beta with limited development resources, I would really recommend identifying the broad-reaching problems that have smaller, manageable fixes. This should be of equal or even more importance to adding new large features/systems, which can be longer-term projects. I just feel like there are many systems already within Starmourn that go underutilized if not for very minor, repairable issues, or there are small things that could be implemented to better enable existing activities.
To that end, I'm consolidating my thoughts on, most generally, relatively simple changes, and particularly those which impact community systems (i.e., not just one skill class or interest group). I believe these are either widely agreed upon, have been previously promised to be implemented, or some combination thereof. Of course I acknowledge that this is through my own biased lens, so I'd encourage folks to consider adding other considerations to this thread for things you may care about, like if there's some barrier to item-designing/crafting. I also hope that all of this is taken in a constructive context, not as any particular criticism, since I think we all recognize the challenges in building this game up.
1. Increase the demand to participate in the economy system by introducing additional commodity/supply sinks and better incentivizing ship-based activities. Currently you can predominantly craft ship supplies and put them on the market, and really just hope that someone is grinding Captaincy or cosmpiercers so you can turn a profit. I'd really like to see expanded uses for the commodities. Mining/manufacturing is a huge Starmourn system that has great potential, but is sadly neglected because there is no great driving motivation to participate. The other barriers to economy participation have been debated, but I think there have been a lot of positive changes implemented. Fundamentally I just don't think we can correctly assess the issues without taking the first step to incentivize participation.
2. Balance the cosmpiercer/cache systems - not a total rework, but small fixes to things like power costs and capture duration - so as to increase ship activity and encourage viable conflict. I think there are a slew of reasons why conflict is stifled right now that deserves its own thread, but as cynical as this is, I don't want to unpack the problems/solutions without some acknowledgement that the devs are willing to address this. Again, I think that we can get to a better place with small, not sweeping changes, but it becomes discouraging when it feels like shouting into a vacuum. For example, please, please address the issue of ship supply loss in space combat - i.e., dropping tens of thousands of marks worth of batteries that get stolen when you blow up. I'm pretty sure people have outright quit the game over this one, and it's been kicked down the road a long time.
3. This one might be abstract, but factions just feel very hollow due to shallow faction mechanics. I think the Starmourn lore and universe has such great potential, but when it comes to enabling players to impact the game, this is where I really lose a sense of purpose and a motivation to log in. We should aspire to enable the playerbase to engage with one another, either in conflict, in collaboration, or in creativity. I really believe that faction or even dynasty mechanics need to be the dev priority, so that we have a reason to care about claiming cosmpiercers, amassing riches, flexing cultural supremacy, waging war, or whatever other myriad themes that players pursue in their gameplay. As it stands, I really don't feel inspired to achieve anything, because I don't see a tangible path in working towards something. Roleplay only gets you so far, and I think a lot of people just crave some mechanics to facilitate ways that we can operate within the world and its player organizations. So, simpler solutions could be intertwined with some of the other issues I listed here - economic incentives, conflict, etc. - which can be supported by factions, and hopefully future implementations like colonization would contribute further. I'd also love things like quest arcs to support faction conflict and roleplay, but that's certainly not a quick fix.
4. Address the issue of insufficient end-game bashing availability - i.e., not enough level 75 areas to sustain even this very small playerbase. Current availability only accommodates 3 active bashers at a time: one each in Ixsei, Usum, and Prugita, by my experience. This is not an exaggeration. Other areas have low spawn rates and/or unsustainable or unfun mechanics. There is an unbelievably easy fix in increasing spawn rates; or, not easy, but building new areas could be a fun project for intrepid Storytellers. But I would also suggest looking at the DPS creep that was introduced by the talents system, particularly with critical hits and virtually no down-time from healing, which means that we may just be bashing too quickly/easily right now.
5. Similar and probably can be combined with the above: create a sustainable group-bashing activity. Xenoslayers/boss fighting was a great idea, but SM would further benefit from viable, more traditional group bashing - i.e., grab your buddies and some lowbies, and knock the doors down. There are so many possible solutions to this, and part of it is probably linked to the above - i.e., there's just no bashing area that sustains more than one person within it at a time before you stand around waiting for respawns. But for more ambitious or fun solutions, I would suggest taking a look at the wilderness mechanic, as it has the most potential and is one of the least utilized (poor rewards, no motivation, but a whole lot of mechanics already developed for it). Wilderness needs some love.
6. Create a group ship activity. Conceivably CPs would fill this niche in part if it was a viable mechanic, but there will always be a barrier to participate for people who don't like conflict. Here I'm thinking more of a ship-based PVE activity, like a super incursion that spawns many more baddies than one person can handle. I think a rare, high-risk high-reward incursion could be cool, and virtually all the mechanics already exist to support something like this.
7. Consider ways to more regularly implement special events like "double xp" or bashing competitions (great hunts, weekly competitions, double xp days, something). This will help inject some excitement versus just another day in SM, and I'm guessing this is literally just a switch you flip on.
8. We talked about this in one of the monthly discussions, but please provide a counter to bounties - e.g., allowing bounties to be transferred - as well as removing the bounty if the bounty hunter is beaten. Tangentially, I'd also love to pitch ideas for new hacking objectives, many of which wouldn't take many resources to implement, to further explore hacking conflict avenues.
9. It must be stupidly annoying that I keep asking for this, but please create a means for players to initiate arena events. Again, I think the best solution is like the Lusternia system: say, 5 people online have to join the queue, and then the event auto-initiates. I imagine they'd be willing to share their code for this, even. The entire PK scene wants this.
10. I waffled on including this, but please just take a look at fixing poker. I think this is the only leisurely game we have, and it's so close to being viable. It probably just needs an hour of love to squash the bugs from when it got imported.
If the devs would like to explore any of the issues above or suggestions on solutions, I'd be happy to provide further thoughts. A lot of these probably deserve their own thread, but I don't want to chase something that the community doesn't care about or that the devs won't support. Maybe we can figure out some brainstorming priorities, like "This month we want to work on X - give us thoughts and ideas." And again, I don't want to detract from any accomplishments or hard work that folks are putting into the game - we appreciate it! - but rather just wanted to offer my feedback and hopefully give some focus to a path forward. In any case, thanks for the consideration.