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Kin-Xao-Ael#3156

Epsilon in Review: Feedback and Voiced Greivances

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Beginning with this topic, I want to first preface this post with a note of appreciation for Epsilon's server. A private server dedicated to roleplay and sandbox creation is something quite unique.  I had not any experience with Roleplay Heaven's server before it was shut down and hearing Epsilon having both active moderation and active developments has shown a deep appreciation for a community that is passionate for an underappreciated community and activity that beckons creativity out of everyone. Whether for artistic vision for the written word or environmental storytelling and the like.  I joined back in 2021 after the first patch launched for Shadowlands and Epsilon had really occupied my time where Retail WoW has failed to capture my attention.  I've since quit retail using Epsilon as the medium to get that RP feeling that I had left behind.

Epsilon has seen a lot of life since Retail's Shadowlands released with critical disappointment from all walks of WoW's roleplay communities.  Phases born and died, people came and gone.  There is a solid, consistent playerbase for a server. In the near three years I've been here. I've seen a lot of developments and situations in a very short amount of time that has really grasped my attention, but also stacked onto some of my concerns for the future of Epsilon since my arrival.   I have built phases, created blueprints, hosted a public server both of my own creation and in a small team of others in various short intervals.   There's a lot to offer that can really get people hooked to the server for as long as the community is strong, healthy, and thriving.

But since 2023, I've begun to notice a lot of troublesome issues arise that I don't think has been quite so addressed.  Issues that could be solved with development, issues that is purely a player problem, and other concerns that I don't think can be remedied without player engagement to help shift it.  

 

We will tackle just some the positive features of Epsilon has to offer first:

  • ✓ Solid, easy to use building tools to create your own unique vision of Azeroth with custom Epsilon objects and pre-existing assets of World of Warcraft.  Whether you make an island, a castle, a house, or even a simple bowl of soup. You can create whatever you want and inject it into the world.
  • ✓ Unfettered access to GM tools allowing you to modify the world, objects, npcs, and even players that you have permissions to alter or interact with. 
  • ✓ Fast, responsive moderation team that don't take all that long to address problems that occur in Epsilon both in and out of the game. 
  • ✓ Incredibly friendly community that will happily give building advice, social engagement, lore discussion, and more. 
  • ✓ No needless monetary systems inside the game that prevents access or utilization of Epsilon's assets or features.
  • ✓ Performance-friendly commands to help low grade PCs handle object dense phases and overall access into the server from all walks of PC qualities able to run World of Warcraft.
  • ✓ Player-Driven communities within communities offering plentiful RP outlets that can suit many people's tastes to how they wish to roleplay.
  • ✓ Wide access to Transmog/outfit creation and spell macro creation to make your own spells, attacks, and aura combinations.  Allowing unique poses, animations, etc. 
  • ✓ Open support for custom patch content for models, texture changes, and more that can be downloaded individually.  Sometimes it even is integrated into major content patches for Epsilon!

This list can continue on and on. Epsilon has a lot, and I mean a lot of positive features that makes it hard to fully ignore this server.  It's a solid place I've found to find roleplay in, or an activity to engage myself in should I simply desire to do so.  Epsilon is really driven by your own personal initiative to see things done.  With yearly activities such as the Stranglethorn Summer Beach Bash that has its own unique map, armors, and npc model patches to provide a high quality experience. People who desire to create a unique experience has plenty of tools to make their own world within this server with plenty of available tools to provide. I came up with nine things I liked with ease, 

But no custom content is truly without need of feedback over faults or difficulties one may come across. To tackle this can help people be aware of some of these hurdles.

Some of the aspects of Epsilon I've found distasteful:

  • New Player Unfriendly Experience.
    Newer players find Epsilon to be incredibly overwhelming without a guiding hand to help navigate and engage the server upon entrance. While an introduction has been made for new players; once they leave the tutorial area. They are tossed to the wolves and they either sink or swim.  Much of the tools to build, create, and the like are all off the game on this site. On top of the command prompts needed to truly get around Epsilon, especially for people who've not utilized GM tools before. They can ask for help but they do need to learn the commands on how to speak to people in game; otherwise they need to utilize Discord to get assistance which can be jarring.
     
  • Lack of Developer-Community Engagement. 
    Unless you have paid for the server's Patreon, there's very little engagement with the team outside of moderation or occasional posts on Discord to be found. There has yet to be a community event or contest since December 5th, 2022. The Epsilon Youtube Channel is shared, but all under-development videos are strictly for Patreon members to get early teasers of content to come. The Epsilon Launcher is currently behind with a whole year, January 5th, 2023 since the last new development for Epsilon.  This can be a very demoralizing thing to see. Leaving people to wonder just what to expect? Nothing to get people's attention or implore people's awareness.   Such as the Rule Updates that came to Epsilon that would be very important to get people up to date.  The NPC in the start zone is not enough to make people aware of this.
     
  • Vague and Unclear Directions to supporting Epsilon / Joining the Patreon.
    As it is an active, developing custom server.  I've come to discover there is no easy means to help support the development of Epsilon.  There is a Patreon integration that allows people to donate to the further development. But neither the Discord, nor this website has clear directions on how to get involved.  Not even the launcher to the server. Many people would like to help donate to keep the lights on and the server running strong! This lack of option to help support this custom server directly hinders the server from speeding new developments along.
     
  • Lack of Phase Support for public phases.
    Phases in Epsilon have lifespans, and many creative public phases fizzle out as soon as they begin.  With only the Epsilon addon and .ph overview to see who is currently hosting for an open community.  Epsilon does not allow guests of phases to see how many people are in a phase, forcing them to join and hope to find people. Without knowledge of how many people are in a phase, people will often join a phase, run around to see who's in it and if there's a lack of people... they'll leave.    This is the common cause of public phase closures as nobody is willing to hang out in a low-populated phase for whatever reason.   Higher population dense locations Like the Stormwind or Silvermoon Phases that has a consistent player volume easily garner more and more attention and grow.  As one has a reliable source of people to connect with.

    New Phases are taking shots in the dark to hope and garner a form of consistent audience and engagement. Phases hosted by teams are more likely to succeed, while also further demoralizing people who lack a group of likeminded people creating a phase to open. Ambitious people on their own may open a phase for a month and then close it due to very few people joining, or being engaged long enough to justify the time requirement.  This leads to people closing their phases, or whitelisting it to an insular group of friends rather than engaging with the whole.
     
  • No "In-Character" Start Zone
    This relates to the new player experience mostly, but the Starting zone for Epsilon is the easiest way to meet people. It is an out of character area where people typically hang out. Undoubtedly you'll find 40-50 people at most given days hanging out. Either chatting, waiting, killing time and the like.  It's easy to connect to people but now the question to ask.. where do you go from there?  This is a ripe opportunity to offer Developer-endorsed or even developer-created zones to become official roleplay spaces that can allow people to quickly jump into a roleplay scene.  Offering a place to go for new players to begin their experience in Epsilon.   Whether it's something simple such as Goldshire and Razor Hill, or a unique tavern for anyone to hop into.    Something to test the scene and explore about for roleplay avenues.
     
  • Lack of Future Development Insight
    Epsilon does sometimes offer video clips of features to come to Epsilon. Shadowlands has been a heavily anticipated update that has been hard at work. But many, many people DO NOT KNOW at what stage the future is at. While this is a small team and it's no easy feat to get it out into a stable, reliable condition. People wonder what is to come and the radio silence is very disheartening.  The last "big" announcement for Shadowlands' Epsilon integration was on 08/04/2023 which provided a feature teaser of Phase Light Editing on the Discord Announcements.   Arcanum saw an update on 10/20/2023 but very little else has been officially seen outside of players leaking future customizations through unlisted video. 
     
  • Bifurcated Player Interests
    This is more of a community/player issue than a development issue that the team can fix.
    One can easily find that Epsilon's community heavily skews Alliance with a heavy emphasis with Humans and Blood Elves easily making up a majority portion of the played races.  This leads into a heavy leaning towards phase creation with those themes in mind.  And thus the activity of the current Epsilon populace being found in phases themed around those races.  There is also a notorious locked phase that has a concerningly high population that is more active than most phases readily available to the public.  With the lack of engagement and options for public phases, this lack of diverse creativity lends itself to these things becoming more glaring.  Epsilon feels like the world is at your fingertips, but you're easily stunted due to the active populace not really interested in the niche and less popular races, themes, and aspects. 

    Epsilon provides the tools for custom macros and spells, but less and less phases actually provide a space for such.  It's all too common to find the roleplay scenes available not really catering to people who desire more than Human-themed buildings or elven settings.  It's grand that, as of writing this post; Fourth War Kalimdor offers that scene for combat and warfront Roleplay. But they are one out of an active 8 open to the public for people to join into. 

     

These are the glaring issues I came across, with some of the sentiment shared among the less vocal people who have noticed similar patterns.  Epsilon has provided a wonderful space unlike any other private server seen yet that is currently active. I'd love for Epsilon to thrive and grow with more people and custom content, and I've no intentions to quit now.  I want to avoid the burnout for myself and plenty others who impatiently await the release of Shadowlands and the assured player surge that will bring.  But while we wait, I do want to address these concerns of mine and also compile possible feedback others may share, or criticisms of the points I have raised.   Perhaps developments could be made to reignite the community's creativity as well as lure them out of the insular groups and have a long list of open phases once more like I had once seen back when I joined.  When we had hit our record high of 1000+ people in December of 2021.  

Edited by Kin-Xao-Ael#3156
Spelling, typos etc.

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stunned this hasn't been deleted yet tbh, probably just shows how little the server's leadership pays attention the forums anymore


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If there's a better place for this discussion to be had, I'm all ears. But frankly, The discord is not reliable for feedback such as this, if any feedback is to be had at all.  I'd like to engage a discussion, or let this forum be a fair warning at the state of Epsilon right now.   I enjoy this place but it could be burnout, or otherwise general annoyance with the lack of any tangible communication.

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I admire the bravery you’ve shown by posting this discussion. And, like the others, I’m baffled some overzealous moderator hasn’t deleted it already. But, aside from that, the problems you’ve listed are indeed troubling. Chief among them, I’d say, is the lack of communication from the Staff, and sometimes, when they do communicate, how they do it. For example, you pointed to the lack of information on the development of Shadowlands. So far, we’ve received nothing but vague notions that it will happen. No ETAs, which, I imagine, a Developer or Moderator would say is because they can’t promise anything. But that’s ok. We don’t need promises. We’ve had plenty of those from Azarchius, who has claimed Shadowlands would release before certain time marks, like the end of 2023. Mind you, none of these posts were made in announcements, and all of them have proved hollow and were probably just lies used to lull people into a false sense of hope so that they’d quit asking questions. Alternatively, the staff could give an estimated date of when they’d like to get the expansion out, but emphasizing that it isn’t a sure thing. If they run into trouble along the way and can’t make their original estimated release date, they can tell the community about it so they know there is a delay. I think the Epsilon Staff would be amazed by how understanding people can be if you just keep them informed. But alas, such drastic reforms are unlikely to happen, and because of that, trust in the staff will continue to deteriorate, if there is even any trust left at all.

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Truly I'm shocked a post like this hasn't been made before. And I don't think a moderator would delete this post. This is a good conversation to have with both the devs and the player base. A majority of those who aren't Patrons tend to be left in the dark and haven't really... heard much in a hot minute.

 

And yeah, seeing the last 'major update' be December of 2022 is a bit disheartening. I think that was because at certain points, they have to stop adding to the CDN for BFA so not much else has to be ported up to the Shadowlands CDN. Although the question would've been then: Where's Shadowlands? I can't answer that. I don't even know that answer. Believe me I'm frustrated over that too, as many people are.

 

As per the in-character bits.. having an actual in-character starting zone when people first join Epsilon is a good idea. Could even use a simple area like the Hearthstone tavern to set that up. But enforce it to solely be an area for new players (maybe even new characters) to get established. Maybe have a few guides for new roleplayers too (perhaps in a seperate area) and explain to them RP basics, god modding, etc. Like that's a good idea. ...actually come to think of it, I think that was the original purpose of the Dranosh Valley. To be an IC area. Since it's built w/a lil town in mind, but that turned out to be the OOC area/Epsi guide area.

 

Per the idea of being able to see how many players are in a phase... let me tell you a lil' story. On the precursor server, Divinity(and even Echeloned), we were able to view how many players were in a phase with a .ph pop command (I know the one on Epsi is different). They stopped showing the amount of players in a phase though to deter people away from just going to the most popular phase, which made other phases have very little to no other players joining it. Hence why I don't see that happening here on Epsilon

 

All in all though, good post. Hopefully the dev team & administration read it and take it to heart. We're simply passionate Epsilon players that wish to see the server succeed and not faulter.

Edited by DavidTwo

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I wasn't even aware of the existence of this thread until DavidTwo posted it in the Patreon lounge a few minutes ago. I've been teetering on outright deleting the forums entirely, but we've decided against it for now. The reason is that long-form discussion such as this thread can not really be undertaken anywhere else, but on the other hand, we don't want the forums to just be an infinite list of grievances, so we're looking for a way to bridge that gap. We won't take down the forums until we're sure you're satisfied with the alternative--we might never come up with one and the forums would go nowhere. Really low priority, to be honest.

Anyway, probably the single most respectful piece of critique whose criticisms hit from head to toe things that have bothered me, and the team, during the years. The NPE zone for example was intended to help cope with onboarding, we've sought to help bridge some of the things you've brought up but as you're bringing them up it's another reminder that we have clearly not done enough.

2023 was a tumultuous year. We began development on Shadowlands circa October 2022, and shut down public CDN and all updates to the 830 live realm at the beginning of 2023, resulting in the most stagnant year we've had as a community since the timespan between when we started working on 830 BFA and releasing it, similarly a year later. Unfortunately, until Shadowlands is done--and we are unspeakably close--we are completely incapable of introducing any update. So, I can't do much about that, but I can promise that things will look a lot better once SL releases.

Literally every single one of your points is something we've talked about multiple times internally throughout the years, and they've been recurring, consistent issues, that we've had slow improvement on but nowhere near enough. I can't address them all, but if there was something I disagreed with, I'd have made it in this post.

At this point in time we are incapable of implementing your desired feedback. If I could tick all those Vs on your critiques list tomorrow, I would. This is something that should be referenced and reminded about after SL releases and we've started cruising.

P.S: The comments about 'deletion' are bizarre and rather unfunny.


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This is a good summery of the issues plaguing most people at the moment.

 

Though I have to voice the concern of having "player count" in phases as such a thing would just make bigger phases bigger and kill smaller niche phases.

For example, if Stormwind has 30+ people and some adventure phase people would normally look at only shows 5 people, people will flock to the bigger ones. So if it is going to be a thing, there need to be some way to either filter out phases with "overpopulation" or somehow promote the smaller ones more. Or just dont have player count in the hands of the average person like it is now. At least then they are at least exploring and seeing if they might return later on an interesting build where if there was a player count, they might just even try to explore it at all ever and just go to where others are and leave it at that.

 

One thing I pushed like a year ago to a few people was the possibility of a "current phases" zone where people can go from start to find phases. A sort of builder haven style phase but for RP and active phases with an LFRP tone to it. I been trying to push this idea a few times through the dev and mod team but with little to no success beyond "we had plans on making that but the one handling it is gone" and that was all there was to it. The idea could greatly fix a lot of the current issues if a portal to said LFRP phase finder phase was in start much like builder haven is. 

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I know it's kind of like a Voldemort situation at this point, but the server-that-shall-not-be-named had certain players promoted as RPCs (Roleplay Coordinators), who for a time led a succession of publicly-hosted roleplay events in both the main phase, as well as their own phases.  They would promote their events ahead of time in the announce chat and allow time and space for newcomers to ask questions ahead of time before the events began.

 

I wonder if maybe an appointed few people could be granted some kind of a title here and be allowed to act as ambassadors for entry-level RP in a similar manner, to help folks who are new to Epsilon and guide them into joining our community smoothly.  They wouldn't even have to have any extra command powers, really, just some kind of notation or different-colored name would do fine.  A similar system would be the mentor system Blizzard implemented in retail not too long ago (Guide Mentor System - Help New Players Starting Out in Shadowlands - Wowhead News).  They have a separate conversation channel that new players are defaulted to using until they reach a certain level of experience in the game.

 

Just an idea in the moment.  As far as updates for Shadowlands, that's beyond my knowledge to offer any insight or alternative ways to relay that information.  On that end, all we can do is be patient and hope that development of SL is close to its finality, as Azarchius said above that it is.  While a bit disheartening that it has taken considerable time, I can only say after having been on Epsilon for some years now that I trust that the progress has been slow for the betterment of the stability of the server in the long-term.

 

Great post, by the way!  Topics like these are why I used to love coming onto the forums.  Very good medium to put deep thought into a subject and let it simmer more compared to the quick, live-action style of Discord.  


Vraul

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On 2/14/2024 at 7:59 PM, Vraul said:

I know it's kind of like a Voldemort situation at this point, but the server-that-shall-not-be-named had certain players promoted as RPCs (Roleplay Coordinators), who for a time led a succession of publicly-hosted roleplay events in both the main phase, as well as their own phases. 

Roleplay Coordinators were primarily there to drive public engagement back then, though, where everyone had a "hub" to go to (the Main Phase).  While it's true there were public events trying to cater to large groups of people (the Grail of Thoradin events come to mind), a lot of these weren't a result of being a roleplay coordinator: Rise of the Horde and other guilds were creative endeavors made by people completely independently of their duties as RPCs; I'd say the most striking example of what the point of a roleplay coordinator back in the day was was moderating, coordinating, and promoting roleplay in the Main Phase: After all, that's what the "canon time and place" were, and the staff in turn had specific powers to deem something acknowledged or ignored in the main phase's canon (a character's involvement in something important, for example).

I don't think you can do something like that on Epsilon, and not only because the main phase is kind of unworkable in its current state; I don't think the main playerbase would care that much, and virtually everything an RPC stands for can be done by a group of coordinated phase hosts collaborating together on their projects. The problem for that, of course, is that it's a logistical quagmire and will quickly devolve into something closer to work, rather than a hobby. Multiple different phase hosts will have multiple different interpretations of things and will most definitely disagree about things; doing this on a large scale, e.g. multiple zone-wide phase revamps being hosted in a "continuous universe", is -- in my opinion -- a recipe for disaster. I think that kind of thing, if it actually worked, would be incredibly stressful.

If it worked.

Ultimately the biggest and most egregious hurdle to all of this is organizing interest. People come and go to phases with no rhyme or reason. Strahnbrad was immensely popular while it was hosted; my phase Blood in the Wetlands was completely disregarded. Why? Who knows! Maybe it wasn't ironic enough. Maybe the spawn was slightly too far away. Why did Dusk of Dawn become so popular*? I have no idea. Why did people flock to the Tirisfal phase, but not Scars of Lordaeron? There simply isn't a formula for making something interesting, and even something as quasi-enticing as "your actions can have lasting consequences on ~the canon~ of the phase conglomerate" really doesn't mean anything unless you're good friends with the DM team(s). Even if a group of moderators (or a new group á la RPCs) came together to organize something like this, it might very well go absolutely nowhere and be dead on arrival.


[Gunmar] says: "I can't believe this 'Arahi' woman went down so fast. Storm my arse."

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