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Leaky Bucket Syndrome

Spring wants more players! It wants to expand! Conquer the RTS genre! Hooray! Wahooo! .. erm …. Where are all the users?

Now the typical reaction to this by the community is “Lets go get more users!”, which of course is the Leaky Bucketimmediate conclusion. But unfortunately things arent always how they seem.

So what did they do?

They started a thread! And they discussed it endlessly! Then they started another thread a few weeks later. Some denied there was an issue at all. One or two people even made T-Shirts. A facebook group was launched!

This went on for a while. Numerous people got tired of it, and looked for other answers to the great conundrum. Some forum posters blamed Total Annihilation and the content that makes up all the major mods. While the legality of Ataris Intellectual Property is a big block in springs potential success that’s another story, and it failed to address the root cause.

Of course the issue of Atari being a possible cause lead to more discussions and more talking, and conclusions where reached and agreed upon, but they were never acted on. As time went on the same topic arose again and was discussed to death and the same conclusions where met. Anyone who noticed the pattern and spoke out was seen as holding the community back.

2 years later…

2 years have passed since the start of the great and glorious rise of the Spring Engine! Great wonders have been built! But to be honest its still in the same old rut. At the time of writing, spring has not grown, in fact it has shrank!

facebook

Thankfully the facebook group has grown in size very slowly..

So why has the community shrank?! Surely given even a tiny trickle of new users, the community would grow or even stay at a standstill. Yet instead spring reached a peak and for the last 9 months has been on a steady decline, even though some of the greatest changes in the engine itself have occurred in those months and failed to halt the slow decline.

It was recently that it was really recognized that the community was in a decline. People expected a rise in the summer, but when that rise never came people expected business as usual, and when that business as usual showed itself up as a sizeable drop in lobby activity, people insisted it was just for the summer, ignoring the gradual decline prior to the summer. They proclaimed that spring players left to kick balls around in the sun, and do jumping jacks with their friends.

The fix!

In spite of the decline the spring community stood strong and several people banded together to start the mass advertising plan for spreading spring to the masses. Lead by Neddiedrow they would retake spring! This initiative had been started earlier, however with the new decline it became more important. For all the youtube videos in the world, a concerted organised push for more users must be a good thing!

What’s really happening

Spring attracts enough new users as it is. Perhaps it could attract a few more but thats not the issue. The problem is keeping hold of users once they’ve landed in the lobby.

A lot of people are leaving almost as soon as they arrive due to issues with having to download masses of content ontop of whats already in the installer, figuring out how to install the content, driver issues, even getting a game of spring to start.

There are far too many issues for new users that drive them away, and issues that slowly drive existing users away. Some of these issues have been minimized by those who can since springs beginnings, however the issues that really matter are either blockaded or taboo through political wrangling in the spring community. Its this backwards pressure that’s allowed institutions to form such as the XTA spring installer or the various monopolies numerous programs hold over their respective fields.

The Mushroom Cloud Over the Horizon

Mushrooms!Since the issues causing the spring communities gradual decline and the same issues at the root of almost every other problem, and precisely those it refuses to deal with or in many cases even acknowledge, this trend will be very hard to buck. A mass advertising may slightly dent the trend and boost the community temporarily but it will need to expand ever more to keep up the influx before it collapses and we’re worse off than when we began.

What’s worse is that when a user comes away dissatisfied then tells anyone else who might show an interest. And this could well be a huge number. Statistics show hundreds of thousands of people have downloaded spring, and those figures only represent a cross section of the last year, yet of those hundreds of thousands only 200 or so daily regular players have been retained. This is from the slow trickle of users we’re supposed to be getting, initially boosted by the OTA community.

Imagine what will happen when we apply this apalling retainment rate to the boosted mass advertisement influx? Perhaps that hole in the bottom of our bucket will get so overloaded the bucket will fall apart? The hole, no the tear, no the great big rip, no the.. where did the bottom go.. err that’s not a bucket that’s a pipe…..

The Alternative

We dont need to advertise for new users to grow the community. We already have a good healthypool of users, the problem is they’re leaving faster than they can be replenished. The vast majority of incoming hits to spring are immediatly bounced off back into the gloom of the net by the issues we refuse to deal with, and no massive advertising push will give spring a healthy steady inflow of interest. We want growth, not a sudden avalanche followed by a drought.

So we need to up our retainment rates. A quick guess would put our current initial retainment rate at 5%, that’s 5 users for every 100 visits. A value of 30-40% would seem more appropriate for a project like Spring, whereas a 70%-90% could be expected of something like OpenOffice or the Adobe flash firefox plugin.

Spring doesn’t need to attract visitors to gain more players, it already has enough visitors for that. If spring simply retained those who managed to run the installer the player base would be huge, never mind the people turned away by the wall of text on the front-page, or the issues with lobbies and other tools.

And best of all, Spring will be so much better because of it. These issues need to be acted on as quicky as possible. They’re poisons, and no doubt there will be people who will try to resist change. But as they say, things that don’t change die.

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