As we have now entered 2022, we can sit back and take a look at what 2021 brought to us. We can laugh, we can cry, but most of all, we can reflect.
SimpleMMO managed to flourish and further improve itself following the immense spike in activity that hit us in the Spring of 2020. We went from around 80 downloads per day to almost 5,000 downloads per day in less than a week. The servers really struggled due to this. Our workload increased ten-fold and our sub-par early development code was becoming evidently more serious and dangerous in nature. We took this very seriously and a vast majority of the updates in 2021 were entire structural overhauls of existing features. Our primary goal, for the entire period, was to keep the game healthy and increase its overall lifespan.
So, without further ado, let’s get into it. I’ll also post each point in a chronological order (earliest first).
Travel Reimagined (January 2021)
This was the first major update to SimpleMMO in 2021 and it turned the travel system on its head. Before this change, players were limited to a maximum of 50 steps. This maximum could be increased by purchasing an upgrade in the diamond store. Once a player had used all of their steps, they then had to wait 5 minutes to get 5 more steps. Alternatively, they could pay for a refill in the diamond store or voluntarily watch advertisements.
The update we pushed out completely the way this works. We scrapped the limits entirely so that players can step indefinitely. We also changed the design of the page, significantly increased the rates for rarer items, and brought all sorts of quality-of-life additions to travelling. However, because of this change, we suffered a fairly significant financial hit. The diamond store refills were removed, and players no longer needed to watch ads in order to continue stepping. Our advertisement revenue plummeted 90%. Yes, 90%. It’s now so low that I often forget advertisements are in the game at all. At this point, all it does is serve as a stark reminder of the past wherein a player was limited by an entirely arbitrary value and only of the only ways to get past this value was to watch ads, wait, or pay diamonds.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom though. This update was perhaps the most significant one in the entire year of 2021. The daily active player count shot up 40% overnight and, most importantly, it did not fall. Ultimately, the change was worth it.
Tiered Leaderboards (January 2021)
Tiered leaderboards was introduced to allow players to compete with other players who are of similar level to them. We introduced a total of 8 tiers for each category and the tiers are dependent entirely on the players level. So, for example, a level 12 player will compete against a level 14 players where as a level 6,000 player will compete against a level 7,000 player.
This change was a nice addition to the game giving it a slight competitive edge to its players and a neat little way of obtaining diamonds entirely through playing the game. It’s not perfect and we are aware of it, but it does its job.
Player Interactions (January 2021)
A common piece of feedback we received was that players wanted more reason to interact with other players in the game. After all, the community and the social areas are perhaps the largest reason why people play the game for long periods. Players come for the simplicity, but stay for the community.
This update allowed players to gain points when interacting with other players. The more points a player has, the higher the interaction level and each interaction level has a number of different benefits. For example, if player X reaches an interaction level of 3 with player Y, then they will be able to hug a them instead of waving at them.
Diamond Awards (January 2021)
One of the most common complaints we received was that diamonds were far to difficult to achieve via regular gameplay and we completely agreed. At the very early period of the games development, diamonds were typically only achieved by buying them or finding them as loot (which was incredibly rare at that point). Over time, we introduced more and more features to allow players to obtain diamonds through regular gameplay. This update brought the largest and easiest way for a player to obtain diamonds without spending a dime.
Essentially, when a player completes a specific task, usually a task that requires some form of perseverance, then are given an “award”. Awards have been in SimpleMMO since almost the very start of the game but they had no value to them other than bragging rights. This update changed that. We assigned almost every award in-game with a diamond value and when a player managed to achieve that award, they will be credited with X amount of diamonds. X is usually dependent on how difficult the award is to achieve. We introduced around 2,000+ diamonds that could be achieved solely via gameplay. This increases to 2,500+ diamonds if you include awards that are associated with diamonds themselves. This significantly gave free-to-play players a helping hand in progressing their character.
Diamond Market (February 2021)
Before this update, it was common for players to sell diamonds to other players for X amount of gold. The diamonds were then gifted to the other player once the gold was sent. We figured that this process could be made easier for everyone involved. That is where the “Diamond Market” comes in. The diamond market allows a player to sell their diamonds to other players for gold directly in the game without relying on the faith of the other player. It’s a win-win situation as sellers find it easier to sell their diamonds and also players find it easier to acquire diamonds using strictly in-game gold too.
Rebrand (April 2021)
After many, many attempts at finding a new logo for SimpleMMO, we finally found one that was both beautiful and effective at pulling in new players.
You can read all about our struggle here:
Guilds Overhaul (April 2021)
Guilds were a clunky, giant, spaghetti-coded mess. Honestly, I hated working on the guilds. It was awful and I preferred just to stay away from them. However, the problem was that guilds were such a big part of the game and a huge reason why people tuned in daily. Something had to be done so I just decided to “f*ck it” and rewrite the entire thing. I blogged about the new features extensively in a blog post titled “SimpleMMO v9.0 – Guilds, guilds, guild!“. The underlying foundations of the guilds were ripped out and replaced with shiny new toys…. almost. Honestly, it’s not perfect. The foundations are only as sound as the ground it’s built upon, and in this case, the ground is a bit wobbly (I’ll perhaps get into that in another blog post). However, despite that, the rewrite made it significantly easier for me to work with which allowed me to extend the guilds further. We added guild power levels, raids, tasks, custom backgrounds and icons, activity logs, and much more. If you want a full list, you can always go back and read the blog post.
New Daily Rewards (April 2021)
“Daily rewards are shit”. That was a common complaint. “Daily rewards were shit” would be more accurate if said today (I hope). Basically, before the update, the daily rewards provided a player with a random item from the game. Except, the chances of finding a random item that was worth any value was significantly low.
We changed the way the daily rewards work by attributing each day out of 30 with a dedicated item or reward. Each day progressively gets better and better until they reach the 30th day. After that, it resets back to 0 again. Previously, only items could be obtained through the daily reward. Now, diamonds can also be obtained too. We can add this to our “easily obtainable diamonds” list that seems to be growing.
New Web App (June 2021)
“What?! Another Web App?! The Web App was released in 2020 and you’re telling me there is a new Web App?!?”.
You’re god damn right I am.
The old web app was a mess (are you noticing a trend here?). Basically, without getting into to much detail, the “old” Web App started around early Spring of 2020 and it was expected to take around 6 to 8 months to finish (maybe even longer!). However, we hit April/May and are suddenly, but fortunately hit, with a huge spike in players. Because of this, the Web App was quickly rushed out the door to accommodate these players almost 3 to 5 months earlier than anticipated. It lacked several features but it done the job. However, it was
a bit incredibly ugly (I don’t mean structurally, I mean it was literally ugly to look at). I wasn’t pleased with how it turned out.
Afraid that I was slowly turning into Dr. Frankenstein, I decided that I needed to bring this monster to the 21st century in hopes of rectifying my sins.
In comes Web App 2.0. I built the entire thing on TailwindCSS and, oh boy, I am glad I did. It saved me perhaps hundreds of hours in development time. It looks and feels modern. It’s snappier too. It’s still not perfect but I’m happy with the state that it is in now.
Would I have still released the old Web App early knowing that I overhauled the entire thing? Yes – absolutely. There was a perfectly valid reason why I pushed out the Web App early and that was to keep the new players around by making the game as accessible as possible. Despite, ultimately, the entire thing coming to an early death, it helped pave the path that Web App v2.0 walks on today.
Quest Point Change (July 2021)
In July, we slashed the refill time in half from 10 minutes to 5 minutes per quest point. This means that players now only need to wait half the time to perform a quest again if they have ran out.
Since early 2018, we have had a plan in place to help “even out” the playing field between paying players and free players in regards to quests and this change helps tighten that gap. I plan on making a separate blog post explaining this conundrum and how the solution is not as easy as one would expect.
Player to Player Trading (September 2021)
If a player wanted to trade with another player, they had to first send the item and wait for the other player to send the other items. It was a system entirely reliant on faith and, because of this, it was the perfect system for scammers. A player could take the items and then run away without returning anything back. Of course, this is against the rules and the offender would’ve been punished, but this caused extra leg work for the SMMO team.
Direct player-to-player trading allows players to trade items and gold directly between each other. Each participant in the trade can then review the trade and accept/deny it. This helps avoid the scam caused by people running away before they send the agreed item.
Entire Design Overhaul (October 2021)
This update is a heavy contender for “largest update ever” which is currently held by the Web App update in June. Basically, I went through the entire game, scrapped out the old designs (literally CTRL+A and DEL) and refreshed them all with a new look. This was a significant change for the game because we not only overhauled the design, but the underlying code that the front-end relies upon. For you techie folk, the old version of the app was built using Vanilla CSS + jQuery. I changed everything to TailwindCSS + Alpine.js. This is the same stack we use for the Web App. I had to rewrite a lot of modules because of this as the game was built in August 2017 and it included a lot of legacy and redundant code. It was a boring, tedious job but it has perhaps been the most important because it now allows us to seamlessly work on both the Web App and Android App (and soon the iOS app!) in unison.
You can read more about it here:
New Chat Experience (November 2021)
Since the dawn of SimpleMMO, the chat system was built using a SSE (server-sent events) implementation. While this was ideal for a small-scale game, this became somewhat of a huge issue when more and more players started to play.
Because of this, we updated the chat to support web sockets instead. This allows us to run a real-time chat feature in the game in a similar vein as the likes of Discord and Messenger.
However, the new chat is still fairly new and there are still a few lingering bugs hanging around the place but we will soon have those squished.
Realtime PMs (December 2021)
The inbox system was old and antiquated. It felt like it was pulled directly out of a legacy PBBG from 2004. There was no real-time messaging involved. It was essentially a very simpler form of sending emails to each other.
With the addition of the new chat experience, we decided to move over the PMs to the chat system too. Now players can communicate to each other in real time and not feel like they should be using IE8 while doing so.
Russian Translation (December 2021)
Привет Россия! In December we introduced the first part of many. We plan to translate the entire game (or as much as we can) into Russian. However, this will be completed and pushed out in many different phases throughout the next few years. Due to the game being text-based, there is a huge amount of text that needs covering so this is a long process.
I thought I should list some changes that weren’t big or significant enough for its own heading but they were perhaps important enough to at least acknowledge.
- Upgraded showcase – this update allowed players to showcase both avatars and items on their profile. (February 2021)
- PvP Changes – We upped the PvP limit to level 200 and auto forced safe-mode for everyone who reaches this level with a free opt-out. Despite the disgruntlement from some PvP heavy hitters, this change has shown to be a significant step in increasing the overall positive attitude towards the game. This limit was introduced because it was the most significant complaint by a long shot. We probably received an email or 1-star review regarding this at least once every 2 weeks, if not more. As soon as we addressed this, the complaints stopped entirely and, perhaps not so coincidentally, our Google Play rating went up from 4.4 to 4.6 within just a few weeks following this change.
- Potions – while underutilised at the moment, potions allow players to temporarily increase a given stat or effect on their profile. (February 2021)
- Value modifiers – value modifiers are small game-wide events that increase the rewards given in a particular area. For example, we can enable a small event that increases all EXP gained from NPCs by 50% for 24 hours. (Sometime during Summer 2021)
- Improved player onboarding – we updated the tutorials and tightened down the gameplay for lower levelled players. However, this is still very much a work in progress. (October 2021)
- New event features – the last winter holidays event brought in new additions to the game including multiple stat increases, and auto-store materials when gathering. (December 2021)
Who doesn’t love some stats, huh? Let’s compare the game now compared to the numbers posted in “How big is SimpleMMO?“. That gives us approximately a 10 month window for comparison. Also, please note that the values given is the total amount since the stats were tracked.
- Over 725,000 players are registered now on SimpleMMO compared to 550,000 in March 2021. Impressive.
- 95,000,000+ poor NPCs have now sadly given their life to the warriors of SimpleMMO compared to 62,000,000 in march.
- Almost 25,000,000 players have been defeated in a PvP attack compared to 4,400,000 in March 2021. I think the guild update is partly to blame in this huge increase.
- The inventory system has now processed almost 308,000,000 items in-game compared to 161,000,000 in March. Those poor servers… luckily we have made a number of improvements to the servers so there shouldn’t be that much difference. It’s still a terrible system though (we’ll get into that in a separate blog post).
- A total of 75,500,000+ quests have been performed compared to 51,000,000+ in March 2021. Those poor gigantic chickens…
- Approximately 51 unusual and weird conspiracy theories on how we are trying to squeeze and juice every last penny out of our player base in comparison to 35 in March 2021. Just kidding on the stats… or are we…?
Overall, 2021 was a very successful year for us. We are incredibly proud to have implemented a lot of features in the game, some of which were suggested and sourced from the community itself! We have introduced lots of new ways to acquire diamonds via regular gameplay, we have completely removed all limits to the travel system, we have implemented additions to help with in-game interaction, and we have overhauled many different features to help make them more sustainable in the long run.
Reflecting back, even I am a bit surprised with how much the game has progressed in just a mere 12 months. I bet that guy who complained that nothing gets updated in SimpleMMO feels a bit silly now. And this was all done while I was sipping on martinis and enjoying the nice sun in the Bahamas (but not really…).
A big thank you to the employees and contractors of Galahad Creative, moderators, advisers, and the players of SimpleMMO for making it the game that it is today.
Let’s hope 2022 will be as successful as the last!
What’s your favourite 2021 update? Let us know in the comments below!