In retrospect; What went wrong?

There, hooked you with the dramatic title!

But yeah. Looking at Steam Charts, today has been the lowest count in player number since launch. I'm currently seeing only 1,100 players online. Clearly not ideal.

I'd like to offer my own analysis as to what was done wrong with the launch, development and what's currently holding the game back. I'm not necessarily offering many solutions, as for those I'd like to be paid a competitive hourly salary. Ha, just kidding, but nah, 100% my own opinions and of course the developers of this game are the professionals and have their own ideas. I'm simply wanting to offer my feedback as a customer.


The launch. I think this is where the biggest mistake was done. The game was launched just prior to Christmas and the developers went for their well-deserved vacations, leaving the game largely unpatched for the next three months. There was one small patch soon after the launch and then - silence.

The problem here was that nowadays players really expect the developers of a game to show that they are active and that new content is well on its way. There doesn't even really have to be such new content, but there has to be the strong impression that lots of content is coming. Also, there were several big streamers showing off Sandstorm after launch. Keeping updates coming would have given motivation for these guys to come check the game out again, massively increasing its reach. With the failure to capitalize on social media, the streamers and the tubers, the game ended up not even being heard of by a large part of its potential playerbase. I know several people who like tactical shooters and hadn't heard of this game anything whatsoever until I've talked about it.

Of course I understand that the developers wanted some time off after probably having been on the dreaded crunch time the last months, but anyway, handling the launch like this was a mistake. There should have been a steady streams of updates, even very minor updates, following the launch. If it would have been impossible to introduce any changes that fast, then some stuff should have been deliberately left out of the game to be added gradually over the next half a year. This gives the impression that the game is moving forward and that's what gamers nowadays want.

Matchmaking Experience In Comp

Unfortunately to me at least this has been one hugely disappointing part of the game. The matchmaker can not create even close-to balanced games. In part, that is due to the low player count, but I see stuff like one team having only level 60+s who all play on a competitive level while the other team has only genuinely new players. Those games end 5-0 basically every time. No one wants to come to a game and end up losing the first ten matches they have. If that had been my experience, I'd quit, too; but since I had played lots of Insurgency 2014 and was often grouped up, I pretty much immediately went for a +50% winrate.

By now though, if I solo queue, it's just an exercise in frustration and I don't feel like doing it anymore. It's stomp or be stomped.

FPS Issues

So I run GTX 1080 with Ryzen 2600 and appropriately fast RAM. And I still have FPS issues. I have AO off, most settings on medium or low, and nope - I still fall below 100 FPS all the time. Which is annoying, because once you're playing on a certain level, it really does matter if you're getting a smooth 144hz or if the FPS is fluctuating between 80 and 150. A topic I made on the matter was never answered to by anyone.

Part of the reason Ins2014 was popular was because it could be played by lots of people. But with Sandstorm, everyone without at least a medium tier gaming PC has been cut off.

Lack of Microrewards

So something I like to reference a lot in discussing game design is reward systems and behaviorism. We humans like to be constantly rewarded for our actions. We need to get feedback assuring us that our actions are the right ones.

With Sandstorm, there's simply not enough feedback for the casual player. There's not enough points being given, not enough medals, not enough rewards during the gameplay. Reward does not automatically mean that the player must be given like, virtual money or something; it's more about having immediate positive feedback for correct actions. Stuff like "Saved a teammate! +100 score!" and so on. It's possible to add these even to hardcore tactical shooters. Squad has more such mechanics, for example, without being any less hardcore than Sandstorm!

The credits & cosmetics system is one example of a reward system, but it's too shallow and too indirect. Players need to feel rewarded for their actions in the game and they need to feel rewarded immediately. For competitive players, capturing that point and getting that one crucial kill is all it takes, but casual players need more than that. Half of casual players play below average (obviously) and are not getting many kills or many caps. They still need those sweet sweet scores and they still need that positive feedback.

Poor (or impression of poor) Developer Communication

There's not really too much interaction and communication coming from the developers. The vast majority of threads, even large, popular threads, are left unanswered. The update threads and blogs are not too active either. Nowadays gamers expect weekly or bi-weekly updates, posts and sneak peeks. Not monthly or bi-monthly. And leaving bug report posts etc unanswered is really just demotivating people from investing to playing the game long-term.

Slow Rate of Bugfixing

So there's a bunch of known bugs. Sometimes when someone speaks, audio cuts off for a while and you can't hear e.g. bullets or footsteps. The replay player doesn't really seem to work reliably at all - sometimes you can't change camera from some reason, sometimes you can't rewind the replay, sometimes everything just bugs out if you speed it up for a while. There's FPS issues, there's still the occasional crash. There's doubts around the hit registration and hit box qualities.

I really feel that fixes should trickle in even one by one.

Well, I'm sure I'm missing something obvious, but that's the bulk of it.

I love Insurgency's competitive mode's unique mechanics, I really do, but at the moment I've trouble trusting the longevity of the game. I hope I will be proven wrong in my doubts though! And I hope that this might be useful to someone. All just my opinions & feel free to critique it.

last edited by tzaeru

Many good points. I was also wondering why so few people play the game.
But to be fair tho, Insurgency never had a hugh player base for some reason. Even tho the predecessor has very positiv steam reviews. Sandstorm has positive steam reviews in long term too, but lately people have mixed feelings...

You probably heard about LEAN production and the principles about asking "why?" until you expose root causes of problems.

Why is the game not succesful?
Because it still feels like a beta.

Why does it still feel like a beta?
Because the game is not finished.

why is the game not finished?
Because there has not been put in the work hours needed, miscalculated time schedule, difficult to adapt to a new engine etc

Now we get a lot of branches on our tree, and must decide what branch to follow. For example: Why has it not been enough working hours to finalize the product?
Because game devs are underpaid and those who complains gets fired, leading to less motivation, exhaustion and unrealistic time schedules.

Quote from Spearin:
"Public stories are the tip of the iceberg floating in NDA Ocean. The waters are frigid below the surface where hard working game devs find themselves drowning from crunch, harassment, burnout and depression."

One of the root causes I would guess;)

Not really sure what I read here but hey if you guys are into it.....have at it.

Well it might be the lack of maps and guns too, I mean im tired of playing the same 5 maps over and over again..
I know its not that easy to just add content and so on but I think if they would add more content more people would play it more..
This game is really good but needs more work (alot of it)

Today I had to wait 25 minutes to find a competitive match.
Matchmaking just put me always in a team with lvl 10 - 80 against lvl 100 - 200.
In the last 2 days I´ve played around 10 competitive games. In 6 of them one of my teammates left.

I really like the game and always believed the developers would be able to solve the problems, but now I am not sure they are going to manage it. They are taking too much time for solving problems and I am starting to get tired of playing a "Beta".

My actual statement:
Another game that was just released before it was finished.


Andrew Spearin was very important in the development of Ins2014. He is currently "pursuing other opportunities". Look at vid if you want, he explains it better himself what his role was and it makes sense Sandstorm took a different path when he is not onboard:

last edited by Pacalis

In order to keep the interest or people (much less, gamers) you have to keep innovating. Otherwise it becomes repetitive and stale.

  1. always introduce new maps!
  2. new guns
  3. new cosmetics
  4. new bots, how they react, the guns they use, etc
  5. introduce more vehicles
  6. make Coop bigger with more players and more bots
  7. AND WHO TF CARES ABOUT SOME JACKNUT GUN TRAINING AREA? LMFAO! Boy that sure kept em around. =fail

I can list countless things that will keep players around. But IMHO, this game will only keep an average 2000+ playerbase Worldwide. Just like its predecessor.
I actually just uninstalled it today. Level 235....475 hrs....31,500 coins to not spend on anything lol!

last edited by LetsGoChamp

@pacalis said in In retrospect; What went wrong?:

You probably heard about LEAN production and the principles about asking "why?" until you expose root causes of problems.

This is pretty spot on. It seems like the focus is on features that are fun to add, rather than addressing the long-running problems that continue to degrade the gameplay experience for the core player population.

I loved the last Insurgency, and I'm pretty sure this one could be even better, but these major problems need to be addressed in earnest so that it can shine.

"Reply to this topic anyway" - Would be interesting to hear what NWI was thinking about the modest success of Sandstorm and the reasons why. I mean opinions not flavoured by marketing strategies but an honest and critical introspect would be cool to read in hindsight.

The numbers are kinda underwhelming ey?

The two things i think should be addressed is poor FPS(obvs) and the map flow. all the maps apart from summit are too open, not that the actual size is too large but that the building and walls u play around have too many openings and doorways, some buildings have an unrealistic amount of doorways, it's like the devs were afraid of creating areas that players could easily defend and so gave every building 9 different entry points so no one can possibly cover all angles. it's unfortunate cause some of the more fun parts of push game in INS2 were the really hard points to capture where ur team acc had to work together and not just run in one by one.

idk apart from summit a lot of the maps don't have the same character that almost all the INS2 maps had, and while i love the larger scale it's also important what goes in that space.