When Small Impact Games set the servers live for the first Marauders closed alpha on Steam two weeks ago, the team expected to see exhilarating space battles, extract camping, and squabbles over loot. Instead, in the first 24 hours, Small Impact had to fight a small, but unexpected fire started by cheaters.
Although the servers had only just gone live, the development team had to work out how and why certain bad faith actors rocketed to the top of the leaderboards. The servers at the time were wobbling due to the sheer number of people trying to get into the game, all while certain names became billionaires without playing a single game. It’s a problem all too familiar with online multiplayer games, but it’s one the team wasn’t expecting to fight in an alpha.
That’s because, for the last two years, Marauders has been developed with the help of 3,000 loyal players – all who backed the game when it originally hit crowdfunding platform Fig. “I think we’ve been spoiled by our Fig community,” lead developer James Rowbotham tells The Loadout when we ask about the cheating. “They’re very friendly, so we never had those problems.” The team assumed that because the alpha was being opened only to those who pre-ordered the game the rules of war would stay the same. It didn’t.
“For me, the cheating was quite surprising,” lead developer Cameron Small says with a smirk. “Obviously we have anti-cheat in our schedule, but we thought ‘oh, maybe people don’t cheat in alphas.’”
Small Impact Games was, unfortunately, wrong. But while the bad faith actors spoiled the fun for a few hours, it did teach the development team some valuable lessons. “It’s a bit of a double-edged sword getting more attention, right?,” Rowbotham continues. “But it was very useful for us because it helped show where our weaknesses are. We’ve already implemented stuff on the back end and front end, and we’ve upped our ban system to counter this stuff in the future.”
While those cheaters might have initially taken the spotlight away from the team’s first ever closed alpha, it didn’t last long. Rowbotham and Small note that the alpha has far surpassed their expectations and the feedback they’ve since received has validated their design choices so far – something they doubled down on in their recent AMA on Twitch.
Keep your eyes peeled for more news on Small Impact Games’ view on the Marauders closed alpha, including what the next steps are, from us soon.