Something a lot of us anticipated is that diminishing of the playerbase due to the paywall and the young average age of the community. People obviously weren't going to buy the game, either out of financial reasons or in protest or not thinking it was worth it, nonetheless, a lot of the community parted ways with the game when it released on Steam, and it was noticable, too. At any given time you'll probably see about 10-15 servers on the server browsing tab, compare this to the Pre-Alpha, Alpha and Beta versions - where server numbers often exceeded 40 and 50 - and it's not difficult to see that the community clearly is smaller now than it was before. The financial world of gaming isn't a very forgiving one, and many people will probably pass on the opportunity to buy a game from a small indie-developer team, especially with no marketing. This is why I think the game needs a demo version, a small version of the game, having a locked amount (say, 30 minutes to an hour) of online server gameplay, and on top of that have snippets of the campaigns and challenges be allowed to be played. More people will be willing to try a game where they know they have no money to lose on it, and more people trying it will eventually lead to more people buying it, and hopefully, the community expanding.
Simply put, there is not enough community interaction between the devs and the players. Places like the forums can only allow for so much communication, and real-time, quick communications between the devs and the playerbase will encourage more people to play more often, and address another problem that I think the game has, which is unneeded/wanted additions to the game (some of which the community has really had no say in, like the chainsaw, which a lot of the community feel is still too overpowered as a weapon). Take Invisigun Heroes for example, the game has a guest version demo, which can be used to get a taste for the game. It also operates a discord where the developer of the game interacts frequently with the community, asking for input on additions, bug fixes, updates, etc. The game started in the same position SFD was in, a small indie developer with not a lot of recognition nor marketing ability for his game, but his interaction with the community on a regular, real-time basis allowed the game to flourish and the community to stay active, constantly trialling the game to find new tactics, additions, and exploits for fixing, which can be directly reported and responded to within a moment's notice. The game's Discord server is now verified and has almost 1,500 members, runs regular tournaments organised mostly independently by the community and acts as their "forums".
The message here is that regular, easy community interaction goes a long way. People are reluctant to post threads on the forums but are much more comfortable communicating in a casual, less-strict environment like a Discord server. Indie games like Nuclear Throne (community verified server, 3,200 members), King Arthur's Gold (also community verified, 2,670 members) and Deadbolt (360 members), RoR 1 (community verified, almost 5,000 members) and RoR 2 (official server, nearly 70,000 members; although I understand this one is not entirely plausible) have benefitted immensely from the community's and developer's constant presence. I understand that with full-time jobs in the real world, constant communication is not possible all the time, but making the effort to establish a presence on a messaging service like Discord will get the community involved a lot more than they ever would on the forums.
Game Additions and Updates
We all love when updates roll around, especially when it's to address things that have been flagged as major problems within the game itself. I know that I, for one, do love the increased amount of content being pumped out into the game, but I don't think that it is good for the game or its balancing. One problem that I think these additions are facing is that there is not enough testing done within an intense, game-like environment, and because of this, weapons often get added that are unbalanced, don't fit into the current weapon pool, or are just downright overpowered. Take two quite recent additions as examples, the Chainsaw and Incendiary Ammo. Both of these things are extremely good pickups, while chainsaw has been nerfed somewhat by making fuel consumption triggered any time the weapon is wielded, the chainsaw is still the best melee weapon by a long margin and is still 100% a power weapon. Whether this was to counteract the natural imbalance between guns and melee, I have no idea. But the weapon deflects all bullets and can even send grenades flying back in the direction they came from, all in the package of a melee weapon, which should be outclassed by a gun. The weapon's power is quite obvious to see when the developed meta for countering it is to just run for your life. Incendiary Ammo turns any ordinary, common gun and turns it into a near-power weapon. The Uzi is a mediocre weapon by itself, it has some unpredictable inaccuracy which can translate to poor range when shooting. Slap some fire ammo on this bad boy, and it becomes a weapon of mass destruction with damage output rivalling the M60.
Another thing that contributes to these new additions is campaigns. We all love campaigns (and want to see more come out), but one thing I think is misunderstood is that we want all weapons from the campaign in the game. This is not the case. It almost seemed as if the introduction of characters such as the MetroLaw guards and Meatgrinder was the sole reason as to why the Riot Shotgun (quite evident from the game's initial phase as a pump-action shotgun reskin) and Chainsaw was added to the game, respectively. These weapons really had no real reason to be added, other than the campaign's existence. We are fine with campaign-exclusive weapons, some weapons are better suited for campaign play and less suited for 8-player battle royale gameplay.
One thing I would like to add onto my first point in this section is the introduction as some sort of beta-tester program, similar to the one operated before the game was released on Steam, but for additions to the game. With your jobs in the real-world and time spent actually developing the game, coding, making maps, etc. it is not possible for you to play the game as much as we do. I'd be confident in saying that the introduction of a beta program to first test and balance these new weapons would be largely beneficial to the game and would stop overpowered weapons from entering the weapon pool in the first place, being complained about, then eventually being nerfed into mediocrity (.45 Pistol) or not being nerfed enough (Chainsaw) in a later hotfix. The game is too far in now for "fun" and "it's not meant to be played seriously" to justify the addition of these types of things.
I will quote something I have previously said in the "Player Count Recovery is essential" thread that I will have linked below, concerning the lack of active playerbase for the game:
Weapon UniquityPricey wrote:Free weekends work wonders for games, especially smaller indie ones that people wouldn't normally risk paying money for (even more so at the price SFD is marketed at). I have plenty of games in my library that I have gone out and bought after free weekends (Crusader Kings 2, Monaco and Payday 2 are a few examples).
The past few updates, especially through the Beta and Release versions, have seen the release of many weapons that are too similar to the other, pre-existing weapons in the weapon pool. Most of the automatic rifles, excluding the M60 and Assault Rifle, are basically the same guns with some lightly tweaked damage stats and fire rates (MP50 being another campaign-spurred addition). Weapons that are added should be unique and have a place in the weapon pool, as opposed to being reskins of other weapons that have been changed a little. It is futile to add new weapons that won't stand out if they're not powerful, the .45 Pistol stood out because it was the best secondary when it was added, but was eventually nerfed into what is essentially a normal pistol.
The game's weapon pool is destined to stagnate if the addition of redundant weapons continue (weapons like the MP50, Riot Shotgun, Machine Pistol, Lead Pipe, Hammer, etc.). This is not to say that the game hasn't undergone unique weapon additions recently, the Whip has long range at the expense of hit speed and can be used to keep someone off you from a safe distance, the shock baton's stun ability can be utilised in combat but is countered by its recharge time. These weapons are good, unique additions that have a place in the weapon pool, whose abilities are not shared by any other weapons. These are the types of weapons that should be considered for addition, not the other weapons that are essentially just reskins of already-existed weapons that I mentioned above.
Some Useful Threads
I've highlighted these threads in particular because they already address things I've wanted to bring up, I encourage anyone reading this post to check these threads out as well:
What's the point of power weapons? - mgtr14
Player Count Recovery is essential - Rick Avory
Opinions on combos in melee? - mgtr14
Why I think the game needs a free weekend - The Potatolord
Two game versions - Shock