Tue. Dec 7th, 2021

From a strong 25,000 players on Steam at launch, Mankind has dropped to 4,300 average concurrent players in the last 30 days. Part of this may be down to the holiday season, which attracts eyeballs to other games, but overall, a compelling, addictive, fully realized 4X should show more stamina.

A graph showing that humanity's player numbers have declined since August

For comparison, Civilization VI dropped from 86,000 to 24,400 in the first two months (also during the holiday season) and then dipped further before reaching 41,000.

When it comes to concurrent player counts after release, there are generally two types of games: those that go up and those that go down. Of course, there is always a drop after the first hype, but some games are engaging enough to have an endurance that allows them to grow through word of mouth without regular injections of marketing funds. Counter attack got it, Among us got it, Splitgate got it.

I chose Mankind like having it, mainly because I believe that Amplitude has been a leader in the genre, in terms of design since the first Endless Legend. I register that I am calling Endless Legend games (and Endless Space games) as better Civs than Civ. The logic follows that Mankind would be a straight BETTER Civ than Civ.

I still think that’s true, but there can be no denying certain objections society has had with the game’s balance after launch. Some of these objections are fair Civ players getting used to the Amplitude formula – regions in stone, influence, a separate battle scene, etc. But some are objectively valid criticisms.

For example, two months after launch, there is no excuse for having some factions that are undoubtedly stronger than others. The community has played thousands of games at this point, they have the data, and the balance fixes have not come in. If a player like me wants to use Assyrians, there should be a valid path to victory.

Prior to launch, a Chinese player had optimized a playthrough to win in 70 turns (Mankind is designed to finish in 300 laps). This was done via a space race victory, where compared to speeding in other games, there are only a few things to go right in the early game. Here is a player shortly after launch who wins in 113 rounds.

Mankind allows certain factions to convert their entire output into a single direction – citizen can convert all their food and industry to science, industry civs the other way, etc. It avoids the usual inertia associated with these games and allows an industrial civ to build parts of the industry before choosing a science archive for the next age and immediately leveraging all output for a scientific victory.

You have to admire the audacity of a design that plays with such fleeting elements. It’s just asking to be broken, and I actually love that. It would be nice if there were just as broken items elsewhere to compete with it, but it is not there. Other systems in the game like religion or influence are side thoughts.

Extra content and DLC can sometimes revive a game’s player base, but 4Xs should not need it. What society most wants is a balance patch, so there is no almighty way to play.

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