A belated merry Christmas to everyone. I think it’s time we talked about something. Again.
The project might as well be dead right now. I’m sorry for saying it, but it’s true. The last post here was nearly a month ago. Our most recent news update came at the end of October and promised bi-weekly mini updates which haven’t appeared. The last commit to the main branch of GitHub was a week before that (there have been more recent commits since, but these have all been small and confined to the engine branch). Even the subreddit hasn’t seen a post for a month - that’s not just from us, that’s from our fans as well.
The only active areas recently have been our community forums and Discord, and the former was chopped in half in an effort to replace it. This was my fault, and I’ve come to the considered opinion that, excepting any objections from other members, the old forum should stay. I tried customising it and found it too unwieldy. The dev forums are fine on Discourse, but no matter what I couldn’t make an environment that was in any way fun or recognisable as the community forums should be, at least in the couple of hours I spent on it.
Meanwhile the Discord server gets plenty of activity but comes with its own problems. Hardly any of it is Thrive related, the small amount that is bears no relation to current development, and our moderators have become so tied up with keeping order and dealing with problem users that they have no time or incentive to do anything publicly. Some of its users may balk at this, but the majority of our developers and fans don’t care about the Discord. Most don’t even know it exists. Rightly or wrongly, that’s the situation. We have a vocal minority of fans confined to one place nobody else can or wants to see.
A lot of this is of course my fault. I can’t sit here telling people to do more when I haven’t really done anything for months (see here). So I won’t be making any impassioned pleas for more motivation here. It just saddens me (and a lot of others presumably) when progress has clearly halted with no future in sight.
So, what’s the solution?
Thrive has spent eight years with the same business model and err, let’s be honest, we haven’t achieved much of the initial vision in that time. Sure impressive things have happened, but compare our current Microbe Stage progress with what was planned. It’s just in a bit of a dour state, isn’t it?
Maybe it’s time to conclude this approach doesn’t work. We’ve tried our best with it and though at times it looked like it could succeed, right here, right now, that perspective is a million miles away.
I’m suggesting we seriously look into something financial. Now, I’ve argued against this kind of thing in the past and maintain that many approaches would be ridiculous. Kickstarter, for instance, makes no sense for us. I think we should instead accept voluntary donations providing we can work out the logistics of what to do with them. Even if we fall far short of what we’d realistically need to subsidise a single programmer, the fact that people are willing to give us their hard earned money would (hopefully) inspire some confidence and motivation within the team. And if the project grows even a little as a result, that amount will grow and perhaps could be put to use one day.
If we decide to go through with this, we’ll of course announce it on all our platforms and acknowledge the potential pitfalls. I’d wager far more of our supporters would be happy to see us finally listen to them than would be disappointed at our abandonment of a totally free approach.
Is this actually going to solve anything though?
The project’s main issue remains the same: it’s still far too reliant on contributions from a few members. I’m sure we’re all very grateful for hhyyrylainen and crodnu continuing to program and organise things recently (without those two the project really would be dead), but without Nick, TheCreator, moopli, myself and others helping over the past few months, it’s clear things aren’t happening as quickly as we hoped.
Is money going to fix this? Who knows, but I genuinely don’t know what the Belgium we can do instead. We’ve tried quite a lot and progress improvements have been temporary at best. If we want the project to survive, we might need it.
I’ll post links to this on Slack, the community forums and Discord. Please reply if you can. This goes for fans too (though of course you’ll have to discuss it elsewhere) - what do you think we should do?
EDIT: Following some discussion on Discord, it’s come to my attention this might not be the only last resort. Contacting old members, trying another massive outreach push, etc. are all alternatives that have been done before but might be worth doing again. Feel free to discuss those here (or elsewhere) too.