I bought an early access for your game and I am pleasantly surprised. The game reminds me a lot of Wurm Online, a MMORPG I enjoyed for many hundreds of hours. It has a similar ambiance and atmosphere, a similar rustic and nature proximity concern. I hope you will pursue active development for the game.
Having tested the game for an hour or two, some ideas came to my mind and I'd like to share them with you.
- Focusing on a specific setting could be beneficial for the game's image.
So far, I get a medieval fantasy feeling out of your game, which is also the type of setting I prefer the most.
There are many minecraft-inspired games out there, and many of them follow a vague, unclear setting mixing up future technologies and more ancient ones. I have seen dynamites, a flashlight and some glowsticks in some of the screenshots. If I were you, I would take these out and restrain the game to a pure medieval fantasy setting. I think doing so would strengthen the game image and carve it more sharply in the vast array of minecraft-inspired sandbox and general survival games. Concept would then stand out and gain a substance and a style of it's own.
I think being strict on the setting also increase immersion, which I believe is one of your key goal with this game, judging from the level of effort you already put in achieving an immersive wilderness experience.
- Splitting the biomes in map-types, and allowing only one of these types per map would increase immersion.
To compare again with minecraft and it's several clones, what those game fail to achieve is a feeling of regionality. You are walking in a desert, and suddenly, it's a rain forest. One kilometer in and then it's a ice wasteland. I think restricting biomes in map-types based on their climate would make every map more enjoyable. For example, deserts, savannahs, jungles could be merged in one map type. Then you would have traditional european biomes like forests, plains, mountains or steppes in another type. And there would be the hard, nordic cold maps with their pine forests, their mountains carved from ancient glaciers or their toundras.
Doing so, you could even get some features or items exclusive to some specific map-types. Spices could be available only in the hot maps or agriculture restricted to the temperate, middle climate maps.
This opens the door to a transfer system between maps, where a player could voyage between the three using maybe a particular vehicle (maybe a boat you interact with to spawn on another map). The inventory would be kept, and the world around the player would suddenly feel much more vast. Pairing those features with the multiplayer functionality would get very interesting for factions and civilisations establishments.
Overall, there would be a strong feeling of regionality in the game.
- High mountains and stretched plains are the key to geological realism and immersion.
If the biomes span on large distances, demanding for example more than 20 minutes to be crossed, this will, once again, increase the feeling of regionality.
If the mountains are strong and high, clearly defined, but scarcer throughout the world, they become more memorable and instantly more interesting.
The key for geological immersion is to get the players to be able to organize their environment. For example, Minecraft fails at this, because it's biome distribution is completly chaotic and therefore lack any noteworthy feature. If you want players in your game to name mountains, rivers and regions, biomes need to be large and mountains need to be rare but homogeneous. Doing so, players will get familiar with the regions they settle in, they will start to tame it and organize it, establish roads and put names on memorable features of their environment. If the biome change everytime a player walks 100 steps in a direction, he will never develop a bond with it's surrounding, because it's too unstable and shifting.
- The field of view in the game is a little too small in my opinion.
That may just be me, but especially in the forests, it's like I am looking through binoculars.
Anyway, I think you (or you guys ? I don't know how many of you are working on this) did a great job. The basic structure of the game is already there, which is satisfying to see in alpha releases.
I am eager to see where this game will head. I think it has a lot of potential.