Nuclear Dawn and population drop
Nuclear Dawn's main problem is a saturated market. It's a game that really has no glaring flaws, but it stands in too large a crowd to hope and draw our attention. It is a class based team-multiplayer, like Team Fortress, Brink, Enemy Territory, Killing Floor, Day of Defeat and countless other games who compete for our attention in the genre. Its unique feature is the role of Commander- in which you view the battle-field from above, building and directing the other players similarly to an RTS. Unfortunately, unless you are playing said commander, there is little to distinguish the FPS gameplay from its competitors. And so, a month after the discount that drove me to buy Nuclear Dawn, the server list got much shorter as the number of players continues to dwindle. Being rather a good game, there's really not a lot one can say about it. Unlike a similar victim, Brink.
The strange case of Brink
Brink is a weird creature. It suffered from a shaky start due to early technical difficulties and lukewarm reviews. And in a few short months it quickly offered free weekends on Steam along with heftier and heftier discounts. When it came out in May, its price was about the 40 dollars range, I picked it on early December for little more than 6 dollars.
Brink had some good ideas; few of them were executed properly. The parkhor style movement became almost irrelevant due to maps that didn't take advantage of it, first person perspective that does not compliment it and a very traditional "heavy" movement control. All of which combined into a feeling you are driving a man shaped truck rather than controlling a person. Another idea that became a hindrance is the attempt to smooth out the server logging process. You do not choose a server, but instead just choose to play online- the game populates the server with human players and bots by itself. But when fewer and fewer players were actively playing, you found yourself playing with bots more often than not. And the way the system is set meant that you don't know whether you were looking at a bot or a player until you played for a while and notice the lack of chatter or the AI patterns.
The customization of character is another idea that was executed badly. You are able to choose a basic face out of about ten options (All men, of course) and have almost no option to customize them beyond hair style and a few scars. Which means you will look at the same faces over and over. Clothing is where real customization options are abound. So much so, that you will find yourself relaying on color to identify members of your team from your enemies, rather than on the clothes themselves. Unfortunately there are more than a few color options which allow you to have a character colored in such a way that it easy to mistake her for a member of the opposite team.
Brink tries to distinguish itself from other games with a more caricature inspired visual style, but that too has backfired as people compare it to Team Fortress 2 similarly exaggerated art style. There is also a story outlining the game but the cutscenes are too verbose to pay attention to in online game, yet to anemic to draw your attention when playing alone.
It almost seems that Brink managed to bring every one of its features into a delicate equilibrium where they are both too strong and too weak at the same time. It is a game that shows a lot of effort was put into it, yet somehow turned every advantage it had into a disadvantage. The movement system made it both cumbersome and unnatural, instead of fast and flowing as intended. The server system made it alienating instead of enhancing emergence. Customization turned out to be a hindrance rather than an asset. And the plot revealed itself to be too intrusive to be ignored and too flimsy to drive the game. It is by no means a bad game, but one that cannot be considered good either.
Equal measures of failure
Despite being very different games, both Brink and Nuclear Dawn ultimately suffer the most from lack of players. They are competing with cheaper games and less complicated games over a pool of players too small to populate them all. And they cannot serve the few players who will play them loyally with servers half empty. The dedicated multiplayer first person shooter genre has become too saturated for games like Nuclear Dawn to shine through, and defiantly too tough for games like Brink to survive.