First, I'd like to say thank you for providing technical insight as to why the engine upgrade is taking so long. It's long overdue and more than the folks at Reloaded Productions were willing to give out to the public.
I'd like to preface what I'm about to say is largely opinion based on my experience with Reloaded, and not so much Little Orbit - I honestly haven't given the game that much of a try since you bought the game when Reloaded went under and that's largely due to the hybrid good/bad memories about the game from Reloaded's tenure with it.
Let me first say that Tiggs' policies were some of the harshest in the MMO market. She policed members of the community who were unruly to begin with and those members were consistently baiting her into conversing with them. Those members of the community absolutely stopped messing with the game as soon as you introduced Easy Anti Cheat largely due to how effective EAC is as not only an anticheat, but as a spying tool on those unruly members who committed real-world crimes like calling in bomb threats. She did not deserve the harassment, but largely her actions as community manager and strict enforcement of Terms of Service ended up getting her into the generally disliked position she was in. This is not to say her policies were ineffective, but by publicly acknowledging trolls she made herself enemy #1 of the trolls. I don't blame you for taking precaution regarding protecting the rest of your staff, given that certain individuals were actively causing drama.
For community management; you need the right person for the job. I can't tell you how many CMs I've seen that just take up the position, do nothing but schedule out events, communicate limited, filtered information from the development team to the public, and take a hefty salary for doing nothing of importance that you, as a CEO, can often do better and you would not need approval to release information. Whereas a community manager would often be left in the dark. As much as this community gives Tiggs a bunch of crap... Tiggs was unique in the sense that she filled multiple hats: she led the CSR team, she ran the community forums, organized two volunteer programs, and also played liason about pressing issues between the community and the development team.
She was deeply ingrained into Reloaded's workflow and went above and beyond. Hell, a lot of people at Reloaded went from supporting roles to leading roles, including her. She went from managing customer support, to being the CM, and then a Producer later in the game's life.
Reloaded did in fact promise a lot and not deliver. There were a lot of behind-the-scenes drama that, quite honestly, is game-industry politics at its finest. Under the guise that talking about your game would hurt the 'intellectual property' of the game, Reloaded purposefully misled the community that the engine upgrade was further along than it was. There was also the whole idea that Reloaded shouldn't allow testers not under NDA, for the sake of hiding how far along the engine upgrade was. I realize they were in financial distress (public records showed as much) but withholding information from the public and not allowing these test builds into the public hands was very snake-y, and one of the major things I disagreed with and probably the community will disagree with, too.
Continuing these trends, Little Orbit has made SPCT into its own clique once again for focused, NDA-gated testing, while the rest of the general public is left in the dark, except for a weekly news update - or people poking and prodding your patcher, as the trend was before. I don't know who has you by the collar-and-chain, Matt, but you really need to push these builds out to the public as soon as possible. Give people a timeline as to when they can expect these builds.
I personally do not give a damn if the build crashes on an RTX card or not. Would you agree with me that pushing out these builds to the public would be the right move here? The public was constantly dismissed as unreliable at Reloaded despite having better QA for issues than any 'compliance testing' team would. There are countless people who would provide feedback on hardware the build works on. You'd be able to judge performance over a large variety of devices. There might even be, get this, a programmer or 10 lurking in the shadows that could even diagnose these issues *for free*, and you could push out a build to fix these high-end card crash issues.
The notion that an 'unfinished game' would kill the hype surrounding the engine upgrade is based on falsehood. There are plenty of games in worse states than APB: Reloaded on Steam. The average consumer is used to very poor early access builds that crash a lot. As long as you keep everything isolated to a test server - is there really any downside to doing this?
I speak from experience here; gating an undisclosed game to a select number of testers and then giving it out to the public and closing the old build's servers when 'you think' a build is ready is one of the dumbest mistakes that was made in the past. In fact, I bet if the game was given to the public alongside the actual release, the game may have been up and running still, collecting revenue.
When people say they don't want to be in the dark, they expect someone actually talking to them, not just posting on an outdated medium such as a forum. Mediums such as Discord, Twitter, Twitch, Facebook Live, YouTube/YouTube Gaming, etc, are all great resources and modern, especially with everyone being home and able to watch updates. Schedule out times for your development team to show off videos, livestream new things they've been working on, and even just a weekly 'vlog' from you, Matt, would do a lot to restore faith in this community beyond what you have already done. I think at one point, prior to the engine upgrade, I had to stalk your Twitter for engine upgrade news including a video of someone playing the game on a PS4 devkit that was never posted here and eventually made its way to the other mediums I listed above.
Furthermore, I cannot stress this enough, people do not believe progress unless they can put their hands on their keyboard and mouse and actually *play* it. Pictures paint a good image, but playing the end result is much more believable. And based on the Engine Upgrade thread, you are closer now more than ever to putting it in the public's hands.
Matt, you've already proven that you're dedicated as CEO of Little Orbit. I cannot thank you enough for going this far. As someone who was, and still is, supportive of this game, its development team, and its community, you've been a godsend in a sea of prior end-user mismanagement.
It's time to let the chains off and let us see the fruits of everyone's effort - RealTime Worlds, Electronic Arts, Reloaded Games, Reloaded Productions, Reloaded Inc, Little Orbit, The Workshop, Deep Silver and the countless volunteers - that have all put their time on the line to make sure this game stays alive and fun. Let the floodgates open to 2.1's testing center. It's the only way to be 100% transparent with this community.
(PS: I loved the concept of RIOT's ARG. It was a refreshing change of pace for a game that largely was regarded as boring with their content release cycle. I think the ARG was more fun than actually playing RIOT itself.)