Saturday, March 6, 2010

Learning from your fanbase

In my last blog entry, I made the mistake about complaining about a bad review. Typically, I avoid complaining because it rarely accomplishes things, and I don't like being a whiner. But something happened as a result of my complaining - a fan of Castle Conflict went and wrote a great review. Since then, the game has got many more and with the new Egypt update out, it is doing pretty decent.Nonetheless, my last blog entry taught me two things:

1) Fans are awesome!!
2) Whining works. (Don't worry, I'm not going to start whining all the time =P)

I have a couple Castle Conflict related blogs on my plate, things that I've learned, and this will be the first of those. I was hoping to do this one about a month ago, actually, but I've been sidetracked... now that I have some time, here it is!

One of the things that we added to the Multiplayer update of Castle Conflict was a survey. The survey basically allows us to ask the users directly what they think about Castle Conflict. I set up the survey such that I could update it live, although I haven't done so as of yet, as I haven't had a chance to collate the results of the last survey.

To make the survey work, I'm using PinchMedia. It's no secret that I think Pinch is amazing and have learned a lot using it. There is some fear mongering going on about the service, but I think it's a bit too much. Especially given that Castle Conflict does not use Core Location or Facebook Connect; so some of the things that people are frightened of don't even apply to our game.

Anyways, Pinch is great because it tells you what your users do. But it's a bit more difficult to ask them outright what they think, so we added the survey. But, since we already had Pinch Media installed, instead of going through all the effort of writing a web service that would tally the results, and display it, I just made each question have a beacon, and I appended -y/-n at the end of it to mark the users response. This doesn't work perfectly; if a user takes the test more than once, for example, and answers the same question differently, I get both answers and don't know that they changed their answer. Being the optimist, I pretty much ignore all the -n answers, view by unique users instead of clicks, and tally the results that way.

Here are the results:

966 people finished the survey

945 played Campaign
918 wanted more levels
916 enjoyed campaign
909 want more units
844 want unit skins

439 would pay for more content
298 would pay for campaign levels
290 would pay for units
232 would pay for unit skins
199 would pay for multiplayer levels

307 played multiplayer
275 enjoyed multiplayer
218 thought multiplayer was stable
179 thought multiplayer had enough customisation

922 Would recommend the game to their friends

This tells me a few things.
1) Multiplayer could still use some work
2) However, very few people have played multiplayer relative to campaign
3) Despite the fact that multiplayer could use some improvements, if I were to make it more stable, I would please less than 100 people (as 2/3rds of the ~300 who had already played thought it was stable already
4) If I were to sell new campaign maps, I would please almost as many people as have played multiplayer
5) If I were to release a new, free campaign, I would please three times as many people as have played multiplayer

This tells me that, while multiplayer could use some work, the direction that the fans are interested in is campaign.

How does this compare with what I've learned via pinch?

In the month of February (when multiplayer was live):

5236 People played campaign,
972 beat it and kept playing after

1166 people created a multiplayer game
262 people challenged an existing

Result? Not a lot of people playing multiplayer in its current incarnation.

There is one other thing I would like to discuss in this entry, and that is "QuickPlay". Currently, I am thinking of axing it, despite the fact that it goes against some of my instincts. (According to Pinch, 2886 people played QuickPlay in February, so it is still being used). The reason for this is that it ruins the first experience. If the user starts a quickplay match and they haven't yet played, they are presented with 8 units + another button, and little idea what to expect. It can be overwhelming. Campaign is a much more controlled experience - the player gets 3 units to start, and gets to get new units one at a time, as features slowly unroll for them. Campaign also drives the user forward better.

If I download a game for a first time, and I'm trying to figure out how much I like it, I'm more likely to click on "QuickPlay" than "Campaign". Simply because, Campaign sounds like it has a large commitment. Whereas QuickPlay sounds light and easy - "oh yeah, I can try this out, and know if I like the game." I've seen over half the people I pass the game to test it out go to QuickPlay instead of Campaign. So either Quickplay needs some reworking ... or it should be taken away. We want users to have the best first experience possible, so that they like the game more, and are more likely to spread it via word of mouth. I think that, for this to work, we need to drive them to our best experience, which is Campaign. Will this actually happen? Stay tuned for our next update (although no date is yet set for that)

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