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Searching advise for enhancing my free game

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Hi ! I developed a free to play MMORTS - a RTS game with a persistent world. I launched it in January and so far it seems to be technically working. The basic game mechanic: The world consists of islands. Each island is a map like in other RTS games, there is terrain, an obstacles etc. They are connected via teleporters. Each player creates an Empire when he starts playing. He gets his very own Island only he can play on that is connected to the main world by a teleproter. Now he can construct buildings, create units, gather resources, and explore the world. When he meets another player he can create an alliance or declare war. The whole world is persistent, so whatever a palyer builds or does will be there when he comes back the next day, unless someone destroyed it of course. His private starting island can't be reached by other players so that island is save. About 100 people tried the game so far, some came back a few times, some just disappeared after playing between 5min to 60min. I asked them why they stopped playing the game, and the answers I got was "It's promising, but" followed by either some very detailed things they didn't like - or - a more general "there is no fun in it (yet)". I can enhance the details as they are very specific, but enhancing the "fun" is not so easy. I mean, I have ideas but maybe they aren't fun either. Since my time is somewhat limited as I'm doing it besides my job, I thought I'ld ask the experts here. Maybe you can have a look and post ideas what you think should be different to make the game more fun? People in here probably have more experience in analyzing this than the average player. Here is a link to my game: Confrontation Unlimited: http://www.confrontation-unlimited.net Thx Marc [Edited by - marc40000 on March 3, 2010 5:11:07 AM]

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Well, telling what will be fun is like telling the future.

There're some game mechanics which seems to work in similar games, I think of galaxy war like games, where you have to conquer planets and star systems.

Some ideas:

Do you have a tech tree ? Add an tech tree which evolves in real-time. It's like a teaser of the next episode of your loved tv series.

Appearance: Well, your game looks cool, but some consistency would help. Take a look at darwinia, games don't need photorealistic art to be fun, but at least it should be consistent. At the moment it seems that you collect some free models, try to design your "own" art style, which could be very abstract or simple. Even as a coder you will be capable to create some decent art ^^

Nevertheless, you have done well so far and your game concept sounds really interesting. Some polishing will always help, but to be honest, I think that most of your first time visitors will not come back. This is not a problem of your game, but people tend to probe different games just once. In my opinion this is ok, just try to build up a small community of core games and try to improve some visuals to attract more people.

Some PR will help too, i.e. whenever you have some major update, leave a little note in the "announcement forum" and don't forget to add a little eye candy (=screenshot) :)

Good luck.

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Not really enhancing fun, sorry, but you should consider to handle the character encoding for the PHP pages. I mean especially the Ladders page. Its a Good Thing to have online score lists, IMHO, but its not so good when the names are not displayed well because the browser don't know in what encoding the page is. (See e.g. "Lord Fremdkörper" on the Ladders page, and the copyright sign on the Disclaimer page.)

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Original post by Ashaman73
Do you have a tech tree ? Add an tech tree which evolves in real-time. It's like a teaser of the next episode of your loved tv series.

No I don't have that yet. Right now you can see everything you can build immediately in your buildable things list, but at the beginning, you don't have enough resources to build them. But a tech tree is probably better for the teaser aspect I agree.

Quote:

Appearance: Well, your game looks cool, but some consistency would help. Take a look at darwinia, games don't need photorealistic art to be fun, but at least it should be consistent. At the moment it seems that you collect some free models, try to design your "own" art style, which could be very abstract or simple. Even as a coder you will be capable to create some decent art ^^

Before this game, I made a few smaller ones which were only 2D (which you can find here and here btw :) but they were always judged as lacking nice graphics. In 3D, it's even harder for me to create something that looks good.

Quote:

Nevertheless, you have done well so far and your game concept sounds really interesting.

Thanks :)

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Some polishing will always help, but to be honest, I think that most of your first time visitors will not come back. This is not a problem of your game, but people tend to probe different games just once. In my opinion this is ok, just try to build up a small community of core games and try to improve some visuals to attract more people.

Hmm, interesting. Are there some stats showing the average amount of one-timers for non-AAA games? I know for websites, if the bounce rate, the amount of visitors that leave your website immediately after seeing the first page, is above 35%, it's said that's most liekley because there is something wrong with your site, e.g. layout and look, not necessarily content. Maybe there is some similar bounce rate threshold for games?

Quote:

Some PR will help too, i.e. whenever you have some major update, leave a little note in the "announcement forum" and don't forget to add a little eye candy (=screenshot) :)

You mean the announcement forum in gamedev.net? I haven't done much advertising yet. I thought since the 100 people who tried it and mostely left, there won't be sense to have 1000 people trying and leaving it. But if actually statistics say that you can't expect many people to stay if only 100 test it, maybe I should advertise now?

So basically, you say as well, the idea is good but the details need work (like, adding a tech tree, make pathfindeing better, enhance graphics etc.)?

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Good luck.

Thanks for your opinions. I noticed you develop an rpg/rts. Is it somehow similiar to my game? The screenshots look amazing compared to my game :) I'ld like to have a test run if possible. Maybe we can help each other with giving feedback and tips etc.? If you have ICQ or skype etc. you can send me a PM :)

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Original post by haegarr
Not really enhancing fun, sorry, but you should consider to handle the character encoding for the PHP pages. I mean especially the Ladders page. Its a Good Thing to have online score lists, IMHO, but its not so good when the names are not displayed well because the browser don't know in what encoding the page is. (See e.g. "Lord Fremdkörper" on the Ladders page, and the copyright sign on the Disclaimer page.)


Oh thanks! I wasn't aware of that problem. Even though I am in Germany right now, I have an English windows installed and the characters like ö etc. showed correctly for me. I never thought about how that's possible. I made the website utf-8 now :) I hope that fixes the issue for you. It's hard for me to verify because it looks the same as before to me.

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Well, I downloaded your game and played for about an hour. Here's my thoughts:

- Pathfinding. Having to order every unit individualy right up to where it wants to go is just a pain.

- Automation. Woodcutter cuts wood. Tree runs out. Woodcutter stands and thinks 'Yay lunchtime!'. In this case the woodcutter should find another tree, and, when full, return to base.

- Empire map. I saw some random squares, some bars and differant colours. What do these mean?

- Graphics. As said before, the models need to be similar in design if you want to look professional.

-Bikini Lady. Get rid of her. Now. EVERY GODAMMNED MMO uses her or one of her cousins. The bare chest wont get you players. This is the internet. We're used to it.

--------------------------------
Overall though you have a solid idea, potentially awesome gameplay and at least one player who's gonna come back. For an MMO, it's a start. Just keep the developing up!

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Creating an MMORTS is a very risky Investment. Mankind is the example of it. It was created by O2, a Telecoms Company which I am sure does not have any Budget problems. I think Persistent RTS is still a baby. There is something missing to make this Genre successful. You could find that something, or if you want to cash in with your Game in the short Term, you have to RPG it a little bit.
Or alternatively change the Scale of the Units and go the Evony/Travian way.

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I have to confess that I haven't played it but heres some ideas that you can use in a persistent setting

First of all you should focus on empire building as its probably the only long term goal you can have in a persistent setting

My recommendation is to inspire yourself from various RTS management games as well as city building games and trading games(cesar 3,cultures 2,patrician 3,anno series etc)

I would recommend a permanent resource stream(like cossacks 1)or make resources abundant(cultures 2) as well as different types for different things
Probably the most important factor in your game would be logistics(and the reason I focused on the above games)

If you don't have the absolute best logistics to stop lucky players for exponential expansion someone will horde some best units and start conquering everything in a persistent setting

An good example of logistics is in cultures where you have to do allot of stuff till you get some warriors and still need food and a roof(those bastards) not to mention carts and roads needed for further expansion

Also if the world never sleep you'd have to add allot of automation to keep players safe when there off preferably by letting the players chose what reactions they should have in different circumstances

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Sorry this isn't game design related, but looking at your website I would suggest that you should try a different style or page layout.

Otherwise I would agree with everyone else and just start with a small core of people and keep developing. Perhaps even have the community help make it better (Of course that has its own pros and cons).

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Quote:
Original post by JamesPenny
Well, I downloaded your game and played for about an hour. Here's my thoughts:

Thank you :)

Quote:

- Pathfinding. Having to order every unit individualy right up to where it wants to go is just a pain.

I know about that. You aren't the first complaining about it ...

Quote:

- Automation. Woodcutter cuts wood. Tree runs out. Woodcutter stands and thinks 'Yay lunchtime!'. In this case the woodcutter should find another tree, and, when full, return to base.

I know about that as well, but making it automatic like that has problems as well. They might run into bad guys. What should they do in that case? Running home? Running somewhere? Luring the monsters somewhere as well? I guess I'll just implement it that way and see. Maybe it's not that problematic.

Quote:

- Empire map. I saw some random squares, some bars and differant colours. What do these mean?

I know about that as well. I have just released a new version with a tutorial that explains the world map. Every square is an island. The bars and colors represent the empires that have stuff on these islands and the Empire which controls the island.

Quote:

- Graphics. As said before, the models need to be similar in design if you want to look professional.

This will probably be the most complicated thing for me, but I have to think about that I guess as it is mentioned a lot.

{quote]
-Bikini Lady. Get rid of her. Now. EVERY GODAMMNED MMO uses her or one of her cousins. The bare chest wont get you players. This is the internet. We're used to it.
[/quote]
Sex sells :D I'll think about that. While I'm personally not much pro or con on the graphics surrounding the website of the game, if I want to remove her, I will need something else to put there first.

Quote:

Overall though you have a solid idea, potentially awesome gameplay and at least one player who's gonna come back. For an MMO, it's a start. Just keep the developing up!

Thanks a lot for taking your time and giving me feedback. I'm happy that you like the basic idea. :D

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Original post by hiigara
Creating an MMORTS is a very risky Investment. Mankind is the example of it. It was created by O2, a Telecoms Company which I am sure does not have any Budget problems. I think Persistent RTS is still a baby. There is something missing to make this Genre successful. You could find that something, or if you want to cash in with your Game in the short Term, you have to RPG it a little bit.
Or alternatively change the Scale of the Units and go the Evony/Travian way.

Well I can't say I haven't invested a penny in CU. But compared to the amout of time I put in it/my game developing hobby, the amount of money I spent additionally is relatively low. Others build model railways in their free time and spent money on it. I'm not planing on "caching it in on short Term" or anything like that.

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Original post by adrix89
I have to confess that I haven't played it but heres some ideas that you can use in a persistent setting

First of all you should focus on empire building as its probably the only long term goal you can have in a persistent setting

My recommendation is to inspire yourself from various RTS management games as well as city building games and trading games(cesar 3,cultures 2,patrician 3,anno series etc)

I would recommend a permanent resource stream(like cossacks 1)or make resources abundant(cultures 2) as well as different types for different things
Probably the most important factor in your game would be logistics(and the reason I focused on the above games)

If you don't have the absolute best logistics to stop lucky players for exponential expansion someone will horde some best units and start conquering everything in a persistent setting

An good example of logistics is in cultures where you have to do allot of stuff till you get some warriors and still need food and a roof(those bastards) not to mention carts and roads needed for further expansion

Also if the world never sleep you'd have to add allot of automation to keep players safe when there off preferably by letting the players chose what reactions they should have in different circumstances


I think similar. There have to be some gameplay mechanics in there that are similar to Anno & Co. The issue with conquering other player's stuff is a general "problem" I think. In the common mmorpg, it's nearly impossible to loose anything. And if they do, because of rewinding to the last backup etc., they don't like it. But I guess, loosing stuff is an element of an RTS you can't circumvent. Whatever I do, the possibility for one player to destroy other players things has to be there some way. Clearly having one player somehow conquer the whole world (easily) isn't something that should happen though...

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Original post by Shadowwoelf
Sorry this isn't game design related, but looking at your website I would suggest that you should try a different style or page layout.

While this is not a common response, some people told me I should make the website look better. But what I should do conretely, I don't know. You suggest to change the whole style of the website? Make it look darker? I'm open to advices :)

Quote:

Otherwise I would agree with everyone else and just start with a small core of people and keep developing. Perhaps even have the community help make it better (Of course that has its own pros and cons).

A small core of developers or a small core of players? Developer(s) is just me right now and most of players don't come back right now after some time or immediately.
But maybe I should contact some of the players that spent more time in the game directly and ask them to test new features first when I implemented them. Maybe they'll come back to try them. Hmm....

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Original post by marc40000
Quote:
Original post by Shadowwoelf
Sorry this isn't game design related, but looking at your website I would suggest that you should try a different style or page layout.

While this is not a common response, some people told me I should make the website look better. But what I should do conretely, I don't know. You suggest to change the whole style of the website? Make it look darker? I'm open to advices :)

Quote:

Otherwise I would agree with everyone else and just start with a small core of people and keep developing. Perhaps even have the community help make it better (Of course that has its own pros and cons).

A small core of developers or a small core of players? Developer(s) is just me right now and most of players don't come back right now after some time or immediately.
But maybe I should contact some of the players that spent more time in the game directly and ask them to test new features first when I implemented them. Maybe they'll come back to try them. Hmm....


Well here are some tips about the website design.
-You should get rid of the giant yellow logo that says Play now, Forever Free! I've seen too many internet ad's that used a similar style so that ruins the experience.
-Bikini girl=Eh. Its not really helping you. You should put in some guy in awesome armor or a battle in the background that's epic.
-In the forums the "Confrontation Unlimited Community Board
... for those who prefer word over sword" Text blocks out the other logo next to it.
-Right now with a resolution of 1024 I have to scroll to the side to log in.
-Newbie guide: Giant wall of text. Consider using some pictures to illustrate.
-All images on the website should go to the screen gallery. Example would be the bottom picture on the main page goes to the download screen. (I wanted a closer look at the picture though)
-Remove the smilies on the web page in text. Doesn't help, may harm your image.
-Maybe consider removing the wiki till there's something in it. You don't want people to come in to a blank page

As for the game itself have a thread in your forums that ask what features people want now asap. Then just put like the top 5 and have a poll. Then you know what you should be working on to get more people interested.

My other suggestion was to get players involved in creating content for the world. Being one person you are limited in what you can do.

[Edited by - Shadowwoelf on March 5, 2010 12:59:01 PM]

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Thanks for your website feedback. It's much appreciated :)

Quote:
Original post by Shadowwoelf
-You should get rid of the giant yellow logo that says Play now, Forever Free! I've seen too many internet ad's that used a similar style so that ruins the experience.
-Right now with a resolution of 1024 I have to scroll to the side to log in.
-In the forums the "Confrontation Unlimited Community Board
... for those who prefer word over sword" Text blocks out the other logo next to it.

I just realized that a lot of people are still using 1024 displays. I thought they wouldn't exist anymore except for an old one for emergency cases maybe. but according to steam's statistics, a lot of them are still used by gamers. So I agree, I have to make the website fit on 1024 pixels displays I guess. This is the case for the website and the login form, the forum logo overlapping itself and the play now button doesn't look that big on my display actually, but is probably half the screen or more on a 1024er display ...

Quote:

-Bikini girl=Eh. Its not really helping you. You should put in some guy in awesome armor or a battle in the background that's epic.

Ok I'll think about that. Why are those girls in all those games if the people posting to this thread think they are wrong placed. After all, people posting in this forum, are the people making those games as well. Isn't that so?

Quote:

-Newbie guide: Giant wall of text. Consider using some pictures to illustrate.

I know, that's bad. I plan to present more about that on the wiki and remove that page altogether.

Quote:

-All images on the website should go to the screen gallery. Example would be the bottom picture on the main page goes to the download screen. (I wanted a closer look at the picture though)

I'm not sure I understand what you are suggesting here. Do you suggest to remove all pictures from the website and move them to the gallery? That'ld make the website look text only.
If you want a larger version of the image with the speech bubble, I'm afraid there is non. I just took a screenshot from the game, resized it and draw the speech bubble on top of it manually. There are in game screenshots in the screenshot section though, those can be viewed at the original size.

Quote:

-Remove the smilies on the web page in text. Doesn't help, may harm your image.

I just thought, that'ld make the website feel more personal, after all it's just me doing this game and not a large company. If I try to look and feel like a large company wouldn't that create wrong assuptions and making people wonder when they realize that it's only me at some point?

Quote:

-Maybe consider removing the wiki till there's something in it. You don't want people to come in to a blank page

Heh, when you tried it, I probably just have added it. When I started this thread, there hasn't been a wiki at all. It's new. Now, there is some info in it.

Quote:

As for the game itself have a thread in your forums that ask what features people want now asap. Then just put like the top 5 and have a poll. Then you know what you should be working on to get more people interested.

That's an interesting idea, I could try that. But it's difficult to handle what players wish for. A friend of mine who plays Beyond Protocol told me, they invented a Senat in the game that consist of players. This senate can vote for things to change in the game every month or so. This senat exists since mid 2009 as far as I remeber. And since then 5 or 6 things were decided to change by the Senat. The problem now is, since then, according to him, they can't hold up to the decisions the senat made. Some were quite game mechanic changing. So maybe I could give a list of features and ask them what they would like to see first instead of letting them suggest. I have to think about the features I should suggest though ...

Quote:

My other suggestion was to get players involved in creating content for the world. Being one person you are limited in what you can do.

Actually, that was my plan from the beginning. Right now there is no such functionality in it though. My plan was to allow players to upload models and design maps and let others play it. But as long as noone plays the basic game, I guess it's useless to implement those functionality. Who wants to mod a game nobody plays? Or am I wrong?

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Original post by marc40000
Quote:

-Bikini girl=Eh. Its not really helping you. You should put in some guy in awesome armor or a battle in the background that's epic.

Ok I'll think about that. Why are those girls in all those games if the people posting to this thread think they are wrong placed. After all, people posting in this forum, are the people making those games as well. Isn't that so?


I haven't had a chance to do more than look at your site & had a quick comment about this. It may be true that "sex sells" but you're not selling to people in a vacuum. Unless you think your customers are idiots they're going to come to your site armed with experience of encountering other games that have tried exactly the same approach (Evony comes to mind, with it's "save the princess" crap that doesn't even exist in the game). So if one of your selling features is titillation you're broadcasting to players what your game LACKS. You're telling them, "hey, I put this Poser lady up here to cover for the fact that I really don't have a compelling world, compelling features or compelling gameplay because if I did THAT would be on the front cover!"

It's a very cynical strategy and unless you, in fact, do have voluptuous amazons running around all over the place it's going to work against you. Other sites get away with it without comment because it's tightly integrated into their game's image-- the character is someone who can be found in the game or mythos, or is a playable class (WoW's racy "Night Elf" or the characters matching Age of Conan's look and feel). There's no false advertising, these things are in the world.

In your case it looks like amateurish window dressing which I'd reject out of hand and my strong guess is that others have done the same without letting you know.

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Yeah Evony. Well, I actually didn't know about that game until someone said, "the girl, the big button - looks like Evony". Then I looked it up and while the Evony girls are more erotic than mine, the resemblance can't be denied with respect to the girl and the button.
I don't want to deliver the feeling of cheating of the players. Actually, I want to add female warriors to the game as well, not just male ones. But they won't be able to do any sex whatsoever. Right now, there are now girls in the game except I just recently added an in game tutorial with that title girl describing you what to do.

Independent of this issue - it doesn't seem like people leave the website immediately after seeing the girl. In relation to the amount of visitors to the website, the amount of people who actually try the game is not too bad. While this might be increased, I feel my bigger problem right now is, that people trying the game, don't come back. Can it be because they expected girl warriors fighting and that wasn't what they got?

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I think it's important to realize that many people here don't fit the typical demographic profile of 'gamers'. A lot of us have experience or are at least interested in game design and development. What could work for a 16 year old Halo fan, might not appeal to us.

For instance, browsing the screen shots, the thing I liked the most was the way you render the landscape as a sort of 3D grid. The generic looking character models didn't do it for me. In fact, they look out of place in that environment, like others already said.

I could make a lot of comments on the website design, but I think it's more important to make the game fun to play, and ideally pleasing the look at. If people really like the game, you should get enough free word to mouth advertising from your existing user base to build a real community.

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