First off, I want to apologize for the lateness of this week’s blog post. On Tuesday, we deployed a new version of the software with some huge updates that massively improved Prismata’s load times, AI speed, and server efficiency. We’ve received a ton of feedback (mostly quite positive) and have been tweaking things non-stop all week to really smooth out the Prismata experience. So the blog took a bit of a backseat.
This week’s post is also an important one, so I didn’t want to rush it. I’ll be revealing the results of our post-Kickstarter “What should we work on?” survey, as well as talking a bit about some of our future plans for mobile and desktop distribution.
Before we get to the survey results, I’d also like to announce that we have a NEW SURVEY out concerning the balance of Prismata units. If you’ve been raging about Apollo, Cluster Bolt, or Deadeye Operative, this is your chance to let your complaints be heard. It should take about 10 minutes, but you can definitely spend a lot more time on it if you want!
The Survey Results
Remember the “What Should We Work On” survey that we asked you to fill out a few weeks back? Well, the results are finally in! After nearly 500 responses, we’ve compiled the data and can now share the results with you. So, without further ado, here they are:
What Should we Prioritize?
If you took the survey, you probably noticed that we asked the first (and most important) question of “what should we prioritize” twice, in two different ways. We did this in order to ask you what you wanted versus what you felt we should do. Both answers are really important to us, and we thank everyone who took the survey!
The following table is the data for the question “What features do you WANT us to work on?”
|Average score (on a scale from 1 to 7)|
|New Units / Expansion||5.32877|
|Small Improvements to Software/Interface||4.53636|
|Tournaments / World Finals / Grandmaster League||4.34234|
|Raids (Team PvE Content)||4.31963|
|Single Player Campaign||4.11312|
|Community (Events, Clans, etc.)||3.93665|
|Graphics and Sound||3.87783|
|Customization (Skins, Emotes, Badges, Avatars)||3.0905|
|Tutorial for Beginners||3.03182|
Now, compare the above data to the table below, which shows the results of the question “What SHOULD we work on?”
|Average score (on a scale from 1 to 7)|
|Tutorial for Beginners||5.50917|
|Graphics and Sound||4.86697|
|Single Player Campaign||4.56422|
|Community (Events, Clans, etc.)||4.5367|
|Small Improvements to Software/Interface||4.52778|
|Tournaments / World Finals / Grandmaster League||4.51613|
|New Units / Expansion||4.49541|
|Raids (Team PvE Content)||4.34419|
|Customization (Skins, Emotes, Badges, Avatars)||3.99537|
What I’d like to do now is give a bit of information on where we are headed in each of these areas, and what our plans are for 2015:
New Units / Expansion: The most wanted thing among our players was new Prismata units. And we have good news for you—new units are coming! We’ll be rolling out plenty of units in the coming months, with a few new ones coming in a week or so. I wish we could tell you the schedule for their release dates, but quite frankly, we haven’t decided yet. We’re not even sure if we ought to release new units in batches, or perhaps in a “one per week” type of schedule. One problem with single releases is that we don’t want to disappoint people if they don’t like the “weekly” unit (not every new unit will be groundbreaking!), and we don’t want to frustrate players if they never run into the new units in their ladder games (of course, a fix for that is to alter the probabilities of units showing up, which is something we’re considering!)
Small Improvements to Software/Interface: This one isn’t surprising. From talking to Prismata players in the game chat and on Reddit, it’s become pretty clear that just about everyone has a small thing or two that they would like tweaked or added. Often little improvements can make a huge difference in the experience for players, and minor tweaks represent one of the most cost-effective ways to spend our time. As an example, I added the twitch menu on the left side of Prismata in just one afternoon, and it’s probably a more important feature than many things that we spent days on. There are lots of other good things to come—features like “build your own unit set” and “watch the top game” will probably be out in a couple of days (they’re pretty much ready, but need a bit of testing and tweaking).
Desktop, Steam and Tablet Versions: This deserves a more long-winded explanation, so I’ve included it below near the end of the article.
Graphics and Sound: Funnily enough, it looks like our current users are pretty indifferent about the game art, graphics, and sound (though most of them agree that we ought to spend some time improving things). Most of our userbase (and a good chunk of our survey respondents) are pretty competitive players who enjoy Prismata for what it is and don’t necessarily care to be critical of our art. That kind of criticism mainly comes from our newer players, who might need a bit more ‘convincing’ to give games like Prismata a shot. Aesthetic quality is an important signaling tool, and potential players can be driven away by lackluster visual polish, simply because they automatically assume that games with bad graphics are bad. So it’s pretty important for us to max out the graphical appeal of Prismata as much as we can. It’s a big part of what we’re spending our crowdfunding budget on. You can read more about our plans for graphics in last week’s blog article. For sound, I hope to announce something soon.
Tournaments/World Finals/Grandmaster League: We’ve got big plans for a massive competitive league for hardcore players. Before we get to that, we want to grow the game a little more, introduce our new arena mode and make some more tweaks to the rating and matching systems. But rest assured, it’s coming. There will be a Prismata World Championship in 2015.
Single Player Campaign: This is a massive project that we’re constantly working on. We want the campaign to be good. Really good. You can expect a cool world map, secret levels, a forking/branching mission tree, bosses, and optional hard-difficulty versions of everything. We’ll be discussing this A LOT MORE in the future, so stay tuned.
Raids: These look like they’re higher on the “WANT” list than the “SHOULD” list, but in reality, the score out of 7 is almost identical on both lists. Our raid teaser video got a lot of people excited during the Kickstarter campaign, but our plan for now is to prioritize the single player campaign to help grow our audience first. We might try to get a small demo out to the public sometime in the summer, but massive raid content production will probably not ramp up until the single player campaign is getting wrapped up.
Community: Our community is going to be our #1 most important resource as we grow Prismata in 2015, and our focus will mainly be on providing tools to build engagement and empower our existing users to share the game with others. Our wiki-editing contest is off to a great start (and still open for 3 more weeks; it’s not too late to earn a chance to help design a Prismata emote!) What community features would you most like to see in 2015? Got an idea? Send me a PM on reddit or submit a suggestion from within Prismata itself.
Tutorial for Beginners: If you’re playing spot the difference, you’ll notice that this one ended up at the bottom of the “WANT” list and the top of the “SHOULD” list, and rightly so—existing players really have no reason to care about a tutorial, but you all more or less agree that retaining new players is important. I would go as far to say that our entire new user experience is pretty awful right now. Here’s what we’re doing to fix it:
- New user progression system: We’re adding level-ups, gradual unlocks, and “quests” for new users to teach them the features of the game. Parts of it are done, but we’ll probably wait until the new menu interface is deployed before we put it in Prismata. It will also be entirely skippable (at least, that’s the plan).
- More basic mission content: Will has just added 10 new “intermediate-level” missions to Prismata, and another 10 are on the way. They’re very easy-to-create, simple missions aimed at teaching tactics and strategy to new players, showing them the various Prismata units, and giving them a little more content to chew on before the campaign becomes available. With our new stat-tracking, we’ll be able to see if users get stuck on individual missions, and make difficulty adjustments as needed.
- A proper click-through tutorial: We made an attempt at this last summer, and found that people actually just learned the game better from watching a youtube video. Instead, we’ve incorporated our work from the tutorial into the early missions of the campaign, which will ultimately replace the current single-player content in Prismata. We hope to have some version of the first campaign episode ready to put into the game in a couple of months, and it will contain a really solid click-through tutorial for new players.
Customization: This scored near the bottom on both lists, but the scores conceal a very widespread distribution—there are a lot of sevens and ones in the responses. A huge portion of our players simply don’t give a crap about skins, but many others really want them. And well… we’re kind of banking on that fact. Literally. As a free-to-play game, the success of our monetized content is really important if we want to keep growing the game and adding expansions, customization is a huge part of that. Some small batches of buyable content will be going into the game relatively soon (mostly as a way for us to test and refine our business models and software).
“What drives your interest in Prismata?”
This table shows the answers to the question above. On the left, you’ll see the percentage of people who have checked the option on the right. Respondents could check as many answers as they wanted.
|77.704%||Being genuinely good at the game.||This definitely says something about how hardcore our audience is.|
|64.680%||Playing to relax after a day’s work.|
|64.45%9||Knowing about all the different interactions and combinations of units.|
|62.914%||Competing with other players.|
|61.810%||Watching top players play Prismata.||Really awesome to see this up high on the list. Streamers, take note!|
|56.071%||Playing against friends that you know outside the game.|
|47.903%||Solving Prismata single-player gameplay puzzles.||Glad you guys like the puzzles. Lots more to come!|
|45.916%||Studying specific openings or tactical situations in depth.|
|36.203%||Watching friends play Prismata.|
|30.684%||Helping or chatting with other players.|
|30.022%||Moving up the ranks as fast as possible.|
|29.360%||Being involved in or participating in community chats while that group collectively watches a featured game.|
|28.698%||Playing to avoid thinking about real-life problems or worries.|
|27.815%||Playing to escape from the real world or willingly let an addiction consume your day/night.||Nice one, guys…|
|27.594%||Exploring intricate details of a single player puzzle, eg. how quickly it can be solved or if it can be solved without using a certain unit.|
|26.269%||Getting to know other players.|
|24.503%||Working with others in a group.|
|24.283%||Completing every single achievement/challenge in the game.|
|23.841%||Having meaningful conversations with other players.|
|21.854%||Enjoying the immersive story of Prismata.||We haven’t proven ourselves here yet, but trust me, it will be good!|
|21.634%||Being well known in the game.|
|16.777%||Being part of a serious guild or team.|
|15.894%||Acquiring rare skins or emotes that most players will never have.|
|14.790%||Collecting skins or emotes with no functional value or completing sets of them.|
|14.128%||Showing off your acquired skins, emotes, or badges to other players.|
|9.713%||Talking to friends in Prismata about things not-Prismata.|
|8.168%||Matching or color-coordinating your skins or emotes.|
|7.947%||Organizing community events|
|4.415%||Designing and publishing your own skin or emote designs.|
|3.974%||Intimidating, “BM”ing, or annoying other players.||I’m pretty happy that this is at the bottom of the list… but you 4% are jerks.|
Our goal is to try to understand our players’ motives for playing Prismata, so that we can better build the game to cater to their specific needs. It’s nice to know that some of you use Prismata to relax!
The results of a question like this will likely change as our audience grows and more casual players join. We’re generally pretty happy that a lot of our current respondents have serious interest in gameplay and the Prismata community, though we recognize that the respondents who filled out our survey are more likely to be highly engaged players. In the future, we’ll be running surveys like this through Prismata itself and rewarding players with in-game karma for completion in order to reduce the bias in our sample.
“What games have you tried in the last two years?”
Here, we awarded 0 points for “didn’t like”, 1 point for “somewhat liked”, 2 points for “liked”, and 4 points for “liked a lot”, and computed the average score based on respondents who selected something that wasn’t “didn’t play”. We want to know which games *really* excite our players, and the results speak for themselves.
|Score||% of people that ticked a box that wasn’t “Didn’t play”||Game|
|2.47619||27.815%||Dark Souls (1 or 2)|
|2.36502||58.057%||Magic: The Gathering|
|2.30827||58.720%||Starcraft II (WoL, HotS)|
|2.18182||26.711%||Mario Kart 8|
|2.17778||9.934%||Dragon Age: Inquisition|
|1.96026||33.333%||Counterstrike: Global Offensive|
|1.94276||65.563%||League of Legends|
|1.90123||17.881%||Grand Theft Auto 5|
|1.84426||53.863%||Plants vs. Zombies|
|1.66079||50.110%||Diablo III (Classic, RoS)|
|1.63226||34.216%||World Of Warcraft|
|1.57627||26.049%||Heroes of the Storm|
|1.33582||29.581%||Assassin’s Creed Series|
|1.13846||14.349%||World of Tanks|
|1.09155||31.347%||Call of Duty Series|
|0.52518||30.684%||Candy Crush Saga|
The top answer is pretty obvious; if you’re taking the survey, you’ve most likely tried Prismata and hopefully are enjoying it. The subsequent answers are mostly a mixture of games that were generally well-received, and games that share thematic or strategic concepts with Prismata. What I found most surprising is Dominion—a tabletop game—scored considerably higher than PC games like StarCraft and Hearthstone. Unsurprisingly, our audience isn’t as fond of MMOs, shooters, or FPS titles.
Desktop and Mobile Distribution: A Slightly Longer Explanation
I’ve ranted about this quite a bit in various comments on reddit, so I thought I’d bring everything together here and try to give a true answer to all the questions about the desktop version, steam, and possible mobile versions. Here’s a TL;DR:
- The current web deployment of Prismata benefits us greatly in the short run, and you can already play Prismata outside of the browser if you want.
- A full desktop installer will be made available, probably in 2015 (but no promises).
- We have a working Android tablet version, but it needs considerable development to not suck.
- It’s unclear whether App Stores or Steam would benefit Prismata, but all options are on the table.
Why target web at all?
There are several reasons why we currently have a browser-based version of Prismata deployed. Among them are the following:
- It makes it much easier for our users when we push updates. Many users would quit playing Prismata if they were forced to download and reinstall the software with every update (which can happen multiple times per week), and we don’t yet have a launcher app that can automatically update it.
- It lowers the barrier to entry: players don’t have to install anything to start playing.
- It lets us stream assets like music and images, so we save on bandwidth costs, and players can start playing their first game faster.
- It makes it easier for us to deploy Prismata to multiple platforms; for example, we don’t have to worry about separate installers for Windows and Mac.
- It actually increases play. Most desktop users have browsers open all the time, so Prismata is constantly one click away.
Can I play Prismata without a browser?
If all you want is to remove the browser title bars and tabs for streaming purposes, you can do that in Chrome using this method.
What’s the status on the Prismata standalone installer?
It’s not that far away. In theory, we can make a standalone right now using Flash Builder. In practice, we’d want to add an auto-updating launcher, add various OS-specific tweaks, find completely new solutions for integrating the AI, and write all kinds of build scripts to create and manage the huge number of versions we would construct for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Ensuring that all these versions work and are deployed properly will be a bit of a burden, and might slow us down as we continue to add more features. Moreover, additional work would be required to support offline bot games, local user save files, and other features that players would expect in a standalone client. It’s quite possible that these features won’t take much time to implement, but there are a lot of unknowns in play so delays are likely. Personally, I’d like to have a standalone client ready around the time that the campaign is ready for release.
It’s a bit tricky to decide how to prioritize the standalone installer. It seems clear from the survey results that our users want a full Prismata installer, but the reason behind this preference isn’t exactly clear. I spoke to a number of users and they cited long load times as the top reason, followed by performance. We investigated a bit further and discovered that many players were having issues where their browsers were not caching Prismata, causing it to be downloaded every time they visited the site! We fixed this by adding a ton of new caching functionality, and also reduced Prismata’s initial download size down to 1/3 of what it was last week. Hopefully, load time issues are a thing of the past. Several large performance improvements also went in during last week’s updates, so Prismata should be running quite smoothly in the browser. More performance improvements are coming soon.
Are you still having issues with Prismata’s load times or performance? If so (or if there’s another reason you want a Prismata installer), let me know! Should we rush to have a standalone client ready ASAP? Is it important enough to delay the campaign or other key features?
What about Steam and other digital distribution platforms (GOG, Humble, etc.)?
Prismata’s been up on Steam Greenlight for a few months and is likely to make it through the process. Once it gets through, Valve will send us a contract and we’ll have to decide whether it’s worthwhile to sign up. Of course, Steam is one of the largest digital distribution platforms for PC games. But it’s not completely obvious that it’s correct to put Prismata there. A few things to consider:
- Steam’s cut of the revenue is likely about 30% (according to various Indie Developers), though Valve specifically chooses to not publicly disclose this information (likely to preserve their ability to negotiate up or down as necessary).
- Though Steam’s audience is huge, the vast majority of top free-to-play games and MMOs are not on Steam (the only Steam games on either of those top 10 lists are Valve’s own games!)
- There’s considerable value in the automatic in-game advertising that occurs when friends log into the game (“X is now playing Prismata” is broadcast to one’s Steam friends), and this disproportionately benefits games like Prismata, in which many players clock hundreds of hours of play time.
Path of Exile is an interesting example of a free-to-play game with a similar cosmetics-only monetization strategy as Prismata. Their team kept the game off of Steam for years, only to go back on their decision in 2013. Chris Wilson (their lead developer) told me that the login and achievement popups were a considerable factor in their decision.
In any case, we’ll be taking our time to make the decision on Steam and other digital distribution platforms. We’ll likely want to wait until Prismata is considerably further along than it currently is.
What about mobile (phone and tablet) ports of Prismata?
Even though “Tablet Version” scored quite low on the “What do you WANT us to work on?” survey, the vast majority of the answers were ones and sevens. Our community is fairly divided between the 60% who would absolutely never play Prismata on a tablet, and the remaining 40% who seem to really want it.
We’ve actually already tried making both Android phone and Android tablet builds of the existing Prismata client. They both work!
Unfortunately, the phone client is pretty much unplayable. The clickable areas of the units on screen are so tiny that it’s almost impossible to play a real game. I don’t think Prismata will ever work on a 4-inch screen. We could make a client anyway if people want to try, or just want to use their phone to observe games. It wouldn’t really hurt.
On a 10-inch tablet, Prismata works much better. However, there are still a few issues with the user interface:
- There’s no mouseover on a touchscreen, so we need to develop a new system for displaying unit info panels.
- It’s really annoying to switch between the two tabs, and you need to do it constantly because there are no hotkeys available to buy base set units (probably we should find a solution in which both tabs are simultaneously visible).
- Units like Cryo Ray are really annoying to use, as there is no shift-clicking. It’s likely that we’ll need to implement a swipe-based or gestural method of selecting the whole pile at once.
- There are lots of general bugs, like some text boxes not being set up properly to work with touch input.
For these reasons (and others), it’s likely going to be a while until we have an officially supported mobile build of Prismata. Of course, we can put out a “crappy Android build that isn’t guaranteed to work” pretty easily. Is that something you folks are interested in?
What about mobile distribution?
The Apple App Store and Google Play Stores both take a 30% cut of all revenue we would earn through mobile sales, so there’s always the thought that we might do better if we try to keep our customers on the desktop app. For Android, there’s always the option of doing what Humble does with their Android games, which is to force their users to set their devices to accept non-market games, and then install the Apps manually. This skirts the Google Play store and avoids the 30% rake, but inconveniences the user. Of course, no such option exists on Apple devices.
An additional complication is that getting into the Play Store and App Store requires a fairly involved application and certification process, featuring various rules, fees, and opportunities for rejection.
Finally, it’s still not clear to me that games like Prismata will be successful on the key mobile stores, because the mobile market is very heavily geared toward casual players. The main value of a mobile port is for players to find the game through its success on the app store charts. Making the top 10 or top 100 is key, but even a top 10 spot within specific narrow game genres seems out of reach. The 11th ranked free strategy game on the iPad right now is Plants vs Zombies 2 at the time of writing. Can we do better than that? If not, then effort spent on a mobile port is probably just a waste of money.
That said, the mobile market is maturing and we’ll probably start to see more serious games do better in upcoming years. We’ve got an eye on it.
And that’s all… for now
Thanks for reading. And please have a look at our new survey, if you haven’t already.
See you all in game!