Dev Update 6 : Survey Results Part 3

This is the final part of the survey analysis. In part 1, which you can find here, I wrote about: rating, platforms, and feature importance – and more. In part 2 (here) I wrote about: localisation, accessibility options, configuration options, and pricing. 

This part focuses on: multiplayer modes, comparison with other games, proposed feature ideas, and some general comments and explanations.

Multiplayer Modes

In the survey question, “Describe how your ideal multiplayer mode would look like (asynchronous/synchronous, how much time per move, any other multiplayer specific features)” participants were able to answer free form in a text box. Consequently, it took some time to read through all the answers, categorise them, and extract all meaningful information.

First, let’s look at the only chart you will see in this post. The chart displays what participants consider an essential multiplayer mode.

As you can see, “Asynchronous” (66.2%) is slightly ahead of “Synchronous” (53.1%). In comparison, “Pass ‘n’ Play” (4.8%) is rarely mentioned.

For “Synchronous”, most of the turn times mentioned ranged from one to five minutes. For “Asynchronous”, this was from thirty minutes to one week. Bear in mind that the majority of participants gave a general answer, and were not necessarily thinking about the digital edition of Tapestry when they did so. The digital edition of Tapestry will definitely have both asynchronous and synchronous play. However, the decision concerning Pass ‘n’ Play is not yet made.

So, let’s talk a bit about the settings in which people want to play multiplayer games. This is not an exhaustive list but I think it covers the majority of settings:

  1. You want to play a game against friends. You already know each other and just want to enjoy the game in a comfortable and friendly atmosphere. This is mainly about the atmosphere and enjoying the company of friends. The game might not even matter that much.
  2. You want to play the game, and it doesn’t really matter whether the other players are friends or strangers. This is more about enjoying the game, but it is not seriously competitive.
  3. You want to play the game and compare your ability to play against others – this is basically ranked play. This is a very serious way of playing; comparable, for example, to chess tournaments.

As you can see, the list increases in “seriousness” and I think all three settings would have different “timer” requirements:

  1. For a game against friends there is usually no need for a timer at all. The same way you would not usually play with a timer if you met at your place for board games. Though I think that there should be the possibility to “nudge”, or to call “time” on players so that they only have a limited duration left for their current turn. However, I’d say that calling time would need to be done by at least half of the players, otherwise that one impatient friend could easily ruin a friendly game.
  2. This should be the most configurable in terms of time, as the type of people you play with varies greatly. I will later go into more detail regarding this.
  3. Ranked play, I think, is a special case. Since the purpose of a ranking is to make player performances comparable, this in turn should mean that the circumstances the performances take place in should be comparable also. As a result, ranked games should all have the same “time-settings”. This would also inevitably mean that there would be two different “ladders”; one for synchronous play and one for asynchronous play. Even though I think this would work, I wonder what the player base think and if there are any reservations.

Due to the fact that the turns in Tapestry increase in complexity over time, I don’t think a fixed “time per turn” period would work. Rather, I propose we go with something similar to how time is handled in chess tournaments. Each player has a fixed contingent of time for the whole game, but for every action during the game, a short amount of time is added. I specifically speak of action, as this inherently reflects the complexity of a Tapestry turn. While in the beginning of the game a turn consists only of a few actions, e.g., “choose advancement turn”; “choose track and payment”; “choose where to explore”, later turns can snowball into large combos. Thus, actions here correlate to the number of decisions a player has had to face. 

Not specifying time as “time per turn” also fixes handling of special cases, e.g., when your turn is interrupted by someone else having the choice of playing a trap card.

Therefore, for unranked play (1. + 2.) I suggest the following options to be configurable:

  • Asynchronous or synchronous play
  • Use time bank yes/no
  • Replaced by AI on dropout/timeout or just “freezing” in time and points at that point

For games that use a time bank:

  • Time contingent for each player (freely configurable, I don’t mind Blitz Tapestry or one move per day time frames)
  • Time to add per action (freely configurable)

For games that do not use a time bank:

  • Minimum time within a turn before player can be nudged/voted out
  • Minimum total time for a player, before that player can be voted out (*1)

In case a time bank is not used, any game without activity for 72h would be stopped on the server.

*1 is basically a safe guard for players who are simply slow and do not show malicious behaviour. 

Furthermore, except for ranked games, I suggest a system in which all players can agree –  during the game – to add time to all players’ time banks. It is frustrating if you play a long game, and only realise close to the end that you set a slightly too short time limit.

Finally, similarly to the way Boardgamearena and others do, we will implement a reputation / karma value for each player which reflects how often they successfully finished games / were voted out / timed out.

Comparison with other Games

Another thing we asked in the survey was, “Things that other games did wrong, and that you would like us to prevent:”. For obvious reasons, I am not going to list which games were praised and which critiqued. But, after reading, tagging, and categorising all replies, these are the top 20 issues that were reported:

  1. UI issues – (this included things like unintuitive UI / too complex UI and general reports about “bad UI”)
  2. Too many bugs
  3. No, or a bad, tutorial
  4. No undo function
  5. Visuals too over the top – way too much like a computer game
  6. AI too easy or cheating
  7. Visually not true to original – similar to 5., but specifically referring to the missing recognisability
  8. Animations not skippable
  9. Animation speed not configurable
  10. Multiplayer lobby system not good / multiplayer mode generally not well done
  11. Font size not configurable
  12. Digital version not true to board game rules and does not offer the same things as the board game (e.g., missing Automa)
  13. No game log to view previous turns in a multiplayer game
  14. No overview screen on which it is easy to see all information for all players
  15. AI speed not configurable
  16. Developer too slow in putting out updates for bugs
  17. Expansions not available
  18. Rulebook not viewable in game
  19. Too expensive
  20. No proper asynchronous play

Feature Ideas

A lot of interesting ideas were written down in response to the question, “Other features that you think would be awesome:”. I will just list them here (my comments are in parenthesis), combined with ideas I collected during development myself. Be aware that listing something here does not necessarily mean that it will make it into the digital edition. However, as always, if something sparks a big discussion and it looks like a lot of people want it, then the chances of it being in the digital edition will definitely increase:

  • Have a learning mode with exposed cards
  • Tutorial as a free version (this was planned anyway) / Have a demo version
  • Have a helper/scoring app for the digital board game similar to the Gloomhaven helper. (I am not sure what a helper should have or not, or how it even could help)
  • Player stats combined globally (this was planned anyway)
  • Online saves that can be continued on another platform
  • Card gallery / Civilization gallery
  • Challenges / Seeded games to compare your games with friends (I planned a variant of this before, but I am not yet sure how we will approach this)
  • Have achievements
  • Restart old finished games mid-game vs an AI to try out different decisions (I thought this was a pretty cool idea!)
  • Implement a handicap so you can play versus your kids
  • Offer the option of tournaments
  • AI assisted beginner mode, i.e., during play, if you are about to make a bad move, receive a popup to show what the AI would do instead
  • Similar to the beginner mode, the ability to review games and see which decisions an AI would have done differently
  • House rules / game variants
  • Pinpoint objects for other players during multiplayer games
  • A game manual which is searchable
  • Leave yourself a note in multiplayer games so you don’t forget what you were going to do on your next turn
  • Have a planning mode for your next turn, so that once your turn comes, you can auto-submit this. (This is something that Jamey also suggested in one of our initial emails, and on which I am pondering. This would definitely be a very interesting feature, but it also is pretty complicated to implement in a proper way)
  • Have the game update your plays on BGG
  • Have penalties for quitting a multiplayer game
  • Have a team variant
  • Multi-location hot seat, i.e., be able to combine Pass ‘n’ Play with multiplayer over the internet (Interesting idea, but also pretty challenging to implement!)
  • Profile or “bragging” page where you can display some stats about yourself, like number of games won, highest score, etc.
  • Setup automatic reactions, e.g., “Play trap if conquered”
  • Custom avatar
  • Share game saves with friends
  • Display in some way what others are doing / looking at (not sure about this idea as this might give away information about one’s strategy)
  • Show the required resources that one would need to pay to get to a specific spot on an advancement track (this is a pretty neat idea!)
  • Incorporate BGG fan expansions as a variant and have some form of templates for daring coders to add new civilizations (modding ability is indeed something I am thinking about)
  • Twitch interaction so viewers could see multiple players hands or tableaux
  • Have a button to start a dice roll, as this feels more satisfying than the dice roll starting by itself (Is this something that a lot of people feel?)

Final remarks

A few final remarks:

First, and again, thanks to everyone who took part in the survey. I am still amazed at how many people took the time to fill it out! As you have seen, your voice undoubtedly has an impact on development. Take the Automa for example, before the survey I was on the fence as to whether to include it (leaning towards not), and now I am glad to say that we will definitely include the Automa!

Another thing the survey showed, but didn’t really come through in this analysis: is that it feels like there are two “factions” among the participants: the one group who prefer to have the digital edition very “bare-bone” and just very, very close to the board game in digital form (like Boardgamearena or Yucata). Then there is another group who complain that a lot of digital board games are just that and don’t take advantage of animations, or are not “juicing it up”. Root is a prime example for this, a lot of people praised it and a lot of people hated it. You can’t be everyone’s darling!

Finally, one thing that was mentioned several times was that it is annoying that in most digital games everyone has to own a copy to play against each other. This is something we are looking into, but as we haven’t yet finalised how to best approach it, I am not gonna spill too many details. Rest assured, we will try things differently!

2 thoughts on “Dev Update 6 : Survey Results Part 3”

  1. (Possibly a double post, sorry)
    I’d be confused with the timing thing. If it’s required to manually press a button to end my turn then I’d struggle to remember and you may as well not bother having fixed turns. If the game does it automatically then I’d wonder if there was a bug for letting one player have more time than me. Not everyone plays chess and I can’t think of a similar digital board game that does this so if you use time limits in this way, explain it well in a tutorial and maybe have settings for turning it off.

    1. You wouldn’t have to press any extra buttons. Have you ever played the digital version of Scythe? Imagine that (everyone has a fixed amount of time for the total game), just that everytime you do an action a small amount of time gets added on top of that!

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