5/16/2022 in devlog
The company creation screen is getting a new coat of paint!
If you're wondering what I am working on when the servers aren't acting up: it is a re-design of the company creation screen. One of the driving forces for this is that we see more and more players reporting that they cannot create a company because the get an error like "invalid input". This is most likely due to the name already being taken, but the current design with the tabs is brittle and makes it hard to actually show the correct error. For every player that reports a bug, there are usually many others that remain silent. So it is an urgent matter. Instead of fixing the current layout we decided to re-implement the whole process.
It is not only going to be a re-write, but also a re-design with a focus on new players' perspective. Similar to a RPG where you select your class first, we'll have the company profile (Victualler, Fuel Engineer, ..) first. A new player, who doesn't know anything about the game, can choose what sounds the best and what they like the most.
Next comes the Faction selection. The faction choice isn't as important as we like it to be yet, so we will only show minimal information. Next to the faction selection controls, we'll show the universe map with the factions highlighted, so the players get a sense of where everything is.
The starting location screen then allows the user to select from a list of starting locations filtered by the faction. It shows basic information about the selected planet, like population, resources, just like before. The starting location will be highlighted on the map.
In the last step, the players can then choose a company name and code. We have changed how the forms behave, and once there is some valid input (minimum length requirement fulfilled) it checks on each keystroke if a given name or code is actually available. This will solve the problem of players getting stuck when entering names that already exist.
There are some really helpful suggestions on how to re-design the company creation screen in the forums. Most of the suggestions seem to be focused on advanced players though. Our focus is on new players' perspective! Making the company creation screen too complicated, will not help them. It is always a balance between allowing an informed decision and copying elements from the game into company creation. The game allows starting over with a COLIQ, and we have seen in the past that players are willing to do so once they get some experience and helpful comments from the community. We feel that information like "how many materials of type x" each profile has, is more relevant for someone creating their second and subsequent companies and can easily be counted as "wiki-information".
Last among many tasks, I am trying to come up with a plan for our paid search marketing. It has been very difficult to use many of the platforms: Facebook, Google, Reddit for promoting the game. Usually it comes down to budget; we are an indie studio and don't have tens of thousands of dollars to throw into the ad machine like other AAA companies do. But we do think there is some kind of strategy that we make can work out, if we optimize correctly. Lately, I've been contacting some performance ad consultants to see what they have to say about our strategy and what could we do in order to get both more registrations and paying players into the game. So far it has been very educational to understand more about digital ads and the different platforms, but we will ultimately have to take the plunge again if we want to see if this will actually work as a realistic tool for us. Fingers crossed!