Thursday, 29 May 2014

Folk Tale Player Satisfaction Survey Spring 2014

To mark our Early Access anniversary, we wanted to ask as many of you as possible how we’d performed over the last twelve months. We launched the first ever Player Satisfaction Survey, and you sent us some very clear messages.

We received an impressive 500 survey submissions, with participation split evenly between active community members, and those who prefer to follow progress on a more casual basis. 9 out of 10 participants own Folk Tale.

UPDATE: The final count is 875 submissions, 375 of which were submitted after this summary was produced. The results have shown a slight overall improvement on an already positive set of results, but nothing that significantly changes the results presented in this blog. All these submissions will go towards forming the benchmark we'll use for the next survey.

Key Messages From Our Community
Here’s what you collectively told us through your answers and personal feedback.

1) Hurry up!;
2) You’re doing a great job in keeping us updated and being transparent;
3) Patch more often;
4) We want village building and RPG adventuring the most;
5) Most of us want sandbox, but there’s strong interest in a campaign-style storyline;
6) Half of us are interested in both playing and creating content;
7) Folk Tale has loads of potential, and we have confidence that you’ll deliver;
8) Blog more than once a month, but don’t compromise quality for quantity;
9) Overall we’re satisfied but there are clear areas for improvement.

Which of the following game modes would you most prefer?

Having marketed the game as sandbox, this question wasn’t so much about the sandbox answer, but how much interest exists for a more campaign-based experience similar to the Tutorial. With 35% expressing a preference for campaign, it’s worth us investing time into the Encounters system, our primary means of introducing storyline into sandbox.

Multiplayer continues to languish in third place, echoing the sentiment of the Steam Greenlight December 2012 Poll - that Folk Tale should be a single player game.

Which element of gameplay do you expect to find the most appealing?

Short term our focus is on village building and testing sieges ready for the Patch 0.3 milestone. That echoes the leading answer. When grouped with Economy Management and RTS, we should be meeting the needs of 64% of the audience with Patch 0.3. Our plan to then cross over to the RPG side of the game will ensure the needs of the remaining 35% are catered to. New environments, monsters, loot, heroes, levelling up, special abilities and quests will all be part of that.

How likely are you to use the Sandbox Editor to create your own worlds?

The community is fairly split on this. At least half have expressed an interest in creating and sharing worlds, and the easier we make it, the more community content is likely to be produced.

4 out of 10 are either unlikely or will never use the Editor. By meeting the needs of the half who have expressed an interest in creating worlds, and including a comprehensive world designed by ourselves, we should be able to meet the needs of those who prefer to spend their time playing content.

How important is it to have the ability to beautify your village with plants, benches, street lamps, and paths?

With only 22% of respondents declaring the feature as not important, we need to do something to address the preferences of the remaining 78%. So we’re going to introduce plans for beautification to improve villager happiness. While it won’t be a critical high priority feature, it will have a minor impact on gameplay, and hopefully make you more proud of your village.

How satisfied are you with the current dev blogs?

Blogging is certainly one area where you rate our performance, with 87% of respondents positive. More than half of the community are either satisfied or very satisfied with the content and format of the blogs. Almost half of the community regularly check the dev blog, with 94% having visited at some point during development.

While 7 out of 10 respondents rank quality over frequency, 6 out of 10 have expressed a desire for a new blog either fortnightly or weekly. Unfortunately due to budgetary constraints, it’s not practical to offer a high quality video blog more than once a month. However, in an effort to meet some of that additional demand, we’re going to pilot a text only mini-blog in between the monthly video blogs. We’ll iterate on the format with your feedback, and hopefully together can arrive at an acceptable compromise.

How satisfied are you our level of community engagement and communication?

Since launch we’ve endeavoured to include the community in the development process. The daily forum posts, one-to-one technical support, and high quality video blogs have reaped dividends, with 90% of respondents having a positive response. 65% are either satisfied or very satisfied with our level of engagement and communication, which is terrific.

How satisfied are you with the frequency of patch updates?

It’s been a challenging year since launch during which we’ve been focused almost exclusively on building the sandbox foundation which set us back an entire year. That means for a while we were unable to provide substantial updates, for which we suffered. While 66% are somewhat satisfied, satisfied, or very satisfied, 34% have been left dissatisfied. Your message that we must try harder has been received loud and clear.

Since the release of patch 0.2.0 in December, the patch situation has been gradually improving as promised, and as we approach patch 0.3 we’re achieving monthly patches. With a solid sandbox foundation now in place, we’re in a good position to push forward with meaningful content updates. Being one of our key performance indicators, I plan to invest greater effort into improving our lacklustre performance in this area, in the hope we can perform better when we repeat this question in future surveys.

How satisfied are you that Folk Tale will live up to the potential?

It would appear that the original creative vision remains firmly intact, and that development is progressing in the right direction. With 84% expressing a positive opinion, and 60% either satisfied or very satisfied that we’ll deliver on the game’s potential, it appears as a development team we have your confidence and backing.

Would you recommend Folk Tale to your friends?

I was pleasantly surprised by this result, re-confirming that while we need to do more to improve patches, we’re doing a respectable job. I’d expect more no’s as the survey extended to less engaged members of the audience, but even still this is a strong endorsement.

As an Early Access title, how do we fair when compared with other Early Access games?

This was perhaps one of the trickier questions to answer. It’s not uncommon in the forums for comparisons to be made with other developers in Early Access, so I was keen to understand how you felt we were measuring up. It’s prone to skewing, and isn’t one of the most robust of survey questions, so I’ll simply present the data as is, and leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Have you left a review on the Steam Store Page?

As much as I’m a fan of Steam, I’m no fan of the review system for Early Access games. With long development times, developers can end up with a handful of opinions based on very early builds that often bear no resemblance to the current state of a project. On Folk Tale, we’ve suffered at the hands of a few negative reviews posted before any sandbox tech was released. Those sometimes misleading reviews now hog the limelight, turning away potential backers who could help make the game you support even better by funding a larger team.

Based on the results of this survey, I’d really like to encourage you to read the reviews - both positive and negative - and if you agree with them, consider rating them up. As it stands, the reviews that are hogging the limelight don’t appear to be representative of the opinions that you have expressed in this survey.

Reviews can be found at the bottom of the Steam Store Page.

How satisfied are you with the overall development of Folk Tale?

With 78% of you expressing a positive opinion, we really feel supported by the community. We’ve got more work to do, especially when it comes to patching, but with your continued support, together we can push on and deliver a fantastic game.

Thank you.

I’d like to thank every one of you who took the time to complete the survey. You’ve provided us with a clear picture of where we need to direct our efforts, and where we’ve been doing a good job. Once we’ve had a chance to make some changes to our process, we’ll repeat the survey later in the year and hopefully we’ll have improved.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Folk Tale Dev Blog 23

Following the release of Patch 0.2.4 towards the end of last month, the team have continued to work in two streams: Patch 0.3 enhancements, and downstream content.

Patch 0.3 Enhancements

While combat and monster spawning is being worked on in Sandbox Player we're adding the final touches to the Grassland Kit, the environment where Patch 0.3 will take place. If you recall the village in the Tutorial, we have shoreline with sandy beaches. Because we want to migrate the Tutorial over to sandbox tech, we want to recreate all of the biomes as Kits. Sandy shoreline also gives us a number of options for Patch 0.3.x. Initially we'll have a beach spawn point where Goblin Warships will have landed, dropping off waves of goblin invaders. In later patches I'd love to have beach landings, and the possibility for your Trebuchet to sink ships before they have chance to disembark. But I digress.

To achieve the shoreline effect, we've created new shallow incline tiles, which can be combined with steeper hills to introduce deeper water. Using the Paint Tool we paint our beach tiles with the sand texture. Add in some water tiles, and a few new wave particle effects, place a couple of random rocks, and we have a nice looking shore.

Part of making the village feel more believable is the addition of colliders. In earlier builds it was possible for the camera to move right through buildings and city walls. We've now added physics colliders to buildings, so the camera should go up and over rather than through for a much more realistic experience.

In Patch 0.2.4 we had a number of bugs with City Walls which have now been fixed. Characters can now approach and walk up City Wall Stairs without issue, and will happily walk through gatehouses and turrets, allowing you to run all the way around your walls.

And finally, work is progressing on large-scale background props such as mountains so that location maps don't abruptly end at the boundary of the playable area.

Downstream Content: Swamp

Downstream Content is a term we use internally to refer to any content that won't be added until after the Patch 0.3 milestone. That includes the Kits for the different environments including desert, snow, lava and swamp, and the inhabitants that live there. The design of each environment biome begins with a concept diorama designed to communicate mood.

When the diorama reaches a state that we're happy with, work is branched into four tasks: textures, characters and architecture, loot, and soundtrack. The first is the production of a series of low resolution textures using the diorama for reference. Adding in basic lighting and painting some quick terrain geometry, we're able to confirm color, contrast, and scale before scaling up the textures and painting in the high resolution detail. Generally the Art Team work at a higher resolution and then scale down for the final texture.

With each biome being home to beasts and intelligent races, the second parallel task is to define what lives there, how, and the relationships between them. Having introduced Goblins in the Tutorial, we're expanding their culture to incorporate their habitat. What sort of things do our Goblins eat? How does environment influence architecture? Do they have a belief system? Do they have any natural enemies? All of these questions feed into creating a consistent racial story.

While the budget does not currently permit us to make the Goblins a comprehensive playable race for launch, we are able to introduce a believable AI-driven village while keeping the option of a playable race open for DLC.

We all love loot, and the RPG element of Folk Tale would be incomplete without it. Having defined a culture, we look at the items a race use. We wouldn't want Goblins dropping useless items, so instead we focus on weapons and armor, crafted items, and finally legendary items that form a race's back story. Concept sketches become loot icons, and once signed off handheld items are produced as 3D geometry and hand painted.

Finally, the diorama is provided with a written brief to the Audio Team. Several draft ambient tracks are composed, and the best elements combined into a final composition which then undergoes several iterations. Using the themes developed in the ambient track, a battle variation is produced which is cross-faded in during game play. Once both the ambient and battle tracks are complete, we test them in game to ensure they aren't too distracting to the player. You can hear the swamp ambient and battle music in the video at the top of this blog starting at 5'40".

Following community response, we also plan to add in an option to disable battle music if players find pounding drums too distracting.


Folk Tale Player Satisfaction Survey

It's the first ever 2-minute Folk Tale Player Satisfaction Survey. Tell us what you think of development so far and where we can improve. It's totally anonymous, and has 18 easy to answer multi-choice questions.

Take the survey now by visiting: