Saturday 25 April 2015

Player Satisfaction Survey Spring 2015

Each Spring we ask our community how they feel the development of Folk Tale is going. We listen to their feedback, and where possible set new targets to improve the Early Access experience. This is our second such survey, so we're able to look at what you told us last year, the steps we took, and measure their impact against your feedback this year.

This year we received an impressive 1352 survey submissions - more than double last year's count - with participation skewed towards those who purchased when we first launched in Early Access. The average player drops by occasionally to either the community forums or the dev blogs, rather than being an active community member. This year's audience is a broader reflection of the player base than in the prior year.

Key Messages From Our Community
Last year (2014) you told us:
  • Hurry up!;
  • You're doing a great job in keeping us updated and being transparent;
  • Patch more often;
  • We want village building and RPG adventuring almost in equal measure;
  • Most of us want sandbox, but there's a strong interest in campaign-style storyline;
  • Half of us are interested in both playing and creating content;
  • Folk Tale has loads of potential, and we have confidence that you'll deliver;
  • Blog more than once a month, but don't compromise quality for quantity;
  • Overall we're satisfied, but there are areas needing improvement;

And here's how we were able to respond in the 12 months that followed:

  • Patch more often We committed to at least one major patch per month, and have hit that target consistently;
  • Most of us want sandbox, but there's a strong interest in campaign-style storyline We focused our efforts on getting sandbox village building and economy into a playable state rather than spreading ourselves too thinly. We then committed to delivering faction-based storyline and a campaign-like experience within sandbox. With the addition of Workbench - our visual modding tool within the editor - everything is starting to fall into place to deliver a campaign-like RPG experience.
  • Blog more than once a month, but don't compromise quality for quantity Our content-rich blogs are time consuming to produce, so it wasn't going to be possible to blog more than one a month. Instead, we began streaming Dev Hangouts at, where the community could join us while we looked at the latest internal build, shared level design tips, and discussed ideas and changes.
  • Hurry up! Unfortunately there's not much we could do about this without a magic tree that grows money. I'm not prepared to sacrifice quality for speed, and with no significant budget changes, we can't expand the team beyond it's current size to deliver more quickly. It appears the majority are supportive of this approach, which we'll discover later.

Did these actions work? This year we took a more structured approach, hoping to gauge general feeling as well as to capture personalized feedback. We offered a range of positive and negative statements to choose from.

68% said - Don't rush, better to make it a great game;
58% said - I appreciate how open and transparent you are as a dev team;
55% said - I'm pleased with how the game is shaping up, keep it up;
21% said - Patch more often;
19% said - Oh my god, hurry up already and finish the darn game;
2% said - You guys suck, your game sucks, and I'm leaving;

Being the first year of asking the structured response, we can't deduce too much from these figures without having a benchmark year to compare them to. I was however surprised at the majority sentiment of don't rush, make it a great game. We've always been of this opinion, and it's nice to feel that most of you support us in that approach.

For unstructured feedback, we read every answer to the final free-form question where players could send personalized feedback. In the end, 54% of survey participants left us a message, the general themes of which were:

  • Load/save needed to be implemented

    This was by far the most common theme, and when load/save was added half way through the survey period, unsurprisingly feedback trailed off;

  • Give us campaign as well as sandbox

    The release of Workbench, our visual modding tool, is the first step to delivering a campaign experience within sandbox. Not only will Workbench empower community level designers to create their own RPG adventures, it will extend the replayability of Folk Tale, something that would not have happened had we continued developing the game solely as a campaign based experience;

  • Great communication

    We continued being active, open, and transparent, and you guys really appreciate that, which makes it all worth while. Then we went one step further with the Dev Hangout streams;

  • We need a tutorial in sandbox

    And we should have one in Patch 0.3 due the first week of May thanks to Workbench;

  • Focus on a core set of mechanics, balance them, and grow from there

    In Feb and March we did just that, and the game is all the better for it. We'll try our best to follow this approach going forward;

  • Ability to train more military

    In early May we should have building tiers enabled, with Tier 2 Barracks supporting 8 military, and Tier 3 supporting 12. If that isn't enough, we will increase it;

  • Fix bugs more quickly

    During development it's a trade off between keeping momentum going, and fixing bugs. In recent months we've been doing a lot to fix bugs and gameplay issues, and we'll be trying to fix reported bugs sooner following this feedback;

  • Development is slow

    With hindsight we launched in Early Access far too early. With a relatively fixed budget to work with, the team size that supports, and the quality we are striving to achieve, there's not much more we can do to make things go quicker. The majority (7 out of 10) seem supportive of doing the job well, not rushing, and releasing a quality game that lives up to the game's potential, and that continues to be our approach. 

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

Village Building: 46.9% (previous : 39%) +7.9%
Economy Management: 13.1% (previous : 15%) -1.9%
RPG: 30.1% (previous : 36%) -5.9%
RTS: 9.8% (previous : 10%) -0.2%

While the results somewhat echo previous feedback of wanting city building and RPG, there was an interesting surprise in how few prioritized economy. The relatively weak showing for RTS came as no surprise. We've long said that we aren't creating a Total War style game, or a pure RTS zerg-fest like Starcraft 2. Folk Tale is more of a personal experience where you become attached to the individuals within your village, rather than spamming out units in a mad rush to defeat an opponent.

The weak score for economy however did raise an eyebrow, and is perhaps worth discussing further in the forums. When considering all the scores, it suggests players aren't wanting to get bogged down in statistics and tweaking production. Instead, most players want to build up their village and support their heroes so they can go off adventuring, amassing riches, which in turn can be used to make their town and heroes even better. Which is great, because that is exactly where we're headed!

How satisfied are you with the gameplay available at this point in development?

Being a new question, we don't have a prior year benchmark to compare the results to. 71% expressed a positive satisfaction level with gameplay. With us only just starting work on the RPG side of the game, the mean somewhat satisfied result comes as no big surprise. Players are only playing a portion of a complete game, and as we add more mechanics and content gameplay should become more satisfying. Longer term, I wonder what role player fatigue will start to play.

How satisfied are you with the frequency of patch updates?

Very Satisfied: 14.2% (previous : 8%) +6.2%
Satisfied: 30.3% (previous: 29%) +1.3%
Somewhat Satisfied: 31.1% (previous: 30%) +1.1%
Somewhat Unsatisfied: 13.8% (previous: 16%) -2.2%
Unsatisfied: 6.4% (previous: 9%) -2.6%
Very Unsatisfied: 4.2% (previous: 8%) -3.8%

76% of survey participants were positive about the frequency of patches compared to 67% last year, which I'm relieved to see after making regular patches our number one priority. There's always room for improvement, but it's a positive move in the right direction, and one we'll continue to focus on.

How often do you watch one of the weekly Dev Hangout streams?

No surprises here. In-stream viewing and archived viewing figures from our YouTube channel support these results. With time generally a scarce commodity for a lot of players, few join the actual stream, while a significant number catch the occasional video after being posted on YouTube.

For us, the Dev Hangouts provide an opportunity for some playtesting, while connecting with our most active community members. The greater value lies in providing the broader community with a very recent overview of development progress; something to fill the gaps between the monthly dev blogs.

How satisfied are you with the current dev blogs?

Blogging continues to be one area where you rate our performance, with 90% of participants positive compared to 87% last year. Overall, blog readership has declined, with players now reading occasionally rather than regularly.

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

The daily forum posts, one-to-one technical support, high quality video blogs, and Dev Hangouts continue to reap dividends, with 91% of survey participants having a positive response. The figures remain consistent with the previous year, reflecting our continued high levels of community engagement.

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

With 83% expressing a positive opinion that we’ll deliver on the game’s potential (no change from last year), we have retained community confidence and backing.

Would you recommend Folk Tale to your friends?

7 out of 10 would recommend Folk Tale (no change on last year). As we continue to add mechanics and content, I'm hoping to build on this.

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

With Early Access now another year old, it's likely players own more Early Access titles in their collection, allowing them to make a better judgement (7% now have no opinion compared to 11% last year). 43% now consider Folk Tale to be a better Early Access experience than other such titles, up from 31% in the previous year. That's a sizeable jump that I can only attribute to our commitment to transparency and community engagement.

Have you left a review on the Steam Store Page?

86% of participants haven't left an Early Access review. There's nothing to read into this, other than being an interesting statistic.

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

With 79% of participants (78% last year) expressing a positive opinion, community support for Folk Tale remains strong, for which we are really appreciative. Your support and participation is helping shape what we all hope will be a fantastic game.

Thank you.

I’d like to thank every one of you who took the time to complete the survey. Yet again you have provided us with a clear picture of where we need to direct our efforts, and where we’ve been doing a good job.