All About User Experience
Conquest! has always had problems retaining new players and User Experience (UX) has been my primary focus the past month. Part of the issue with retainment is the complexity of the game. This complexity manifested itself with a UX that only diehard fans of the game will dedicate enough time to learn its intricacies.
The UX improvements started with "The Basics", a set of instructions which would display when a player entered a new section for the first time. For example, here is the one for Combat:
"The Basics" can also be reset under the settings menu so players can review them again if necessary. Further improvements included reducing the scrolling when using the in-game chat, including enemy casualties in battle reports, and a better layout for the alliance settings.
This past week, at the urging of a new player named "Jj", I finally got around to adding the movement point and gold costs to most actions. A simple thing to be sure, but one I strangely resisted. Here is an example showing how much it costs to pray for honor:
And here is another which shows how much it costs to quest for your signature troop:
In the past I had resisted adding these to the game for two reasons. First, I wanted the flexibility to change them (which, ironically, I rarely do) without updating the client. Secondly, some of them are calculated and I resisted putting this logic in the client. I didn't say they were good reasons...
A majority of actions now display this information (I can think of 3 which don't; I'm still figuring out how to display the information). Rather than hope for the best or asking around, players now have access to this vital information instantly.
Jj has also been kind enough to create a Tumblr page for Conquest!. This new page, combined with the Wiki that AgedWizard and Deathmagnet have been working on, provide Conquest! with the best documentation it has had in its 23-year history. Thank you!!!
Another addition this week is the ability for players to delete entries from their journal. The journal tracks promotions, establishing/losing kingdoms, markets which are favorable, heroes and artifacts, etc. It is limited to 100 entries and will automatically overwrite older ones, which could lead to the loss of some important information. Players can now manage this better by deleting unwanted entries:
Finally, we introduced new class portraits. The old designs used pictures of the various classes, while the new uses symbols:
Conquest! is Live!
After ~8 months of development and beta, Conquest! is officially live and has already completed 2 Ages! It has been a busy month since I last posted.
The Reddit AMA was a success and generated a huge uptick in users. A big thanks to the Reddit community and Nicholas Laborde from Raconteur Games for helping me get it set up.
Since the go-live I have released an average of 1-2 builds/week. Some have been bug fixes but the majority include enhancements to the user experience. These have included "The Basics", an expanded tutorial-like system of help screens for new players, interactable journal entries, additional jump buttons to quickly navigate to other parts of the UI, updates to the tutorial, and several spelling errors corrected! Here is a shot of one of the new tutorial screens:
Since introducing the first "Basics" pop-up several releases ago, I have noticed a slight uptick in the number of new players completing the tutorial and that was the inspiration for creating eight additional ones.
Some new enhancements to the game include 8 new badges, 2 new artifacts, improved tracking of player statistics (jousts won/lost, naval victories/defeats, etc.), and an overview popup which shows a balance sheet style view of your kingdom:
The community has been growing slowly, with a mix of veterans from the original game returning and new players who have made it past the steep learning curve. The new alliance system, which allows up to 10 players to join together, has been a big help to old and new players alike. It's one of the enhancements to the game I'm most proud of.
In fact, this is probably the biggest lesson I've learned from launch: do not underestimate user experience, especially with a complex game. What seems intuitive or logical to one person (me) may be odd or downright confusing to another. I believe there is a mix of art and science here and I'm still learning it. Thanks to all the beta and current players who have helped make the game better by making suggestions.
Conquest! also has a new wiki page. It was created by a new player, AgedWizard, and has some very good information regarding strategy and tactics. It is located here. AgedWizard and RobinHood are also working on some gameplay videos, which will also help garner interest.
To celebrate the launch, I created a "Build the Realm" giveaway and the winners were announced on June 17th. It was a successful campaign and I intend to create more of them in the future.
Sign up for the Conquest! mailing list here and follow the journey on Facebook or Twitter. Until next time, I hope to see you in the game.
James has been working on Conquest! since 1993.