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Enhancement Request Part 1: The Game Launch


cwestbrook20
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Intro

I mentioned in my review of EoS that I would take some time and provide feedback on areas that distracted from my great experience with the game. I spent the time to put my perspectives together because I do feel this game was one of best overall experiences that I have had with a game in the past year. I feel the developers deserve this game to become a major hit (or net them enough to meet their personal goals.)

This feedback was based on version 1.01 (Build 8164)

I used a 1-4 scale to rate what I felt was important or not important

4 - Very Small, Display Issue, Nice to have, the 1%

3 - Minor Issue, some missed value, not intuitive

2 - Distracted, Caused Confusion, Took time away from game, good value

1 - Must Have, Critical Feature

Initial Launch

Rating: 2

What I consider the 'out of box' experience and the first opportunity at engaging the user into your game. I felt that I was not satisfied with the presentation.

  1. Click the shortcut to the game
  2. See a initial launch window (so quick that I cannot even see the picture)
  3. Then the game (menu) is up
  4. Then see a second loading popup for images (0/96), only a couple of seconds, then goes away
  5. The game is ready for input (ex. start a new game)

To me this was a distraction, I expect to wait a small amount of time to get to the game. I know that things have to load before I can get started. A skipable intro video or two and I am ready to go, some asset loading, and so on. With EoS I sort of had two 'loading' screens, be that they were very quick, it seemed unordered and unpolished. It was enough to take me out of my 'ok cool, ready to play a game' and got that ? mark over my head for a moment, then moved on. The next time I went to play I found myself launching the game 2-3 times to try and see what the first picture was...

Game Launch Flow

I feel you are also at risk for 'scaling', if needed, to modify your game launch flow. Let's say you have 201 pictures to load than 96, let's say you have enough money to dedicate to an intro video, or your publisher will take a smaller cut if you put their logo at launch. (Think EA, Ubisoft, Activision, on AAA titled games, etc.) Some games are even putting a screen of their expansion during loading. Lastly, see my next heading about branding.

Consider move the loading of game assets to before the main game menu is presented to users. Feature beta, use the same popup, Feature v1 integrate into the UI.

Missed Value - The Brand

This is the real reason why I gave this a rating of 2, you are missing out on some great branding opportunities here.

AtomicBoy Software is an awesome name, it gives a sense of a company behind the product, it's witty, makes the nerds in us smile, and it's really who you are to your customers. Unless EoS is your one time college project, then you want to let people know who you are very clearly.

Your game EoS, while important, is just one game... While AtomicBoy Software is the creator of many high quality games, or will be someday right? You want the reviewer, the gaming customer, or the friend next to them to know your name, your Brand. It doesn't take a lot to call this out as your game is loading and let the world know who makes great software.

In Summary, ask yourself, "what is the goal?" for each interaction you have with your user. What is the impression you want your use to be left with, How does feature x help to engage the user, to connect with them, to increase the value. Work to provide ways to have users begin to know Atomicboy Software and transfer some of the trust they have with 'the next game' to 'the next gaming company'.

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Initial Launch

Rating: 2

What I consider the 'out of box' experience and the first opportunity at engaging the user into your game. I felt that I was not satisfied with the presentation.

  1. Click the shortcut to the game
  2. See a initial launch window (so quick that I cannot even see the picture)
  3. Then the game (menu) is up
  4. Then see a second loading popup for images (0/96), only a couple of seconds, then goes away
  5. The game is ready for input (ex. start a new game)

To me this was a distraction, I expect to wait a small amount of time to get to the game. I know that things have to load before I can get started. A skipable intro video or two and I am ready to go, some asset loading, and so on. With EoS I sort of had two 'loading' screens, be that they were very quick, it seemed unordered and unpolished. It was enough to take me out of my 'ok cool, ready to play a game' and got that ? mark over my head for a moment, then moved on. The next time I went to play I found myself launching the game 2-3 times to try and see what the first picture was...

Game Launch Flow

I feel you are also at risk for 'scaling', if needed, to modify your game launch flow. Let's say you have 201 pictures to load than 96, let's say you have enough money to dedicate to an intro video, or your publisher will take a smaller cut if you put their logo at launch. (Think EA, Ubisoft, Activision, on AAA titled games, etc.) Some games are even putting a screen of their expansion during loading. Lastly, see my next heading about branding.

Consider move the loading of game assets to before the main game menu is presented to users. Feature beta, use the same popup, Feature v1 integrate into the UI.

Thanks for the feedback.

"Feature beta, use the same popup" - you mean use the picture window to also display the "loading image (0/96)" text? This would give players just one popup window, and it would give them enough time to see the picture as well? Something like this (and maybe add a company name too):

SplashScreen-Prototype.png

"Feature v1 integrate into the UI" - I'm not sure what you mean here. Do you mean, instead of having a popup window, it should simply show the main-menu and maybe some "loading" text or a loading bar, but not stop players from accessing the menu?

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Actually your mockup was was exactly what I was suggesting for the long term.

It gives you more control over to what is presented to the user and the groundwork for getting your name/brand in front of users.

Here is what I would consider a solid way to EoS, keeping some of those business goals in mind.

1.) User runs shortcut

2.) EoS loading window comes up (using the mockup you posted, just blank the image for the moment in your mind) (*See consideration #1)

3.) Two things happen:

A.) EoS loading window displays something like, "AtomicBoy Software Presents" or "An AtomicBoy Software Production" in the center 'content' area and cycles through to the EoS logo, publisher, etc.

B.) EoS loading window starts to run it's loading functions(hopefully OOP style...lol) This updates the loading message to display status and updated as needed on the bottom of the loading window. (*See consideration #2)

4. EoS loading window finishes the cycle A/B and loads the Main Menu (*See consideration #3)

Consideration #1

When displaying your logo, your best bet is to have nothing else on the screen so that users are not distracted by anything else. It's fine almost everywhere else, but logo and your name should be isolated and front/center. To do this, make your logo take up the whole Loading Window, depending on your personal style (or your role models for games) offer a very small or simple animate gif. This whole window should only be seconds long before going to the next stage.

Consideration #2

I didn't mentioned this earlier, but displaying the actual 0/96 or 201/201, is actually something you want to avoid. It is a mental distraction, it gives maybe a little too much insight into whats going on behind the scene. People might ask, why are their not any new images, why 96, when did this change, etc. It's too early in the game to start the mind down that ave.

So stick with percentages or loading bars if you can. Also depending on what theme EoS is catering too, if you are going the serious 'simulator' route or the 'game' route, then you can include those fun or entertaining 'Loading World....", Sending Destroyers to the Pacific...", "Searching for spies...", "Breaking encryption codes..." and so on. I personally believe that humor in games make for stronger connections.

If you take that route, you would want to make sure, if their is not already, some type of logging going on behind the screen, this way if it crashes during a load, you can raise an error that actually makes sense to the developers.

Consideration #3

Moore's law in mind (ex. always faster computers), even after all current 96 images are loaded, the screen should not just transition to the Main Menu without input.

At least five-seven total seconds before auto transition is good. (up to you if you provide the, click or press any key to continue before the auto transition.) During this total time, you would perform all of the steps listed above, such as loading the images.

Once the actual loading is done, if you want, put up a countdown, "Invading US... in 5", "Airlifting Paratroopers in 5", etc. Plus countdowns are good, the often lead to something big, which in your case is the game.

All ideas, you just have to work the ones you like into your style and vision.

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I will be the first one to agree that their is nothing wrong with the way the game loads today.

The feedback touched on if their was a missing opportunity, a chance to increase value to the business through clear banding.

@Slaver, I am sorry that you saw this feedback as nitpicking and it is not intended to be. I know a very thin line exists between nitpicking and polishing, my goal is to not cross this line.

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I think it's perhaps the verbosity of the posts that could make someone think it was nitpicking or at least in some way smug. Unfortunately, as thorough and as well-written as these suggestions are, I can't help but see a lot of it as rather subjective (i.e., it doesn't necessarily make the game any better, it's just how you would have done it if you had written the game yourself).

Critiquing a critique? Yes, sir. Let's get meta!

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@Akiva Feedback from a single source is subjective by nature and I feel my only saving grace from smugness is making it very clear that this feedback are requests, handing full control over these to AtomicBoy Software. I also try to include references, if at all possible. (such as the book Designing the Moment)

I already think it's a wonderful game, so if none of these enhancements make it into the game, it doesn't change my opinion of the game (or developers...lol)

I do get a little forward with my suggestions, in part because I hope that it sparks constructive conversations. Are these suggestions the way that I would do it, probably... Does it mean it's the right way, not really, but it's the prompt to discussion.

Some of these discussions are internal business questions for AtomicBoy Software.

An example of this would be about if they consider having their name and logo in front of customers valuable. (reference, Brand Awareness)

Others are good for external discussions with the community

Would you rather have:

A.) See a loading window with neat random pictures for less than a second, then another loading screen that locks the UI?

B.) See neat random pictures, while loading, then go right into using the game.

(And here is where options C, D, E, F can be added and discussed.)

Some might be long term planning related

Would you rather have

A.) A UI locking popup, with multiple loading stages, such as 96 images, then another 5 for language files, then another 25 high-def pictures, etc.

B.) A scalable way to load multiple types of assets, while following a recognizable design pattern.

(and so on....)

At my day job I get the luxury of working directly with Business Analysts whose job it is to sit down and pick out the 'important' (subjective) features and expected benefits. In the context of this thread, a very shortened version our process would be to look at all of the Competitive Intelligence(CI) that our marketing department has collected about the 'out of box' experience with out competitors. They would get what the minimum features that we need in place to remain competitive. Then we would look at how our market fits with those features, weigh in if we need to innovate or areas we could increase value (to the customer or business), and then with those in place we finally get to bring the developers in to share what technical requirements, level of efforts, and any legacy requirements. Then after all this takes place, the first line of code can be started or modified. Then comes all the QA, usability testing, etc... We then are constantly working with customers and other departments to perform A\B or would you rather type of testing, seeing which is more effective.

I share this example because with a small company like AtomicBoy Software, you have very limited resources. Until you have enough capital to increase your internal resources, you must rely on your community. For EoS you can see that a great one exists. We get the chance to play some of those roles I mentioned above in the hopes of helping.

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I agree with cwestbrook. If you ever watch a movie or the major game titles load, the first thing you usually see is the studio image (or video now). I think you should come up with a cool atomicboy intro, it doesn't have to last more than 5 secs or so, but it gives you identity and that is important from a branding perspective.

Loading the images and artwork on a flash screen is fine or do it while you are showing off the atomicboy logo. If you've ever seen the dreamworks studio intro you know what I'm talking about.

Marketing a game and the studio behind it is a big deal. Far more important than most people believe.

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What I do is try to figure a way to get rid of the logo and go directly to the game when it loads. Sometimes it can be done through the shortcut, sometimes I can just delete the movie from my hard drive. Whatever. If I can't get rid of it, I get irritated every time the game loads.

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Yeah, put an escape key on it so we can by-pass it, but having one is a good thing and even if rich pushes escape everytime, if he hasn't played in a while, he'll see the logo and it will remind him who made the game and he might look for other titles by the same studio.

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@rich12545 - Agreed, after I have seen the intro for the first time, I really don't want to see it again. I want to play the game.

I think that studios who force you to watch three game developer logos, the publishers logo, intro video, feel that their choices are more important that yours. It is a very mild form of control, but anyways...

This is why I tossed out Consideration #3, which hinted at offering some way to 'skip' past the screens, once the required assets were done loading, regardless of what is being displayed to the user at the time.

@Kelly's Heros - You have it right on the nose. Even seeing the image or logo for a brief moment, you are building and strengthening the connections in your brain that relate to that object. Those connections connect to other receptors so remember, it could be a changing things for good like brand awareness, and/or bad such as with @rich12545 response to being forced into watching something.

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I have to admit that I don't like those logo screens at the beginning of the game startup, but if the video takes very little time to load and something else is going on in the background (like loading game images, sounds, etc) that has to be done before the game starts, then I really don't mind.

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