Campaign and UI vs Population of the Game

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Campaign and UI vs Population of the Game

Post by Salienia » Wed Jun 27, 2012 5:28 am

This is all a personal opinion though I feel it is supported. - Please read and respond with your own thoughts.
I really would like to bring this to the attention of the community (and maybe it is already noticed - but just in case ;D)

According to Steam statistics (which I understand may not be the whole community but I would assume is probably quite a large portion): only 0.9% of the community has finished the original campaign. Wow. I have had this game for a while and am immensely enjoying it - even if only on and off sometimes - so much so that the moment I had heard Red came out I quickly bought it, but even after having the game essentially since release, I have never finished the original campaign. Hell I have only touched the first two missions of the Red campaign (P.S. I love lore and singleplayer, I'm not only a multiplayer junky) yet me and the rest of the 99.1% of the steam community have not even finished the original campaign.

From what I have played of the original campaign I can see that the missions had a ton of depth and were designed well (seeing as the whole thing was random <3 ) yet what seems to be most of us have not bothered to see it through. I would really love to see this game reach the main market of strategy - even if simply advertised as much as Sins of a Solar Empire or any other reasonably large strategy game - yet with the current set-up of the game it seems mostly impossible.

Usually when someone buys a new game they go straight to the singleplayer, its available, its treading the water without the fear of being called a noob, etcetera; the whole buy one get one free model works great if you have someone for that extra, but if you don't have that special someone to send it to you usually check the singleplayer to see if its going to be worth it even if you hate the multiplayer without your friends. The problem is that the campaign and singleplayer grows old fast and so it doesn't give that satisfaction the 'lone-wolves' (so to say) would want. I've introduced countless friends to this game, yet the consistent issue is simply consistency. They don't become invested in the singleplayer and the multiplayer doesn't SEEM to be the focus of the game. Great you log on to a server and there is a multiplayer button which on good days shows a list full of people, but you can't tell that anything is happening. There is no available chat without exploring the UI and the news feed almost makes the menu look less like the game menu and more like the cover page to the real game.

I think you guys at Mode7 made an amazing game, I just hate to see it fail because of UI error. If singleplayer is not the focus of the game, then you really need to help the UI. I bought this game with my friend - we were both super excited - we logged on, he laughed at my name, all that stuff; but the moment we couldn't find each other in the UI easily, besides seeing our names in the online list (i.e no friends list, no easy to locate private chat, no "private room" away from the total online server list or anything like that) he completely lost interest, and I was left all on my lonesome [after a couple games where I wooped his arse hehe]. I went on to play the singleplayer, quickly lost interest and solely played multiplayer, and he only ever logged on once or twice more to play with me until he finally gave up completely.

The IRC chat is great, but what if you don't know how to use it, or you are intimidated by the fact that the IRC chat is full of people that aren't actually on the online server list? In game its just as annoying to only be able to chat through the little box on the side - have the chat box constantly on with a little minimize or resize button!!! People NEED TO KNOW that they CAN chat, not FIND OUT that they can chat. Its the same with the online UI page with the news feed - automatically join the IRC chat and have it open with a minimize button; don't make people go looking for it!!

I honestly am not a game designer, a Java programmer sure, but not nearly of the calibre to properly design functional code for high profile and quality games - and so I have the utmost respect for the developers of this game ( *tips hat* ) but I REALLY HATE to see Frozen Synapse fail on the main stage of gaming! Learning the tips and tricks of this game are very hard, but the basics are so enjoyable and available to anyone. Simple UI changes like ....

-friends list
-readily available help menus with small amounts of info for everything, not just the little question mark with EVERYTHING
-open and welcoming chats, instead of chats that are hiding off to the sides and corners
-smaller news feeds
-end game, and profile pages easier to understand (right now they are riddled with buttons I just never click or explore)
-challenge menus that show you your options more fully ( I don't want to challenge a random stranger to a game of charge if I don't even know how to play charge )

.... would really help people get into the game. Once people realise that the game is actually easy to navigate and people are around to chat to them they'll be more willing to stick through losing multiplayer games or to the incredibly hard (albeit fun) singleplayer campaign. Or even just more multiplayer content ( Love the new fixed map ) will help people realise that the game is fun and has general standards for everyone to compete on instead of feeling like a small fish in a big sea of blue bland UI.

[finally] Else, if the the singleplayer is the main focus of the game, you really need to make it more dynamic. Having the missions so in-depth and random is awesome, but the way the plot works doesn't keep people going. Its almost like playing challenge missions in Starcraft2 (to keep examples in the strategy game mix). Check the achievements on any players profile and you'll find that a very small portion of the population actually try to perfect, beat, or in some cases load the map of, the huge array of challenge maps and 'quests.' Having plot boxes is cool, but it instantly reminds me of Uplink - which although an amazing game lost its replay factor FAST, because of its lack of immersiveness (you read emails and such to understand what was going on instead of having someone tell it to you straight away). I love old games, and old styled games, but with the way people play games today, even simple cut-scenes or voice-overs DRAMATICALLY increase how attached you are to the plot of a game.

I honestly find it hard to describe how much I inwardly hate the idea of playing the singleplayer of Frozen Synapse. I love the singleplayer as a concept, but the lack of attachment and dynamic storytelling makes the missions feel dry and repetitive even though they are so random and in-depth.

Again I love everyone on the Mode7 team for this game and I am going to continue to stick with it, through hard times and not ( unless no one plays multiplayer anymore ) but with the current UI and feel of the game, I find it extremely hard to convince new friends to play or even old friends to try picking it up again. So PLEASE Mode7, please, revamp either the UI and continue to add standardized multiplayer content OR revamp the storytelling of the campaign!

TL;DR (even though I really suggest reading the whole thing)
If Singleplayer is the developer focus of the game
- revamp storytelling and immersiveness of content
If Multiplayer is the developer focus of the game
- revamp chats, help menus, after game screens, friends list, etc.
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Joined: Sun Jun 24, 2012 5:49 pm

Re: Campaign and UI vs Population of the Game

Post by Gooner » Fri Jun 29, 2012 3:10 pm

Good post!

The first thing that struck me when starting to play this game very recently, was the social aspect of the UI! (It is not very inviting or easy to communicate through the UI...) I think Salienias proposal to auto-connect players to the IRC chat is a good idea, and also make the IRC chat more visible. As it is now, I think some players just miss the chat button or simply disregard it.

I'm quite bothered that the game-specific chats are disabled when both players are not currently in the game. I propose two possible improvements:
The first is obvious; make the chat sessions continous: save the messages and present it along with the game - let us communicate throughout the game. Perhaps this would be a burdon on the game server, or there is some other reason for not designing the chat this way, leading to the next suggestion...
Assuming auto-connect to IRC is already implemented; link the game-specific chat sessions to the PM session in IRC - this way you could atleast chat to players that are online and not only players currently in the specific game.

Commenting on finished games is a fun feature - perhaps it would be a good idea with notifications if someone comments on your game or games that you yourself have commented.

It is nice how easy it is to navigate to active games though - I appreciate the 'Games' button on the lower left.

I think that communication could be important to FS - a (relativelly) small game like this could benifit from an active community.

Thanks for a great game!

ps: Of, I forgot to mention: there IS a friends list. The silhoutte just left of 'Option' is the link to the friends list. To add a friend, just navigate to their profile with search or something, and there will be an option to befriend, or just use the 'friend' button below the list of players online. (It might be the case that you can only add people currently online though, not sure).
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Joined: Wed Jun 27, 2012 4:16 am

Re: Campaign and UI vs Population of the Game

Post by Salienia » Fri Jun 29, 2012 10:35 pm

Ya I was exploring the UI some more and I found the friends list, but I couldn't add my old friend who used to play this game - most likely because he wasn't online, and I feel that in itself is a little awkward. A UI should provide easy access for you to all of your friends and games etc., but the FS interface just seems to look fluid but perform a little but more clunky. Hard to explain, as most UI and spacial problems are, but just the amount of hoops a player has to go through to find something seems a little much compared to most games where a little bar that says friends is put in plain sight yet still out of the way.
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