Another week, another blog. We thought it timely to report back on the survey we asked people to fill out when we announced the Wargame Design Studio (WDS) Winter Sale back in December.
Surveys are part of a growing armory of tools we can use to interact with you, our players on a range of topics or issues. It’s a way for us to gather feedback from you and cover either very specific or broad topics. We expect we will improve and optimise what we do and don’t include in our surveys, as we get more experience with them, but ask that you do complete them when asked as every bit of feedback helps us map out our future priorities.
The recent WDS survey was intended to be more of a status check after the change of ownership for the John Tiller Software (JTS) range and to understand some of the fundamental statistics behind game play. Following is a read out of some of the results from the survey.
Eight hundred and one of you (thank you!) completed the survey. This is certainly statistically sufficient for us to confirm trends, issues or other data points. All the people who started the survey finished it (surprising!) and the average time for completion was just under six and a half minutes, this included time to add any additional commentary, of which there was quite a bit.
You were all very efficient, or vociferous!!! In the first two days, 536 of you completed the survey equating to two thirds of all responses over the month the survey was open, we saw smaller lifts each week when we reminded people that we wanted to hear from them, but most responses were in the first 48 hours.
Remembering every question in the survey was optional, the first question asked for some personal information as well as what country you were in. We received 615 responses here. Looking at the breakout by continent, not surprisingly, North America equated to just under 58% of the 615 respondents. Most respondents resided in the United States, with Canada making up approximately 4% of the global total. Europe followed with nearly 34% of global responses with the United Kingdom, the largest followed by Spain, Germany, France, and Italy. Asia Pacific was a distant third with 8% of the global total, with 60% of all regional survey returns from Australia and New Zealand.
Question two in the survey confirmed that most of the awareness of WDS was driven via online forums and news sites. This is not surprising as in the past JTS rarely advertised but relied on word of mouth to drive new sales. Advertising (online & print) as well as increased engagement with the community will become a bigger WDS focus going forward. Facebook engagement has been growing steadily over the past year and we plan to maintain our presence there.
Question three was one of the more important included. Understanding what percentage of players played against the AI or other players was important for future development. Please note that respondents were able to select more than one answer here, so the percentages add up to more than 100%. Essentially all of you answered this question, so it is very representative of the base. The heavy emphasis of solo play against the computer AI is shown with over 87% (699) of players using this option. This probably shouldn’t be a surprise as the value of a computerized simulation is the ability to play at any time against a silicon opponent. Play by Email was the second category with nearly 36% of players having used that option. The other multi-player options (hot seat and online real-time) were much smaller in comparison. The heavy weighting on play vs the AI, confirms this is a continuing focus area. We have plans to start to review the capabilities (or otherwise) of the AI engine in each series this year. We are hopeful that we can improve upon the current base and maintain a challenge when playing solo.
The transition from JTS to WDS was the subject of question four. We wanted to ensure our perception of the success of the transition was confirmed by the community. This was a very complex project with a huge number of moving parts that only came together in the final week. Though we are not planning anything of this scale again there is always learnings that can be taken away. 10% of people still struggled with the crossover and that means we must look at where we can make processes and messaging simpler and clearer.
Question five was an appraisal of the new wargameds.com website. We retired three different websites to arrive at the new one. Integrating the ability to both research and buy a game on the same page was important from a usability perspective. This had not been the case previously. Question five was deliberately broad to get initial perceptions. There will be value in doing a deeper dive soon as people become more familiar with the new layout, but we hope you visit often as we try and keep adding content like this current blog post.
Including question six was important as we believed few people were aware of the menu program. The replies confirmed that assumption. The menu program was only created due to the changes in Windows 10 Start menu that removed the folder structure below publisher and left a jumble of like named game and editor exes. We will continue to highlight the availability of the menu program and continue to develop it to be as useful and streamlined as possible.
WDS & JTS before us has put more emphasis on Demos to introduce game series. Previously, the Panzer Battles Demo was the only Demo where you had to ‘buy’ it via the store. This process was important as it gave us more statistics on how many Demos were being downloaded and played. With the launch of WDS, the other three existing Demos (Napoleonic’s, Squad Battles & Panzer Campaigns) were also included within the store, and we have seen a steady increase in their usage. It is clear from the survey response that approximately half of the respondents had tried at least one demo. That means half have not, so there is potentially a messaging and/or series gap. We have plans to provide Demos for all twelve of our current game series, so there is a better ability to try before you buy. We also plan to revisit the current Panzer Campaigns Demo (Mius ’43) and either add or change the content to show off more of the game series. This will probably not be as broad as the current Panzer Battles demo but will not be just two impenetrable wall of units. More on new and revised demos in the future.
Question eight was important to understand the efficacy of the released Demos. A purchase rate of over 50% is heartening and justifies the investment in good demos. We believe that we have such a broad catalogue of interesting titles, that allowing players to try before they buy is important to help them ‘jump’ series and try something they may not have considered previously. As per the prior question, investment in demos is good marketing money spent and we plan to continue to do that.
Question nine is probably the most complex and important question for the future endeavours at WDS. As a reminder, respondents were asked to rank eight categories of features in order of importance from one to eight, with one being most important, and eight the least. Nearly all surveyed provided their version of the ranking.
Tackling the results, it’s probably easiest to work through the various rankings. When allocating the number one choice, the most important feature was Improving the AI with over 60% of responses. User Interface, Graphical changes and reworked/rebalanced scenarios were all a distant second at approximately 10% - 13% each.
Of interest these latter three categories figured strongly as respondents second choice coming in between 21% - 25% each, meaning these areas are still very important to the community. The third choice favoured both User Interface and Graphical changes, but the percentages are becoming more even.
The fourth choice is probably the last significant ranking as beyond the fourth choice, the responses reflects the least important items. Reworked and Rebalanced scenarios is the highest but generally most values across this tier are similar. The one category that didn’t poll well was Fewer Optional rules – this was clearly the least important category by quite a margin. The results from question nine is a definite impetus for us to prioritise improving the A/I across the game series. As mentioned, it is something we hope we can start tackling this year. Beyond A/I, we will continue to focus on graphical and UI improvements and we will be sharing news on a planned initiative to improve previously released titles and scenarios soon.
This question also allowed multiple answers per individual response. The World War Two and Gunpowder series were significantly preferred over the pre-gunpowder and Naval and Air series. The modern warfare period fell somewhere in between. We have development underway in all of these categories, but the replies help us to rank importance as we look at various projects. One other consideration is how many players have tried the smaller series such as the naval and airpower games, and hence what is the impact on ratings? We are hopeful that creating additional demos will remove any impediment to experiencing a game series.
3D graphics (really 2D isometric) have essentially been little changed across the game series where it has been included. The recent upgrade of the Musket & Pike, Napoleonic’s and Civil War Battles 3D graphics was the first major revision since these series were released. With many players having experienced table-top gaming in the same period games, we believed that there was justification to invest in improving the 3D graphics in these series. We are less convinced that the upgrading of the 3D graphics in Panzer Campaigns, Modern Campaigns, and First World War Campaigns would warrant the cost. This question was designed to get the communities opinion. The results were not surprising. Essentially, if we decided to upgrade the current graphics it would be less important than other graphical improvements we could do. The response will also help as we review Squad Battles where limited titles currently have 3D included and we can decide whether to be consistent or not across that series.
Question twelve asked about usage of included campaign games, made-up of linked battles. These are predominantly in the Gunpowder era series. This question was included as creating campaigns is a very labour-intensive exercise and if no-one is using them then we can focus on other things. With nearly 80% of respondents playing campaigns, it was a resounding confirmation of the need to continue to include campaigns in future releases. It is also important to understand that campaigns also give the variability needed when playing against the computer, so they do help to maintain replay ability.
The last area of the survey allowed free form commentary. 470 comments were provided covering a huge range of topics. Here are a few unfiltered examples:
- Please continue to update the graphics. We are not expecting Triple-A level graphics. Just pretty maps. Look at War in The East 2. Nice map, nice menu. Look at the person who makes map mods for JTS games. Nice maps. Also, please allow us to have more than one window open. For example, I should be able to open the jump and the order of battle menu at the same time. Please build on John Tiller Legacy, but don't be stale. I was happy when I found out you were taking over production because it gives you an opportunity to bring about needed improvements with the series. If you do not, you will keep the old gamers happy, but will not bring in new players. Look at Paradox, the is a market for in-depth games based on maps. Just make the maps look pretty and update the UI to look modern. When I say UI I am not just talking about the buttons. The new buttons on the UI are nice. I am talking about how we get info and such. Best of luck.
- Love the games and system. Some ui overhaul would be great. My biggest wish would be some stats on the counters themselves, or at very least a size indicator like platoon, company as well as percent of full.
- I'm a huge fan of the Wolfpack Title ASW Combat - if you can add a feature so that some escort Ships will be under AI control - meaning that the AI escort will drop depth charge at a given Area - minimizing micromanagement. In Huge convoy battles this is a lot of work to micro every escort ship to precisely bomb Submarines. That would be a great feature to implement.
- Please give that AI some love, it's holding you back from a great deal of sales. No offence of course but the JTS AI had always been notoriously bad.
- Please do not stop the 3d!! The eye candy is a huge part in my purchase decision process! The new civil war game you just came out with I am interested because of the improved graphics. If I want more NATO symbols, then I will just pull out my board games!
- Thank you for your work! I am grateful for your picking up these games and for how you have become customer friendly. Best wishes!
- Q9, I'm quite happy with your games as they are to be honest. What would be good is a scenario area on the website where new scenarios could be added to current games (could be community created). They would have to be of sufficient quality though which may be an overhead you don't need (vetting, playtesting etc).
- I would like to see more PzC. Leningrad 41-44, Prussia 44-45, Berlin 45 or Rumania 44. Thanks for your work
- Love the games and bought forgotten battles and it’s great! Wish you could update Age of Rifles by Norm Koger
- I would suggest making your own tutorials for YouTube. Most of the fan-based tutorials on YouTube are poorly done and if anything, turn prospective buyers off. Quality tutorials would be fantastic advertising for your games. I know for myself that I shied away from your games for a number of years because of what I watched on YouTube. I finally decided to take the plunge and found the games right up my alley.
- Love the newer graphics. Would like to be more strategy option game (to purchase/build units with victory points perhaps, have resource values, I will have to try the linked campaigns). Thanks for the game updates and fun.
- I'm 53 and I'm a Middle School Librarian and teach a Technical Ed Class where I introduced a class prior to Covid to the 1776 game as a group activity. They had never experienced a game like a WDS game and had no clue about strategic board games, but many in the group game (we played on an ActivBoard using a single computer with individual students commanding specific units, think of a mass group game setting strategy and then taking turns, no FOW watching 8th graders trying to take orders from their peers is a real treat) many became really interested in it. To make a boring story shorter, to keep this hobby alive we've got to get younger players. I'm not saying go to STEAM, but somehow these games need to be marketed to a younger audience. All of the WDS games have educational applications. Students don't always require bright and shiny, but can be sold on realistic and authentic, which WDS games are. I am considering purchasing 6 licenses of Renaissance for 6 computers in the library to use in after school activities or for small group class simulations. Why Renaissance? because it doesn't get into the political minefield of the World Wars and Civil War while also covering a historical period taught for our age groups. Just my 2 cents worth, Thanks
- Anything to speed up play and make the bigger scenarios a little more playable would be appreciated
- My biggest 'beef' is that the scenarios do not start early enough - an extra day or two so units could move into position / march to the battle / manoeuvre prior to battle would be great.
- I really like the game engine. What puts me off is the GUI. It's not helpful enough, untidy, too many clicks, needs to display more info (eg strength indicators). Needs to take a lot at more recent games to see what is standard now. The current UI makes the games much slower and more complex than they need be.
- For the Napoleonic titles a cavalry reaction charge. As the games stand now in my opinion without such an option, they do not reflect tactics of the time at all. I have quit playing them for this reason and have returned to board games to fill their place.
- Broaden the appeal, but remain deep, hard-core, and grognardy.
- I have long wished for such games covering the ancient period
- I'm happy you have picked up the legacy of John Tiller and will continue the work in his spirit! You also have a great customer support and are always willing to help. Rich Hamilton especially, both in the customer support and on the JTS Opponents Group on Facebook is always a ready to help as soon as he sees someone asking for help or has a question! This is one reason I love your games! Great games with great people behind them to support and continue developing both old and new titles! You have my deepest respect, and you make me want to continue play my JTS/WDS tiles as well as get new ones in the future. Thank you for your great work!
- As far as question 9, the priorities for improvement, the only one that I cared about at all on the list was improvement on the AI. Ever since I started with these games many years ago my only thoughts have been how great it would be and how much my interest would grow if there was just a decent computer opponent. All other considerations in the list matter not much at all to me but this one does greatly.
- From the survey alone it looks like you guys are headed in the wrong direction. Seems like you are trying to cheap out and money grab. It’s not going to work.
- The recent updates to the games systems and graphics have been big improvements. One area I’d like to see changes is in accessibility for those of us with diminishing eyesight - increased contrast in the text in some key areas such as unit boxes would be very helpful. But otherwise keep up the great work.
- Would Like the 2d Counter Options for Squad Battles and also ACW Titles (eg Gettysburg) to have more options for Counter Graphics. Maybe Silhouette of 1 Man, Silhouette of 2 Men ,3D simulation of maybe 3Men like Panzer Grenadier Board Game, NATO Counter, maybe combination of Both where Infantry are NATO Counters and Tanks and Cavalry for example are Silhouettes. Love the 2D Counter view and would like more options here please.
- With a new web I think the account management needs be improved, change info, better control of your games... and maybe apart discounts in holidays and in specific titles, reward customers with special discounts when they have a certain amount of money invested in titles and maybe a small discount when a new title is launched (5-10% or similar) maybe a pre-order option. Apart this only say I expect you can continue providing us great titles, the usual great support and say thank you and good luck continuing Tiller´s legacy.
- Panzer Battles Market-Garden would make an excellent title. I know a lot of work goes into these games. I appreciate it.
- Preferably more operational-strategic level games. I want to see a game about Crimea or Leningrad
- I have been gone from PzC for some time. As stated earlier I think these are the best pure wargames, even after all these years it is hard to improve on this system. Loads of details and special skills from different units. The terrain and combat details, artillery, supply all seems to work pretty dang good
- Interested in more grand scenarios like the Overland campaign. Also, greater links between the results of individual battles within a campaign. Losses from a previous battle not fully made up before the next etc
- Bring out new games more often!
- Item 12 - I enjoy campaign/linked scenarios - there aren't enough of them in most of the games.
- I would very much like for JTS games to appear on Steam store.
- Don't really care for the opening graphics to the site, but everything else seems fine. thanks for polling the customers.
- In Squad Battles, could you please make all the titles with a 3D option?
- Any plans for some lesser known WW II Eastern Front Panzer Campaigns for example Zukhov,s Operation Polar Star on the Volkhov/ Leningrad and Northwestern Fronts?
- YES! My number one feature request is for a map editor for Panzer Campaigns. I'd be happy to pay for it. Given all of the other work you put into games, there is no way that having a map editor would reduce sales. With a map editor this would be my favorites series, period.
- Thanks for letting us participate and comment. I'd love for you to really work on the AI and make it smarter, not just adjust the balance to make it harder. My ultimate dream would be to see a WEGO system for the games, rather than the current IGOUGO system.
- I am really excited by what you guys have done and am looking forward to seeing what you have in store. I’ve been playing JT games for longer than I care to think about, and I think that you have given the franchise and the genre a real shot in the arm. For one thing I’ve picked up some more PBEM games recently, maybe an indication that people want to get back playing. You’re probably already on it, but linking with the PBEM clubs out there will give you access to lots of opinion on the games but also a loyal fan and customer base
- I really wish that the AI was good enough that I could have a satisfying experience single player but given the scope and complexity of the game I think it would require tremendous resources to get it to a really compelling level. As such, I would most like to see the UX changes so that the games are easier to play (if not to win) and it's easier to bring beginners onboard.
- I would *adore* a graphical revamp of Squad Battles, and maybe some rules changes too. Games like SB: First World War seem a little graphically dated compared to the gorgeous-looking maps and UIs in the latest PzC updates.
- I've noticed the WDS site has no mention of the mobile apps. While they weren't a flagship product, their focus on smaller scenarios made them a good introduction to the games, and their low prices made them easier to commit to. I think it would help draw new players in if WDS went back to refresh them with new visuals and the current ruleset.
- I know it is a pain to update older games scenarios, and may not be economically viable, but I would like to see some effort to make new, improved scenarios for older games. More solo friendly designs would be welcome, and more balanced pbem scenarios would be very welcome.
- You have a great product, but it sorely needs to be upgraded graphically and the AI must be developed into a viable opponent with different difficulty settings. Look to Strategic Command's modern 3D models for inspiration. Keep fleshing out your existing themes with additional, lesser-known theatres of war to balance out the well-known battles. Adding naval and air focused titles would be great. Surface and submarine campaigns a must. A properly fleshed out naval counter game is sorely needed.
- I think keeping customers in the loop with emails and updates on new upcoming projects is key to growth. If not, I tend to forget. After action reports and offering beta testing opportunities may help grow sales over time.
- You really need to work on a completely new engine that will allow for much better graphics/sound etc. The un-animated miniature style you use in titles such as the ACW and Early American Wars is fine (they don't have to be state of the art 3D models) but they need to be in a better format (like PNG) so that they are sharper, more appealing and discernible. Even with the recently updated graphics they are woefully behind the times. There is no reason that we can't have both good game play and nice graphics in 2021+. This whole "I don't care what the game looks like as long as it plays good" mentality is self-destructive backward thinking that keeps many games from reaching a broader audience. A meal is eaten with the eyes first. I wouldn't even consider buying your games before the Maps and Miniatures were updated because of just how ugly the graphics were. As it stands now, I am interested in ALL of the gunpowder era games with the hopes that in the future they will look markedly better.
- I think one ui improvement I would like to see is an easier option to find out what time/turn it is mid turn. I know it pops up sometimes on the footer section but maybe a menu option to put it other places or something.
- I would like to see an operational level, gunpowder era engine for American Civil War and Napoleonic campaigns, along the lines of the Great Campaigns of the American Civil War series of board wargames.
- I bought PC Sicily '43 despite how bad the PC Mius '43 demo is. All the other demos are amazing and sold me on their respective series (why no Modern Air Power demo on the new site?), I doubt I would have bought Squad Battles without the demo, now it's possibly my favourite tactical game series ever. Mius '43 is just two walls of units up against a line of fortifications, it's a frustrating intro to the series with no manoeuvre options. The Sicily '43 Getting Started scenario, in contrast, highlights so many game features - bridges, manoeuvring space, tactical choices in reinforcement locations, airborne troops, naval bombardment... something like that should be the demo for the PC series in my opinion. Sicily '43 has sold me on buying France '40 and Scheldt '44 soon, but if Mius '43 is what the Eastern Front is like then I'll be avoiding it. That single complaint aside, I can't say enough good things about WDS rejuvenating the JTS library and bringing out the new titles that you are. Your commitment to the older releases means I can buy any topic I want without hesitation with regards to how playable it will be, or fear that it will lack features I like in the new games. And if the Great Northern War made it into a game, I wouldn't be sad.
- I am now 60 years old. My eyesight is not the best anymore. An option to make the unit icon's larger as well as the command buttons larger would help greatly.
- I just hope that new ownership means these games will get the love and attention they really deserve.
- Awesome Stuff! Very happy. Would like to see Panzer Battles set in the Pacific
- I’m relatively new to the series (summer this year). I think there is a ton of potential and room for growth with engine developments and I wish WDS the best of luck!
- Strategic War development and larger toolbar buttons.
- Please keep bringing out new content. I would love to see new eras and battles not yet visited. I also think hypothetical scenarios have a lot of potential. Finally, I love the new high-res graphics, but please keep improving them as much as possible going forward.
- I would love to see an update on Panzer Battles Moscow.
And leaving the best till last:
- This survey was not well constructed
We promise we will do better…
Thank you to everyone who participated, you have helped us identify areas that require focus or improvement, 2022 will be a very busy year. Till the next blog post.