Hi there, we have just closed the Panzer Battles survey that was started on March 14th, 2018.
The survey was run to allow us to understand the community a little better and to ensure that we are putting our energies where it will have the most impact. Overall, we have some interesting results and would like to share them with you.
(All images can be clicked for full size)
In total we had 636 people complete the survey in an 8-week period. Impressively, 452 (71%) completed the survey in the first week. The volumes tailed away after that, but the overall response numbers were statistically significant.
The first question was self-explanatory, allowing us to send the end results to those that requested it.
The importance of web sites and the reach out to Industry relevant players was shown with nearly 70% of people learning about John Tiller Software from news sites. There was an additional opportunity to provide further comments on this question, which if interested can be downloaded from here. Link to Question 2 Comments
Question 3, asked how you gamed. A massive 79% play solo and this clearly had implications for feedback later in the survey. Play by email was next with (only) 15% of the total.
Game complexity was a bit of a surprise to us. Having 91% rate the games as the right mix of detail vs abstraction shows that we have the balance right – or you’re all fan bois!!! All in all though, this is a positive in that it confirms we have a solid balance to begin with.
The choice of settings for games was predictable. World War 2 came out as the most requested topics (the ratings are shown in red) with Korea 1950-53 and Hypothetical Warsaw Pact (1985) next. There was some confusion on how to do the one to ten ratings as shown by the comments at the end of the survey. For the record, it was intended for one to be best, ten to be worst. We will be clearer next time!
It’s great to see the number of people that tried out the Free Panzer Battles Demo. 73% of respondents exceeded our expectations. That said, it was free!
Question 7 was obviously related to question 6. The value of the Demo as a marketing tool was shown with 60% of respondents choosing to buy a JTS title subsequently. It’s open to question whether the Demo was the sole motivator, but overall, we believe the Demo has been an effective way to share the game system and get people talking about the various titles.
Question 8 was important for us, the development team to know what features mattered to people. Surprisingly, documentation came out on top. Documentation, is hard, but important to show the research and design decisions that have been made when creating a game. Many of our customers are armchair historians and sharing our rationale for various design decisions has stopped (and started!) many ‘discussions’. Multi battle titles was a near 2nd – thank heavens we’re covering multiple battles in North Africa! 3rd was medium length scenarios of 15 to 50 turns. This has been a bit of a sweet spot for Panzer Battles, as this is essentially a day to two days of action. Personally, I was surprised variable campaigns were rated as highly as shown. These take a lot of effort, but when considering the number of people playing solo, this result shows people are looking for a richer single player experience.
The importance of posting timely information on our websites was confirmed by the nearly 80% of respondents that want information from the John Tiller Software and Wargame Design Studio websites. We will look at how to continue to refresh content there and keep it relevant and fresh. The Wargame Design Studio site has just migrated to new hosting, which has improved performance and we’re looking at ways to get timely updates so there is a reason to visit regularly.
Question 10 was probably the most important of the survey. We were looking for feedback on where people saw a deficit in the existing games, ideally to guide our future efforts. A clear priority was Improving the AI. This is not surprising now that is clear so many of you confirmed in question 3 that you play the games solo. Of interest we have started this process with North Africa ’41, but this will be a long road as AI is a difficult area to master and rarely will the computer have the unpredictability of a human. That said there are areas we can see that can be improved. AI can also be influenced by some of the changes we’re making to victory calculations, so a number of these areas are inter-related.
Second was graphical changes. As evidenced by the first release of PzB Kursk to today, we continue to tweak graphics to improve function & clarity. This is one of those areas that I doubt we will please everyone, but the focus is on continual improvement.
A clear 3rd was user interface. As shown we have done a fair bit of work here, but there is potential to do more. The current UI requires a lot of clicks and there are things that could be done to reduce that or just the amount of physical mouse movement. Personally, I have a large PC monitor and I find that I’m always having to move to select units at the right when the action is in the middle of the screen. Reducing that amount of mouse movement would help.
The other choices were rated significantly lower than the initial three.
It was great to get so many comments from you all. The comments shared in the survey really provided the ‘meat’ of the respondent’s feedback. There were a vast range of comments and suggestions and not surprisingly, many were in opposition to each other. There was a broad range of feedback, but some themes came through.
For example, the ability to move or command units with less clicks were evident;
"It’s a solid game but there needs to be an option so that players can order a whole company up to a whole battalion to attack in a column, echelon, staggered or line formation with 2 or 3 clicks. There is just too many units to move 1 by 1..this would require a better visual representation of battalion sub units"
"Wish you had a way to give orders to higher level formations only (such as brigades or divisions) than the AI would deploy all the units attached to it. The units would deploy efficiently or poorly depending upon the historical abilities of the Div/Bde commander"
Related issues also with the User Interface;
"Pro: The scale is just right between individual small units and large formations... Con: The UI is clunky and dated (even after the recent toolbar revamp). Yes, there is much info to be provided and checked, but somehow a more sleek UI might provide an even better experience."
Another zoom level came up quite a bit (we’re old too!);
"Maps need a zoom level for us blind old guys."
"Would really like to see increased hex and counter size beyond what currently is used. I use a 32 inch monitor, and am 51 years old, so I want a bigger visual layout so I do not have to squint. Please scale map to yet another level of closer zoom in. Thanks!!!"
"PLEASE LET USERS ZOOM IN/OUT WITH MOUSE SCROLL WHEEL FOR MAPS LIKE MOBILE PHONE VERSIONS. I WANT DETAILED ADJUSTMENT LIKE MOBILE VERSIONS. I NEED SOMETHING BETWEEN MAGNIFIED VIEW AND NORMAL VIEW FOR 2D" (I think they felt strongly enough to shout!!)
Specific game issues were called out;
"Why are HQ units like little rocks of Gibraltar and basically impervious to attack? This make no sense."
"Like the most: Game rewards combined arms/realistic tactics. Dislike: AI weak in many areas, tends to use HQ units as regular units to hold ground. Also, isolated HQ units are far too hard to disrupt and assault."
And suggestions for improvements;
"I'd like fixed units to have a "turn number" on them that I can see on a map for the turn they are released. I'd love progress markers on Bridging units. I know its a dice roll for success, but I'd actually prefer to know if bridge X will take only 4 turns (approximately) to finish , whereas poor progress is being made at bridge Y, then I can adjust my plans accordingly."
"IMO Need more disruption, games become attritional. Artillery needs to be easier to match batteries to supported units. Company support weapons need to be made more effective somehow to make them relevant."
"I like the playability while detail is still there, but I would like to see more transparency in the calculations of combat in particular, at least as an option."
Graphics, 3D or otherwise came up a fair bit;
"Graphics would really like a 3D view for this series. 2)Game scale 3) Would like to see the graphics overhaul for other JTS series. The upgrade to Panzers has renewed my interest in purchasing and playing more."
"Most: realistic warfare and sounds At least: nothing please graphical improvements like 3d encounters"
"Fun games--could use a graphics update to the engine though. Most board war games look better."
"Don´t like the no 3d maps or unit’s options. the zoom level is too far from action (but much better than in older games) i like the much, the clear and pretty 2d maps, units, etc."
"I like the looks of the game. However, I would love to see a 3D-view just like in most of the squad battle-, Napoleonic, Civil War, Renaissance and Early American series of games. Preferably of the same quality in Campaign Petersburg!" There you go – we are setting the bar too high!!
The above comments are just a few examples of feedback in the first ten pages of replies. In total we received forty pages of comments and are diligently going through them to see what we can do to improve our game titles. A number of the suggestions can actually already be done within the game system and it might be time to either publish a FAQ or update our game manuals. Something for us to consider.
If you would like to read all the comments submitted (it is worth it!), you can download a complete PDF from here; Link to Question 11 Comments
In closing, we would like to thank all that submitted their feedback. Your suggestions and commentary will help guide us on what needs further work and what interests the community most. Based upon the response to the survey we will look to do this on a fairly regular basis, probably varying the questions as required.
Thanks again from all of us here at Wargame Design Studio and John Tiller Software.