Wargaming decided to go for Early Access with Master of Orion and collects a lot of feedback in forums and Facebook. Jacob Beucler explains how that helped the development of the game.
Connecting with players has taken a great leap forward in recent years, and getting to the core of what really matters to the end user is now easier than ever. After all, games are for the players. All the planning, design documentation and testing in the world are no substitute for people having hands-on time with the game. That’s why, in Master of Orion, Early Access and the feedback garnered from it has been inviable in creating an awesome 4X experience.
While every Master of Orion player is a little different, there are certain threads that run through all of them. Your typical player who likes strategy games – particularly 4X – only seems to be growing. There’s been a real resurgence in the past few years, especially with crowdfunding platforms which allow smaller developers to work on a genre they’re passionate about but can often seem less mainstream. Our players like to think, be challenged, and are passionate about Sci-Fi. We’ve seen this flourish on our forums, and one player had even created blueprints of our ships that you can print out and fold. We know that right off, people who are on board are incredibly invested in what we do.
How to get Player Feedback
There are lots of ways in which we were able to discover what players thought of Master of Orion. Our primary method of communication came from the community forums that are available with our platform partners – Steam and GoG. We also leveraged various social media channels for each region. By offering many ways for players to get in touch with us, we not only accrued lots of data, but we could see what issues were important to different demographics.
Master of Orion’s forums are, perhaps, one of the largest and easiest places for devs and players to communicate. By nature, 4X players want to get down to the fine details. Allowing them to create threads and discuss myriad topics is a great way to break down their thoughts. Whether they want to talk about battles, trait systems, planetary hubs – the forum allows us to compartmentalize what they think, which we can then act upon.
Likewise, on Steam, there is a live chat for the Master of Orion group. You can even add friends to foster further communication and get a sense of instant feedback. Social platforms are great, too. Take Facebook, for instance. With ability to post to a wall and to write reviews, you can get direct feedback and discussion between players. If someone’s having a problem, they can ask a question and, more often than not, get an answer pretty quickly. It helps us see what issues people are having, but also creates an ecosystem where people can help each other out. It’s all about giving players the channels and freedom to express themselves conveniently.
What happens with the Feedback?
So, what happens with all this data – and there’s lots of it. After each of our Early Access builds, we gather all of the feedback posted on all the forums that we monitor, then we build a master backlog of community feedback and general community sentiment per feature of the game. We then evaluate the feedback, prioritize it and send it to our UX lab to have it vetted against the scientific studies that we run with our UX testing partners. After gathering, prioritizing and vetting the feedback, we then deliver to the development team for review.
In the process of gathering of feedback, you need people on the ground who are monitoring what players are saying and getting a general feel of the community sentiment. Our main community manager is known as »General Direction« on Steam and our other forums. He’s our spokesperson, taking suggestions and engaging the players about their thoughts on Master of Orion.
We have a large bunch of extremely diligent and passionate players. They’ll spend hours with the game, discover things we never even thought of, and become extremely attached to the product. By showing them that their thoughts and suggestions matter, we can foster the conversation and build up strong relationships. Players want to know that they matter, that they have the power to help shape the game. A part of this is being available almost around the clock to discuss problems and offer assistance. If they’re staying up until all hours, then we need to do our best to be there with them.
Player Feedback never stops
There have been several larger elements that we’ve overhauled during Early Access. When we began, players were talking about the vague nature of racial bonuses. With Early Access 5, we added things like creative and uncreative traits, as well as other bonuses, taking a page from Master of Orion II. Choice, particularly in ship design, was another talking point. We worked hard to make creating your fleet an informative process, being clear about the bonuses which you receive. This sense of choice also extended to the planet types in the game. People wanted a more diverse roster, so we implemented it, which birthed a whole new sense of strategy in Master of Orion.
Master of Orion has a place in the hearts of many gamers, and it was a daunting task to revive a legendary game with such a legacy. So far, it has been a polarizing experience; we have a bunch of fans that are really enjoying the game and we have a bunch of fans that are upset with some of the design decisions that were made. At the end of the day, you can’t please everyone. We are simply focused on making the best game possible given the constraints that we are working with. Overall we see lots and lots of happy fans, and some very vocal not so happy fans. But as anyone knows, the vocal minority have a tendency to out-shout others.
Many wanted the game to be Master of Orion IV, but we were adamant to posit the latest game as a reimagining – a rebirth. We treat the other installments reverently, taking the best parts from the previous games and even bringing on original members of the design team as consultants. If we look at fan reaction, there have been lots of similar discussions and points of feedback. When we were planning on making Master of Orion, we didn’t expect to have the voice talent roster that we landed, and there was a really positive reaction to our awesome actors. With Master of Orion, we wanted to update the game for today’s audience. It was important for us to create a game that, while appealing to the older, hardcore generation, was also accessible for newcomers.
Community feedback never stops with release, however. All our explorers can expect we’ll be just as invested in what they have to say long after Master of Orion’s release, and will always be here to listen and act upon their wishes.
About the author
is Publishing Product Director at Wargaming.
Jacob started his career in the games industry in 2002, as part of Ion Storm in Austin, Texas. He then worked for Midway Games LLC in Chicago, IL, then for the LEGO group in Denver Colorado. He has been at Wargaming for almost 3 years, working at their office in Austin, Texas. As a Publishing Product Director, Jacob is responsible for the health of the business related to Master of Orion. He works closely, on a daily basis, with all of Wargaming’s regional offices to ensure the go-to-market strategy is appropriate and is being executed. Jacob also works with the Research and Development Team for Master of Orion. They collaborate to ensure the highest quality product is being built for its audience.