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On player retention in lwg - A writeup

Posted by Rowan Powell on June 15, 2015 at 7:10 PM Comments comments (0)

I'm Xao, one of the moderators for lwg and have been around for nearly a year now, so I figured I'd share some thoughts. From my position running tournaments and doing various community management things, I may have a different perspective than some of the other vocal members of the community. This post is going to touch on a variety of things to do with the game, but the real focus is going to be on retaining a playerbase.

 

A few notes before we begin;

 

A large amount of player questions and feedback go through me, I'm not sure about other community members handling questions like this, but I feel safe in making the assumption that a large enough sample come through me that I'm aware of the most common issues.

 

The majority of the playerbase is fairly casual, I'd argue that 70-80% of the playerbase play primarily multiplayer modes and less than 5% of the total population takes part in matchmaking (This could arguably be to do with the lack of players looking for ranked games making the mode further sparsely played). On a given day 20-40% of the online player count is guests, which are most likely new players. As such, the focus on improving “Casual” play and retaining these players is a priority for the development of the game, if we also want to see a growth in the 1v1 playerbase.

 

Contrary to the questions I often get, this game is not really suffering from a lack of income of new players, between the youtube channels we get about 1.3k views per month, depending on how you interpret that (People watching more videos or not everyone going to youtube for content) it still works out to be a significant inflow of new players.

 

 

 

 

The biggest issue, from my perspective, has consistently been about player retention. About maintaining that consistent interest in the game for people to continue to play after the initial intrigue.

 

We can try to improve player retention rates through various methods

* Progress and persistence mechanics (i.e. account levelups, rankings, achievements and unlocks) (LWG does this poorly right now)

* Social elements (Friends, Clans, Top-Player-Of-The-Week) (LWG does well on this account)

* Cut down on UI/Mechanical issues when learning the game

* Competitive elements (Ladder and easily comparable stats tend to work well for this)

* Highly polished gameplay elements and interface interactions

 

Ease of play is perhaps the most intuitive factor, it's how easily the game accommodates and incoming player and enables them to play and understand the game. Incoming players naturally fall into two categories, those experienced with the genre and those who aren't.

 

For those who are experienced with the genre, the game generally handles these players well, the UI is as to be expected and so are a lot of the controls and hotkeys. These players tend to do well with the game but do suffer from some problems I'll talk about later.

 

Those who are not however instantly hit a few roadblocks depending on how adaptable they are.

 

UI

 

Proposed UI Changes

 

The initial UI presented to the player is an interesting one, it provides an instant access to the community element of the game as that window in the UI is instantly the main focus due to it's size and positioning. Unfortunately this tends to neglect a little the key buttons the user will want like the “Play” buttons. Not a huge deal, but still. I've proposed a few changes to the UI in the image below.

Firstly is make the key buttons a lot more prominent, as much as this looks like a large change, we sometimes get players asking how to start a game which really shouldn't happen. As much as we could blame users for that, it's better to just make sure it's really clear. A large “PLAY” button to automatically dump the user into an open game is something that I think would benefit the game, not a major priority but for various reasons I think it should be included.

 

Another change, though purely superficial is to modify the chat box so that it is roughly the width of the chat window, no need to always cut off part of the sentence.

 

The other big change is the 'profile' section, which I've put in for a few reasons. Firstly it helps promote ranked play (Which I know the competitive side of the community would appreciate some emphasis on) and ranks are good progress markers (Which is good for retention). The other element of this is the “Account Level” which would progress every X games increasing exponentially, this sort of thing is again good for retention as it shows persistent progress. This also allows the opportunity for Jbs to implement unlocking chat emotions or profile badges (I'm aware this art is extra work, but considering there are already various emoticons, including some by Glaba and my forum badge art could be easily re-purposed)

 

I'd also like to propose an additional button to the top bar, this isn't necessarily to do with retention, but further integration of tournaments as well as promoting tournament winners I think would be very beneficial for the competitive scene.

 

Lobby UI is generally pretty solid apart from a few hiccups (A way for players to move themselves to observers would be greatly appreciated). The one thing that gets requested a lot about the lobby screen however is the fact that it takes you away from the main lobby chat, A tabbed chat would be a fantastic addition to allow players to both see the game chat and the main chat while waiting, which also solves part of the issue of trying to get players to join.

 

Mechanics

 

The next big stumbling block for new players, as with any game, is the mechanics, which is fair enough. There are some things to be done though to reduce the learning curve here.

 

Tutorials – As much as Yummy, Itano and I have created various guides for various levels of skill, they are all external to the game and for the most part must either be referenced or found. The game could really benefit from ingame tutorials of some form.

 

Satisfaction of mechanics (Also known as Juiciness) is another key feature for making the game enjoyable as well as creating the moments you want to share with friends. This can be seen clearly in the most popular games like LoL, DotA and SC2, where certain skills and interactions make a clear moment of connection such as the SC2 banelings, which create a combination of effects as they do their damage to create a satisfying moment. LWG currently lacks moments like this, with the possible exception of catapults and ballista. This is a difficult one to balance as we don't want to overwhelm the player, but polishing interactions like this is important to the enjoyability of the game.

 

Player Skill Discrepancies

 

This is something I'm not sure LWG itself can solve but is more a function of the low active playerbase, but when new players get matched against strong players it can be a very frustrating experience. This skill gap must exist and be wide for LWG to have any real potential but directing players into safe learning environments as they enter the game for the first time is important for keeping them in the game.

 

Guiding the player

 

Proposed UI Changes

The game currently presents the player with a results screen once they leave the game, but to most players these stats are fairly meaningless and the small text sizes mean the effort of creating them is wasted.

 

Instead I propose a change to this results screen that focuses more on feeding back to the player how to play the game more effectively as well as giving them obvious points for improving.

 

Achievements would obviously be a fantastic addition to the game retention-wise but also as a teaching aid, with achievements for tasks like creating X units before a certain time or creating Y of a certain unit in a match.

 

Making use of the login screen

 

 

This screen is left practically bare as it is, but could be a great place to feature either splash art for the newest features or a text post of the most recent updates to the game or upcoming patches.

 

Custom games

 

The custom games that are part of LWG are a fantastic addition to the game but they don't make sense as the first thing the player sees when they look to join a new game. The solution here would either have to be moving custom games to a separate section of the map select UI or to make it explicitly clear to the player when they join one of these lobbies that it is not the default game.

 

Misc elements that are non-intuitive

 

Ballista as of now don't manage to convey that they are anti-air only, which while only a minor issue, should eventually be looked at.

 

Forge being human/mech, this is another tricky design one, but again if this could be altered to better convey it's role that would be good.

 

Neutral buildings instead of rocks. Most of the vets probably don't even process that this is off by this point, but doesn't really make much sense from a gameplay perspective and confuses new players, rocks would be a lot better.