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Improving the core game is up next

2009-07-03 14:00:00

The last 1-2 years we have worked a lot with improving the system reliability and improving the site, and with great success we must add. Hattrick is fast and reliable today, and the new design is appreciated by the very most of you according to our recent survey.

Satisfied with how the site is working it’s time for us to shift focus and start working with the thing we love the most again: The game, and especially the core of it: the team management, the match simulation and the match experience. First, however, we will use the summer to continue our spring bug cleaning and sort old bugs out of the system.

Our focus the last years has been to improve the quality of the site. Now, I would lie if I said it’s been the most exciting time in my Hattrick life. I mean, we’re foremost game developers and our main interest is to work with the game and not the site. But even so, we can’t ignore the fact that all this work was much needed. For as long as I’ve played Hattrick (and that’s some 11 years now) server crashes, server delays and all sort of other technical problems have been plaguing us Hattrickers. The time was up, we wanted to sort that out once and for all. We all (and you in particular) deserve to have a site which is fast and reliable after all these years, and for us in the HT team this also means that we can focus on developing the game without having to worry about the state of the site anymore. I don’t think you have a clue about what a relief that is (but a hint: it’s a hell of a relief).

Satisfying new design
The new design was the end of the site improvement project, and I must say it feels good to look good. And according to our recent survey the vast majority is satisfied with the new design. 523 000 (!) responded to the survey and over 80% of the respondents said they’re satisfied or very satisfied with it. Only 6% said they were not. Most liked were the graphical style and the site images, and our Supporters also enjoyed the new Supporter features a lot (most liked thing among Supporters). 8% say they experience technical problems, a result which is way better than 2006 (18% back then) but absolutely not good enough.

Clearing the backlog first…
Even if the site is fast and reliable today, there are still some annoying “technical problems” in the system: aka bugs. During this spring one of our key focuses has been to clear this backlog of old bugs, the youth academies and achievements are two areas two examples of this work. We will continue this work over the summer to remove that old wet cat from our laps, and we will certainly not allow it to come back after the summer either.

Mostly thanks to Stage (our test area with 5000 Hattrickers) new features are more bug free today, and we still think we can improve Stage and our routines to make it even more effective. And those bugs that actually slip through will get a much higher prio in our daily work from now on. A nice thing would be no bugs or other problems at all, but we have to be realistic: We’re working in a live environment and we’re running a tremendously huge live database; some problems are unfortunately bound to happen. But we should strive on keeping them at the minimum, and act fast when they happen. As a result, we hope all of you will have an even better “technical Hattrick experience”.

…and then put the core game in focus
Like I said in the beginning; our main interest is to develop the game, and that’s exactly what will be our main focus now again. We’re especially interested in going back to our roots and improving the core of the game; in particular the match simulation and the team management - and your gaming experience from both these areas. And from the results of our game survey it’s very clear that these areas are also what most of you think we should focus on - I just love when we agree!

24% of the respondents want us to focus on the match simulation for example, and after that team management got the most votes followed by areas touching these (match feedback, transfer market and tactics). Least wanted was community (1%) and site development (3%), perhaps not that strange considering those areas been in focus lately.

Other results from the survey are that almost everyone (97%) say they’re likely to play Hattrick a year from now (and most are also likely to recommend it to a friend), substitutions has improved the game (only 6% says it hasn’t) and we also got valuable information on how you compete (users rather try to build a strong team for the future than aim to promote this or the next season (even if the vast majority say they aim for that too)). Another interesting result is that most find the overall pace of the game development ok, and if anything the respondents say it’s too slow. Sometimes by reading the forum you can get the feeling of the opposite (but it could of course be of other reasons as well).

Thanks to all of you who replied to our surveys, it’s very valuable to get feedback from all of you on these areas (to add to the feedback and input we get from the forums and elsewhere). Not only is it valuable when making decisions on what to do now, the results are also very important when looking back and comparing these results with coming survey results. Because we will follow these surveys up to make really sure we’re on the right track.

Why touching the core game?
The question is actually a bit weird, it would be rather strange if we didn’t touch the very central parts of the game in all eternity. But as there might be people who think some parts of Hattrick are holy (or at least to be put on Unesco’s world heritage list) and never to be changed, I have to say that if we want to improve the game experience as a whole we also have to look at the core of things. Presentation is important, but the core is what matters the most to the game experience and we just can’t ignore that. For example, we think that users’ perception about the importance of random being too big is a problem. And even if that’s not only because of random itself (better match feedback is also important) we can’t solve that problem to 100% without actually touching the very heart of the game. At the other end, we also have times when the match engine is too predictable, which kills the excitement a bit when watching the match.

To be honest it’s no reason to get the hiccups about this either. The game will not change radically over night and our golden rule has always been (and will always be) to “keep it simple”. We strongly believe we can make small changes, but with a revolutionary effect – and naturally the desired effect.

Mostly core, but not only the core
I guess it’s also worth mentioning that even if the core game will be our main focus, it doesn’t mean we will forget about the site, the community and other stuff. So don’t be surprised if we for example add something new to the site, add a new community feature or something else – because that will also happen even if we have another main focus. And naturally, we will also keep an eye on the server system to make sure the current fast and reliable situation stays.

Where we are heading
We will not go into details in exactly what will happen or what areas are to be changed (and please don’t ask on the forums either, we will not give any details). But we want you to know what our vision is and where we want to take Hattrick, and we also want you to be aware about how it might affect your life as a manager for your team. An editorial about that will be posted next week. It’s best on its own as it’s one of those things that might be worth reading again even in the future, and secondly I don’t want to clutter up this one with such important information. ;)

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