Retiring the Feature Voting System

Starting today, the feature voting system is being gradually dismantled in preparation for NEO Scavenger's upcoming release (estimated to be late summer).

Over the past few years, players who purchased the game here and on Desura received one (or more) feature votes with which they could voice their preferences on upcoming features. And during that time, it was tremendously helpful to me in gauging interest in certain features.

Importantly, it helped me to see the difference between what was requested on the forums versus what paying customers wanted. Many times, there were many voices on the forums asking for one feature, while paying customers clearly wanted something else. Some of the features this system helped prioritize include:

  • save games
  • bigger resolution/fonts
  • expanded wounds
  • expanded combat

Now, as the project approaches completion, this feature voting system is becoming less relevant. With limited time remaining, there is diminishing room to change course. Furthermore, the top five requested features there (as of today: plot encounters, craftable items, weapons, locations, and clothes) have been in that order for over a year. Voting has tapered off, and I think we've reached a stable consensus on what's important. I plan to add a little of each in the remaining time.

As such, feature votes will no longer be sold, nor will they come with new purchases. Anyone with unused votes can still cast them, but no more votes are being distributed. The "Monkey Wrench" edition will be phased out, since it was primarily an extra-vote version of "Creamy Crumb". "Creamy Crumb" and "Yukon" editions will remain, however.

Thanks to everyone who voted over the years. Your input not only offered me guidance, but also helped to fund the features we play today!


matsy's picture

The feature voting system was one of the things I loved about the directions you took with the development of the game. However, I bought the game blindly without playing the game first, and I placed my vote (can't remember what on) without experiencing the game. Taking that into consideration I wouldn't use the voting system as ab indication of what paying customers wants vs. forum users as I'm sure I'm not the only person to cast their vote in this way.

I think it gives a better idea of what players expect from a game, and thus what they want. Where as when you start playing the game it may come more apparent that something else is needed..

dcfedor's picture

You're right that it's not 100% accurate in that regard. Some people vote without experiencing the game first.

Even if it just shows me their expectations, though, that's useful info, too. Ultimately, it's me who decides which feature to add next, and I use the various channels to help decide. Votes, forums, and my own preferences all factor into the decision, and I tend to go with what I think will have the biggest positive impact at the time.

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

Malacodor's picture

It's probably right that the feature voting system is a better indication of what players want. In my experience hardcore players are often over-represented in forums, and listening to them too much can make a game unattractive for the majority of the player base. But you also should consider the following points:
- I never asked for things like more plot encounters in the forums because it's number one in the voting system anyway.
- I found the voting system disappointing, since my votes didn't change anything due to the high number of votes already cast.
- WTF? The voting system doesn't even ask for bigger resolution/fonts or expanded wounds?

Suggestions (for your next project):
- Quarterly reset of votes (archive older votes)
- Add more voting options (ask a mod for hot topics in the suggestion forum)
- Display the number of votes, so people know that they have to cumulate their votes to have a noticable influence.

Ran around with a clown mask before it was cool

dcfedor's picture

That's true, too. There are folks who post on the forums with the feature poll in mind, and censor their ideas accordingly. However, I saw more than enough suggestions posted which seemed like they were ignorant of the feature voting system. So I think we capture a healthy number of both camps.

As for votes having a minimal effect and wounds/resolutions not appearing, these are actually related.

Originally, there were some additional features that could be voted on. These included save games, bigger resolution/fonts, expanded wounds and combat. Several of these were added in response to player feedback.

The reason they are no longer visible is because they were "finished." The save game feature was added, as were other UI sizes and fonts, and new wound/combat mechanics. Once complete, I removed them so people wouldn't waste votes on invalid tasks.

The problem with the remaining tasks is that many of them are poorly-defined. "More X" can mean one more or 100 more, and different people will read it to mean different things.

As a result, I never felt like I could call them "finished," and they stayed open, collecting more votes. This led to the most popular features having a very long lead over others, making it hard to affect priorities without lots of votes.

If I decide to do this again, I'll probably change a few things.

First, I'll likely make sure that the tasks are more well-defined, and can be closed more easily. E.g. "2 more encounters" or "10 new items" instead of "more plot" and "more clothing."

Second, I'll try to keep the list more "evergreen." E.g. new features appear on there as old ones disappear, so player ideas can find their way onto the list more often.

Finally, I'll have to explore whether to reset votes or not. Another possibility is to grant a new vote each month (or similar). It's important to remember, however, that these votes were meant to represent where the cusomter wanted their purchase price to go. E.g. you just spent $10 on this game, how would you like to see it spent?

In such a system, resetting votes (or granting new ones) doesn't make much sense, because the funding can only be spent one time. Once I've spent time working on feature X, that purchase price is consumed. That's why I made it possible to buy more votes. Instead of just donating money, one could donate money with a suggested feature.

Unfortunately, very few took that option. Either it was too confusing, or not seen as valuable. In either case, I think it's due to the reasons we're discussing here.

Still, it's an interesting idea. And I'm willing to try again in the future, time permitting!

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

Malacodor's picture

Adding and removing tasks more often sounds even better than simple resets. I'd say give 10 (or more) votes to each new customer plus 1 free vote per month. This way a large enough part of the votes should be paid ones, and players who are active longer are more likely to advertise the game to friends. Or distinguish between paid and free votes in a such way that only you can see the difference. ;-)

I also think the voting system needs more advertising. Personally, I only found it by accident. Each new customer should receive a notification that they also got some votes to cast and where they can buy more. Or mention them in a monthly news update about which tasks were added or removed.

Ran around with a clown mask before it was cool

dcfedor's picture

Yeah, awareness was a big issue!

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games