Taking a look around the site... some comments. :)

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Taking a look around the site... some comments. :)

I've had some pet peeves about the site (mainly the Play Beta page) for months now. But now that release is (fingers crossed) closer upon us now, and since I assume that the occasion will necessitate some tweaking around here sooner or later, I figured it'd be a good time to mention them.
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1) This could really just be me, but a year around this site and I still have to stop and think which download is which on the Play Beta page. I know that the button has the stable build and the link underneath the test build, but I still find it rather unintuitive and confusing, and I have to actively stop and think every time. If this much familiarity didn't completely solve the issue for me, it's possible that some new players will also find it confusing. Maybe some clarification text would help resolve this completely without too much fuss. And yes, the point may be moot post-release, but I couldn't resist starting with it. As pet peeves go this one has been less a kitten and more an elephant, and I'm really glad it's off my chest. ;)

2) On the occasional slow connection I find myself, the fact that the browser game starts loading up when I just want to scroll down to the download links - and figure out which is which ;) - well, it can be annoying. Would it be possible for the browser game not to auto-load? If not, would you maybe consider putting the browser game on a different page than the downloads? It does push the download links rather low down the scroll hole, and with the game being this large now, I'd expect less people land in that page for the browser game and more for the downloads anyway. Though I could be totally off the mark here, and maybe you have actual stats you can check to see if that's true.

[As an aside to this issue, is the browser game now too big to really play well on somewhat lower speed connections, and would a comment on that behalf be useful or even appropriate? I play flash browser games often, often on lower or medium speed connections and usually with few problems, but this game used to give me too much of a hard time. On anything but the highest (possible in my area) speed connections it took way too long to load and it also seemed to get really slow during gameplay eventually, unplayable-y slow. Bear in mind I haven't tried it since at least spring, just in case something has changed in the meantime. I found downloading was faster and made the experience smoother and just stuck with that no matter how little available time I had at each machine.]

3) It might be useful if the Play Demo page had a sentence or two about what the demo does and doesn't include, as it is somewhat of a FAQ question - and one that we should probably expect being asked even more often post-release.

4) I hope you have a note somewhere about the fact that the Manual will need some tweaking before release. There are some old information there that are now inaccurate or incomplete, it needs a thorough looking over.

5) This shouldn't be a surprising comment coming from me for anyone knowing my personal preferences, but... don't the fascinating story elements and mystery solving aspects of the game at least deserve a mention in the Features page? :) I understand you are basically listing the gameplay mechanics there, but it does make the game sound almost exclusively like sandbox survival, and we already have enough new players thinking that this is basically where it's at. Personally, if I was trying to wrap my head around what a new game I'm approaching is about, I would find a mention about story and mystery solving equally as important and appealing.

The thing is, there are a lot of survival games out there at the moment where sandbox survival is THE point and any story is just the cherry on the cake (or really just an excuse). This is so NOT the case with NEO. In fact, let me be blunt for a second: If sandbox survival was the only point, NEO would still be an interesting addition to the genre, but a somewhat limited one. It has depth but not width, if that makes any sense. However, the phrase I find myself using most often with new players is that NEO Scavenger is actually a mystery solving game dressed in survival gameplay mechanics. You aren't telling your clients half of what the experience is about, and that half would be a great selling point for many gamers, so please allow it its place in the sun.

ANYWAY, got carried away with that last argument and as I just realised I'm preaching to the choir, so rant over. ;) Frankly, I could just delete that whole paragraph, but I already wrote it now, and if nothing else it clearly demonstrates my enthusiasm, so chalk it up to fandom. :D

Random site nitpicking over and out, thanks for listening to our program. ;)


NEO Scavenger: FAQ
10 Ways (not) to Die - A beginner's guide

Good suggestions! It's true that the site gradually falls behind as the game moves forward. And there are chunks of the site that were "good enough" back then, but may not be now.

I've actually gone and made changes to the live site based on your suggestions 3-5. Those were pretty easy and effective changes.

Numbers 1 and 2 make sense, too, but I'm not sure if I have a solution in mind yet. Before I dive into those, would you mind elaborating?

For example, what is it about the download buttons vs. text links that confuses you? Are the image buttons maybe too dominant, making the text links hard to notice? Or do you mean that you're unsure what version the buttons link to? (This may be partly my fault for prematurely updating the buttons' targets to newer versions in advance of posting news to that effect. I switched the button targets to v0.9942b a little while before the news went up.)

As for number 2, it's probably true that the downloads are a more popular target these days. I do still get web users reporting issues, and I suspect that more than a few IT workers play it at work (i.e. fast connections). However, maybe the download links need to be at the top, or the web version somehow click-to-open. Have you seen any examples out there that do this well?

As always, thanks for the thoughtful insights!

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

About the download buttons, it's that I am always unsure which version they actually link to (the button vs the links underneath it), which one represents the latest "unstable" test build and which one the stable version. Again, I actually do know the answer, I just keep finding the setup confusing, so I always doubt myself and stare at them frustrated for a bit before clicking. I am now wondering whether it's a linguistic/non native speaker thing: beta and test version may sound like the same thing in my head. Also, possibly, my initial instinct may be to go for the link, because my brain may initially read the button as a graphical overhead, like a "sign" hanging above the link. Kinda grasping for straws here, I'm not clear myself about why that happens, just making assumptions. But I am always unsure what I want to click to download the version I'm aiming for, and I don't think you'd want that to be even potentially happening when half a sentence of text explaining what is what would solve it (maybe in a less pretty way, but it'd solve it nonetheless). Simply put, the lines "this is the latest stable beta version" vs "this is the latest test built, you may encounter instability" are the info I am looking for and not finding clearly demarcated.

As for the second point, personally I'd put the majority of text and request for feedback lower down and the download links higher up and therefore easier/faster to get to. Off the top of my head I can't come up with any examples of flash games that don't open on a new page, whether in gaming sites or in dev sites. I just double checked two of the dev sites I find myself at often enough to make an impression, and both Jonas Kyratzes and Lars Doucet use links that open in a new page, like for example this free game that links to gaming sites and this demo that again opens on its own page. I just think that the play/download pages need to be as decluttered as possible. I'd assume the vast majority of folks will go there with a purpose, and that those searching for info will probably be a bit more willing to search for them lower or even elsewhere.

EDIT: Just took a look at that Demo FAQ, that's very helpful and I look forward to copy/pasting it in the near future. :) On a totally unrelated note, I wanted and forgot to mention in my initial post how much I really really love the "Setting info" text. It's almost a pity that rant isn't in the actual game, but for what it's worth, I think it's damn brilliant RP scene setting. ;)


NEO Scavenger: FAQ
10 Ways (not) to Die - A beginner's guide

For the first issue, why not make a simple and clear table above the flash game window, like the one below (only prettier).

[tr]
[td]The last stable version[/td]
[td]Click here to download[/td]
[td]This is the safe already tested version of the game[/td]
[/tr]
[tr]
[td]New test version[/td]
[td]Click here to download[/td]
[td]This is the test build it might contain game-breaking bugs[/td]
[/tr]

On the second issue, I mostly agree with linibot on that. A button, saying "Click here to play the game strait in your browser", opening a new window with the game loading on it would be much better. I personally don't like when the game starts to load up, out of nowhere, in the middle of my browsing.


<--Mighty (mini)Mod of Doom-->
DeviantArt Gallery of MoD Sprites

Both of those replies helped me understand the problem much better, thanks! With that in mind, how about something like this?

http://imgur.com/cgBO0o7

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

Other than "Stable", "Test" and "Browser" icons just begging to be clicked, all by themselves, it looks a lot better :D


<--Mighty (mini)Mod of Doom-->
DeviantArt Gallery of MoD Sprites

I'm really liking the new PLAY pages! They are straightforward and easily lead you to everything you want. :)


NEO Scavenger: FAQ
10 Ways (not) to Die - A beginner's guide

Glad to hear it!

And yeah, those do look too much like buttons. But hey, I had the templates handy :)

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games