I've been thinking about how to prioritize new feature requests, and how to expand Ross' development roadmap into the post-worldwide-launch era. In order to determine priority I will stick to the value the feature brings, mostly because I cannot assess the programmation cost. I'm sure Ross will jump in if a given request entails too much work.
Anyway, to determine value for each feature you have to make judgements, and hopefully consistent ones. This is how I got into thinking about development strategy, so as to provide an overarching scale with which to consistently measure value.
This is what I'll be describing in this long post below, so that this community (and of course Ross and Kelly) can weigh in and reach some alignment. Please reply with your comments!
Let's first align on a common terminology. Ross, let me know if these conflict with any of your own documentation, and I will edit this post to not confuse anybody with differing terms. Game content
: characters, spells, environments, missions, classes, etc.Gameplay
- type of player (human, standard A.I., other A.I. levels?)
- number of players of each type per game, and whether fixed or not (reinforcements)
- type of game (cooperation, opposition, race...)
- type of player interaction (live, async, de-sync, auto-adapting...)
- starting conditions (number of characters, deck size, limitations...)
- event triggers (number of turns before reinforcements, etc.)
- victory conditions (today's defeat the other Summoner, or defeat the whole party, rout the enemy, survive a number of turns...)
- types of in-game actions possible (adding wall spike capability was the latest addition)
App features: saving, sharing, posting, preparing the deck, exploring content, acquiring new content, learning gameplay, setting app parameters, setting up a new game, etc. In other words, everything you may perform with the app outside (or in parallel of) purely playing.
Supporting features: forum features, website features, etc.
Monetization: way of making at least enough money with the game to sustain it
Foundations: This section includes the vision for what D20 Studios will be bringing to the gaming world, the mission of the game development team, and policies (privacy, transparency, quality, refunds, player behavior, etc.).
FIrst things first, I think it comes to Ross and Kelly to express the core values they want to instill in the game and its community. Some features may have to be developed specifically to ensure that these values are maintained, but mostly these values should be guiding how to do stuff.
Here's an example to clarify: if they decide that there should be a fair level of transparency on the financial robustness of the game (as it is a conditions for its continuation), then the in-app purchase section should probably mention it, so that people know how much they're contributing, not only buying a feature. And/or the list of optional gameplay modes could show the next upcoming one and how much it is funded so far. So support for the Transparency foundation has better be thought from the start of developing these parts of the app.
These foundations should not be negotiable, that's why I took them out of the priority list per se.
If you guys agree with this way of breaking down the feature prioritization problem, then I would propose that additional sections be added as sticky topics in the forums, for all missing items in the Definition portion of this post. This would help organize the discussions.
- Marketing - I know that some will jump at having this come on top of the list. I typically wouldn't myself! But the truth is, with the challenge of launching a game as an indie, everything you do is meaningless unless you can let it be known, tell a story, wow people with it, in other words market it, and bring additional people onboard and reach the critical mass. And again, I wouldn't propose this if it wasn't for Ross, because I've seen enough of his work to know that he's certainly not about fluff! He's all about innovation, performance and polishing. And what I intent to include in this Marketing section is any feature which will make the game worth of an editor's pick (Apple Store, Google Play, Steam, or specialized media). Because that level of quality is the best marketing tool you may have. What you don't want is the obscure feature which will avoid game fatigue of some players down the road, and is not a differentiator that will wow an editor. This is merely additional future content, way down the list.
- Building the community (size and spirit) - Because reaching the critical audience mass is absolutely vital to the continuation of the game, I think that a special focus should be given to features helping grow the community. Things like posting your best games from the beta on Facebook, etc, which will entice others to download the game when worldwide launch comes.
- Go-live gameplay, game content, app features, supporting features and monetization - What are the minimum features which will achieve the above goals, meet the Kickstarter promises (400 cards for instance), without shooting too high so that the quality and timing constraints are met?
- Method for creating and balancing content - This will actually have to take place in parallel of creating Go-live content. But I'm showing it separately as its purpose is mostly useful for additional (post Go-live) content. You could always get by using the beta for checking that the game is balanced. Not optimal, but it should work. What I envision however is developing an automated method, and using the beta to check that this process works. This way it can easily be applied to future content with maximum efficiency. As far as the balancing method itself I think it will deserve its own thread.
- Additional gameplay, game content, app features, supporting features, and monetization - Anything else should be pushed back. It doesn't mean it shouldn't be discussed, on the contrary. For good planning, we should be discussing these as well, and organizing them in a continuation of the development roadmap. And in the game itself I think it very important to show the players that there is more to come (grayed out options in the menus for instance), to stimulate their anticipation.
Thanks for reading through all of this, and please voice your comments!