New User Experience

Our priority in recent months has been to improve the experience for new users. This has led us to reviewing multiple aspects of the game, as well as our marketing approach. I’m going to explain our approach in three key areas, which we’re constantly working on to improve.

User Acquisition

The first challenge for any Steam game, is to attract users to the store page. It’s also important to attract the right users to the page. We’ve made a conscious effort with our marketing, to target specific gaming communities and/or people with particular interests. We saw this impact most noticeably with Reddit ads, by targeting smaller subreddits rather than the bigger and more generic subreddits. 

We’re continuously refining the media and text used in the adverts, to capture the attention of users. Particularly the game clips used in the video ads. As there is a lot of depth to our game, it’s not possible to fit everything into a 15-30 second video. So we can make shorter cuts, from the existing video content we have, to see what appeals to users most.

User Conversion

Regardless of how we got a user to the store page, they still need to be convinced to download the game. This was definitely a problem we didn’t expect to have as much, being a free to play game. But we’ve done a lot of research, gathered some independent feedback and made adjustments to how we present the game. The screenshots are more gameplay focused and we’ve broken up the game description with gifs/images.

User Retention

Something we know from our Football Identity days, is that retaining users is hard. Our initial focus was to connect users together as much as possible. What we quickly realised is that it’s not feasible to provide active games for everyone, but we are going to build a discord bot to help. More information on this will be provided once it’s developed.

We’re working on designs to rebuild our AI, using machine learning. Basically, the bots will be playing a lot of matches against itself and learning how to play. The bots will also receive input from us to understand what it did well or what it should avoid doing. Our goal is to improve the AI to a point in which the game can still be fun and challenging, without the need for all players to be user controlled. 

Along with a more complete single player experience, we’re also going to restructure the tutorials. We’ve reviewed screen recordings of new users playing the game, which has given us some new ideas. We’ve also been doing more market research on how tutorials are designed and exploring other options. We’ll be sharing more information on this in future blog posts.

Summer Lockdown

It’s a summer like no other and it has had devastating effects for many families and communities around the world. Video games have kept many people connected virtually, when physical connection has not been an option. Although working remotely has slowed down progress slightly, we’re determined to keep going. We will continue to fix bugs and add new features to provide an enjoyable experience for all our players.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a blog post, but I will be doing them more regularly going forward. We want to remain transparent with those who have continued to support the game. I wanted to start off by sharing our current priorities and some of the marketing plans.

In the last few weeks we have focused our efforts on bug fixes. We’ll continue to provide regular updates and target the highest priority issues. As a minimum, we will continue to do this for our core users and fit in new features whenever possible. We really appreciate your patience during this time. 

Our approach with the match engine is to make regular and small adjustments. This allows us to assess the impact of each change. Our current focus is getting the balance right between player movements and ball speeds.

 

Something we get a lot of feedback on is our new user experience. For the game to be successful, this is something we need to keep improving. In particular, we’re making some changes to how trial contracts work. Trial contract ads will expire after 7 days, to ensure new players only see ads from the clubs that need players.

We have some more improvements planned, but we welcome additional feedback you have. 

We’ve been advertising on social media platforms to build up our following. We’ve seen an encouraging number of new users from it, but that’s just the start of our plans.

We’ve been working on a new game trailer, which will be much more informative for people unfamiliar with the game. We’re also going to work with some influencers to append the trailer in their videos for more exposure.

We’ll also be working directly with some influencers to play the game and share their experiences. We have some fun ideas/scenarios planned, which we hope you’ll enjoy. We will be selecting the influencers carefully, but if you have any suggestions (from non-English speakers perhaps) then we’d love to hear them!

Early Access

We’re finally here… Early Access launch!

I want to start off by thanking all the people in our discord channel who helped test the game. Without their help it would have taken a lot longer to get to this point. Very much appreciated <3

What to expect in early access

We’re looking to run the game in early access for 3-6 months.  This will give us enough time to complete development on the “seasons” features and do sufficient testing.  As characters will be reset once the season begins, you can treat early access as a bit of a sandbox experience.

Characters

Play around with different positions & builds to see what suits your play style. During early access you'll be able to create older players. However, this is just a temporary feature.

Match engine

Get to grips with the subtle complexities of the match engine. Experiment with different styles and tactics for both 11v11 and 5v5 modes.

Discord events

If you need a few extras in your game, the discord channel is the best place to find people. We'll also organise regular ladder events and other tournaments to compete in.

What features are coming soon

Competitive games are what separates the men from the boys (and ladies from the girls). To be in a position to have competitive games at a large scale, there are 3 main components which need to be added to the game. Together they will make up the “seasons” release, along with other improvements.

Managers are going to be a key part of the game. They’ll be responsible for transfers, tactics and the team identity. They’ll also have traits to give them extra ways to build a unique profile. For example, one trait gives a manger the ability to boost player condition at half time.

With pro license, managers will also be able to give help & advice to their players during games using paint tools. The paint tools allow the manager to draw directly on the pitch (only visible to their team). Note: If a manager abuses the paint feature, players will have the option to hide it!

As you’d expect, managers will need to create a team to bring together players and compete in tournaments. All teams start with the same budget, but how managers choose to spend their money is completely up to them. Invest in better training facilities, upgrade your stadium or splash out on a star player. There’s also multiple ways for the team to earn money.

A team can compete in up to 3 tournaments per season. Each season will last approximately 3 months. Tournaments will vary in format, to give teams a choice on how they earn money. League tournaments are a consistent way to pay the bills, but a cup win could see a quick boost to the finances. Tournaments will be played across multiple days & times, to suit all time-zones. 

What are the aims for early access

It’s been the main focus during beta testing and it will continue to be a key priority. Before we get serious with tournaments, we want to minimise the risk of any bugs impacting match results. 

We need to do some stress testing on the game server with bigger concurrent numbers. Similar to the match engine stability, we don’t want any server issues to impact tournaments down the line.

We intentionally kept quite a small community during the beta testing phase. The game still has a long way to go, but hopefully now it’s polished enough to appeal to a larger audience. We NEED a big and diverse userbase, to push the limits of the game and to promote creativity/innovation. We also need consistent and stable userbase, rather than a quick boom on release day. But don’t worry about that, we’ve got lots of plans to keep people invested for the long term.

Everything is about data these days. To help us make decisions on pricing, features and everything else… we will be looking at the data. We have plenty of ideas on where we want to take the game but we also know we are providing a service to you guys. Before making decisions, we will always take the time to listen to feedback and look at the data.

One other thing analytics is useful for is advertisements and sponsorships. Rather than taking money from you, we’d prefer to use our platform to connect you with companies using non-intrusive ads and sponsorships. 

Early Access Tournaments

We’ll be running a ladder tournament throughout Early Access for you and your friends to compete in. More details to come soon, but it’ll probably be 2 nights a week (Sunday & Wednesday). Occasionally we’ll run KO tournaments with prize rewards for the top 8 teams in the ladder! We’ll give details on our social media pages and discord, so make sure you’re following us.

August Update

As the new football season kicks off, it felt like a good time to update everyone on the progress of the game. We are getting closer to the early access release, which will bring more eyes onto the game. Before we get there, we’re just polishing off some features of the game.

The changes have been split between menu and match related improvements.

Match changes

We’d like one more iteration of AI improvements before releasing. We’ve identified some common behaviours which we’d like to fix. An example of this is when multiple bots go for the same ball unnecessarily. 

We want to improve our momentum logic, as it can feel quite extreme in certain situations. We’ll be adjusting how players transition between low to high momentum.

We’ve given users the ability to adjust the camera position and zoom. One common request we had was to be able to lock the custom zoom. So that’s what we’re going to add!

We noticed the GK would sometimes fail to receive a pass from an opposition player. Even though this has happened in real football, it’s something we know will lead to frustration.

We’re also making it clear on the action menu for GK’s when the action is a pass or shot.

Menu changes

To guide new users through the more complex aspects of the game, we’re adding hints & tips around the menus. 

This is linked to the tutorials. Just to make the flow of the first session easier for new users.

A variety of fixes, just to make the game look a bit more polished! Making sure page elements are properly aligned, buttons are in the right places and unnecessary text is removed.

Some adjustments to the pro license menu and the advertised features. We’re also adding a dynamic pro license badge, so players can show off their support for the game. 

Artifact case study

This is quite different to the rest of my blog posts, but since taking on the role of “Game
Producer” I’ve started to look at games quite differently. Valve hadn’t released a game since 2013, so this was a rare chance to follow how they approached it with Artifact.

Artifact is a card collectable game (CCG), so it’s a completely different genre to ours but I was still hoping to learn a few things.  I’m going to briefly analyse the parts of the release that interested me most. Feel free to add your thoughts to the comments section below.

The big reveal

Valve chose to announce their new game at The International 2017, the annual championship for one of their biggest games Dota 2. Just to give some context for those who don’t know what Dota 2 or The Internationals is:

  • TI7 Total Prize pool: $24,787,916
  • TI7 Average concurrent viewers: 4, 676, 749
  • Played in a 14,000 seat stadium

So it’s fair to say, the stage doesn’t get much bigger for a video game announcement.  However, the reaction to the big reveal was probably not what Valve employees were expecting. Have a look for yourself…

To be honest, I wouldn’t look into the reaction THAT much. The people in the audience aren’t all going to be card game players and they have been begging Valve to make other sequels for years. However, it is worth remembering this crowd reaction as you read through the blog.

The card game market

Since the release of Hearthstone, the digital CCG market has grown and matured extremely well. It generated approximately $1.5 billion in 2018 and is expected to rise to $2 billion by 2020. That’s not far behind how much money is spent on FIFA each year!

So it’s not surprising Valve chose this as the market to move into when you look at the numbers. The problem is that it’s an over-saturated market and games like Hearthstone are well established. As someone who didn’t play CCG’s, I couldn’t see a huge difference between the popular titles.

The esports scene isn’t huge for CCG’s, but top players can make a good living from streaming and regularly placing well in tournaments. To learn more about Artifact’s biggest competitors, see this esportobserver article.

The price is right?

This is by far the most controversial announcement Valve made, leading up to the Artifact launch. In a market where most games are free to play, Valve put a $20 price tag on Artifact. They justified it by saying players will get a bunch of packs included and the game won’t follow a “pay to win” model. At the time, the hype around Artifact was pretty big and they had a very engaged following on reddit. There’s no doubt they lost a lot of potential customers with this decision, but I’m guessing they wanted to position themselves as the “elite” CCG? 

Beta testing

Valve chose to only have “closed” beta testing. They invited pro players from existing CCG’s as well as popular figures from the Dota 2 community. They wanted to make sure the game appealed to Dota fans, but was challenging enough for the “hardcore” CCG players to make the switch.

Everyone had to sign NDA’s and no beta keys were publicly available. Followers on reddit would get little bits of information leading up to the release. The beta testers were tweeting a lot during this period, with only positive words to say.

Closer to the release date, a private tournament with a $10k prize pool was streamed live on twitch. This was the first opportunity for the redditors to see the gameplay. It didn’t disappoint. The hype around the game was huge at this point and people couldn’t wait to get their hands on the game. It looked like Valve’s strategy to generate hype had worked perfectly, without having to do any major marketing campaign.

The release

The game released late November 2018, just over a year after it was announced at TI7. The game had just over 60,000 users playing on release day, which is pretty good considering the price of the game. They had server issues, so I’m guessing they weren’t expecting that many users… which is a good problem to have!

So now we get on to the juicy bit, where it all starts to fall apart. There were some MAJOR gaps in the product that Valve released. Now I’m far from an expert on CCG’s and very inexperienced when it comes to being a game producer, but to me these were some pretty obvious gaps.  I didn’t follow the reddit threads much, but here’s the flaws that I saw or experienced:

  • I think the root of most problems come from running a closed beta with only a select group of people. I’ve always welcomed anyone to play our beta, as I’d rather smooth out the issues now instead of when the spotlight is on the fully released game. I’m not saying a game should be designed around the people on reddit, but remember what happened to EA?
  • When everything is hidden to the public during beta but the testers are giving it huge praise… then expectations keep rising uncontrollably. Especially when you price your game much higher than your competitors.
  • Users knew what the to expect from the core gameplay, but most other aspects of the game were unknown. Again, something that just drives up expectations as customers expect the same quality throughout the game. 
  • Leaderboards are a pretty standard component of most games these days. People like to “grind” their way to the top and have targets to aim for.  Without them, I think a lot of people played for a few days and then thought… okay what next?
Valve did fix the leaderboard issue and give users incentives to play more in the next patch. Unfortunately, once these changes came out the active players had already dropped below 7,000. Here’s a few videos that may interest you if you wanted to hear some other perspectives.

Winter Plan

We’ve been in beta for a while now and I thought it would be a good time to reflect on whats been going on and share our plans for the next few months. It’s going to be a very busy and exciting winter for us and we’d like to be open and honest with you, as we always have.  I follow most of the discussions we have on discord with our beta testers. I can honestly say, those discussions really do impact the way we prioritise upcoming changes to the game. That’s not going to change anytime soon, so please join in if you have some suggestions or just want to follow the discussions.

Since the beta went live

It’s been about 10 weeks since we sent out beta keys… so much has changed! For a start, just look at the 5-a-side and 11-a-side pitches and players.

Before

After

5-a-side Before

5-a-side After

11-a-side Before

11-a-side After

The 2D camera view and zoom functionality is something that came very quickly after feedback from you guys. We’ve still got some adjustments to make to both pitches, but on the whole I’m really happy with how they look.

We’ve upgraded the servers and made our back-end code more efficient. As we add more into the game and as the user-base grows, more stress will be put on the servers. As a gamer myself I know there’s nothing more frustrating than lag, so we’ll try our best to keep on top of it!

Our main focus has been on the match engine. As I write this, we still have bugs but I think we’re past the worst of it now. Most bugs being reported now fall into these categories:

  • Giving players the option to receive when they shouldn’t have one (fake blue)
  • Struggling to receive or save the ball, due to unrealistic ball speeds

The objective of the beta was to identify these kind of bugs, so the match engine is stable once we go Early Access on Steam. We have completely redesigned the logic for receiving and ball speeds, so once they are developed and tested, we should be in a good place! 

Winter is coming...

Here’s a taste of what’s to come. These are things that we definitely want to improve or add to the game. However, the order they get released will depend on a lot of other factors, including feedback from you!

This is the new logic for resolving “fake blue” as mentioned above. There is a lot more data being passed between client & server with this new design, so we may see some performance issues creeping in. We’ll try to stay on top of it.

The size of the pitches and some of the pitch markings aren’t quite right yet. 

This is a pretty big one, which we’ve been working on for quite a while in the background. I’d expect the first draft to be done pretty soon. Then we can get your feedback before the noobs start arriving 😀 

We’re still playing around with the design & placement of the commentary text. Again, this is one which would be good to get some feedback on. We’ll also be making the in-game chat easier to use.

At the moment it’s basically non-existent… so we’ll be adding in more auditing stuff so you know exactly how many credits are coming in and out of your account. There will be a redesign of how we present footballer slots to you, but that won’t be for a while.

Something else we’re looking to redesign. We want it to be impactful, but not overpowering. It resets after every quick/custom match, but in league matches it will have some carry over.

As mentioned above, the ball speeds in both modes need to be fixed. Shot speeds will also depend on your shooting attributes.

Before we go early access, we want to change how users find/join quick match lobbies. The new design will definitely suit players who look for matches during off-peak times. 

Another thing which isn’t there yet, but something we want to introduce. We’re not reinventing the wheel here, just some useful half time and post match stats.

Got a lot of ideas on what we want to be improved. Translating them into AI code is a bit more tricky unfortunately. Obviously we want most games to have no bots, so this isn’t at the top of the priority list at the moment.

Given the long list of things on our to do list, we’re looking at early next year to go Early Access on Steam. Not everything on the list will be done, but the game should be in a good place by then. Until then, we’d really appreciate you guys trying out the game every time we release a new patch and letting us know what you think. Even once we go into Steam Early Access, there will still be regular improvements being made. You just won’t get as much free stuff as before… sorry 😀

Beta testing

It's coming soon!

As we’ve said many times, we don’t want to give you guys something that we wouldn’t want to play ourselves. We’ve had some unforeseen issues related to the match engine in the last few months. I think we are past the worst of it now, so please hold tight!

How can you help us?

Everyone we’ve spoken to has been really positive in anticipation for the release and we’re so excited to play with you guys! To make the most of the beta phase, we want to get as much feedback from you as possible. Also, it’s worth mentioning that we won’t be able to fix everything before the Steam early access release. We’ll fix the highest priority issues before going on Steam and fix the other stuff as we go. Here are the key areas that we really want to know from you:

It’s a controversial topic that I’m sure most of you will have an opinion on. What we need is detailed feedback with stats to back up your experience.

What specific action have you got concerns with and what player position & build did you select? Is the action failing too often? If so, we’d appreciate an approximate percentage of failure. Likewise for something being too overpowered.

We want to give you as much information as possible, without taking space away from the pitch. If anything on the screen is annoying you or too distracting, then other people will think the same in the future… so please tell us now! And remember to be specific. Tell us exactly why it sucks. Too big? Too small? Too thick? Too thin? Too bright? Too dull?

We’ll be monitoring the server load regularly but we’d also like to hear your personal experience. Our focus will be on reducing the latency (lag) for as many of you as possible. What we’ll need to know is your location (town/city), your internet speed and the time of day (include timezone) you tried to play. It would be great if you could try a few different times so we get a good spread of data. Please include good & bad experiences!

November update

It’s all starting to come together now as we get to the end of November. I thought I should give a brief update on what’s been happening in the development and marketing world of Super Club Soccer.

India trip

We started off the month in India to finish off month of the match engine design and get to know the team better. I spent a lot of the time drawing stuff on the whiteboard! Our hotel, ITC Gardenia, was amazing and I just had to put up a picture of the hotel lobby for you guys.

Development update

A lot of the match UI work has been done, so I should be able to get some more screenshots for you guys next week. There’s just a few small tweaks that need to be made on colours and arrows. We’ll have pictures up on the Facebook page as soon as they’re ready!

The main development focus at the moment is on the match engine, which should be coming together early next month. Once that’s in a decent state then we can try and get it to some of you guys before Christmas to have a play around with.

Marketing update

The trailer is coming very soon and once that’s published, we’ll look to get the game on Steam direct. As I mentioned previously, we’ll need all of you to vote when the time comes! In the meantime, Beefjack have been scouting out online influencers suitable for our game. Once the game is playable, hopefully they’ll make some exciting content for you guys and their followers to enjoy!

 


As always you can reach me on the forums, our social pages or via email!

Forum site: forum.superclubsoccer.com

Facebook: facebook.com/superclubsoccer

Twitter: twitter.com/superclubsoccer

Instagram: instagram.com/superclubsoccer

October update

As I haven’t done one of these in a while, this update is a random collection of stuff. We just passed 200 likes on the Facebook page so big thanks to everyone who is supporting us! We do have something planned to reward you guys, but more on that in the next blog.

Beefjack – who are they?

If you follow our twitter account, you’ll have seen we partnered up with Beefjack Promote for the rest of the year. If you don’t follow our twitter, you should! We’ve already done a few giveaways, so make sure you don’t miss the next one.

Anyway, back to Beefjack. So they’re a marketing agency who are helping us to get more eyes on the game. You will have noticed our social media accounts being a lot more active recently and they’ll continue to manage them until the game goes live. Once the game is in a playable state, they’ll also look to attract some “online influencers” to try it out. Hopefully some big names from Youtube, maybe even some ex-footballers as well. Of course if you have any links with people in the industry please reach out to us!

Game trailer coming soon!

In the release plan I previously shared, I said we’d be looking to get on Steam direct around mid October. We’re gonna delay that so we have a more polished game trailer and hopefully get some good in-game footage to use. Once that’s ready we’ll put out a press release with help from Beefjack. We’ll keep you updated on that through our social media pages.

Trip to India

This has come out of the blue really, but my personal circumstances have allowed me to take a few days off next week and travel to Bangalore! It’s a crucial time in the development of the game and I look forward to visiting the team. I’ll be focusing on the match engine logic and having 2 full days together will really help.

 


As always you can reach me on the forums, our social pages or via email!

Forum site: forum.superclubsoccer.com

Facebook: facebook.com/superclubsoccer

Twitter: twitter.com/superclubsoccer

Instagram: instagram.com/superclubsoccer

 

The release plan

Unfortunately there isn’t much to share with you guys at the moment. We’re currently working on the player animations and converting a lot of the designer sketches (haircuts, kits etc) to the unity engine. As I get screenshots that I can share, I’ll be uploading them to our Instagram page so make sure you follow that!

Dates to look out for

Something I can share with you is our high level release plan with some rough dates:

Mid November
Over the next few weeks we’ll be creating the assets to use for the Steam direct application. Steam direct (previously called Steam greenlight) is a platform that all new Steam games go on. The public can see upcoming games and vote/comment on games they like the look of. The most popular games are approved by Valve, so that’s when we need your help to get as many positive votes/comments on our page as possible! Don’t worry I’ll be spamming you guys when the time comes, so you won’t miss it.

Early December
The core functionality of the game will be complete at this point and we’ll be looking to create a press release, if we have been approved in Steam direct. There is a small chance we might be able to package it up and let you guys have a play around with it, but I’ll have to confirm nearer the time.

Mid January
Early access launch! This is dependant on the Steam direct approval, but we should be code complete by this point. Again we’ll need your help to spread the word and share with your friends. Once we do go live, we’ll start organising some tournaments on the forums for you to get involved in.