Ratopia DevDiary #21 - User Feedback

4 Dec 2023
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Hello all, it’s Cassel, developer of <Ratopia>.

Last month was busy dealing with bugs and improvements that were collected right after the launch. We gathered bugs and feedback from friends, Steam page, Discord, and other sources. Even after returning home, I monitored broadcasts by creators to identify emerging issues. Within two weeks, 235 bugs were collected, and it felt almost like a warm winter as we hotfixed 103 of them.

After finishing those urgent fixes, just when I thought things were stabilizing, administrative tasks such as exhibitions and year-end reports suddenly appeared! This made things even more hectic. Nevertheless, through the game exhibition, we were able to directly observe where new users were struggling. And by listening to the candid feedback from users who had already purchased and spent a considerable amount of time with the game, we could once again learn what we are lacking and what we are missing.

Every time I return from an exhibition, dozens of improvement points pile up… 

Since the game has been released, deciding which areas to work on first to satisfy the players has also been a concern. I was afraid that you might be disappointed due to a wrong direction in our updates, and in an effort to align with our users' perspectives. That’s why we’ve conducted polls on Discord about the next development direction.

Based on this, we were also able to establish a development roadmap.

Going forward, we intend to continue understanding our users' opinions and reduce the various trial and error occurrences in the development process. This is because, while we hope that the systems we develop bring fun and satisfaction to many people, sometimes our lack of skills and mistakes can lead to the opposite result. Therefore, in this development diary, I will introduce what mistakes and feedback we have encountered so far, and how we are improving upon them.

“Rhythm game from Hell”

In <Ratopia>, there is a system where you can craft and equip gear to enhance the leader's stats. To craft equipment, you need to put materials into the royal forge and then succeed in a mini-game.

When we first added the mini-game, it was designed to be easy enough for anyone to succeed. However, just before the launch, a large number of advanced equipment, intended for use in the latter part of the game, were added. This led to discussions about making the mini-game difficulty for the advanced equipment slightly higher than for the basic equipment.

In considering how to make the mini-game's difficulty scalable with the upcoming equipment additions, we ended up choosing the quickest method to implement and the one that would increase the difficulty the most.

Changed from 1 button to 4 button all the sudden. I wonder why we’ve thought that would be enjoyable.. 

The hastily changed mini-game released in this way really angered many players. Looking back, it's clear that the high difficulty of the mini-game had an inevitably frustrating structure:

1. Players commit to crafting equipment to easily counter increasingly powerful enemies.
2. They need to accumulate research points to invest in the royal forge and secure substantial building materials.
3. After processing the resources needed for equipment, they must personally transport them to the royal forge.
4. Despite completing all these steps, the mini-game is too difficult, preventing the creation of equipment.
5. Even if players invest a lot of time and succeed in the mini-game, the equipment's performance does not meet expectations.

This was a major planning mistake, and right after the launch, it led to many negative reviews and feedback. Shocked by this, we decided to urgently modify the mini-game before more players were affected. We deliberated whether to reduce the speed of the mini-game or increase the number of chances, but we’ve decided to revert it back to the initial version. Fortunately, returning the mini-game to its original one-button format satisfied many, and we were able to overcome this major crisis.

“What’s the point of walls when enemies spawn in the city?”

In <Ratopia>, there is a system where enemies periodically invade. In the early stages of development, the enemies could not create their own invasion paths, such as breaking the ground or building ladders. As a result, there were often cases where invasions did not occur for a whole year due to the terrain. When invasions did occur, they were easily defended against with just a wall, rendering the invasion system meaningless at times.

Plague rats that just stood idly by, waiting to be deployed

This issue was a major concern for me, and after researching improvement methods, as covered in DevDiary #14, we enabled the Diggerat to dig tunnels when no path was available. This solution helped us address various problems associated with the original invasion system. 

However, the teleportation-style invasion method was not a favored system in defense games, so there were many aspects I wanted to improve. Later, we researched enemy AI that could dig through the ground and build ladders for invasion and tried to apply this to the Diggerat as well. But it was difficult to decide whether this, leading to enemies digging from the start and destroying non-regenerating objects like Wild Grain, Rabbit Hole, Spout Anemone, or deactivating essential defensive structures like barracks, would indeed provide a more positive experience than the current teleportation invasion method.

Changing the teleportation invasion method required careful consideration, as it needed to be a clear and definite improvement, or else some players might not welcome it. As no clear alternative solution came to mind, we decided to first add a setting in the game that allows turning off the teleportation invasion. This way, through user-configurable difficulty settings, each player can have the experience they desire.

User Configurable Difficulty System on development 

The user configuration is a feature that allows free adjustment of many functions within the game. I thought that if we added functions that prevent citizens from rebelling or enemies from invading at all, many players would be able to enjoy the game without stress. In addition, we aim to allow adjustments even in more detailed features. However, since most of these functions have not yet been tested, we plan to continue our research and expand these features.

“It becomes more tiring and inconvenient as the city develops.*

We received a lot of feedback about the game's insufficient explanations and convenience features. For example, although various problems occurring in the city are displayed on the left side of the screen, the actual location of the issue or the target, and the method to resolve it were not indicated.

To identify the cause of a problem, players had to move their character directly for observation. As the city grew, the time taken to check and the fatigue of the players also increased. Sometimes, after rushing to the problem site, they found that the issue had naturally resolved itself, leading to confusion. Therefore, we first added a feature that allows players to immediately identify the location of a problem.

Let’s check what went wrong with them

Since this is a feature developed by adapting the existing citizen list in the statistics screen, it's still not possible to identify problems related to buildings, and there are aspects like the full list not being displayed that need improvement. We intend to expand this feature to make it continuously more useful.

For instance, since the above feature only shows the location of a problem, there's a need to add explanations about the cause of the problem. Therefore, we are developing functions that detail why citizens are angry and revolting, and that intuitively display what the most lacking needs are, in order to address these issues.

That’s my secret cap I am always angry.

As much as I'd like to, guiding players on how to solve the citizens' problems in <Ratopia> is challenging because the causes of problems and their solutions are so diverse. Finding a good way to explain this clearly, and when and how to do it, seems to require a lot more thought.

There are also many other significant and minor improvements that I couldn't introduce due to space constraints. Features like material inventory checks, crime filters, and save settings for game starts, which many players requested, should have been added naturally for the convenience of the game, but we overlooked them and have now added them in bulk.

Now, you can adjust work priorities to create roles like cleaning and construction managers.

Time will also pass more quickly while sleeping! 

This month, we also plan to focus on improving the areas where the game is lacking, based on user feedback. However, we would like to ask for your understanding in advance that it may be difficult to resolve issues this year, such as citizen AI improvement and blueprint placement improvement, which many have provided feedback on. We deeply empathize with the need for these features, but they are closely related to the game's system and optimization. However, we will keep working hard to enhance the game's quality, so we would appreciate your patience and trust!

STEAM: https://store.steampowered.com/app/2244130/Ratopia/

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/CasselGames/

X(TWITTER): https://twitter.com/CasselGames

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