A couple of weeks ago we took Combat Cards to Insomnia 62, a video and board games convention (with a side in cosplay and general geekery) at the NEC.
Along with a closed beta test and appearing on Games Workshop’s Twitch channel, Combat Cards is now starting to be shown to and played by members of the public – something that’s always nerve wracking for game devs. We run playtests throughout development, but those are ‘controlled’, and are very different to putting the game in the hands of the fans!
Spoiler alert: It went really well, with Warhammer 40,000 fans loving the game, and card game players being intrigued by our gameplay. This is exactly what we hoped for, but was by no means guaranteed. You always have a vision for your game and an audience in mind, but until you begin showing it to people you have no idea if it’s going to resonate or fall flat.
So the show was a success for us, but that got me thinking about what do I mean by a show being ‘a success’?
It’s an interesting question because, as a developer there’s always a cost to attending a convention – in terms of money and the time taken to prepare everything, plus losing your staff for several days to set up, man the stand, etc. This means you need a clear goal for attending (and apologies if this is all very ‘business speak-y’, but when you’re a small studio like Well Played Games this sort of thing can make or break your company).
So, it make sense to work out your goals for that show – after all, if you don’t have a goal for attending then why pay that cost to take your game? With that in mind, we went to Insomnia with the goals of:
Show the game to 40K fans
- As well as simply letting people know that Combat Cards is coming out, we wanted to see what our key audience thought of it. After all, if we’ve annoyed or disappointed these guys then we could be in trouble, and probably need to make big changes to our game.
- Fortunately, both young and veteran 40K fans liked the game, with current players recognising the latest miniatures, and older players remembering the original Combat Cards from the 1980’s and ‘90’s.
Show the game to card game players
- We also wanted to see what card game players who may not know the 40K brand thought of the game. This show was our first chance to see if we’d balanced Combat Cards’ accesibility (how easy it is to pick up and play) with its depth (whether it keeps you engaged).
- We got some really useful feedback here, and on the whole, players seemed to enjoy the things we’re doing differently to other cards games, and picked up how to play pretty quickly.
Test the game
- Along with the closed beta we ran, this was a chance for us to see where players got stuck or confused, particularly in our ‘FTUE’. This ridiculous sounding term is how mobile game devs refer to the ‘First Time User Experience’ – i.e. what you see and do the first time you play a game. This area is absolutely critical to mobile games, so I’ll be looking at it in more detail in a later post.
- We made a load of notes from watching hundreds of players try the game which, together with the great feedback we got from our beta testers, has given us plenty of ways to tweak and polish the beginning of Combat Cards.
So a big thanks to anyone who played the game at Insomnia (or participated in the beta test). As well as getting to try a new game, you guys really helped us to work out which areas needed to be improved and polished. And next time you’re in a queue to try a game at a convention, you can pass the time by trying to work out what the company’s goal is in bringing that game along.