Getting to Mars is hard. Very hard. This game aims to become a "hard-scifi" simulation of the challenges to get to Mars.
Update 2020-12-02 @ 13:00 CET:
The game now uses activated abilities and cooldowns as effects from improvements. The current implementation is a quick hack to test the gameplay effect of using cooldowns instead of "update abilities". Please let me know how this affects gameplay in your opinion.
cooldownsbranch on GitHub.
First time Feedback Fortnight, looking forward to it!
Anyway, for the last year or so I've been working on this web based strategy/economic sim where your ultimate goal is to setup a colony on Mars. To do so you require funds and tech. Build improvements to get those. Get in touch with your inner Elon Musk so to say. The game plays in accelerated real time (every 15 minutes, time advances one day).
Primary feedback focus: Core Gameplay loop
For this FF I'd like feedback on the core game loop. I feel that I could expand one what I have now with more tech and more improvements, but I'm not sure whether that is the way to go. Perhaps there is no real loop just yet. If you have suggestions in this field, please let me know.
Secondary feedback focus: accessability / UX
I find that strategy/simulation games are defined by how well clearly convey rules, effects, pace and consequences of choices to players. Is it clear what you can and need to do in this game? Are the effects of improvements and technology clear? Are additional choices and options introduced in a reasonable pace? Please let me know your findings and suggestions.
Thernary feedback focus: Rush, Trigger, Specialization
There are a few additions in the game to accelerate the pace or give you something to do while waiting for funds/tech. I.e. you can pay to rush building improvements, trigger an improvement effect more times or specialize in a specific field (doubles improvement effects). I give this third priority because this is tightly related to the core gameplay loop, so I expect changes are necesarry here no matter what.
I'm not sure what else to put here. For more about how the game works and how it was designed, please see the readme on the Github page.
Thanks for playing and your feedback!
I've clicked on the buttons a little (I don't know how much analytics you see).
Core Gameplay loop: I recognize this as an idle game. As such, I'd recommend the initial techs come very fast and with a little "bling", that is, give players enough to keep themselves occupied for an hour or a half hour with things that unlock after 1 minute, 5 minutes, and in here I would hide the tutorial, the hints page, and the handbook. As it is, when I first play, I can unlock a couple things, I can rush a couple buildings, but these things seem to just be the start. If I were playing this game instead of playtesting it for you, I'd be grumpy I made another login and gave you my email address (I do have burner email addresses, but I didn't use one here), and I would be forgetting the game tomorrow.
UX: It would be lovely if I clicked the "Mission·To·Mars" logo and it wouldn't take me to the login screen with the assumption it has no idea who I am. It is easy enough to click on something else without logging in, but I keep clicking on that thinking it will take me to a "main screen".
Another thing I would like is a header that told me all my stats. I have cash and technology points, which I see on the overview tab. However, I don't consistently see these when it might be important looking at the other tabs. Notably, I don't see how many technology points I have on the "Unlock technologies" screen, and I don't see how much money I have on the "Build improvements" screen.
Thernary feedback: Well the first thing I notice is that when I click rush, I don't know how much it will cost. That would be nice to fix. The triggers are a bit strange, but it makes sense, in that I can either wait for things to come or click for things to come. The only oddity about triggers is that it costs 1 trigger to trigger anything, but the buildings give different rewards, with one being the obviously best. It might make sense to remove the trigger currency, and allow each building to be clicked once every so often, or make it cost a different amount of triggers to be able to click each building.
This reminds of a game I played a while ago, TerraGenesis. I played it along time ago when it felt closer to the game you are making compared to now. You might want to give that game a spin and see if you can steal all the good ideas.
I think that is all I have for now, I hope it isn't too much to read!
@laaph thank you so much for your extensive feedback! You make very valid points.
First, concerning the core loop. I notice when playing the game there is just not that much to do after spending your starting cash. And the trigger mechanic is a bit weird. Also, you could login once, wait a month and return sitting on a pile of cash without any interaction.
I think what might work better is to give improvements activated and passive abilities. The activated abilities could have different cool down timers. I think this is in line with your suggestion concerning the 'trigger' mechanic (point 3). That way, a player could choose to build improvements with short cooldowns - if they are impatient and/or like clicking a lot. Other improvements could have longer time-outs for players that just want to login every day or so. Do you think something like that would improve engagement? Maybe even have multiple activated abilities for some improvements (do you choose versatile or highly specialized improvements)? Passive abilities should focus on making the activated abilities better.
Note: I appreciate your sentiment concerning sharing email addresses for accounts. In a later stage, I will probably add an option for social login or something like Sign-in-with-Apple.
Second, concerning accessability/UX: the link from the logo to main page sounds like a no brainer. I'll fix it in the next deployment (I will need to redeploy the entire game unfortunately). This is also true for the "cash on improvement screen" and "tech points on technology screen".
As TerraGenesis is an Android game, unfortunately cannot play it. I'm taking inspiration from web based games such as Utopia.
Anyway, again thank your for your feedback. I'll try and hack together a throw away/PoC solution to test the cooldown option. Should be possible somewhere within the FF timeframe.
Will you also submit a game for feedback?
Unfortunately this time I have no game in reasonable progress to submit, so I won't be submitting, unless I get a lot more done in the next week than I expect to. But being the day job is expect a lot this week, that is unlikely.
In the past I have submitted to Feedback Fortnight, just not this year.
I also submitted this but since I broke the links it is no longer playable. :( I should fix this.
(Edit: the password to play Electric Tango is "hello". But I do not need feedback these days, I am unlikely to update it.)
@laaph it depends on whether the data model changed. For the deployment I did yesterday, the data model changed. So it starts with an empty database, and that includes accounts.
But… I did fix that the "Mission2Mars" logo brings you back to the main screen. ;) Unless you are on the title screen. Then it simply reloads the page.
Note: going to a new cooldown based system again requires a data model change, so even if you make a new account, you can expect to lose it soon. I can send an e-mail out in advance if you wish.
Overall, I really like the concept and I was quite invested in playing it. Making advancements, building technology and resources to create what you need to land on Mars sounds really fun to play, but currently you have no "actual" gameplay, only long-term rewards and goals.
--- core gameplay loop
Waiting around for money to build up isnt very fun, I want to be doing something. Gameplay implies "playing" or action, but theres only enough for 5 minutes of management, once every few hours it seems like. I played games like Cookie Clicker, Clicker Heroes, and that one Fruit Idle game (cant remember the name) and even though they were idle games, they had an "action" that you could do -- to manually speed up the process and do things yourself.
The one thing that's missing for me here is some kind of "action" in order to actually do something. Waiting isn't fun, and isn't action, it's something that just happens over time.
If the ultimate goal is to get to mars, maybe the game can offer a ton of options that leads up to that point, such as doing manual research tasks to earn TP, or contracts, or investments to earn money manually. To me it seems the big "checkpoints" or objectives of the game are in place that make longterm gameplay good, but is entirely missing the actual "gameplay" that creates the play. Idle games are the kinds of things that you do things manually until you build up enough automatic processes that produces it for you.
In clicker heroes, it has activated abilities that you can trigger to enhance the gameplay, such as gaining bonus attack damage and gold gain for 30 seconds when you click on enemies to damage them. These abilities have long timers, such as 1 hour, 8 hours, and 18 hours but one ability has a timer of a few minutes I think, which allows you to use it as long as you are playing it. Perhaps you could do the same for the improvements- have one you can keep clicking to gain manual rewards, then the others you have have cooldowns that you can re-activate every hour, few hours, etc.
--- accessibility / UX
Im not exactly sure what "$6,5 thousand" means, probably because im canadian. Its kind of throwing me off. $6500? These values are a little hard to interpret.
I don't like the idea of sharing my email address with other players. That's private information that other players dont need to know. Why cant I just share a specific ID that gets created just for the game itself instead? or my user name? Also on the note of email addresses, I would love a "guest login" option along with the account option, instead of only having to provide my email address up front. Once I played the game and want to actually keep what I have, then I'd say it's okay to offer that account option to players
I would love for a live updating count of all my resources, somewhere on every page. Like at the top right or something. That shows how much Money and Tech I have, and how much I am generating
Selling something doesnt say how much you sell it for, gives no feedback on what happened, and I would have liked for a confirmation on selling my entire business, haha. I clicked it thinking it would give me a confirmation window, and give me a final choice or some more information before outright selling it. I also tried buying it back but couldn't for some reason despite having more than enough money
After selling my business for $0 and trying to buy new things to get money and tech again, I have nothing to do but wait.
Donating Tech points to another player says "You donated $##" as if it's money
I think your game has a lot of potential and you have a great start to it! The concept is good, and I can clearly imagine a lot of people actually getting together to play a "Multiplayer Idle Game" -- This is a very strong idea, I recommend you pitch this around and see what people think. I can already see streamers playing this game and getting all of their followers to aid them on thier mission to mars.
Some other ideas strike me:
Long progression times MAY be more fun if there is some kind of short term gameplay (being able to click something to make manual progress continuously), and may go well with recruiting your friends or other players to aid you in your mission.
Just letting you know I've been playing the game for a couple of days, and I enjoy logging in and upgrading stuff once or twice a day. Having an end goal is a good motivator.
I will make a review with detailed highlights and issues, but for now I just want to say I'm pretty much stuck. Only Technology I need is Speciliazation 2, and it's costly. I specialized in Retail, I'm at +71 thousand each day, and I feel like I maximized the potential of my improvements, and still, I make 7 million per real life day, and I need 1000 million to progress further, which just seems like a "wait half a real life year and come back to start the first mission" to me. Any tips on progressing further? Maybe I just need the Specialization 2?
Edit: I missed the construction type improvements. I'm about to progress sky high.
Thank you for your extensive break down of this game. I think you hit the nail right on the head. Even for an idle "log in once a day" type game, there should be more to do. Or more excitement at least. I'm working on a couple of options to increase the interactivity. Like abilities with cooldowns (short and long). The "leaderboard" is a good improvement as well. I'm also looking for ideas for more interaction between players. Maybe helping your fellow mission supporters build faster and/or add some conflict?
The sharing of emails was meant to prevent me from having to create some ingame chat solution. However, I hear your concerns, so from the next update on, e-mail adresses will no longer be shared. Maybe I'll just add some DM option, so you can choose to share contact details if you wish.
@Sycix glad you are no longer stuck. Looking forward to your full review!
For now, I can only say I'm truly grateful for the quality of feedback so far.
I'm personally not a fan of idle games so I haven't played a lot of games in this genre. I read through the comments you got so far, and I think they all have lots of valid points. One thing that jumped at me is this phrase though: Multiplayer Idle Game
I think if you're going this path, you should go all in on the social aspect of it. If I want people people to check in on the progess of their mission, I need to give them a short term incentive, along with the long term incentive of actually winning the game.
I think a powerful incentive is social media. If I can get something to tweet about every so often, or if I see people posting on X social platform that they reached some milestone, I'll be more motivated to come back, since I'll be playing this game to be a part of the Mission2Mars community.
I think idle games now evoke a sense of power or accomplishment by having some number increase faster than the eye can read, or having numbers fly all over the place which gives me, as the player, a sort of "rush".
Your game does not have these, and instead is asking me to stick with it for a long time IRL. Why would I play this game and have to wait to get the rush I'm craving, if I can just go to the app store and download an idle game that will give me this rush in a couple of hours?
I think the answer is in social media to be honest. Make it easy for me to tweet about in-game achievements or to post them on Facebook. Make it easy for me to invite people to support my missions through shareable links that I can put in my youtube video description. Maybe make multiple missions, ones that take one hour, and ones that take longer, then put a counter on each to tell people the number of times this mission has been completed, then make it a big deal on social media when people complete hard missions (Like a tweet congratulating the first ever completion of a mission that took 3 months IRL).
I think the main reward for completing missions or milestones in this game should be the likes on my posts on social media, or recognition from some Mission2Mars community in some way. This is where the "rush" comes from.
PS: I'm no expert on the ins and outs of social media and am not active on any platform myself, but I see a lot of sites integrating social media to encourage people to talk and join their community, and I think something similar would be a good idea here
Thank you for your extensive feedback and suggestions!
You are giving me some food for thought. If I understand your feedback correctly you suggest:
I'll try working on the first suggestion first, as that adds to the actual gameplay. Then again going "social first" is an interesting angle as well. Especially as
Idle Multiplayer Game sounds like a fitting genre description. Hopefully I will not have to resort to the old 'social' tricks: "Invite your friends for extra cash!", "Your friends miss you!", etc.
@Sycix yes, unfortunately. :(
I uploaded a new version today where the "update in background" mechanic changed to an activated ability with cooldown mechanic. As that required a data model change, I needed to reset the database.
(e-mail addresses are also no longer shared with mission supporters).
I also think that switching to a short cooldown based system makes this much less compelling an exercise in… something? It used to be about waiting and now it is about clicking. Neither is really my thing, but clicking is aggravating in large amounts. If the cooldowns were longer (1h to 24h) then the systems would be closer to each other.
More arcs and loops, that's what you need. The biggest arc is already there: get to Mars. This monumental task is split into smaller arcs, which is good to always keep a close target in view. When it comes to loops there is essentially only one at the moment:
spend resources on technology and improvements -> gain more resources -> repeat.
Currently deciding on which technology to unlock next doesn't seem to matter much as long as it contains an improvement. Only one improvement can be built at a time, so unlocking many technologies in the beginning to see what is worth building first (e.g. 20% construction bonus) is a big advantage for those who start with a lot of tech points.
The multiplayer aspect could add a short term loop:
look at what other players are doing -> react accordingly to gain an advantage -> repeat
More specifically actions like these:
For these to work a handful of players would have to start from the very beginning at the same time in their own multiplayer instance. I'm not an expert on long-term multiplayer strategy competitions, but I think most of them do something like this to keep it fair.
A few pointers about the UI too:
In conclusion, the theme is interesting and the big arc is in. There should be a few loops which take a day or two to complete and some loops which take a couple of hours to complete. This way there is always something to do if logging in daily and also an incentive to log in more often. Having to keep the site open constantly is not something I would recommend or personally enjoy doing. It is too time consuming and stressful.
@Sycix, thank you for your patience and perseverence with this game. Feels like you are sort of my guinee pig ;) . I understand what you mean though. The (short) cooldowns are not really working. My intentions was never to create a clicker and the cooldowns make it more like that. So, I guess I'm rolling back the changes. I'll deploy the original version tomorrow (December 6th @ 20:00 CET).
@HuvaaKoodia thank you so much for your extensive feedback. I think you describe the core of what this game can be and what it needs very well. Your feedback also encourages me to keep on working on this game.
Your suggestions when it comes to the various short and longer loops is very welcome. I'm going to implement some in an upcoming update (tomorrow's deployment will be a rollback to the previous version without active abilities/cooldowns).
You know I may have been too quick to suggest having a button to click a lot for gameplay- there are lots of kind of games and this is definitely more of a casual game, something you check in on once every day or so. Kind of like a fish tank, or emails, or other stuff like that. I think this can definitely work really well. I think what I may be missing is just the "feeling" of making progress. Like some kind of live progress tracker; how much you are making, how much you currently have so I know stuff is happening and feels more "alive".
also checking in again, I like the reading the scientific purposes for the improvements as a way to learn more about space colonization. Learning what each piece does not just for the game but also as a real-life counterpart. I enjoy learning more about it.
@Sycix these are repeatable "projects". I agree that "One Shot" might give you the idea that you can only use them once. They are "One Shot" in the way that they don't have a continuous effect like the other improvements. So don't worry about spamming those as much as you like!
@RayFlower good to hear. Please be careful though. This game comes with NO GUARANTEES about the scientific accuracy of this game :D
I actually just had a great idea. Since you ask people to sign up via email… you can send them "progress reports" to their email every day, with their accumulated earnings, tech, and give them an update on their projects, as well as any new available upgrades or advancemens open to them because of completed projects, and with their accumulated wealth of money and knowledge, so it gives them a call-to-action to spend some time to manage their mission.
They could even choose some recommended times of when to be emailed, such as when they wake up, at lunch, when they get off work, or before they go to bed. You know, good times for them to optimally play the game. This game actually sounds like a great "coffee-break" game.
The progress reports are also a great way to make sure players come BACK to the game after they leave it, so that even if they forget about it, it's still there waiting for them.
@Sycix oops. That's a bug.
I just uploaded a fix that prevents this from happening. Also I tried reimbursing you for the tech points you invested in the tech. But something went wrong during the deployment and I lost the database. If you recreate your account, I'll donate you some extra tech points and cash to give you a head start.
@RayFlower that's an amazing idea. Especially the 'login once a day or so' is actually what I was going for in the first place. Off course, this would be an opt-in feature. Going full 'social game': "Can we send you a daily progress report in exchange for some extra tech/cash?" :D
@maartene I recreated it. At this point I have a good strategy so it's okay.
I start on technology, build a research facility, and in 2 days have enough points for every existing tech upgrade, so I can just sell all my tech point makers.
Meanwhile I buy some +5k and +10k stuff and specialize in retail. Soon I'll have enough to buy the +500k and after that the +1000k and secondary specialize in Space Travel, and that's all I got to before the first reset ive witnessed.
By the way, can you see players' stats? How many people are playing?
Also, the timer is a nice update.
I can only see a list of registered players in the Admin screen. There are exactly 2 right now. I don't keep track of when they last logged in and/or whether they are logged in (yet…)
I've sent you some extra cash and tech to make up for all the lost progress. Should help out a little.
Alright, since you gave me a good review on my game, I promised to give you a review too. As the Feedback Fortnight is ending in minutes, it's time for me to fulfill that.
I know it's not a huge topic for a text based game, but I need to cover it before moving onto the mechanics.
I liked that the icons of improvements, technologies and missions are using the same style and they are not pixelated even on a higher resolution screen. The artwork's message was a bit meaningless for me for most of the items, but I did memorzie some of them, which is good. I can't decide if color combinations are good or not, but they are definitely okay.
Color combinations might be okay, but color coding is a bit off. The Sell buttons are the same color as the "Specializations: x/y" , similarly with Effects and Improvements. It's not a huge issue tho, otherwise the interface is simple in a good way. However I found overview a bit useless for me, once I caught it not showing values properly, I never looked at it again. One thing that's weird is how on the improvements page, the resources' boxes have a hover effects, but the pressable tabs don't quite, just a border.
I would say this game is best as a bookmarked page you check when you have nothing to do at the moment, once or twice a day, to click some buttons for a minute or two. You tried to change it and it worked out terribly wrong. Actions points were confusing as hell, but I think those were okay. In details, the goal of the game is to set up higher numbers as fast as possible. You can't start the missions anyways because you have no money, and I will talk about this later, but by the time you start doing the missions, you reached the maximum amount of money you can make.
Once again I'd like to point out how confusing the labels are. Maybe you should color code money, technology points and other effects.
I've found most of the Improvements not as useful as others. AI Assisted Research Plant is straight useless, because by the time you get it, your technologies are already done. The problem is, (and this is very important) types are not in sync. What I mean by that is, You can't really get money without advancing in Technology, and by the time you start this process of starting to make money instead of spending it on the next thing, you are already done with all technologies, and you can safely sell the point makers. After that you cannot start missions without having a huge amount of money, so you are just stuck on improvements. By the time you can start a mission, you are already done with all improvements and make 12 million a day.
Specialization doublers doesnt seem to affect other modifiers like build speed increase. It might, but I never notice, the player doesn't have a sense of how the build time works, (since days left are not shown) which is a bad thing.
This is weird. It's positive that it exists, it's just so hard to judge if it's good to use it or not. I spent half of my playthorugh not knowing why this button is sometimes pressable, sometimes not pressable, so I just pressed it when available, not knowing it deletes my money, thinking its a free daily thing or something. Even after I noticed it how it works, since I can't see how much I pay and can't see how many days are left, it's not enough information to be a good mechanic.
This one's usage is also really unclear. I personally never used the technology one so I can't say anything about that other than its useless if you already have point makes, but I guess its viable if you start with money. It's cool to have them here but I didn't really used them, except for spamming AI Assisted Research Plant in the endgame when you have everything and you just want to prepare if the missions will need some crazy amount of money. But its great for that purpose.
This one is good. I feel like it dictates the gameplay in a good way, but it's also a but hand-holding since the pathing is clear and not changable. You start in Retail, skip AI and Biotech cause why would you use them, use a bit of Construction and main Space Travel as a finale. There is only one improvement with Biotech tag and it also has AI, so what's the point.
They are easy to get and you don't know what they do. It's just for reading the small "interesting facts" about space travel. Some exceptions aside, the game doesn't tell you how the thing you are buying changes your gameplay, so on login you just press the buy buttons until you are out of points.
Having an end goal is a good motivator. It's a good concept. However, they take a little too long in my opinion. If you could start doing it at the start or middle of your game and not just the end, it wouldn't be so bad that it takes so long. We soon have to start a 730 days long mission, dude. That's more than a real life week! I'm already swimming in money, so theres no point to check the game at all, except for resetting the One shot, but if I'm afking a week I suspect I'm already rich enough. So you just force me to not play at all for a week. I will just forget to come back.
Teaming up doesn't have enough communication to be meaningful, for example I saw that you started one of the build, (im not sure) and I dont know which and I didn't suspect you can even do that. I would also like to see a leaderboard. I never pressed Join team so I dont know how that works. Hope its not random. If it's not random, you can probably see other teams, right? So why can't I see them when I'm already in a team?
Overall it's a good game, but really difficult to get into for the first time. Maybe kind of pointless too, but it's okay. I liked it once I got into it. I wanted to first complete the game and write a review after that, but it starts to seem quite unreachable with these wait times. What I'd like to see is clearer lables, less linearity, more stages of improvements and technologies, and suddenly the wait times are not an issue, since you have something to do.
Maybe unlock more technologies once you reach a new stage in Missions and increase the prices according to that.
Hope to see you in the next jam