An open letter

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An open letter

Postby critter » Wed May 14, 2008 2:23 pm

"We listen very carefully to what our customers say and do our best to reconcile their wishes with the realities of operating in a niche market with all the limitations that come with that" GW

Please take the time to explain what the difficulties are to up grading?
It seems to me you own the games..You moniter the forums..Your the one who will benifit with more sales and a better rep in the gaming community.
I hear KP has been upgraded to BII yet can't be released due to "contract" issues. If this is true what issues? Again don't SSG own the game?
Realizing I'm only one customer. But IMHO BII is pretty much "evolved" as far as it should go as a REGT stategic/operational game series. WE like it that way. WE want it upgraded to all one system.
I feel your biggest reason for lack of sales is you don't want to listen. BF (while may be a good game) is not an evolved sister. Its a mutant off spring and now with the release of Karkov is DOA at that.
May I suggest you go to other game sites than Matrix and read the reveiws. Many of them say the same thing.
It amazes me what people that bought your game can do on their own
time with the system you invented. That is whole heartedly welcomed praised and has the entire Run 5 community begging for more that you can't benifit from (read that make money off of)
I know if you redid KP, ATD to BII standards It would Sale. If you upgrade the AI where it gives a solo player a fight start to finish It might even be a new smash hit. You could even consider putting in a new Sen. Either pre ATD or post Typhoon...Russian winter counter attack.
It also puzzels me that after I wrote that reply in the Karkov thread I got many emails and private mesgs agreeing with me, from names I'd have to salute going by their Run 5 ranks. That somehow remain strangely silent on the forums.
If it can't be done tell us. If it can or your considering it please SAY something.
You've got a great product. Recently I've been playing alot of board games with people that to a person say "I didn't know they made turn based computer wargames any more" I don't understand that if your trying to sell your games in a "niche market". You insist on futher deluting your niche.
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Postby stevel40831 » Wed May 14, 2008 7:35 pm

I agree with all that you are saying above. I have expressed my opinions, which are nearly identical to yours, both here in the open forum many moons ago, as well as in the play-testers forum very recently. For many of the reasons that you note above, I have completely stopped playing KP/BiN/BiI/BF and have gone back to board gaming which I enjoy very much as the battle/war selection is endless. I do poke in here just about every day to see what's going on, maybe out of habit as I was very involved in these games for 2-3 years, playing these games exclusively and logging an absurd number of hours and PBEM games. When I saw Kharkov I reluctantly downloaded the play-tester files and thought I'd give it a try for old-times sake. I have to say that I am very very impressed with what I have seen so far, and although I have not given it a large amount of playtime, they have a winning hit here, but........... if scenarios are not cranked out to support this new-and-improved engine, it will be my last hurrah with SSG games. I have too much other "stuff" to do to get into another one-of game engine release with no support, no scenarios, and no follow-on releases. People have be clamoring for more scenarios and more releases yet the new engine comes out with 1 scenario.... The quote at the top of your post says it all... no one is listening, they're doing what they want, which is fine as it's their company. You can't keep saying you're listening and then don't do what people are asking for and what they're willing to shell out money for. Based on the lack of activity in these forums compared to the old days I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in how I feel.

But, all that being said, I'm giving this another chance, sort of like when your hot ex-girlfriend gives you a little wink and asks you to come by her place.... well, ok, but just this one last time, and this time I mean it!

Steve

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Postby Abwehr » Wed May 14, 2008 8:19 pm

I agree critter, more support from SSG or at the least someone who listens would be good.

Currently, all of the quality scenario's are released by people who, as far as I know, are not under contract of SSG (they are not part of the SSG team according to their forum "rank" in any case).

I think Battlefront is a good game, just like the previous games, but as there are only a handful (or less, actually) of people who are designing scenario's, none of which seem to be part of the SSG crew, the game quickly loses replayability, especially for people who don't favour playing against other humans through PBEM.

It's really odd that the people who are paid for developing games, don't develop any additional scenario's whilst the games they do release come with, mostly, a single map (Korsun Pocket, Battles in Italy and Normandy all have a large/giant map for their scenario's). Battlefront was the first game with multiple standard scenario's, and multiple maps. However, currently the development team seems to have taken a step back, by releasing a new battleset with a single map, again.

SSG also released a fairly pricey add-on for Korsun Pocket, whilst Brubaker and others release quality scenario's for free on a regular basis.

The main reason why I keep buying SSG games, is that I fear that if I don't, the SSG team will indeed never listen and won't release anything new at all. It would be smart for SSG to "consolidate" their games by releasing additional scenario's prior to releasing a new game. That is, however, not happening. There is only a single new post-beta Battlefront scenario, which uses a map already supplied with the game. Edit: someone posted about a finished Stalingrad scenario too, but it has not been uploaded yet.

I can understand the financial side of things (releasing new games makes money, releasing free scenario's doesn't), but a few new scenario's would make the crowd of people who think that SSG releases a game and more or less abandons it afterwards, or doesn't give it enough support, happy. Companies who never listen to customers in a niche market are not known for their long term staying power or financial success.
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Postby Gregor Whiley » Thu May 15, 2008 3:13 pm

You know, the funny thing about what people are demanding, and demanding right now, is that most of it can, and probably will happen, over time. The critical term there is, over time. SSG is now down to 3 guys plus 2 others working when they can in their spare time. There is simply no way that we can do everything that people want us to do, right now.

One thing I find a bit hard to take is that we are copping brickbats because we improve our game systems. Yes, we could have left things as they were, and churned out variants to Ardennes Offensive but we haven't. Frankly, I'd rather drive Taxis (would be much more financially rewarding) and if it turns out that that is the price of improving our games then so be it.

The bottom line is that we do what we can, when we can. We put a huge amount of work into our games, that's why they are released virtually bug free, with well researched and well balanced scenarios and with an AI that greatly exceeds industry standards. This all takes essentially all the time we have.

Having said what we feel, we are still listening to what you say. There will be more scenarios for the Kharkov system. There will be future games that use the Kharkov system.

We have already improved the manual and working on better explaining the Editor functions as well to help other scenario creators.

There are other things that we are working on, which people have requested, which I simply can't talk about until the time is right. So if there's one thing that I would stress in this reply, its that with only 3 people, things take time.

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Postby Noakesy » Thu May 15, 2008 5:14 pm

Gregor Whiley wrote:One thing I find a bit hard to take is that we are copping brickbats because we improve our game systems. Yes, we could have left things as they were, and churned out variants to Ardennes Offensive but we haven't. Frankly, I'd rather drive Taxis (would be much more financially rewarding) and if it turns out that that is the price of improving our games then so be it.


Interesting comments. For my two-penneth:

1. I love the SSG games, and will continue to buy them (even bought CAW even though it's not really 'my cup of tea'). Even though I can understand the arguments behind some of the criticisms of Kharkov (but some of it's absurd considering it's not even hit the streets), I'll still buy it I'm sure (financing permitting of course) as I know I'll get some enjoyment out of it and it'll be a quality product.

2. I've said on these forums on numerous occasions that it'd be great to get KP, BiN upgraded to BiI plus other scenarios, and I'd happily pay for it. However, maybe Gregor's point answers all that - they've moved on, it's no fun for them churning out the old stuff they want to try something new. I used to go to loads of rock concerts, and we'd all turn up hoping the band played the old stuff again (and again...and again...) but they didn't, they played new stuff (with a couple of oldies thrown in), and although we moaned at the time, we then got to like the new stuff and so on and so on. The problem for SSG may be that people weren't over-enamoured (by and large) with BF, so it's hit them amidships, and the scepticism may have 'infected' the publicity surrounding Kharkov, which is unfair given:

a) it's not out yet.

b) looks excellent (as usual with SSG products IMHO).

c) there are some really interesting new features.

d) people don't even know the price.

I had no idea you were just three people, I thought there were a few more.

Just my contribution...
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Postby stevel40831 » Thu May 15, 2008 7:34 pm

Gregor Whiley wrote:One thing I find a bit hard to take is that we are copping brickbats because we improve our game systems. Yes, we could have left things as they were, and churned out variants to Ardennes Offensive but we haven't. Frankly, I'd rather drive Taxis (would be much more financially rewarding) and if it turns out that that is the price of improving our games then so be it.


It's really really amazing how much this paragraph says about the situation. You're complaining that people are critical that you are now on your 3rd completely different engine in 3 releases, with no games being compatible between each, and you don't understand why anyone is upset since, in your mind, things get better each time. You released Battlefront, which was obviously a flop, released NO scenarios for it, which killed it, and your strategy is/was to let the public create the scenarios for you. And you're puzzled why people are irritated by this strategy? It's completely laughable that you don't "get it".

I work for a company where a large part of my role is communicating customer needs/wants to our software department in order to fix bugs, develop enhancements and come up with new products. Customer feedback is critical to our success. What you are exhibiting is very typical of what I see on a daily basis from software developers. The customer asks for something, I document what they want, software people provide initial feedback & timelines, say they understand, and off they allegedly go. I check in periodically on how a new item is coming along and I get, "oh, not too good, but look at this..." and they're screwing around with something completely unrelated because what they're doing is more "fun" and "creative". Well, I guess experimenting and developing new wheels can be fun, but it does nothing to satisfy a customer base who is clamoring for something completely different than what they're working on and is vocal about it. This is not to say that people bumbling around looking for the next greatest thing is not good, but, there has to be a focus on the customer, unless of course you don't really care what the customer says or thinks and you just do whatever the hell you want... like 3 different game engines in 3 releases with nothing compatible between them.

Steve

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Postby Gregor Whiley » Fri May 16, 2008 11:09 am

Steve,

You know, I've been doing customer service, for SSG, since 1986. I have had countless interactions with customers since that time so I think I know something about it. Based on that, my observations are as follows:

1. The company started in 1983 and we're still here, so we must be doing something right.

2. You cannot keep everybody happy, all the time. You would like to see more official releases with each engine iteration, other people like to see improvements to our game engines and would deplore a more conservative approach. You see value in upgrading our old releases but plenty of people won't, they will say that they've played that battle to death, and they want us to do new stuff that they haven't seen before.

3. When resources are limited, and you can't get much more limited than three guys, there is no way to satisfy competing user demands in the short term.

4. The best that you can do is to try and keep most people happy, most of the time. There will always be critics for every decision that you make. I feel confident that, over time, we can keep most people happy. I hope that this will include you, and that announcements and releases made during the rest of the year will meet at least some of what you would like.

5. Having said all that, I make no apology for the element of self indulgence in our choice of projects. I would rather work for pocket money on something that I want to do rather than work for more money just for the sake of making that money. I can't see how that can really be rated as a crime.

6. In my opinion, Battlefront is a great game and easily worth the money. The Market Garden scenario alone is worth the price of admission and one that I still play after release, even though I playtested it to death. (Normally I like to a little 'rest' from a game immediately after release). People are doing scenarios for it on truly exciting subjects. Obviously people are free to disagree with me, but plenty of people have bought and enjoyed the game.

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Postby Kingpin » Fri May 16, 2008 12:07 pm

Obviously the release of BF killed the momentum of the DB series.

Personally, I was comfortable with the "old" engine. BIN built on KP and BII built on BIN but the engine was essentially the same.

BF wasn't a revolution in terms of the engine but personally I didn't feel like learning and mastering a new engine after I had spent a lot of time on the previous system.

I will buy the new game. I hope this will be the engine that starts another run like the one we had from KP to BIN to BII with the exception being that under this new engine, we can port old scenarios to the next upgrade.

I don't think the engine needs to be constantly upgraded. I can see that change is good periodically but not with every release. A good scenario is what most of us are looking for.

When a scenario can be replayed, it generates interests via tournaments and discussion on the forums and before you know it a Run5'r releases another scenario.

Can your need for creativity not be indulged by churning out killer scenarios?
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Postby Joe » Fri May 16, 2008 2:16 pm

Kingpin wrote:A good scenario is what most of us are looking for.



When BiI was released somebody asked over at Matrix “what's new?” I answered with something like:

- Much the same gameplay as BiN
- I listed the new features
- Then finished with “most importantly a new map and new scenarios”

“Yes, but what’s new?” he said

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Postby stevel40831 » Fri May 16, 2008 7:32 pm

Joe wrote:When BiI was released somebody asked over at Matrix “what's new?” I answered with something like:

- Much the same gameplay as BiN
- I listed the new features
- Then finished with “most importantly a new map and new scenarios”

“Yes, but what’s new?” he said

-


A person who answers like that has no appreciation for the game engine and, most likely, doesn't play the game at all, or very much, as it is. You're not going to make them happy no matter what you do. No doubt we'd all agree that you can't satisfy everyone, but, listening to and maintaining your current loyal customer base is the most critical factor. It's painfully obvious from numerous posts here and at Matrix what people are looking for.

I really really hope that this new direction is successful and that SSG-provided add-on scenarios and expansions come out on a regular basis after this first release (like AtD for example). If they don't, then the strategy is no different than in the past, with the exception that we get only one scenario rather than 10 or so, not counting BF.

Steve

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Postby Chris Merchant » Sat May 17, 2008 12:24 am

My observation is that SSG have since KP provided one new major battle per engine release; the exception being BF - which I personally think was the best in the series so far because it dared to break the mold; and that it came with four battles.

Regardless of whatever my observation is or isn't - I'm pretty confident that 'comfort levels' will be restored with Kharkov, and although I would have preferred SSG to continue with 'grand tactical' of BF, I'm very pleased with the marque of the engine as it now stands in the current Kharkov beta release, as it retains the best of the BF features as applicable with the scale of Kharkov.

I do applaud SSG on the declaration of maintaining platforms with the next 2 releases and this well could become a golden age of scenario development.

fwiw, Chris
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Postby Abwehr » Sat May 17, 2008 3:17 am

1. The company started in 1983 and we're still here, so we must be doing something right.


You have a loyal following, including plenty of people from these forums, the same people who are kindly asking you certain things, like "please release more scenario's" or "please release backwards compatible game engines".

You're doing something right, which is that you make great games, but my main gripe is that you're not releasing quality scenario's for those quality games, or reward scenario designers financially.

If you have a 3 man team, and a fairly stable financial situation (as you've been in business for so long, it would be logical that your financial situation is fairly stable and that you have long term plans), you should be able to reward people like, say, Brubaker for their work.

We paid at least 11 euro's/15 dollars for Across the Dnepr. The user made scenario's on the SSG page don't cost me anything, but are usually of a similar quality.

Think about the positive publicity, more or less for free, it would give you if you reward scenario designers with small sums for their scenario's. It would make the company appear in wargaming news outlets ("SSG pays scenario designers") and would send a positive message to the community ("we know we can't release scenario's regularly, so we're paying you if you do").

As a side note: I'm not sure why Battlefront is considered to be a "flop", as it had many good aspects. The many scenario's being a good example.
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No Reward

Postby critter » Sat May 17, 2008 3:48 am

I disagree about rewarding the sen. makers. Most of them get their reward thru the praise of those of us who enjoy them. You use Bru as an example...He clearly stated He "has more fun making them than playing the game his self." Look at Rob Jess he's been pissed off enough to quit several times yet released some great stuff.
What I would do is state that sens turned in to be published on the web site are the property of the community and subject to ssg reinterpitation. Then take em.. Check the history.. Insert a tough AI.. And Issue the sen as a bonus in your future releases. Giving the sen maker the credit and a free copy of the game in which it was released.
Its more than he gets now after giving us his labor of love. And lets SSG have Bigger and Better press releases. Its SSG's game engine...If you wanna get paid invent your own.
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Postby Abwehr » Sat May 17, 2008 3:57 am

I agree critter, and I think it's a good thing the majority of the scenario designers over here are saints from a financial perspective, but rewarding people would probably lead to more scenario's. Money is a great motivator, like it or not.

The problem with the number of scenario's is not that the community is not releasing new ones, but that the people who design new scenario's are few in number and release a new scenario once every 6 months, or more. More scenario designers, even though they might be a greedy bunch, would probably lead to a more steady stream of scenario's.
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Doing it for 20 years

Postby critter » Sat May 17, 2008 5:53 am

GW....Yeah you may have been there for 20 years....But I think alott of us agree Its on the down hill slide. You sound like Cher, The Stones, and Ba ba Streisand.. Every 3-5 years give 1 more "FARE WELL TOUR" Take the money and run... Never noticing your tours are less and less sold out and your new songs don't sell as much becuz your fans are still listening to their 20 year old albums.
I think its funny that you've just now started to answer questions that we've been asking (at least in my case) since 2004.
I think its funny that you now gotta release as a "new and exciting" feature, AO's in your new 16 turn game...When we've been asking for Corps and Div attachments for years. What happened somebody sneak you some kool aid?
I cannot understand..Why you fail to see..that while new is great..Allot of us like The DBWWII series/style of Gaming... Regt Operational battles.
BF and its newer sister are not evolutions of the DB system they are the start of a new "Grand Tactical" (to steal the discription from above) system of which I hear BF was a tottering first step. While I admitt I DO NOT OWN THE GAME.. I hear this from the people I pbem. Most of whom I'd invite into my house to board game with. So don't write me/us off as the "FEW" you can never please.
Show of hands.....What system are you playing now????? Mr chairman BII wins!!!!
I've got 7 pbem games of it going now.. 3 of BIN
These are the nearest thing to the old style move you counters, count the totals & roll the dice we grew up with. I spend my money on games I like. I'd like to know your intentions before asked to move along with the herd.
Why after all this isn't there a thread by a real member of the trinity updating us on your thoughts, answers and asking for our input? I doubt its because of working on new games/sen.s or counting the sales receipts of this one.
Before I support your new "vision" I'd like to know where its going and how much I've got to invest in it before your "vision" changes again.
I do not enjoy slamming you guys. I enjoy most of your stuff. But we are not lemmings. Your telling us "this is the one" is no longer being believed. Ignoring us just builds frustration. The excuses seem lame..I don't know how it cld be easier to evolve a new game than to go back and upgrade an older system to a newer system..Both of which you've already written. The units are done..The map is done..
Hell I believe to truely get it right you may have to come up with a newer engine. But keep it DBWWII. not another mutant half sister.
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