Behind the scenes #2 – Feedback

In the last blog entry we talked about modding and the importance of the community’s contribution for the success of Train Fever. This time we will give you some insight into how we handle feedback and suggestions. We will illustrate in what way it influences the development of the game.

A considerable part of the feedback reaches us directly via email. We keep a close eye on our forums and the Steam discussions page. In addition we participate in the forums run by our dedicated community. Gameplay videos, Steam reviews and tests from game magazines are other valuable sources. Furthermore, reports are generated when the game crashes. Players can opt to let these reports be sent automatically to us.

feedbackWe receive feedback from a lot of diverse sources.

Reading through all the comments is a time-consuming process, but it is crucial to improve the game according to the players’ opinions. We accumulate all the feedback and divide the collected data into various categories, including new features, improvements or bug fixes.

Bug fixes have the highest priority. The automatic sending of crash reports allows for finding and isolating bugs in real time, and we can react to problems very quickly. A comprehensive stock of diverse hardware helps us to test Train Fever and reproduce errors or problems. The systems range from consumer Laptops up to devices equipped with the latest processors and graphic cards. We run various versions of Windows, Mac OS and Linux to cover the most common hard- and software combinations.

After sorting the bugs by severity and estimating the time and effort to resolve them, we work on a solution with very high priority. If it is a critical bug, it will be released immediately as a hotfix, otherwise we decide what we will include in the next game update along with the fixes.

bugsA screenshot of our real-time crash report database; a crucial tool to minimize the number of bugs and crashes.

As opposed to bug fixes, handling feedback in regard to new features is a more difficult process. In addition to our own (huge) feature wish list, players send us lots of feature suggestions. Hardcore players are important, as they deliver most of the feedback, but we are always happy to see everybody being involved. If so, we get a more representative picture, and it is easier to estimate if a certain feature is really requested by the masses.

“The more feedback we get, the better we can tare if it is necessary and a welcome feature. “
~Manu, 2D/3D Artist

New features come with obstacles we have to overcome. Players often share great ideas with us, but they can not specify the exact way it should be implemented. With new mechanics, we always face the possibility of them having an unfavorable impact on the gameplay. Rebalancing the whole game might be needed.

An adaption of the data structure, which determines how games states are saved and loaded, can be necessary. A lot of effort has to be put into assuring old save games load correctly. We also need to consider the big amount of mods available – they still have to work after an update.

One thing we learned is that releasing a patch which includes any kind of restriction compared to the previous version is always a bad idea. When we introduced the so-called main connections – a feature intended to prevent cheating – many players were not happy with this change. Finally, we made another patch which added the option to disable the new main connection feature.

“Players naturally get used to the as-is situation and might prefer it over the new version.”
~Urban, CTO

Certain improvements can represent a big challenge. We have released several performance patches, yet we are still not completely satisfied. Due to the complex simulation Train Fever is very demanding, especially in regard to pathfinding and town growth in the late game.

Assigning resources to bug fixing and improving the game sometimes leaves us less time for new features than we would like to have. A long list of features was waiting since the release, but we had to delay them, like the waypoint system for trains or the vehicle filter.

waypointsWaypoints were one of the most requested features and have been introduced in build 4619.

A little known fact about Train Fever is that some fundamental mechanics are based on external feedback. Initially, when the crowd-funding campaign for Train Fever started in 2012, the game design only contained passenger transport. However, the backers made it very clear that they want to transport cargo, too.

“The more players, the more ideas, the more creativity.”
~Basil, CEO

Since recently, we are working on what will come after Train Fever, and the feedback we get is very useful to prepare for that. Some work can be used for both the current and the upcoming game, which safes a lot of time and avoids splitting resources. In a couple of cases we concluded that it is not possible to adapt the current game without risking to trigger one of the mentioned problems. We direct these ideas to our next project.

Feedback is very important to us. In that context let us say thank you for your comments on our last entry and showing us your interest. We have a lot of topics we still want to cover. The same applies as for new game features: Let us know what you want us to talk about! It helps to determine what you are interested in. So feel free to leave a comment!

Next time we will focus on the release of Train Fever. It was a very delicate and exciting process. We would like to share what we experienced.

13 thoughts on “Behind the scenes #2 – Feedback

  1. Thanks for communicating with the community!
    My 5 rappens: when I rebuild tracks/stations, I see cargo disappearing from trains and/or stations (that aren’t rebuilt) and trains reversed sometimes. This is very annoying and has actually stopped me from playing the game, because I couldn’t find a way to upgrade my line without losing a lot of money.

  2. weekly posts!!! now that’s something i really like!!! :D
    about the town growth… consider making the ‘villages’ look more like ‘cities’ when surpasing a certain amount of people (with the current growth in the game that could be around 5000, possible to be done but not easy(my all time record is nearly 10.000 people with 3-4 more cities over 5000 ;) )
    also, i’m dying to hear something about that next game you are talking about!!!
    maybe after next week’s post? :D

  3. So how about adding waypoints for road vehicle? I need that much more than rail waypoints.

    And tram track on center of the road lane also would be appreciated.

    • Definitely agree about the road way points, would be so useful to be able to route vehicles around traffic jams rather than just have them “shortest route” straight into the jam. Also the ability for vehicles to be able to overtake if faster than the one in front, although I suspect this will be much harder to implement. Being able to raise/lower railway track with M or N keys (like with the road) would also be quite useful.

  4. I am disappointed by this blog entry. I expected (because developers told so when introducing the blog) to know more about the current plans to incorporate feedback in train fever, in particular which suggestions developers were working (or at least willing) to incorporate in train fever (or not because too difficult or unwanted). The suggesions on this forums are many and a great number of them are very interesting. Unfortunately this post is only about some generic “we listen for feedback”… I still hope this topic will be tackled in the future.

    • Exactly my sentiment. Even the first blog article was kind of bellow the set expectations.
      Still, great to see you share your thoughts with the community.

  5. But you’ve done nothing about the copious complaints from your players – 65% positive reviews really isn’t good for a Steam release. You say you listen to feedback, but you don’t seem to actually incorporate it – there’s a ton of work still needed on Train Fever but instead you seem interested on doing a new game – where does that leave us? The game is still half – or less – of a simulation.

    I was rather hoping that this blog would actually be about what players want and how you’re incorporating it. Sadly, that very evidently isn’t a focus…

    Disappointing.

  6. having trouble playing game. have it at ready to play but it goes like its about to play then goes right back to the ready to play screen. Game looks awesome I cant wait to play but cannot and its upsetting. I’m pretty new at this and i hope its just something i missed please help

  7. “One thing we learned is that releasing a patch which includes any kind of restriction compared to the previous version is always a bad idea.”

    It certainly is not always a bad idea. I like the idea of main connections for example. The big problem people have with it is it’s implementation. When in the real world someone is working on a road they do not build a bypass first. They demolish the road and start rebuilding it. That was simply not possible in the game. A lot of suggestions have been made on the forums on how to improve this new feature, but developers instead decided to give gamers the option to disable it all together at the sacrifice of not gaining any achievments when the feature was disabled.

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