Developer's New Year's address
Today I want to take a look back at 2021, and tell you a bit more about which direction we are going in 2022.
The year gone by
The tedious tasks
Most of the year, our time was spent on a variety of tedious tasks that weren't visible to you, but that were imposed on us by external parties. Among other things, several external services replaced their old APIs, which required major rewrites. We also had to fend off hacker attacks and deal with performance issues. When we finally finished at the end of September, I wrote a huge blog post with all the details.
Enhancements to Trading Features
There was also a major update focusing on trading, which included the "Standing Bid" feature, which we can see being used frequently. I wrote about the details in this blog post
In early November I hired FC Apollyon (aka Liam) as a Community Manager. He has the same tasks as our previous Administrator, Jeppe, but as the title suggests, he has an even more important task: to be the one who has his ear to the ground and helps streamline communication.
In an organization where we have all been involved for many years and are used to doing things the same way we've always done, it has been good to get a brand new member in who asks a lot of questions. It has been a breath of fresh air, and has made me think new thoughts and introduce new ways of working and communicating.
For example, it was on Liam's suggestion that we implemented a changelog because he noticed that we make a lot of small fixes and improvements that we never write about otherwise. You can see our changelog here. We don't write about absolutely everything in the changelog, but we try to write a line every time we change something that may be relevant to you.
At the end of November, we introduced VM Pro, which is ad-free and offers some other benefits, such as being able to colour one's stadium and upload your match kit designs. You can read more about VM Pro in this blog post. More features will be added to VM Pro in the future.
I'm glad we finally have something to offer for those who want to be free of advertising.
We still have an introductory offer for 1 year of Pro. The offer lasts until January 9.
Crew tools, bug fixing
The rest of the year we spent on minor tasks, such as getting to the bottom of bug reports, improvements to the shoutbox, new prizes for the Christmas calendar, and implementing a lot of the crew's wishes for improvements to their tools.
I'm really looking forward to kicking off a new year, free of all the tedious jobs that dragged us down last year.
For the next week or so, we have couple of minor tasks to finish off, including some IPv6 compatibility and a couple more crew tools that need to be improved. Then we can get started on the major tasks for 2022.
Our work in 2022 will fall into these 2 categories:
- Refreshed and mobile-friendly design
- Improving old features
I have written before that we have a huge problem with retaining new users. A frighteningly large percentage drop out in less than 1 minute after they have made a new club, and that can only mean that the first-hand impression is the problem.
A lot of advertising dollars are completely wasted when they drop the game so quickly that they never get to experience the gameplay. That means we're in a race against time, because we'll never get the user base to grow again unless we get a mobile friendly design implemented.
However, a lot of preliminary work is needed before the first mobile friendly page can be published. In order not to go too long without visible improvements to game features, I will try to weave some of these into the development work.
Changes to game features often require a lot of discussion, so it makes sense that we can have a discussion running while we work on technical jobs.
Mobile friendly design
In December, a new version of Ruby on Rails came out, which is the web framework we use, so before we start work on the new design, it would be wise to upgrade first.
After that we'll need to come up a design language: typography, color palette, a library of coherent UI elements, and navigation.
Once in place, we can get started customizing the actual content of each page so that it uses the new design and automatically adapts to different screen sizes.
Improving old features
There are lots of things we can tackle and everyone will each have their own opinion on what is most important. So, we're sure to get the question "why don't you do X instead?".
The answer is that we need to start with the things that are easiest to do! Right now is not the time to tackle super complex technical issues or large, intricate rebalances. We have very limited resources and we have to go for what gives us the most bang for the buck.
Therefore, I have chosen 2 features to start with that are not too technically difficult to improve. These are very old features which have boring gameplay, where almost any improvement would be a huge boost.
The sponsorship system is ancient, and it's just not very satisfying gameplay that you have to sit there and enter numbers in a form and send bids to 7 different sponsors without knowing what's up and down.
- Instead of you applying, the sponsors will send offers to you
- Until you have accepted an offer, the offers may change continuously depending on how the club performs
- Some sponsors will have demands on which clubs they want to work with. It could be requirements for division, stadium, youth squad, or overall player value
- The gameplay will consist of choosing the right sponsorship and fighting to be considered by the richer sponsors
- There must be an element of gambling in whether you want to accept an offer early in the season, or wait and see if there better ones come along.
- We need some cool new sponsor logos. I'm considering having a design contest and awarding premium to those whose logos we use in the game
There are over 1.3 million employees in the database, but still everyone thinks it is impossible to find a good coach.
- Instead of searching through 1.3 million unemployed employees, you will continuously receive applications. It should work more like other management and tycoon games
- The employee's wage demands will also take his stats into account
- It should be possible to upgrade the stats of employees - but it shouldn't be too easy, and there must be some gameplay in it
- You will not be able to employ coaches in the position of scout and vice versa. Employees are useless when used in the wrong job, so having that option only creates confusion
The plan for the near future
- This week: rounding off technical tasks and several improvements to crew tools
- Upgrade to Rails 7, and start design discussions about new sponsorship system
- Implementation of new sponsorship system
- Development of design language and technical scaffold for mobile-friendly design
- Start discussions about a new employee system
- Conversion of the most used pages to the mobile-friendly design
- Implementation of new employee system and ongoing conversion of several pages to mobile-friendly design
After that there are lots of other improvements we can tackle, such as to the match viewer, tactics editor and match simulation.
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