The BIG release - a retrospective - Game Plan Hockey Manager

Published 2019-07-06

The BIG release - a retrospective

So we're now a couple of months in after the BIG release and I thought I'd share my thoughts on things I'm happy about, things I believe could've gone better but also some things planned for the future.

But first a quick recap on what this BIG release was all about.

Last year we announced that we were planning to make some big changes to the game. Not only were we to introduce new features and a brand new design but also some breaking changes regarding user accounts. Up to that point the game had been completely free to play and for those who wanted to support the game there was an option to sign up for an All Star account in order to get a couple of extra customisation features. With this new release we decided to remove this setup and instead introduce a free trial period for all new users and a subscription plan in order to continue to play the game. Still honouring the "no pay-to-win" spirit - a small fee but equal terms for everyone. The response was of course not without complaints, we totally respect that these kind of changes may upset our current users, but surprisingly many users actually welcomed these kind of changes, which we were really grateful for. Running behind schedule, we were finally happy to make the BIG release by March 1st 2019.

So now back to actual release and my reflections.

What I'm happy about

I must say that I was quite nervous to see how many of our existing users that was actually going to sign up for the new release. But I didn't had to stay nervous for too long, before the first day came to an end over a hundred of our current users signed up for a subscription planned and many more signed for a free trial. So this is what I'm most happy about - to keep so many of our existing users. It's really humbling to see so many loyal users to this game!

I'm also happy about how smooth the release went. I mean, we had gone from one server to two servers, a completely new database and quite many new features. Many things that could have caused unexpected behaviour running in a production environment. Of course there were some bugs, there's always bugs, but there were no severe crashes keeping me up all night. So overall we had a very smooth release with few bumps in the road.

Last but not least, I was very happy to finally have taken this first important step for this game's future.

What could've gone better?

I had hoped to introduce more new features quite soon after the release. There were a few that was planned for the big release but was cut in the last minute. Although I did manage a few releases most were mainly bug fixes. Of course this had natural explanation, we were expecting our second child in the family and together with a busy time at work it kept the hours I could spend to a minimum. But this reminded me why did this release to begin with - to find a way making this game a more serious business and not only a hobby project.

I also regret that we couldn't keep up and keep a decent online presence in the community.

And we didn't find new users to the extent that we had hoped. When we launched we had three active game worlds. We hoped to double that amount by the summer. This didn't happen, and there's a couple of reasons for this. Our current users are mostly really experienced ones. Being new to the game without any prior knowledge you're quite dependent of help files and user guides. And this game is very much behind in that area. So for new users, it's pretty much "figure it out yourself or quit". With that said, updated help files and guides are actually coming, I'm working on it as we speak but it will not be released until the end of the summer.

What is planned for the future

Very soon there will be another patch of bug fixes. I will try to crush as many bugs as I possible can during the summer. But I will also try to finish the updated help files and user guides as soon as possible.

Once that is finished I will focus on adding a couple of new features. The top priorities are extended player training and improved in game communication between managers. These features are quite big and will probably be put in separate releases during the fall.

We're also looking into adding smaller features such as League awards, All Star and National teams. There is no time schedule for these features but any one of them may very well be released quite soon.

On top of this we will also looking into on how to support PayPal subscriptions since we know not all have or want to subscribe by credit card. We will also try to be more active both in the community but also in social media.

As always, there's enough to keep me busy for a long time! Hopefully we can also add more users to the game this fall to take that final step!

Thanks for reading and for playing this game!

Sincerely, Anders Granberg