Overview of Reforge failure

Belrathius
Belrathius
edited October 2013 in General Archive
While the title may seem harsh, I think it is quite appropriate, and I will explain why.

Meagoinc rather succinctly pointed out the purpose of OP to most every gamer here - a tool to improve the game, most often as an immersive tool to help you feel like you are really in the setting. It's not just an overglorified notepad for tracking notes, it's meant and used as a medium to support the game; whether as the primary vessel (like with PBP through the forums) or as an adjunct to table-top games. This core purpose seems to have been lost in the Reforge - at least in terms of UI changes. I love a lot of the discussed back-end changes, although much of it seems to be broken (tags) or stretch goals not yet gotten to (natural editing). What we are faced with instead are drastic UI changes seemingly meant to hype OP (gargantuan OP header? Really?) or make it look like a smart-phone app instead of a simplified canvas that allowed even the free members some decent modicum of creating their own masterpiece to accompany and enhance their game. Now, the usable space is drastically diminished (both width and height), and we can't get away from certain elements always looking like they just stepped out of an I-phone. Not exactly immersive when your setting is medieval fantasy, old west, WWII, or any other number of settings that aren't strictly modern-day. Even for ascendant members, the options to change things boils down to undoing what was changed as an "upgrade", giving us the freedom to downgrade the UI changes to get back to a campaign focused on delivering content rather than a pretty, modern UI with lots of clean, unused space. It feels like the horrible violin player that hangs out by your table who you pay to go away. If this is meant as incentive to free members to upgrade, I doubt that it is having that effect. It's not even about specific campaigns needing to be redone (I haven't even looked at my most heavily CSS'd campaign yet, and probably won't for at least a week), it's about the members feeling like their needs were ignored. Will OP lose members over this? I'm afraid they will - you can do quite a bit of modding on a GuildPortal.com site to give the feel you want and the forum (and subforum) structure you need. Heck, even Wikia.com may serve better for providing an immersive experience now, at least in terms of free access. Again, I sincerely doubt driving people away was the objective, but sadly the UI changes seem likely to do just that if the forums are any indication.

Devs: I can appreciate the desire to make a bright, shiny app that looks like modern apps today (at least for smart phones). That said, you also need to understand your target audience, and in this case it feels like this really wasn't done in terms of the UI. The decision to limit beta testing to a select few who paid for the privilege was an exceedingly poor decision as well, as it limited feedback before roll-out. There is a reason why professional software companies (game, app, whatever) have closed (but free) betas followed by open betas - more feedback BEFORE you are judged on results is always better. By choosing to have a paid beta program, you not only limited your feedback and shot yourself in the foot, but you also changed your beta demographics, which skews results and ends up with the uproar you have now. While this can't be undone, I do believe there is a step that can be done to help address the frustration.

I would heavily suggest that you restore the old OP structure, then open up a beta on a sandbox server with access to all ascendant features (for anyone, ascendant or otherwise). Don't stress that it's October and your original target was August, focus instead on "getting it right". Let people make as many campaigns as they want, with the understanding that it is temporary for testing purposes only and will all be wiped at least every two weeks. Work with beta feedback, which will be far less fueled by emotion than folks having their hard work (often months of effort) go down the drain (at least by perception). This also gives the devs time to address issues calmly rather than in emergency mode, which is better for everyone. From a business standpoint, I also think this will do wonders for damage control and prevent a great deal of potentially lost business. Again, I'm not saying go back to the old OP permanently, but the new stuff simply wasn't ready for distribution, and your paying customers are the ones suffering for it.

There is no shame in saying "we jumped the gun, we're not ready, but we will put things back and want everyone's help going forward to make this the best gaming tool possible". The gaming community is generally pretty good at helping when needed (from my experience), but they are also quick to react when they feel they have been victimized.

Just my two cents, and I hope it is taken in the constructive manner in which it is meant.

Comments

  • Khrol
    Khrol
    Posts: 5
    +1 Well said, Belrathius.
  • Basileus
    Basileus
    Posts: 589 edited October 2013
    Yep, very well said. And from someone who has been going to lengths to help on the forums, so not a negative emotional response at all but a totally constructive one.

    I think both Ascendant and Kickstarter members would support such a plan of action.

    Any time a large company does a deployment of new code to a website or similar service, they have a roll-back plan in case things go horribly (or even slightly) awry. I realize the OP team is relatively small for the size and complexity of the site they run, but I'm hoping OP also has such a plan in place to easily revert to Preforge.
    Post edited by Basileus on
  • Belrathius
    Belrathius
    Posts: 206
    Thanks for the comment, Basileus, I am definitely trying to help as best I can (not even remotely the coder that Langy or yourself are).

    I just hope the administration reads this and gives it serious consideration.
  • Bret_
    Bret_
    Posts: 18
    I wish I had the free time to post my personal grievances with the same length, dedication, and respect that Belrathius has. Instead I will say quite simply, that this is an extreme disappointment. A new site, slower, less sleek, that runs like horrid Windows 8 and lacks much of the functionality and easy-to-read-ability of the old site. UI designs that force my 24-inch monitor to view my 4-page adventure log in a 96 inch long and 4-inch wide box. Why? Just why? For so many questions all I can ask is why on earth would you do this?

    The highest level of traffic on our site was our Adventure Log comments, which are now gone. We used them for conversation, feedback and criticism on specific campaigns, and for storing player notes. Now they're gone. Yippee.

    I really feel like the developers have truly lost sight of what this site was meant to be. Honestly, if they'd never done this update and simply added a search bar/function to the old UI that site would have been literally perfect.

    I say with much sadness and complete seriousness that my group will now be looking for a new site upon which to host our info. :(
  • jarwes
    jarwes
    Posts: 2
    I have to agree with Belrathius. In addition the new font colors while in edit mode are impossible for me to see without straining my eyes (admittedly I have bad eyes). Unless I can figure out a way to change the EDIT format look I will not be renewing my Ascendant membership next year.
  • GhostWolf69
    GhostWolf69
    Posts: 3
    I find it frustrating how the "Introductory Video" tells me that the old Obsidian Campaign Forum was never intended to be used as an actual Forum... and that is how they justify removing a lot of the functions.
    Well guess what? Our group USED it as an Actual Forum!!! Regardless of how you intended it, and it worked!
    What I have now doesn't work at all.
    And try using the site on an iPhone.... it's horrible!

    I'm just one inch away from downloading all our wikis and re-locating somewhere else. We've been here for years and have tons of campaigns here.
    We love it and pay our fees gladly.

    But if it's going down this road I just don't see the point any more.
    No sub-forums, no email reply-to-post, no overview of threads, no edit posts, no mobile version that works.... it's awful.

    /wolf
  • Number_Six
    Number_Six
    Posts: 9
    Well said Belrathius.

    Unfortunately, it seems like any kind of roll back to the old OP is not on the cards. The staff will weather the storm of negativity and then carry on with their new site as planned after the tempest dies down. Many have pointed out that once the kinks are worked out that the new site will probably be great for brand new campaigns, and that seems to be where the focus is - drawing in new users/customers who prefer that app/social media look to the site.

    Meanwhile, those who spent months and months busting their butts on campaign pages that are now ruined are simply directed to look at the 'vanguard program' forum and that's that. I appreciate that the staff is only a handful of people and not a massive company, but it really feels like salt being rubbed in the wound when the response is: go bug some of the CSS experts around here. Maybe they'll help you if you whine loud enough.

    I've already begun the slow process of porting my current campaign over to another site. Once that's done, it's a cancelled Ascendant membership and I am outta here. The only way the dissatisfied base can truly let the OP team know how they feel is by voting with our wallets.
  • jarwes
    jarwes
    Posts: 2
    I'm feeling much like you Number_Six, unfortunately I just paid for a year's membership back in August.....so I'll stick around until that's up. Hopefully things will get better before next August 2014.
  • Belrathius
    Belrathius
    Posts: 206
    I gave what I felt (as did others) a reasonable interim solution to the issues at hand (a lengthy list being present still).

    Could I PLEASE get an official response, since it has been stated that someone representing the dev team is monitoring all posts?
  • Basileus
    Basileus
    Posts: 589 edited October 2013
    Unfortunately, it was stated about a day in that they would not be rolling back. I think unless we do get some indication otherwise, we can assume that is the final word.

    Not my ideal situation certainly but I think that is where we are.

    I think that is partly a result of the fact that OP is run by a relatively small team for its size/activity. There probably wasn't a backout plan like you would see with an enterprise web deployment. Without having planned for it, it would probably be almost as difficult to restore the Preforge site as to just march forward and try to fix things as they are now.
    Post edited by Basileus on
  • Blackthorne
    Blackthorne
    Posts: 1
    I'm so pleased that I just re-upped for six months two weeks ago. It will be my last renewal.
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