Happy Friday! This is going to be a reasonably short post (or not), but we wanted to provide the same level of transparency we always have and let you know what we’ve been up to.
While we’ve always relied on our amazing player base to provide insightful feedback (and hurt our tiny feelings), we also track user behavior to gain some insight without the feedback. This includes things like player behavior and retention. For example: “how many truckers came back after their first visit” or “how long does the average trucker play before closing their browser window” or “why did we spend two years of our lives building this f’ing thing.” Most of those can be answered by simply consulting our stats and making adjustments accordingly, especially when players don’t opt-in to share that info which is a lot more often than you might think.
But before I address the weird title of this post and dig into what we’re working on for the upcoming patch, we need to go back a little bit so forgive the exposition in advance.
As mentioned in previous posts over the literal years, finding a balance between idle and actionable is a constant struggle bus. We want the game to have longevity and appeal to the idle fanbase who rely on weeks or even months of a side hustle minimized on a task bar, but also keep the twitchy demographic looking for constant stimulation and activity happy and satiated. This is tricky, but it’s an organic balance considering Mike and I favor slightly different playstyles. I’m more likely to let Cookie Clicker idle until I’m dead, whereas Mike loses interest a lot sooner. This makes for a good dynamic given our goals even if we have to verbally punch each other in the face a few times before one of us concedes. That aside, when we introduced STL to Armor Games — we also posted this whole story — we were told verbatim “idle game feels too idle” and even a recent review we received said the same thing, although the game was still praised for what it was. Fair enough.
With that in mind we realized the bones are there, the activity of new players shows commitment, but the moment there’s a “now what” new players go from fully engaged and active to the absolute opposite, close the game, and rarely return. This is obviously a problem, so… title.
We’ve been testing a massive squish on our staging server. The initial starting route was 100 miles, which scales from there. We cut that in half to 50 and play tested. It felt better. There were more things to do and the sense of accomplishment was increased dramatically. However, it wasn’t quite enough so we almost cut it in half again and brought it to 30. This felt like a different game (in a good way). Yeah, it’s shorter, and yes you’ll get to the endless road a lot faster than previously, but it’s a better experience overall. If you haven’t seen Egoraptor’s Sequelitis episode Castlevania 1 vs Castlevania 2 this is a good philosophical comparison you can dive into here. If you’d rather not, I’ll summarize: Castlevania 1 was a master class in game design, whereas Castlevania 2 was built around the idea that longer = better. It introduced grinds, timesinks, and other things that Castlevania 1 didn’t care about, even if that meant the game was over a lot faster. This is the direction we want to go.
After we squished routes, we took another look at goals. Once you finished the starter goals and the first batch, you were left with hours to wait for the next batch. We squished that too. Goals now reset every 15 minutes and we’re working on adding more goals to the mix, but we’ll get more into that in the future.
We also looked at other things that felt like we were intentionally or unintentionally slowing down the player. One of these is the deceleration when you want to hit the Truck Stop. While Mike did an amazing job making the truck realistically slow down and stop, it’s tedious early on when you have to go from 5 power to 0 power over the course of a mile. For new truckers, this feels sluggish and tedious. That’s gone too.
Lastly, we looked at collectables; those little floaty bois you click on. One of our players commented that even after equipping clovers the frequency of collectables didn’t seem to get any better. There’s a reason for that. The way collectables currently work is this: every x seconds a collectable may or may not spawn, depending on your “luck.” You can increase this luck by equipping clovers, but it doesn’t change the frequency of the spawn. Best case scenario; a collectable always spawns once every x seconds and that timer never changes. This is being reworked: collectables will now spawn every x seconds regardless, but the x is determined by your luck. So, for example, if the slowest collectables spawn speed is 2 minutes, you can reduce this time with clovers, but a collectable will always spawn, it’s up to you and your gear as to when that happens.
We’re also balancing Fleet to be more engaging and affordable as well, and fixing a few bugs brought to our attention by the aforementioned amazing player base.
In summation, we’re working on a lot of things, but we’re going to try to get them all in the new patch coming… soon. That’s all for now. Have a nice weekend truckers!
Squish it Real Good,
Dan & Mike