aqualizard

Player Retention Ideas - how to attract and keep new players?

85 posts in this topic

The player base isn't growing anymore, so we need to work on attracting and, in particular, keeping new players.

Let's come up with some ideas.

Are you a new player? We especially want to hear from you about what will keep you playing. Is there anything making it difficult for you?

So here are some ideas, and I'll try to link them to the post in the thread about them.

  • "C" Leagues
    We already have "A" leagues for top players and "B" leagues for guys who haven't hit that level (yet). Maybe we need a "C" league for new guys to play against guys who they have a chance against and make friends with people in the same situation as them. I think it was CoachMac who had the idea of hybrid leagues, where you have A/B/C divisions which mostly play in their division but also play some games outside of it.
  • Bridge Technology Gap
  • Streamline the installation process. Find better software. Make it easier for users to get help.
  • Game Nights
    Make a couple nights of the week specified as game nights. So those nights tend to be busy and you know you'll have some people to play.
  • Ladder
    I've been meaning to make a ranked ladder integrated with the nhl94online.com site but haven't gotten to it yet.
  • Streams
    Watching people play is fun... I think a 2on2 stream would be fun. Having a couple "Game Night" would help with this. smozoma says: I have this idea to make a ROM hack that allows kaillera server play with 3 or 4 players but the 3rd and 4th players don't actually play the game, they are just observers. This would allow someone to jump into the games and stream them without being a player. They could do commentary, too.
  • Chat room
    We used to have live chat integrated into the website, but it was a virus avenue. There may be ways to integrate Discord chat into the site safely.
  • Crack Down on Slackers
    Shorter seasons / enforce milestones
  • ... More ideas will be added as users contribute ideas....




Edited by aqualizard
aqualizard and smozoma are both managing this post

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Thanks aqua

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in 2on2 play (and normal game play)... can you have 3-4 players join a game on a kaillera server and still play just 2 players? Then I don't need to hack the game to allow that if it already does it.

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Too much catering to the slackers. When you have to wait around for eight weeks to play twenty minutes worth of NHL '94, people start to wonder if it's even worth it anymore.

For too long we have been accepting the slacking, and now it has caught up with us. It's annoying when you want to play but can't because a number of guys "don't have the time". Not only that, but we have people making a mockery out of the deadlines and the commissioners by not taking them seriously.

The current state of the community is perfect for the slackers like VC and Freydey who love extensions and not having to play any games. It seems like they are the ones who created the rules in the first place.

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Obviously one of the largest barriers to play is the effort required to actually install and tweak the software to be able to connect.

Would be awesome if we could streamline the installation process, as well as the game set-up time.

It becomes second nature for most - but if you consider the number of steps required to play your first game, it's pretty crazy.

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Too much catering to the slackers. When you have to wait around for eight weeks to play twenty minutes worth of NHL '94, people start to wonder if it's even worth it anymore.

Can you be specific? Are you saying "shorter leagues"? Or enforcing checkpoints better? Both? Something else? More? I want to add your points above but "No more catering to slackers" is too vague.

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I agree with jer_33, the steps required for playing your first game does not invite new players to come.

For the rest, I have some idea or suggestion :

For the Classic : If there is only one division with a mix of B and C players, I propose a C playoffs for teams that are not qualified in the B playoffs. To keep the players motivated.

And I will certainly launch the next year a New competition called The King of 7 Cup.

All players that are registered on nhl94.com will be invited to play this cup. Single elimination best of 7, the players enter the cup each round according to their level. I think this can wake up the interest from old players. Not a lot of games to play, and opponents on their level.

It's important to offer something else that the Classic league concept for new players. And the "Draft League like" is not what everyone dreams to play.

One of my actual interrogation is : why do we play every season a bugged game in Classic ?

We have hacks and multiple possibility to correct the classic rom, we can have a better and most interesting game that the original.

Can someone explain me why we are still playing with a bugged rom ??

I also take advantage of the opportunity to present you some of my reflections:

1st I want to introduce a new concept to enter the Leagues as coach : Head coach or Independent coach.

A declared Head coach is someone who wants to play a Team all the season and who can play all his games.

A declared Independent coach is someone who wants to play in a league but just when he has time.

So for an example we can have a 20 Teams League with 10 Head coaches, and the number of Free coaches you want, who play when they want the 10 Free teams.

- If a Head coach needs to play vs an Independent team, he just need to find a Free coach online and play.

- If a Head coach is not playing his games, he is dropped on the Free coach list and his team become a free team.

The great advantage is that players can join the league at any time in the season to play as Free coach and even pick a Free team and become a Head coach. The waiting list is also, by the facts, obsolete.

At the end the goal is 100% games played, a mix of regular players and casual players, and the possibility to enter or quit the league at any time in the season with no great impact on the league.

2nd, as number of players decrease irremediably, I don't want to wait the end to propose a League with Offside & Line Change, and all the hack we can have, to play more strategics games.

I will made a specific post for that in a couple of days.

I have other ideas, but I think it's good for today :)

Edited by Pearate

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I agree on the technology gap, I think Brutus was the first to really nail the issue regarding "new" people coming to this community. If you think about modern consoles, you just turn on and play. Wireless controllers, networks, etc. It's pretty easy.

The latest technology favors people using tablets/phones over laptops, wireless over wired.

To play '94 online, you have to have a PC/Laptop (if it's Apple, there is a whole new problem). Then you need to download and install the GENS emulator, with the latest kaillera client installed with the package. Hopefully you know what to do with a zip file, and you can only find it on nhl94online.com (different site than nhl94.com). You then have to set up the emulator by mapping your keys and making sure you open up the ROM (make sure you have the right ROM too). THEN you need Hamachi, going through the process of setting up your free account on logmein. Next you need an AIM account to try and find people. But before all of this, you must have posted on the forums at NHL'94 online (after creating an account), hoping for a response from someone, to possibly help you sometime, at some given date. So you have to check back on the forums. Hopefully kingraph added you to the chat group.

If you manage to get through all that (and are still interested), you need to play a test game. Oh, your laptop has to be wired or else you'll have a horrible laggy experience. Can't connect? Gotta mess with your firewall settings for an hour sometimes.

Don't have a controller with USB? Another issue -- go buy one, or buy an adapter for your Genesis controller.

Then, FINALLY, once you're ready, now you sit and wait for someone to play. Maybe. 20+ year old game.

So yeah, I get it...you have to be really dedicated to get into this community. My guess is 75% of the folks are technology background/comfortable with tech.

On the flip side, we've seen more live events than before, and I'm excited to see that segment get some traction and grow. I hope!

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Maybe we can recreate the emulator/rom download so it has:

a README.txt in the root directory of the zip with everything else in folders.

- the readme could contain info or a link to a detailed forum post or website page.

- link to Discord chat group (no registration required)

emulator (with netplaysave enabled)

- config pre-configured for keyboard

classic ROM

the right kaillera DLL

logmein installer (updated once a while)

discord installer (updated once a while)

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Maybe we can recreate the emulator/rom download so it has:

a README.txt in the root directory of the zip with everything else in folders.

- the readme could contain info or a link to a detailed forum post or website page.

- link to Discord chat group (no registration required)

emulator (with netplaysave enabled)

- config pre-configured for keyboard

classic ROM

the right kaillera DLL

logmein installer (updated once a while)

discord installer (updated once a while)

All good ideas, especially having the right kaillera right off the bat. (Pearate mentioned this before, as have others.)

The Discord bit sounds good too, as long as no serious roadblocks have been found. If we are moving with Discord, maybe the next leagues should not have an AIM group at all,to force this.

Edited by aqualizard

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For a lot of new guys, if there was a standard package that could be sold at reasonable cost (USB controller, USB stick with all required components set and ready) - I think it would be a "hot seller" - by that I mean more than one guy might be interested.

I've often thought that instead of having a downloadable zip file for leagues, you could just have a sharable dropbox/google drive folder with all of the updated files including Netplay/GENS, roms etc.. When you sign-up for the league, you are invited to share the folder - could even become a decent repository for gamesaves.

I also think that since AJ is travelling so much - we should put him on tech support. Like Geek Squad, he would do home visits and help guys get set-up. This in exchange for airport pick-up and crashing on your couch.

Edited by jer_33
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Email newsletter every couple months? League and tourney news..

Anyone "good" at facebook have ideas?

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For a lot of new guys, if there was a standard package that could be sold at reasonable cost (USB controller, USB stick with all required components set and ready) - I think it would be a "hot seller" - by that I mean more than one guy might be interested.

I've often thought that instead of having a downloadable zip file for leagues, you could just have a sharable dropbox/google drive folder with all of the updated files including Netplay/GENS, roms etc.. When you sign-up for the league, you are invited to share the folder - could even become a decent repository for gamesaves.

I also thank that since AJ is travelling so much - we should put him on tech support. Like Geek Patrol, he would do home visits and help guys get set-up. This in exchange for airport pick-up and crashing on your couch.

I like these ideas.

Could have a ROM folder on the download share. Folders for windows/apple/linux.

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League start dates are consistent / known ahead of time (for the big ones). So new players just know, Classic always starts October 1st and February 1st something like that.. So there is no "just wait for the next classic league, it's probably in SomeMonth"

Other big leagues (GDL, whatever other ones) interleaved with classic also in a known and consistent way.

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I know the day is coming soon that a website will be built that we can just hop in and start a game with someone right away. It's almost here. I can feel it.

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League start dates are consistent / known ahead of time (for the big ones). So new players just know, Classic always starts October 1st and February 1st something like that.. So there is no "just wait for the next classic league, it's probably in SomeMonth"

Other big leagues (GDL, whatever other ones) interleaved with classic also in a known and consistent way.

Also, just leave registration open all the time. Nice simple "Register for next season" button. On the registration page "Next season starts Feb 1st, 2017. You will receive an email 2 weeks earlier as a reminder (and to verify you're still interested."

Also, back in early blitz days, the Farm league was actulay pretty popular, but I was just too busy/lazy to keep it going. So a "join at any time C league" could be a good idea, which I think someone brought up above already.

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in 2on2 play (and normal game play)... can you have 3-4 players join a game on a kaillera server and still play just 2 players? Then I don't need to hack the game to allow that if it already does it.

Yes you can. Players 3 and 4 can just watch.

Totally agree with the above posts, we're using ancient tech to play and even communicate.

  • We use an emulator that hasn't been updated in 10 years, and will likely never be updated.
  • We use an absolutely outdated chat system that will likely be killed off by AOL in the next few years.

While I like smoz idea about bundling everything. This is still not a major solution. We need to think of ways to get this game running on android/iOS.

I've tested out an emulator on android called "RetroDroid" it's solid as it has controller screen overlays and can play a variety of systems. But the biggest feature is it actually has netplay! Unfortunately I haven't been able to get this working without it desyncing in the first 3 seconds.

But if we could run nhl94 on top of a netplay capable genesis emulator on android and iOS then spread the word like crazy through social media outlets and gaming channels we could create a real wave of new players.

Now sticking to our current technology one of the biggest hurdles is setting up a match. With modern consoles this is mostly taken care of by the game, you find the game you play and your matched with somebody online. This is almost impossible with 94. In that sense we definitely need a much stronger chat communication system, one where players can post that they are free and available for games. Maybe they would have the capability to simply have their IP up and anybody can join the game for an exhibition.

Another idea is to bundle all our nhl94 land with other retro games and create a true super power site of retrogaming sports. Create a community for games like RBI baseball, NBA Jam, badnews baseball, other NHL titles, etc.

Again though I keep looking at the barriers to actually playing this game and they are now so great compared to modern games on either console or mobile phones. The gap is progressively getting larger as we have not changed much here.

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Here is an idea specifically for retaining new signups in Classic.

Let them draft first. The worse you are, the more a team matters.

Have new guys draft in order that they join. If we have 4 new guys, they draft 1-4, and then other B League vets draft in random order as normal, form that point on.

New guys with CHI and DET will not get clobbered, and more likely to stick around.

(If we have a C Tier this idea is not necessary, obviously.)

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New guys should be clearly indicated as such. When someone is brand new, in the Draft thread it should indicate this beside their name.

Like: Protology (brand new)

Then helpful vets will be aware of their status, and reach out more. I know I would. If I saw this I would check in with these guys regularly.

Related to this, there should be an AIM group that is:

"Tech Support", or

"Tier C" (if we ever have a Tier C)

where the new guys can post issues they may be having without (hopefully) feeling stupid.

(I am convinced we lose a ton of guys due tech trouble.)

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I know the day is coming soon that a website will be built that we can just hop in and start a game with someone right away. It's almost here. I can feel it.

That would be amazing!

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Assigning a vet coach to each newby as a mentor would be helpful. I did this once with a new guy and we ended up having many email conversations to answer the hundreds of questions he had about getting connected, leagues, exis, the forum, etc. It was easier to ask the questions and get answers in this one on one way. He ended up being a thriving member of the community for several years.

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Sharing an experience from a local Tecmo Super Bowl tournament I helped run in Milwaukee last weekend...

A player by the name of DarthRockMan is quite good, and always does well in live events. He is well known in the online community. During the intro phase of the tournament, he gave a minute long sales pitch on the benefits of online Tecmo Super Bowl, and brought resources with him to help sell his online community a bit. As retro sports game communities go, they are the only other one that I feel that competes with the passion of this community.

I think the biggest recruitment tools we have are the live tournament scene, as well as live streams. To help bolster our own King of 94 WI tournament, Moe Man and I have started a regular Twitch stream where we play for about an hour or so and horse around. When people hit the stream, they are greeted with two guys having a great time, and with messages on how to get connected with us. Those that chose to connect with us on Facebook get all of our updates on there.

For the tournament this weekend in CA, I would strongly suggest making the live participants aware of the online community if they aren't already, and encourage and help them to get started. This would strengthen friendships, and keep people interested until the next tournament.

Edited by King of 94' WI

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kg school of hockey! I can make anyone a champion ......it wll be live after the movie

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Now sticking to our current technology one of the biggest hurdles is setting up a match. With modern consoles this is mostly taken care of by the game, you find the game you play and your matched with somebody online. This is almost impossible with 94. In that sense we definitely need a much stronger chat communication system, one where players can post that they are free and available for games. Maybe they would have the capability to simply have their IP up and anybody can join the game for an exhibition.

A newer version of Kaillera has a lobby where you can wait for games.

Q: How do I find opponents? Does it have a lobby?

A: That part is mainly left to the user. However, due to popular demands, a vary limited "waiting games list" has been added and is accessable from "Connect" tab in P2P mode of the client. To enlist games in that waiting games list, the "S: Public" checkbox must be enabled aftrer hosting.

From http://p2p.kaillera.ru/

I accidentally used this version of Kaillera one day and noticed it, but didn't invest any time into trying to use it.

Could be a worth a look.

Edited by AtomicRaven

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I know the day is coming soon that a website will be built that we can just hop in and start a game with someone right away. It's almost here. I can feel it.

That would be amazing!

That was my goal with pixelpuck.com, to have a 'play now' link in the menu for ROM updates, which would open the emulator and launch the game in the same browser with controller support. Never had any plans of this type of thing being multiplayer, though.

I don't have the time to pursue it anymore, likewise for updating ROMs.

Browser based emulation is nothing new, obviously, but having the game available in a browser, here, on NHL94.com with netplay and a lobby would be ideal, especially if there is functionality to upload scores.

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Playing on browser can be done locally, you just need to have the proper controller setup, so two people can go on.

There is like nhl95 on sega in http://www.ssega.com/play/nhl-95/1179.

Some sites you can play old PC games via Dosbox so if you'd have a gens emu running like them, you could even change the setup via mouse then. It's just open for abuse if left like that. There also comes the problem for latency in transatlantic connections. Euro players are few, but it would be restrictive for growth on that side if the server would be in NA or vice verse for example.

Question arises if it would be possible to have 2 browsers play the same game via p2p? On a rapid thought it is quite hard to perform, but you could have for example a static NA server on eastcode and a static EU server on west coast that you connect to and have the gens emu run from there and connect to the already known IP:s as P2P. That would also basically fix some inconsistency problems as well and if either ones ISP is lagging, it would be only on that one side as the problem is between ISP to server, the actual P2P between games would be fine in general.

The abuse problems could be overcome that the games are accessible via login only, which would narrow it down and be able to see from logs which users could be abusing the system like shutting down the game.

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It would be easy to find games on AIM if coaches used it correctly. Green for available, red for busy or just offline if you can't play. You can even put up a note to say if you're looking for exis or league games.

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Why not do a survey or questionnaire and send it to all members of nhl94.com ?

So we will know exactly why members don't play online? We will no longer have urban legends.

We just need maybe to consult each other, here in the forum, to built the survey and select the questions.

Edited by Pearate

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Hey what a GREAT topic for someone (me) who is brand new and just signed up to the forum!

As a teenager (in 94 and onwards) I spent HOURS playing NHL 94 (on Genesis). It is (of course) my favourite sports game of all time.

The other day I was cleaning my kitchen and somewhere in my brain went "there must be a Hockey 94 online thing....". Man was I excited to find this!

But my initial excitement got a little turned down due to some "barriers" which I'll list below. Now some confusion points may be me just not reading instructions correctly, but I'll just relate my experience.

Note that I am technical by trade (electrical engineer with coding experience).

Barriers:

- Sweet there is online play for NHL 94! Doh! I have a Mac. I downloaded and played single player on Generator. And it seems like there are SOME players on MAC gens...but it sounds like it is hard to get anyone for a game as is. I can bring my PC Laptop from home..but that is a pain. There is zero way I am going to bootcamp Windows just for this. Wine bottles is possible option....anyways a Gen that can somehow connect and work across PC and MAC would un-alienate probably a large group of potential users.

- OK..I'll figure the MAC thing out or play with MAC users...but the leagues and league system was a bit confusing. I got a hamachi account and remembered my 20 year old AIM password...but then how do you get a test game? I (finally) found the page with active AIM users....Is there a way to add everyone at once? Do I need to join a league? Do I just cold contact someone? Do I post on a forum for a game? The instructions were ok..but I still found it a bit confusing.

- I don't have a controller. I think I have my orig. genesis ones and will buy a USB adaptor or will buy a new usb controller or something. Its not a huge barrier for me likely. But I sure don't want to play a "test" game until I have REAL control. My initial games vs computer with keyboard left me yearning for the controller. So maybe there is some "lag" for people while they get a controller

- AIM for organizing games? Like said above in posts, coaches REAL status / availability seems to be a problem. Is it working? No experience so far.

Just my experience (so far).

Looking forward to one day having a controller, hopefully running a popular (I guess PC) emulator, connecting with someone to have a game...but that day seems awhile off still.

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