The last weeks have been a time of reflection, and actually playing the games. I have been going over the feedback I have been getting in email and through the forums – fixing errors in various games and apologising that the errors occurred in the first place – thinking of ways I can make what we have now better.

I have seen a lot of comments on the site being slow. Until recently I took this just to mean the site was slow processing turns. Sometimes it can be, and I am looking into that, but I now understand that is only one facet of the “slow” perception.

Most of the concerns is about players being slow to submit moves and game turns subsequently taking a long time. This is harder to address than code performance – I have to improve the performance of the players. So I have come up with a list of things to improve it.

Better “Next Game” function. Personally I use the “next game” link in the top right of of the game screen to go through all my games. I do not know how widely it is used – please tell me if you use it. The problem is it does not actually show you all your games – it misses out games that are waiting for you to make starting position selection. I believe it is the reason why otherwise active players neglect to start games. That link will be changed so you can actually see all your games in a smart manner – more than just listing all your games it has to show you which ones need attention.

Reduce the time it takes for a player to be marked inactive. Currently users get a warning after seven days of inactivity and are marked inactive after ten. Only when a user is marked inactive can they be replaced in a game. This now seems too long. Its long enough that while waiting for one inactive player in a game the other players can lose interest and become inactive themselves. I am also playing in at least one game where the other player is obviously using the warning emails as their weekly reminder to submit moves, making the game proceed at a week a turn.

I plan to reduce the time for a player to be marked inactive to three days with a 24 hour warning. That should be a better period for games to be idle before they are offered for pickup. At the same time I will give users a holiday option – it will allow them to extend the time they can be inactive on a one off basis. Holiday mode will be cancelled as soon as they next log in.

Add turn by turn email reminders to games. Deduce or Die! has this option already and it seems to work quite well. My games of DoD are moving faster than my games of Blue Max. In Blue Max I will add a per user per game option to be emailed when a new turn starts. Initially I will just do this for Campaign games as I have the records to attach the settings to, but I will look at extending it to stand alone games as well.

Give users more opportunities to get pilot berths. Blue Max campaigns are supposed to be special  – that was the idea behind putting a condition (pilot berths) on entering them. It was never about making money. Unfortunately the system has been too restrictive and users are cannot join the campaigns they want. Pilot berths are staying, but I am looking to introduce new ways to earn them, specifically by completing a certain number of stand alone games. Inviting new players to join the site might also give you pilot berths. Basically anything that shows you are an interested and active player should allow you to get into more campaigns.

Marketing for more players. The more players that are on the site the more responsive it should be. The more players submitting moves should mean that for any one player there will be more gaming to do in any one visit and the more games will be advanced.

The big stopping point for advertising is that the working budget for the site is $0, an amount that is exceeded on a monthly basis by the hosting costs.  I am considering a Board Game Geek, Facebook or AdWords campaign despite the costs. Better both economically and effectively would be for the players to promote the site to their friends, in their blogs and on their websites. If you like playing on the site please tell everyone you know who might also be interested.

New games on the back burner. While I am implementing all this I am putting the development on the new games I have lined up in the background. There will still be thinking about them but precious, precious coding time will go to making the games I already have the best they can be.

Do you have any thoughts on improving or promoting the site? Any thoughts on what I have discussed above? Share them in the comments or in the forum.