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 Post subject: Ex Illis software improvements - what needs to be done?
PostPosted: Thu Nov 21, 2013 8:29 am 

Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2010 5:06 pm
Posts: 71
Location: Flörsheim/Germany
It seems as if I would do a lot of complaining about the kickstarter campaign at the moment. This might be because I am still one of the fans of a software tabletop game and am really not sure if a paper book is the holy grail that can raise Ex Illis from the dead. But to me it seems a bit unfair to complain without saying what my alternatives would be or would have been. I know that the chinchilla crew is doing all their best and I appreciate that. Still I think it would not take that much to make the software app more interesting for players, mainly because beside the critics it got, the game was well developed.

1.) Get rid of all the animation stuff

This sounds hard because surely it took quite some time animating and was expensive as well. But people hat two main problems with this animations: First off, they where never as good as a real computergame, it just didn't look that good and second, if you can see the battle completely on the screen, why should you use miniatures? Tabletop is mostly about imagination, you destroy that with those animations. This might be the core problem, why people sayed they would more like a dicerolling tabletop. Not because of the dice (there are lots of good games without dice around, like Freebooters Fate), but because of the imagination of the battles.

The first Ex Illis software could be used for games alone, without any miniatures. This can not be the right way for a tabletop game.

2.) Show what you are counting in the background

Players had big problems following the rules of the game, because they were never shown. This does not mean you need a paper rulebook, but to show players what you are counting in the background. F.e. don't show "scored a hit" or "scored 75". Show that "15 moral * 2.4 Attack + 30 Speed = 66" (whatever...!) The computer must use something to get his roles done, so use the space that you have by dropping the animations for showing these things. Include the rules from the wiki as well, as a written textfile with an extra button in the menu - perfect!

3.) Help players in difficult situations

Sometimes your enemy had a turn. And another one. And another one. And your army was whiped out without knowing what was going on. Tooltipps might help here. A unit with high fatigue could have a tooltipp when activated like "this unit is exausted. Give them a rest or they will not be able to continue fighting/flying etc." Even with the colored beams showing some data, I personally was sometimes overwhelmed by all the stuff happening on the screen. A button to enable/disable this and there you are.

4.) Show what you got

Take the economic system or the special equipment. Nobody who was not active in the forum or signed in in the game knew about that. The idea is great, make that more offensive, put it in the middle of the game. Guestaccounts should take a look at that as well, even if they could not use any items on the trialarmys but people need to speak about such great features.
You could as well play Ex Illis like correspondence chess, one player in Germany, the enemy somewhere - I don't know - England, China, France... You could play in the world masters without leaving home. I think this is a unique feature, just make more of it. Same goes for Leagues. If people don't know, they will not try it and the advertisement was mostly about new models, not the core gaming features. You use the words "Evolve" and "unique experience" various times on your websites, but you never made them part of the advertisement.

5.) Make the game more open

It might sound strange, but registering the units on the software has some drawbacks. The units are difficult to resell and other units can't be used regularly. let people play the game with other miniatures if they want to. for everyone you loose some sales because he uses his warhammer army instead an ex illis one, you might win two others who start playing the game with this warhammer gamer. Take a small fee if you want (5 Dollars for 10 codes), but make it possible to really test the game and to play it with the miniatures they want, because the actual miniatures are - compared to other games - only average and might detain players from trying ex illis even if they are interested in the software mechanics.

Open the game on other features as well. Take the badge system. I like it, it rewards players who really care about it. If people make tournaments, have a pool of special equipment. Let them create their own medal handed to to winner and a unique but computergenerated, random equipmentpart. So you would always have a trophy, even if it is a small tournament under friends at the same hobby store. Needs some thinking through of course, so it cannot be exploited (maybe at least 5 different ex illis players necessary), but would be a way to support tournaments without really having to do much.

6.) Let people BUY the game!!!

A lot of people where interested in trying the game, but without an reliable distributor for Europe this makes absolutely no sense. Difficult paying, high Shipping cost, import taxes, etc. will never give this game a chance to succeed when you have to buy it in Canada. No European will import this game - forget it! Imho this was one of the main problems that made Ex Illis go bust the first time.

7.) Present the game

No game can sell if there is nobody presenting it. There are tons of conventions in Europe, if you have an distributor, make sure that the game is presented right. Ask hobbyclubs, stores etc. Ex illis could be the perfect game for smaller children, beginners or people with not much time or interest in learning rules. You find them on conventions everywhere. Get them! This might be a part of number 4 here, you can't expect players to find you, you have to find the players.

8.) The mobile app

this would be the next big step. Carrying laptops around is not state of the art any more, so this would be a future project if the money starts flowing again. An app would be perfect and possible if there would not be any animation stuff on the software, and gives the opportunity for number 9...

9.) Use GPS

Sounds strange, but every smartphone capable of playing an Ex Illis App has an GPS sensor on board. So why not building an geocaching ex illis app? Another button on the main menu: "Hide". So if you are out in the woods with your dog and you have an item that your army is not using, open the app, click "hide", drag and drop the item in the app and write a small, 240 symbol text. "You see an old lady right next to your path. She gives you an shiny item". Klick Hide again and the app hides this treasure with the GPS coordinates. Another player can track them. Reward those players with another medal (Globetrotter or similar). This would make the game more than just a game. You could use the economy system on your computer, play the game and even when you go jogging or on holidays, you could play. Sounds really interesting and unique to me!

Of course, it is easy to be said by sitting on the couch what should be made, what could be made or what could have been made, but I am absolutely sure that the original Ex Illis had an has potential and could be revived by focusing on the unique feature, the software and not on features you will find on any game on hunderts of only slightly different kinds everywhere. Rulebook, ok, miniatures, ok, but this is nothing special and needs to be really extraordinary to attract enough people to make a living out of it.

These are only my ideas of a software improvement, based on what our readers on Brueckenkopf-online.com kept on posting and what was part of discussions on various conventions during 2010/2011. It might help seeing the game from a different angle.


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 Post subject: Re: Ex Illis software improvements - what needs to be done?
PostPosted: Fri Nov 22, 2013 11:21 am 
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Joined: Mon Aug 17, 2009 6:31 pm
Posts: 1576
Location: Southern Oregon
1.) Get rid of all the animation stuff

This sounds hard because surely it took quite some time animating and was expensive as well. But people hat two main problems with this animations: First off, they where never as good as a real computergame, it just didn't look that good and second, if you can see the battle completely on the screen, why should you use miniatures? Tabletop is mostly about imagination, you destroy that with those animations. This might be the core problem, why people sayed they would more like a dicerolling tabletop. Not because of the dice (there are lots of good games without dice around, like Freebooters Fate), but because of the imagination of the battles.

The first Ex Illis software could be used for games alone, without any miniatures. This can not be the right way for a tabletop game.


this has always been their greatest fatal mistake attempting to make graphics, to somehow bring in people from the computer gaming world this miserably failed, and has been a great source of frustration for tabletop gamers, who are more distracted by the graphics. Bottom line computer moderated rules need to support the miniatures on the table and not distract from them. The day they remove those silly graphics is the day that tabletop gamers will take them seriously.

2.) Show what you are counting in the background

Players had big problems following the rules of the game, because they were never shown. This does not mean you need a paper rulebook, but to show players what you are counting in the background. F.e. don't show "scored a hit" or "scored 75". Show that "15 moral * 2.4 Attack + 30 Speed = 66" (whatever...!) The computer must use something to get his roles done, so use the space that you have by dropping the animations for showing these things. Include the rules from the wiki as well, as a written textfile with an extra button in the menu - perfect!

pretty much all the information you need is available if you know how to use the program you can pull up what's happening/

3.) Help players in difficult situations

Sometimes your enemy had a turn. And another one. And another one. And your army was whiped out without knowing what was going on. Tooltipps might help here. A unit with high fatigue could have a tooltipp when activated like "this unit is exausted. Give them a rest or they will not be able to continue fighting/flying etc." Even with the colored beams showing some data, I personally was sometimes overwhelmed by all the stuff happening on the screen. A button to enable/disable this and there you are.


there was a learning curve, but I think that's one of the beautiful elements of the game and why a player that understands the strategy of fatigue and morale will continue to win, most of my games were won because I used fatigue and morale to my advantage.


4.) Show what you got

Take the economic system or the special equipment. Nobody who was not active in the forum or signed in in the game knew about that. The idea is great, make that more offensive, put it in the middle of the game. Guestaccounts should take a look at that as well, even if they could not use any items on the trialarmys but people need to speak about such great features.
You could as well play Ex Illis like correspondence chess, one player in Germany, the enemy somewhere - I don't know - England, China, France... You could play in the world masters without leaving home. I think this is a unique feature, just make more of it. Same goes for Leagues. If people don't know, they will not try it and the advertisement was mostly about new models, not the core gaming features. You use the words "Evolve" and "unique experience" various times on your websites, but you never made them part of the advertisement
.



5.) Make the game more open

It might sound strange, but registering the units on the software has some drawbacks. The units are difficult to resell and other units can't be used regularly. let people play the game with other miniatures if they want to. for everyone you loose some sales because he uses his warhammer army instead an ex illis one, you might win two others who start playing the game with this warhammer gamer. Take a small fee if you want (5 Dollars for 10 codes), but make it possible to really test the game and to play it with the miniatures they want, because the actual miniatures are - compared to other games - only average and might detain players from trying ex illis even if they are interested in the software mechanics.


the original direction of the company was to sell miniatures by having the added bonus of the software being free, as noble as that sentiment was a company simply cannot sustain themselves financially without charging something for the rule system and its miniatures. One of the things this rulebook does allow is I can use any miniatures I don't need to register any codes so the rulebook does make the game a more open system. They also addressed this by making it available to use model proxies and have a trial at the units with no commitment. But for them to go forward with the software I think it's important that the models are registered and although this can be an inconvenience it isn't necessary for the business model to succeed.

Open the game on other features as well. Take the badge system. I like it, it rewards players who really care about it. If people make tournaments, have a pool of special equipment. Let them create their own medal handed to to winner and a unique but computergenerated, random equipmentpart. So you would always have a trophy, even if it is a small tournament under friends at the same hobby store. Needs some thinking through of course, so it cannot be exploited (maybe at least 5 different ex illis players necessary), but would be a way to support tournaments without really having to do much.

6.) Let people BUY the game!!!

A lot of people where interested in trying the game, but without an reliable distributor for Europe this makes absolutely no sense. Difficult paying, high Shipping cost, import taxes, etc. will never give this game a chance to succeed when you have to buy it in Canada. No European will import this game - forget it! Imho this was one of the main problems that made Ex Illis go bust the first time.


of course that's the problem with any product, when I was in Israel I was considering becoming their distributor, why don't you consider becoming one for Europe this is not the companies fault but the reality of the difficulty of finding people that want to distribute.

7.) Present the game

No game can sell if there is nobody presenting it. There are tons of conventions in Europe, if you have an distributor, make sure that the game is presented right. Ask hobbyclubs, stores etc. Ex illis could be the perfect game for smaller children, beginners or people with not much time or interest in learning rules. You find them on conventions everywhere. Get them! This might be a part of number 4 here, you can't expect players to find you, you have to find the players.


Many of us were doing this They had a good program for presenting the game I have a demo Army that I did many demos at stores, again the graphics got in the way of the sale in less I had several minutes to talk to a tabletop gamer they would think a cheesy computer game was being played while someone was playing a tabletop miniatures game.


8.) The mobile app

this would be the next big step. Carrying laptops around is not state of the art any more, so this would be a future project if the money starts flowing again. An app would be perfect and possible if there would not be any animation stuff on the software, and gives the opportunity for number 9...


it is available on iPhone and iPad

9.) Use GPS

Sounds strange, but every smartphone capable of playing an Ex Illis App has an GPS sensor on board. So why not building an geocaching ex illis app? Another button on the main menu: "Hide". So if you are out in the woods with your dog and you have an item that your army is not using, open the app, click "hide", drag and drop the item in the app and write a small, 240 symbol text. "You see an old lady right next to your path. She gives you an shiny item". Klick Hide again and the app hides this treasure with the GPS coordinates. Another player can track them. Reward those players with another medal (Globetrotter or similar). This would make the game more than just a game. You could use the economy system on your computer, play the game and even when you go jogging or on holidays, you could play. Sounds really interesting and unique to me!

Of course, it is easy to be said by sitting on the couch what should be made, what could be made or what could have been made, but I am absolutely sure that the original Ex Illis had an has potential and could be revived by focusing on the unique feature, the software and not on features you will find on any game on hunderts of only slightly different kinds everywhere. Rulebook, ok, miniatures, ok, but this is nothing special and needs to be really extraordinary to attract enough people to make a living out of it.


interesting ideas, but we're talking about something completely different. But in summary these are the important points that would change the game in view of most gamers.

1. Get rid of cheesy graphics, make the computer assisted rule set, look like battle reports top-down simple block graphics illustrating movement on the board with unit icons. use the book rule set and the player base to help design and playtest ideas for the next unit,
2. continue to program the rule set where eventually a player can build a custom unit, giving them freedom to build their own armies unique to there story all within the exillis world guidelines, continue to put out miniatures that allow for customization lots of extra options so that one model set can be purchased and go in dozens of different directions both in look and in skill set versatility.
3 sell the code as a separate item for people that just want the computer rules and not the miniatures like you said eventually there will be purchasing the models .
4. Eventually create enough code for other genres outside of the Exilliss world ,with multiple platforms to play so that it becomes the most preferred rule set out there.

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