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Dev FAQ
Date: Tue 14 Jul, 2015 12:20 PM Views: 6088
Hi,

The following is taken from the Scrolls Dev blog at http://scrollsdev.tumblr.com/post/124058513081/scrolls-faq:


Scrolls FAQ

Hello, Scrolldiers. :)

We’ve gathered questions regarding our recent announcement that we’re halting development of Scrolls. We’ll try to answer these questions to the best of our ability.

First, let us address the general question ‘Why wasn’t X done?’. The answer is almost always 'With a small team, you have to pick and choose what you do. At any given time during the development, we worked on what seemed to make most sense.’ The team really has cared every step of the way and all decisions were made thoughtfully. Naturally, with any decision it’s easy to look back and say what could have been.


The Big Five

Who decided that Scrolls should cease development, and why?

The team helped gather data, and expertise from outside the team was also used to make predictions. We learned that our key performance indicators (installs, conversion, retention, and so on) were lower than we’d hoped. We estimated the task of turning this around, and it was our judgement that the investment needed to do so was too great. The final decision was ultimately made by Mojang management, based on all the above information.

What happened to the marketing plans?

The plan for advertising was to start small and ramp up as we were learning the math of it. We did two runs of focused facebook ads, and an adwords campaign. Unfortunately the estimated gains per user did not make up the cost of advertising.

While we only made a limited effort to advertise the game, we spent a fair amount of time marketing it in other ways. We’ve talked to popular youtube talent and gaming websites. We’ve given out free keys in several large batches. We’ve sent press releases to large magazines. A successful effort was the Humble Bundle, which performed above expectations. The purpose of the bundle, which was initiated from our end, was to raise awareness. For us as a dev team, it was one of the best things we could’ve done. We also started looking for marketing experts and further support well in advance of launch, but the desire to keep Mojang a small studio meant it was difficult to grow the team.

Why didn’t Scrolls go on Steam?

It’s been on our wishlist for a long time. It would have been a huge undertaking for a separate Mojang team, which was already extremely busy. If we were able to keep developing Scrolls, this is something we would have loved to eventually do.

Why didn’t Scrolls go on iPad?

Scrolls was ported to tablet, and was submitted to the App Store. Unfortunately, the way Scrolls handles accounts (requiring account registration before playing) was inconsistent with Apple’s guidelines. We had been in communication with Apple representatives before submitting the game and mistakenly thought everything was okay. Changing Scrolls to comply with the guidelines would have been a lengthy process, and couldn’t be done before the decision to close development was made.

Why didn’t Scrolls go F2P?

The pricing was changed to sync with the tablet version, and we made minor adjustments along the way. We also spent a great deal of effort on making a demo version.

F2P might be great way to get lots of players, but it’s a business model that usually relies on collecting a large portion of the money from a small subset of the players. Going free-to-play while still being ethical is not only difficult, it’s also a huge risk.

Completely turning around to another model would have halted all other development for some time - a game such as Scrolls doesn’t simply become F2P by removing the price tag. Converting an existing game into another business model is a costly gamble, one that we decided not to make.

The Announcement

How long have you known that Scrolls would stop development?

It was being talked about mostly toward the end of the work on Echoes. As soon as we knew, it was clear to the team that we wanted to wrap a few things up before making the announcement. We wanted to make sure Echoes was out, and we wanted to add custom matches to allow the community to provide new gameplay and content.

Why did you announce just before MINECON, and not sooner/later?

We really wanted to finalize Echoes before the announcement to give people a chance to experience the set in a positive environment. We also wanted to be able to be at MINECON and talk about this openly. That left us with a tiny window to do the announcement.

We’ve held tournaments at MINECON each year. This year we were fortunate to have our CMs around, so we decided to make it online, instead of just with attendees. When the decision to close came about, we wanted to go through with it as planned. The game is still around, gameplay is better than ever, and we were able to do something together with our awesome community!

How much of this decision was motivated by the iPad version not being released?

Not much. We don’t know for sure, but we expected the game would have performed similarly on iPad to on Android and PC. In that case, we would’ve seen a spike in users, but not a continuous upwards curve.

The Future

Will there be a clear label on the buy page indicating that the game will no longer be supported in June 2016?

Yes, we’ll implement some sort of notice as soon as possible.

Will you still be charging for the core game during this time? If so, will it be at least discounted?

We’ll re-evaluate the pricing of both the game and in-app purchases at a later date.

While new content is no longer in active development, are there plans for an offline mode?

The team is already looking into making the server publicly available, but we can’t make any promises yet. No one would be more sad than us if the game becomes completely unavailable. Adapting Scrolls to offline, or any other plan to keep it going, will require considerable effort. In the meantime, Mojang guarantees a minimum of one year of servers running.

Will any team members be moving on to new projects within or outside the company in the near future?

All team members will find other projects within Mojang. Short term, most will help out in other projects. We haven’t figured out all the details yet, and probably won’t until after summer vacations.

What is happening to the community managers?

Gary and Gareth were hired as contractors, and unfortunately won’t be able to continue working with us. They’ve been wonderful to work with, and have done a great job. Give them a hug next time you see them!

Is there any way you can sell the rights and code of the game to someone else so we can continue to play, or make it open source?

Mojang would be open to discuss such deals if there is any interest. If that can extend the life of Scrolls, we’re all for it. We haven’t yet decided whether we will make the game open source.

Will there be any sort of retrospective on the game and its development?

We’ll do an internal post mortem, but we don’t know if we will make it public.

Can the AI code be released, or can you explain how it works?

There are no current plans to release the AI code.

Jon, our AI developer, wrote this post a while back. http://scrollsdev.tumblr.com/post/86305294481/the-ai-thinking

And this is a link to a part of the Scrolls panel at MINECON 2013 where Jon talks about AI.

https://youtu.be/QdMhxhMyyOU?t=1563

Can you try out more radical changes on the test server?

Trying out radical changes takes time and effort. We couldn’t do more of that while we were developing the game, and we won’t be able to after development has stopped.

Development

Why weren’t more developers hired?

There has always been an ambition to keep Mojang a small studio, and overall none of the teams have grown much.

How big a hand has Microsoft had in Scrolls development the last few months?

While the acquisition has had effects on the company as a whole, Microsoft has been very hands-off with Scrolls, as we wanted. We’ve seen some in the community who assumed the decision to close development came from Microsoft. That is not true - the decision was made internally at Mojang.

Why wasn’t there more communication leading up to the Echoes release?

It was really hard for us to be chatty and sociable after the decision to close development. We understand that it wasn’t nice for the community. To be honest, we felt more comfortable with being silent than putting on an act. Great kudos to our CMs, who worked hard to keep an active website and to promote community events, even though they knew development was coming to a halt.

Why wasn’t there more communication about the roadmap?

We tried to be as open as possible about upcoming development. Some plans we didn’t share if we felt they were too much in danger of being changed. We’ve had an agile development process, which seemed best for a small team.

There are some things you can buy with shards, and some that you can’t. What’s the reasoning behind that?

When it comes to buying cards with shards, there’s always been the moral goal of doing this without falling into a pay-to-win situation. The precise level of restricting purchases has been hotly debated many times within the team, but it’s never landed on unrestricted IAP purchases.

Why didn’t you do a larger UI overhaul?

UI is artist-heavy work, and there wasn’t a point where we felt a huge UI overhaul was worth the delay in content production. We’ve always favored smaller improvements to UI instead.

Why wasn’t there more mention of Scrolls on Mojang.com?

Larger announcements - those likely to be picked up by the media - were always posted to mojang.com. However, mojang.com posts did not seem to make much difference in terms of new players being exposed to the game.

Why weren’t community suggestions like “threshold” implemented?

While we’re aware that threshold is a popular idea within the community, it has never gathered any traction in the team. We know the game is difficult to pick up already, and keeping it simpler was more important than creating a system for perfect balance control. One benefit of the current Wild system is that it can be safely ignored by new players, and that was a requirement from our side.

Why weren’t there clear lines of communication from developers to players?

The devs have been active on Reddit, IRC, Scrollsguide, and several other places. For a long time, we’ve had weekly blog posts. The CMs are online in the client, or on streams very regularly. This question comes up now and then, and it’s always been puzzling to us. Over time, we’ve come to suspect that we needed to more clearly communicate a release schedule. That’s an area we’ve perhaps failed to deliver on.

Miscellaneous

Can you share what plans would have been for hinted at but never finished features, like the single player campaign or Warzone?

Over the course of Scrolls, we’ve discussed many different designs for single player campaigns. The core idea has always been to have a sequence of battles, each entered from a map that the player walks around on. As an example, we started making item systems that would give the player powers not unlike those in trials, such as “units you control have +1 Attack”. The player would progressively fight more difficult battles, until eventually reaching a boss. Most likely, we’d have had several smaller such campaigns.

Warzone was intended to combine the best of PvP and single player modes. You would design decks and give them to the AI, to use against other players. Decks that won matches would be rewarded, and decks that lost would get thrown aside. In that way, we could both build a strong AI opponent and let players express their creativity in one go.

Can I still get a Minecraft cape?

The capes you can earn in Scrolls are a reward for doing well in a competitive environment. When the player numbers are low enough, the environment won’t be very competitive. At that point, cape rewards will no longer be handed out.

Why couldn’t all the cosmetic items be seen at once? I would like to have bought X with shards but it didn’t appear in the rotation.

We definitely wanted to improve the stores to make things easier to find. The item rotation was a quick change because we wanted the store to feel less stale than it had previously been. It’s certainly not perfect. Ideally, we would have a customizable store with campaigns and active promotions, but that would have required us to put something else aside. We also didn’t have anyone to manage the store.

Is there anything the developers wish to see the community doing in its final year?

Have as much fun as possible, be awesome to each other, and support your local indies!

Wrap-up

To wrap things up, we’d like to emphasize that everyone has their own idea of “the one thing” that makes any given product that much better. This is true not just for developers, but for the community as well. If one was to add those things together - even if they seem small individually - they become a really, really long list of tasks. Naturally, not all of them can be implemented. More than that, the community has many voices: more often than not, any changes we make are well received by parts of the community and less well by others. It’s our job as game designers to try our best to balance those needs and desires, and find the best path to take.

If there are follow-up questions, or if we missed yours, you can find us in the #scrollsguide IRC channel, where we’ll do our best to answer.

We’d also like to reiterate the following:

Scrolls development is being halted, but the game is still around. It has more and better cards than ever. It is extremely generous in terms of rewards. It’s got a lot of features missing from competing titles. It was made with lots of love and passion, and most of all:

In Scrolls, you have a chance to hang out with the best community the world has ever seen! Hats off to you, Scrolldiers - we love you all.



/The Scrolls team
Comments
AnthroposTheouTue 14 Jul, 2015 7:57 PM
Very sorry to see this game end. One of the very few I played consistently. It was one of a kind and its a shame the company decided it isn't worth pursuing further despite its poor performance indicators. That's business, I suppose.
OldmansHQWed 6 Jan, 2016 4:33 AM
It's been awhile seen I last visited this forum... Thanks very much for some answers. I guess it didn't help that I bought seven copies of the game.

I am really hoping that the game will be somehow made playable. Although I can see how from business stand point open sourcing might not be most advantageous, for the game itself it might be the only chance of survival. I spent many hours with the game, and enjoyed it immensely, and I really wish that years from now if I feel that Scrolls itch I will be able to just run the game and have a match, at least against the AI, rather than fish on YT for 'remains'.

Such a shame, I loved the idea and design, the soundtrack and graphics. Trying to keep a straight face, but it's very disheartening, the game deserved so much more love and attention.

Again, thanks for the explanation.