The Game Wizard (Part 2)

Game Wizard 3.0I’ve recently gone on a spree revamping the Game Wizard once more.  The last time I touched it was in November when I wanted it a bit more up to date for the Christmas season, but we were still missing large chunks of new releases.  This isn’t the first time I’ve talked about the backend processes, so if you haven’t read the previous post, you should.

Changing Goals

I’ve been thinking about the nature of the Game Wizard in comparison to a flowchart (which is what we initially based the Wizard off).  With a traditional flowchart, you really only want a few answers (mostly yes / no) since this allows people to track their path more easily. With the Wizard though, we can ask more open ended questions with multiple answers since we reload the page with the new question each time.    That leads to much ‘shorter’ paths while providing the same amount of information.

However, one danger we wanted to avoid was replicating what our filters already do on our category page.  We don’t want to ask questions like ‘how many players’ or ‘how long do you want to play’ even if we would ask those questions in real life, because those kind of questions are already best answered by our filter system.  A customer could go to the main category page and choose their options there, filtering by the various criteria to individual games.

Instead, what we want the Game Wizard to do is ask the sillier / more thematic or generic questions, the kinds you might ask a friend who is standing in front of your game library.  You don’t necessarily want to say ‘how many players’, but rather ‘are you looking for something more thematic or strategy’? You know already, to some extent the games you can offer, what you want to know is what would suit them best at that moment.

The Lucky Few

By the very nature of the Wizard, we are narrowing down our options of games significantly.  We host over 5,000 board games (okay, card games and miniatures too) on the site. There’s no point asking specific questions to differentiate each and every game.  Instead, you have to choose a few.  So how do we do that? The usual really. Personal taste, sales and critical acclaim.  While I might weigh a little more to games I personally enjoy occasionally, if there’s a bestseller out there, I”m going to do my best to ensure it gets added to the Wizard somewhere.

That creates a circle of course, of bestselling games getting more attention which generate more sales which generates more attention.  It’s why I let things like my personal taste and other critical reviews have a say once in a while.  It’s also one of the reasons why we prefer the wizard, there’s no physical ‘space’ constraints we have to worry and the ability to ask more open-ended questions means we can have more answers, which can highlight some great less well known games.

The Flowchart

Will we ever return to editing the flowchart we created? I don’t know. In some ways, the flowchart being a picture has been spread much further than our Game Wizard even though we feel it’s an inferior product.  There’s too many limitations to the form.  If we ever did, we’d have to hire a professional designer to redesign the infographic once again and that would mean editing the various Q&A’s we created.

The Ask

One thing we do want is some feedback on the Wizard. Are the Q&A’s doing their job.  Are you getting where you want to go? Are you learning anything new? Have you tried it with new gamers? Do they like it? What answers / branches could we add?

The GameWizard App – Updated

Game Wizard App
Game Wizard App

We just updated the GameWizard App again. Hopefully, everyone has enjoyed using the App because it’s taken a lot of work to get here.

Background Work

Before we started working on the changes, one thing we really wanted to do was figure out a better way of keeping track of changes.  This was partly because as we developed the app further, we knew we were going to diverge from the Infographic which it was based on.

So, we looked around for software.  Then, realising there was no software that worked; we ended up using a modified spreadsheet. Yup, a spreadsheet is all that we are using to track this… but it did take a while to redo the questions in the spreadsheet.

Once we got the spreadsheet sorted, we had to start adding questions and games.  That meant tracking down the right paths, figuring out the appropriate questions and the appropriate answers.  Again, that takes a while.


Code Changes

We moved a section for Non-gamers to the first question to make it much more prominent where it was hidden under ‘Strategy Games’.  We cleaned up a section on Science Fiction games to shorten a series of questions about fandoms and then expanded a series of

We also added 20 new games and cleaned up some out of print games so that the app would be more useful.  All in, just coding time; it took another 8 hours to do all this (a lot of it being bug hunting and the initial huge moves).  If you figure it takes about 24 minutes per game changed.  Of course, it isn’t that long – it probably is only about 4 or 5 minutes of actual coding time when we are just adding a new branch – it’s when we are moving entire branches out that things get complicated.

The Scope

So when we say we added 20 games, what are we talking about? Well, the first program had over 1,300+ lines of code.  These days, we split the program up to do with multiple areas (cacheing, design, etc) and it’s harder to get a line count, but just the code for the games themselves are over 1,700+ lines of code.

In terms of game, we have 132 games now.  So, 20 games is a 15% increase to the number of games available.  To compare though, we have over 1,500+ SKUs (not individual games, games & expansions); so figure 1,100 or so individual games.  Or put another way, we are only 10% of the way to the number of games we have listed on the site.

On the other hand, we aren’t going to recommend all the games available – so we are probably 30 – 40% of the way to where we’d be happy with the app.

The Question

So, looking at the app, which area do you think we need to expand most desperately? Which questions need more refining to offer more choices and which games should we add to those choices? I know we’re a bit lacking in wargames, but that’s a really tough section as we’re not wargamers.