From: Vermont, USA
Certainly there's always room for improvement on the interface side, though some of this is also apples and oranges. Many mainstream games with very simple, straightforward and streamlined interfaces also have a lot less that they need the player to do or understand. As complexity increases, the challenge of designing an interface that can handle all the tasks and data increases as well. I think we've done a good job overall of improving the interfaces on our products over time, though we work with each developer on this in an advice and support role and developer philosophies on this subject can also vary widely.
Another thing we recognize is that we exist in a market with games and developers that have 100x - 1000x our development budget on many titles, yet our games are directly compared to their games in all aspects as our customers enjoy playing both.
Yet even if you took (not to pick on it, but just as an example of a very popular, very complex and top selling niche wargame) War in the Pacific and had a team of the best interface designers and programmers in the industry working on redesigning it from the ground up for a year, then put it out on every distribution network known to man, the odds are you would not increase the sales by an amount that justified the additional cost.
There are always decisions that come down to trade-offs and judging the point of diminishing returns. We try to do the best we can within our budget and sales predictions for our customers. Although we also work on general strategy games where the rules are somewhat different, within the wargaming niche we work together with the best developers in computer wargaming and success in that niche is heavily dependent on much more than the interface design. We always try to drive the best possible interface, but it's not the only element that determines success and to get a simple, streamlined interface you often have to adjust the actual design of the game away from complexity to make it possible (just as you have to adjust the design to get the most out of an AI, for example). These kinds of trade-offs are determined for each game based on what that game most needs to be.
With all that said, that challenge can be met and I think many of our recent releases (including PITF) show the progress we've been making. We intend to keep moving the interface standard for computer wargames forward as fast and as far as we can, without compromising what makes a wargame appealing to the customers in our community.
Steam is one example of a very mainstream audience. Their core customer base started with players of the Half Life franchise, though it has grown significantly since then. We look at all kinds of elements, including interface but also complexity, tutorial content, subject matter and playstyle in determining how best to market, distribute and promote each title. As with most of what we do, we try to customize our support to each game and each developer.
< Message edited by Erik Rutins -- 3/19/2013 4:28:59 PM >