HTs on Global/Match engine/The little red engine

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This is a summary of a thread started by elkabong on the Global conference. There were several relevant HT-quotes in this thread.

Keywords: (match engine)
From: elkabong (3937616.1) as reply to (0000000.0)
To: Iedereen 13-09-2005, at 07:52
The Little Red Engine

A Parable in Several Parts

Chapter the First
Once upon a time, there was a Little Red Engine. The engine had a simple job: he was to take his passengers from Littleton to Sunnyville. The engine loved his job, and the people who rode upon the little engine had nothing but good to say about their ride every day. They loved the smooth ride; they loved the countryside; they loved the mountainous view. Things were very idllyic indeed, between Littleton and Sunnyville.

Except that after a while, the passengers became bored of their pastoral daily commute. It began as quite undertones, but soon the Little Engine could hear very clearly that his passengers were no longer unwaveringly happy, as he had come to expect. So the Engine spoke to his engineer, for everyone knows that an Engine DOES the work, but an Engineer is the one that must first APPROVE the work.

The Engine relayed his passengers' unhappiness to his engineer, with the suggestion that they take another route from Littleton to Sunnyville. The engineer disagreed, maintaining instead that the passengers were not unhappy about the route they took daily, but were actually stricken with a sort of malaise. And thus the engineer decided that he would strike the train's passengers out of their boredom by carrying animals from the zoo to the beach every day.

Chapter the Second

The Little Red Engine couldn't see how this would help his passengers at all, but as the Engineer had the final say, he was bound to carry both his normal passengers, and the zoo animals on the same train every day.

At first, the passengers liked the animals, and some even loved the experience. But, much more quickly than they had tired of the same scenery, they tired of the zoo animals, for some of the animals stank, and almost all of the animals were an impedence to reading the morning paper. And in short order, the passengers were as bored as they had been originally, and a bit unhappy to have the zoo animals foisted upon them.

Which led the Engineer and the Little Red Engine to talk of changes again. The Little Engine suggested that they ditch the zoo animals, and just take a different path two or three times a week, but once again, the Engineer, who, as we have said, has the final word, thought otherwise.

Chapter the Third
The Engineer remembered how happy the passengers had been when they first rode with the animals. The happy children's faces were really all he could remember of the whole experiment, and the uglier side of the adventure, with animals eating children's lunches at 9:00 AM, and some ruder animals leaving dirty messes on other childrens' seats, the engineer seemed oblivious to.

The engineer decided that the passengers needed music to calm their rattled nerves, and he had soothing music piped in. Which really did calm the passengers nerves, for a short while. But sooner than the animals had bothered them, the passengers were bothered by the din of the music AND the animals, and were again unhappy.

And again, the Little Engine and the Engineer worked on a plan to make their unhappy passengers happy. But this time they ASKED their passengers what they wanted. It took the Little Engine a long time to convince the Engineer to do this, and there was much personal capital expended doing so, but the Engine wanted his passengers to be happy.

And from the survey, the Engine and the Engineer found many interesting things. They found many people unhappy with the animals, and many more unhappy with the music. But underneath it all they found that most passengers still loved to ride the train. Which, as you might expect, made the Little Red Engine very happy.

... cont'd ...

Keywords: (match engine)
From: elkabong (3937616.2) as reply to (3937616.1)
To: Iedereen 13-09-2005, at 07:53
Chapter the Fourth

Well, in what has become a familiar story, the Engine and the Engineer argued through the night about what changes would make their passengers happiest. It was a long and tedious verbal joust. But in the end, the Engine again had to admit defeat. The animals would stay, and the music would stay, and the route would stay the same. They would raise ticket prices slightly, and hand out free candy to the children, and free snacks to all.

The Little Engine could hardly argue about this! He was just worried that people might not ENJOY their food, or their trip, while the train was full of animals, with loud blaring music. And he was right about that. The food was eaten without complaint, and for a very short while the passengers seemed happy. But there was still the whisper of discontent, and now it had almost risen to a roar.

Passengers talked of taking a plane from Littleton to Smallville. Some passengers talked of riding bicycles, or even walking. Some small number even stopped riding the train altogether.

Which led the Little Red Engine and the Engineer to one final discussion.

Chapter the Fifth
They argued through the night. The Little Engine arguing that the passengers just needed a nice transport from Littleton to Smallville, with a little change in scenery. The Engineer argued over and over again that they should give the passengers more and more things. Candy, beads, baubles, free magazine subscriptions, a bright new bell that would ring in Big Ben tones every 1/4 hour. The Little Engine became exhausted.

He could not win the argument against the Engineer - the engineer had the final word in how the passengers would be treated. If the engineer decided to keep adding and adding more and more things to the simple train ride, all of it's simple charms would be lost. Soon the Little Red Engine lay silent. He was discoursed-out. And the engineer proceeded to cheer his passengers up with more and more gifts. Soon, the idyllic little train ride had become a complicated, mixed-up jumble of gifts, add-ons and merchandising.

The train ran on for several more years, but each year a small number of passengers left the route. It was so hard on the Little Engine, who had never, in his whole life, lost a passenger, that each time one didn't return, he chugged a little bit slower. After a number of years the Little Red Engine was moving so slowly, and his passenger list had run so short, that his route was silently closed up.

And the worst part of it was - no one even noticed, and no one even cared.

Keywords: (match engine)
From: Bilbo_Baggins (3937616.12) as reply to (3937616.1)
To: elkabong 13-09-2005, at 19:09
Interesting parable. There is definitly a lot of truth in it, but I think it needs to be modified a slightly.

The passengers began to request that the Little Red Engine take another route or supply usful things for a train ride, like an movie or magazine to pass the time. They make thier requests thinking that it would be an obvious decision by the engineer since it would be so useful.

The engineer discusses the matter with the Little Red Engine behind closed doors and (as in your version of the story) decides what the passengers really need are animals to make them happy (maybe because they have a deal with the zoo and they can get the animals for very cheap).

The passengers think, well this is kind of nice, but what about the other things that we requested? Wouldn't they be more useful? Since they heard noting about their suggestions the last time, they ask the engineer again, but again he makes his deliberation behind closed doors and this time gives them music.

Eventually the passengers start to wonder if the engineer is really listening to their suggestions, and the rest of the story is pretty much the same.

I do agree that every game will eventually outlive it's popularity, but it seems that there is a lot Hattrick could do to make it last a longer. In my opinion, there really needs to be a better connection between the community and the developers. They're trying, but it sometimes seems like they're just tossing us a bone to make us happy.

Keywords: (match engine)
From: HT-Tjecken (3937616.16) as reply to (3937616.12)
To: Bilbo_Baggins 13-09-2005, at 23:47
They're trying, but it sometimes seems like they're just tossing us a bone to make us happy

You're simply eating too much, it's impossible for us to feed you! ;)

The above is of course a joke, but it also contains some truth. Because no matter how hard we try there will still be members in the community who still aren't satisfied. Which of course also is natural as there are so many different opinions, demands, needs etc - there will always be non-satisfied people. And there will always be people who like the game and the changes but hoped for something else/more.

Anyways, we released some minor changes/additions to the game yesterday, but from what I sense you want something more, something bigger. And well, we share your opinion. But let me explain our version of this story and how we look on things (in the big picture):

No, this Little Red Engine will not change route completely over a night. It will not take a completely different way, we simply don't believe that it's good for this engine nor its passengers to change the route completely over a night (which I don't think the storyteller wants either).

What we want is to make this Little Red Engine's trip from Littleton to Sunnyville funnier and more pleasant, so that the passengers feel that they experiencing new things along the same old route, which would make it kind of a new route even though it's still the same. Almost. One day some people may notice that we've planted some trees along the way, and another time people may notice that the seats are much more comfortable than they used to be. There will also be times when the engine is running faster and smoother, which maybe will make people cheer a little bit. And yes, there will also be times when the engine gets an upgrade. Cause no matter how pretty Little Red Engine is and no matter how good job Little Red Engine does people would eventually be quite bored if Little Red Engine didn't improve her looks and didn't improve her work. And it's not enough if Little Red Engine just improves her work, it's also a matter of how she does it.

We know you think that Little Red Engine is in big need of an improvement, we know you're not satisfied with new trees and new seats. You want Little Red Engine out of that black tunnel and you're eager to see that she's prettier than ever and that the new steam regulator additon has made Little Red Engine more sophisticated than before. There has been many such days during the years, and there will be more such days - I've seen the light.

I'm not saying there will be changes that will rock your world tomorrow, not even the day after tomorrow. It's not like I see the Little Red Engine in the tunnel, but I do at least see the light. We've been stuck for a while with big changes behind the scenes (or at least behind the big scene) which are just as necessary as engine changes for the survival of Little Red Engine's route in the long run. Not as funny, but just as necessary.

So, this is just me tossing another bone? In a way maybe. But it's also me giving you a promise, and I intend to keep it.

Keywords: (match engine)
From: Catalyst2950 (3937616.17) as reply to (3937616.16)
To: HT-Tjecken 13-09-2005, at 23:49
Yeah! We'll get a maglev train! ;)

Keywords: (match engine)
From: HT-Tjecken (3937616.21) as reply to (3937616.20)
To: Buggle 14-09-2005, at 00:21
How's the new kindergarten teacher job working out?

Rather good. I think I've found a new fantastic way to write our My Hattrick announcements at least.

Keywords: (match engine)
From: HT-Tjecken (3937616.50) as reply to (3937616.33)
To: ballord 14-09-2005, at 10:06
Hey Mr. Engineer, I've been told of a nice and beatiful city close to Sunnyville. They say it's not better than Sunnyville, yet. But they also say they are making lots of attractives things at the city, and still they manage to get it clean and the air is pure. Will Little Red Engine ever be able to take us there?

Well, this really depends on how you allegorize the story. It's not that likely that we change the series system (even if you never should never), and that's why I interpret that Little Red Engine only will be going between Littleton and Sunnyville. But with different kind of changes/additions in the engine and surroundings people will experience the same route as a new and a better one. Passengers will still reach the same destination, but feel that they've never been to a better place before.

I think you want to allegorize that changes will take us to a new town, fairly close to Sunnyville but slightly better. So, I think we're in fact talking about the same thing and meaning the same thing, but allegorize differently.

Keywords: (match engine)
From: HT-Tjecken (3937616.52) as reply to (3937616.38)
To: Bilbo_Baggins 14-09-2005, at 10:23
I can understand the desire to not make promises that end up having to be broken for some technical reason, but it seems to me there is a way to keep the community a bit more informed without giving away too much information. I'm sure everyone would love to know if there is a Champions League or a new Youth Pull system being considered let alone being developed. Small comments would go a long way toward making the community feel more involved in the future of hattrick. Comments like "yes, it's something we're considering but there are issues we need to resolve first," or "No, we can't do that now because of technical issues" don't make any promises but give an idea of where the game might be going.

I understand what you want, and I'm not going to say that's it's impossible for us to talk a little bit more than we do today. However, it is indeed very risky business to do so. Becuase no matter how hard you try to put your words right and not make any promises or hints at all, there will still be a lot of people who slightly misunderstand, misread, jump to conclusions etc which will put us in a situation where we will lrisk to ose a lot of goodwill for not doing something we've never intended (but considered) but that the community thought we would.

So, if we say "yes, it's something we're considering but there are issues we need to resolve first" I think people will hear "yes, it's something we're going to implement, but it will take one or a couple of seasons as there are things that need to be resolved first". So even if we don't make any promises, I think we'll be caught in that trap anyway.

Secondly, we've also a policy not to talk too much about what's next to come etc on other places than My Hattrick, because that's the only place we know we reach all our users at the same time. So we'll never hint that much on what's next to come, but there is maybe an alternative way to find where we can serve your demands better without risking our goodwill. We'll try. :)

Keywords: (match engine)
From: HT-Tjecken (3937616.55) as reply to (3937616.54)
To: zeljkom 14-09-2005, at 13:32
I get the feeling that by taking this approach, you are not choosing 'the lesser evil', and I am unsure as to whether that is the wisest course of action.

I don't know if you missed it, but this was my last words in my last post and I think it answer that question/feeling: "So we'll never hint that much on what's next to come, but there is maybe an alternative way to find where we can serve your demands better without risking our goodwill. We'll try."

I reckon it would be excellent to settle the score once and for all and make a clean slate: why not by writing a (rather comprehensive?) editorial on, say, 10, 20 or whatever the number of the most suggested ideas/balance changes/engine tweaks, thus giving a HT-team stance on these matters?

It's something we're considering but there are issues we need to resolve first. ;)

What happened with the most recent poll in which users submitted their ideas, have you discarded them all or found them difficult to implement (no irony intended)?

Jonas wrote an editorial some months ago on that subject. I don't how much more there is to write about that particular poll, if you also pay attention to my answer above.

Anyway, I hope my fears are ungrounded as it would be great to be able to say a little bit more than nothing. I will at least give it a fair chance.

Keywords: (match engine)
From: elkabong (3937616.59) as reply to (3937616.52)
To: HT-Tjecken 14-09-2005, at 14:21
I vowed to post just the story here and nothing more. I feel like it speaks for itself, and think that is true.

I would like to thank people who have messaged me in game, and IM, and email - I have never received so much positive response to anything I've posted! And to the devs especially, thanks for listening. It is really heartening to me to know that you guys do read these things, and that you clearly care A LOT about the users, and about this massive game. Most of us can only dream of creating something that makes 600,000 people happy!

About the story: two days ago I read about the new tactics, and decided to wait a while and think before posting anything. And when I had thought about things for 12 hours or so, I was kind of angry, and I made a number of angry posts, which I understand helps nothing, and just gets people upset. So I went to bed. Still mad. About 1/2 an hour later, I woke up out of a dead sleep, and I got up, and knocked this story out. Then back to bed! Funny how the human mind works.

And only one note about the story itself: The route and the endpoints are important. The trains route is "winning". The idea of taking different routes to and from the same points is intended to mean that you should be able to get to the same spot (Winning games, winning your league) in many different ways :)

Cheers all - you guys have really made my week!! /Dave (elkabong)

Keywords: (match engine)
From: HT-Tjecken (3937616.68) as reply to (3937616.67)
To: LA-Tsukumo 14-09-2005, at 16:11
ARGH! Stop talking like this! I can't sort out what you're really saying!!!! =P

Yeah, I win! :)

The thread went on to hit 171 posts.