Musket Smoke players speak out.

I was just looking through some of the reviews from various countries.   Trying to generate some energy for my next batch of programming when I realized that my ultimate goal with this game has been publicly stated.  I also wanted a game with enormous tactical options, that was quick and easy to pick up and fun to play. 

There are not a LOT of you sharing what you think of the game, but for those of you who did – thank you very much.  It makes it all that much more worth it.  Here is what some of you are saying from around the world. 


(Germany)  “Super strategy game that despite the simple preparation for enormous tactical options!”

(Germany) “This is one of the best strategy games I’ve played in the last few years .. A bit of chess, a bit Stratego and is yet very new ..”

(US) “Musket smoke may look a very simple game with regards to its graphics and maps. But do not let this fool you into thinking that this also applies to the gameplay. Minutes to learn but weeks to master the strategy of the game and the tactics that you can leverage are astounding. Charging through smoke unseen by your enemy or flanking an enemy unit and butchering his troops enmass – phenomenally entertaining stuff!”

(Ireland) “This is the first game that have regularly played online matches. While the mechanics are quite simple, you can really get yourself into to some interesting situations, especially when playing the campaign.”

(Germany) “Seems simple at first glance, but at second glance turns out this game as a strategic, round-based strategy game … Who loves it with his favorite drink in peace weigh all options to try out individual solutions, while relaxing on the couch at sit and then burning it waits his opponent makes his turn, this game is highly recommended !!!”

(US) “This is a war game that with a clever economy of mechanisms makes cannons, musketeers, pikemen, and cavalry feel like cannons, musketeers, pikemen and cavalry. I like the non-random determinative damage system, the importance of maneuver, and the variety of the battlefields and tactical challenges. The online matches are tense, full of interesting decisions, and I find myself eagerly awaiting my next turn.”

(Austria) “I wouldn’t mind more FOW and not sure about the lack of randomness – beside mortar fire.
But show me a better wargame today!”

(US) “Hands down the most fun game I have played on the iPad period. I’m a sucker for historical wargames and musket smoke is one of the best I have played virtual or otherwise. I enjoy it so much, I plan on making some chits and buying a hex board to play it on table top!”

(Canada) “One of the best strategy titles available for the iPad. Immense amounts of strategy, replayablity and detail. One of the few must have titles of strategy gamers”

(Portugal) “Recomended game.. Very Nice for strategy game players”

(UK) “Could do with more campaigns but very enjoyable”

(Croatia) “Real Strategy. Great game for the strategy gamers.”

(Greece) “Fast, easy, deep. recommended!”

(Japan) “This is without a doubt one of the most fun and most polished, with deep strategy, but easy-to-get-into-gameplay turn-based stragegy games around. And the async multiplayer is seamless.”



A temporary lull..

The online Mini Match multiplayer group was divided recently.  Players were separated into 2 groups and so there should be a bit of a lull for a few days while the new players ‘graduate’ from the safe zone.

This will hit us with a minor slowdown in the ‘random opponent’ stream but the eventual end result will be more new players sticking around as they gain some confidence and get their ‘combat legs’ so to speak.

If you are in the safety zone waiting for a matchup and find things a bit slow try entering the ‘random opponent’ group.  It will be more brutal but suffering a couple battles in that harder group will teach you well and likely have you dominating all your safety zone matches.

So to do that you tap the ‘safety zone’ tab and it will cycle to the ‘random opponent’ tab.  After you do that, then hit the ‘create Mini Match’.

Good luck and happy hunting!

New Users! Try a Mini Match.

Only 9% of new users are trying the core feature – on-line play.   That is not a great statistic, because Musket Smoke is 95% focused on online play.  

You are missing out on a grand experience if you ignore the core feature of Musket Smoke.  You are NOT going to be destroyed by experienced players because we now have a ‘Safe New User Zone’.  

This new safety zone is a beta feature and you might have to wait a while for a matchup so start-up a match before you do anything.  Dive right in.  Likely you will have to wait for your opponent so that will give you time while you read the manual or do the tutorial or play some solo rounds vs the AI in the solo training area.  If you are lucky and don’t have to wait then enjoy playing someone from anywhere in the world.  Someone with the same experience level as yourself.  It will be a blast!

Just don’t forget to use ‘Undo’ lots (for mini matches).  Try different attack combos.  Order of attack is important so if you are new you should be hitting undo at least a dozen times per round.  This is part of your training and the best way to get a sense of what’s possible with each unit.

Without buying anything, new players can start up to 3 online matches.  If one match is going too slow or has stalled, start another.  Or start all three.  This way you get to experience the round-to-round battle reports and see how the evolving ‘Round Summary’ looks after each turn.  This will give you a great over-view perspective of Musket Smoke and will help things in the manual and tutorial make more sense.

Just do it.  Start some online Mini Matches.  It’s the fastest an funnest way to learn Musket Smoke.

Growing and protecting the Musket Smoke community.

Now that we have a community, it only makes sense to try to protect and grow it.

First we need more members.  I’m doing my part with updates, and making MS2 which should redirect attention back to MS Classic.  Plus some upcoming PR efforts.  Your part is to play lots of random matches for ELO points, and to rate and review each update.  If we both do our parts, the community will grow.  The heart button will animate mildly after each new update as a subtile reminder that you could be helping Musket Smoke grow (if you want to).

That’s not all though.  I’m thinking we need some special scoring rules to help prevent cheating and also to help the new fledgling players from getting turned into gore piles.  We need to protect our new players, or they will leave us and join some ‘other games’ community.

The recent ‘new player zone’ is a small temporary bandaid for that effort.

So here are some ideas that we can ponder over.

1) Elites can not score ELO points from Newbies.

2) The 3 in a row rule.  You can only score ELO points on someone 3 times in a row, if you have a winning streak that goes to 4 wins then the 4th win doesn’t count as ELO points.  This will reduce some forms of cheating and also prevent abusing re-match with a weaker opponent.  This is not to be confused with a winning streak in general, it only pertains to the last 4 matches vs a specific person.

3) You get 2 yellow points for every rout (until) you become elite. Elite players only get 1 yellow per rout.  This will help keep the Elite from slaughtering too much, and also help new good players catch up in the ELO rankings quicker.  It will help give newer players more chances to win if they play well.  This might not go over well with some people so this risky rule might not happen.  The majority of elites would have to agree to this first.  Another possibility is to just limit double yellow scoring to Newbies.

4) Extend the newbie save zone from 30 to 50 pies.  (this will ‘likely’ happen)

5) Make a Vet safe zone (from 50-100 pies) that just allows vets only (no elites or newbies), ‘random opponent’ will still be default though.  (possible but we need increase the size of the community first.)

6) (Possible future idea, don’t expect this year)  A public bulletin board.  A global chat.  Where you can chat and also post any round (from full replay) that anyone can see and chat about.

7) A map maker tool that allows you to make ‘mirror maps’ (same on both sides) and play them with random people.

8) Can put your custom maps up publicly for everyone to use.

There is a chance that I may not do most of these things.  At this point these are just some ideas to think about as the community grows.  I would have to see significant community growth for the custom map and bulletin board tasks.  If you really want to push these advanced features forward then try to spread the word about Musket Smoke.  Help this game have the ability to properly pay the developer (me) for the extra work.


Woodie Dovich

Results of the in-game MS improvement survey.

It was just one question.  You can only select one answer from multiple choices and the results were interesting.

What do you want?  (for Musket Smoke)

The answers were: more maps, better maps, more units per map, bigger maps, iPhone/universal, more unit types, better solo play, more online players, more polish & fixed.

New players were all about more unit types (and a bit of improved solo play).  I guess a persons first impression is to expect more unit types than just the base 4 that you see in the solo training and Mini Match areas. Well if you buy the full multiplayer you get more unit types, so that’s probably why it was rarely chosen outside of the new player group.

Intermediate players (30-200 pies, otherwise known internally as Vets) were mainly all about maps.  Bigger, better, and more of them.  So I’m glad I did that recent map refresh that improved a bunch of maps and converted a small map into a really big one.

Elite players (200+) pies, were not particularly focused on anything. It was an even distribution across the whole range.

Not one person selected iPhone (universal) though.  That was a bit interesting to me. Wouldn’t you like to play a few rounds on the road once in a while?  I have prototyped iPhone behaviour in testing and I found it awesome to get battle reports on your phone and sometimes play a round or two when you are out and about.

These answers will help with Musket Smoke 2 (which is already on the right track with those answers), and may also help focus efforts when I get to minor updates for Musket Smoke Classic.

In a future update I might repeat the same survey just to confirm the answer selections, or possibly try a new question.


Woodie Dovich

Musket Smoke update 1.53 was uploaded.

There were a couple things with the update that caused a delay, but it’s all good now.  

This update refreshes 80% of the Mini Maps with adjustments and in one case a complete map replacement.  The new player zones are experimental.  I hope they work out.  It’s always risky to split players into groups.

Just don’t forget that ‘Random Opponent’ should be the most popular group.   The ‘new user safe zone’, and the ‘elite zone’ might be a bit slow initially so maybe toss a random match in and if you don’t get a bite, try the normal ‘Random Opponent’ group instead.  All 3 levels of players can enter the ‘Random Opponent’ area so it should be the most popular.

If this works out the transition people have from new to intermediate and advanced should be a ‘bit’ smoother and more fun.  At the very least new players can be comforted to know that their opponents will have the same experience level as themselves.

My hope is that the elite players (200 or more pies) use the ‘Elite Zone’ at least half the time.  This will allow the intermediates (30-200 pies) more opportunities to fight among themselves.

Players above 30 pies (points) will not be able to enter the ‘new player zone’. They can’t even see it.  It is a true safety zone.

The 1.53 update – more than just bug fixes.

I think it will be completed tomorrow.   After looking at some analytics I figured out a few things that just needed to happen.  For one, I want to change the daily process of the vets turning all the new players into gore piles before they have a chance to really get into the game.  I’m not trying to take away everyones favourite pastime here. (Or maybe I am?) Regardless, to make up for taking away some of the easy low hanging fruit I decided to offer vets their own little club as well.  So now Random Mini match-ups have 3 different possibilities.

  1. The normal ‘Random Opponent’ option.
  2. The ‘New Player Zone’ (only available to those with less than 30 pies).
  3. The ‘Random Elite Club’ (you need 200 pies, basically Captain or greater) to matchup here.

new matchup zones

So something for everyone.

But that’s not all.  Two Mini Match maps will also be refurbished.  The small one and the one with walls.  There has been some complaints about these maps as being unbalanced and the wall one is also a bit too slow and defensive.  I will make them bigger and more tactically interesting.

Other than that the update will also finally address the ‘no moves’ bug once and for all.  Plus a few other bug fixes as well and minor adjustments.   It should be a good update.

How to properly end a match early.

Say you have fallen behind with no hope of making a comeback in a casual mini match.

What should you do?

You should use the white flag and surrender to your opponent.  This will score the full points and if it was a competitive ELO match you will still get your 1 point for participating.

Some players feel differently about this subject.  Some feel the decent thing to do is to keep on going and let your opponent keeping grinding you into the dirt until the the very end.  Others actually feel this is un-sportsman like and don’t like you waisting time – for both of you.  They would prefer to get the win early and move on to the next match.  Myself – I can go both ways but tend to agree with the latter.

Also don’t forget about the TRUCE option.  If both sides seem like they are unwilling to advance and fight because doing so will mean the other side will definitely win, then you have a stalemate and one of you should suggest a TRUCE.  You will both get 1 ELO point (if it’s a competitive match) and you can move on to other more glorious matches.

The WRONG WAY to quit a match is to just delete it from the games list item.  Doing so is not a surrender but a brutal yank that denies both sides any points at all (with the exception of the pie points earned each round). It instantly deletes the app on your end and, and your opponent sees a DEAD MATCH that they can not open.  Why is this so brutal?  It’s there for in case one player is abusive and a way to say ‘I don’t want to play with you any more’.  It’s almost a slap in the face.  If you say something in chat and then delete the match your opponent will not see anything or read anything (we don’t want to encourage bad words both ways).  If the match somehow got corrupt then tell your opponent that you will ‘force delete’ the match and wait for a response before doing so.  Otherwise your opponent will not get that final message and may not want to play with you anymore.

In the campaign you can also ‘fall back’ if you are losing badly. Don’t feel hesitant to do so.  If you can’t win then fall back and do both yourself and your opponent a favour and move on to the next battle.  This is the decent thing to do (and safer for your SF units).  The campaign is a big match and doesn’t need any extra grinding.

New insights help development

Amazingly fast update.  I uploaded 1.52 and went to sleep.  The next day in the afternoon I was playing in a coffee-shop when suddenly I saw the ‘need to update’ message. Last time it was 8 days before it went into the App Store so this was quite nice.

I’m starting to develop a sort of ‘stream view’ of the app as the analytics kick in.  It’s sort of like a time laps video of people flowing by a single car with some who get inside and sit for a while, while others hover around it and kick the tires.  Others touch it once and move on.  I was completely in the dark before but now I’m getting a sense of things.  For example now I know 26% of new mini matches created are map number 1.  Since there are 10 maps it should be 10% and so now I know that this is something I should address in an update.

Likewise with analytics I can now find out how balanced the ‘first mover’ situation is.  So over time we can see the first mover wins more than 50% of the time.  If so we can do things to address this like disable 5 of the units in the first round for the person that creates the match.

Musket Smoke is a bit of a trailblazer app for snowpunch.  It’s like that first soldier throwing himself upon the barbed wire so that other snowpunch apps can walk over him and go further.

It’s not just analytics I’m talking about here but just basic well known stats. For example, 90% of turn based players prefer to play single player rather than multiplayer.

Learning from all the mistakes that Musket Smoke did, will help Musket Smoke 2 all the more. In the process, this will also draw more players back to Musket Smoke classic.

MS2 will have a single player campaign.  Don’t worry it will also have online matches as well, but this single player campaign will give something huge that MS Classic never did well.  That is, provide tactical training in a gradual manner, followed by a fantastically fun and random single player battle experience with an ongoing story.  The solo campaign will have a LOT of replay value but the online matches will help and for those new players that can’t get enough, they can look back to Musket Smoke classic and get another blast of of pleasure as they discover the online campaign and mini matches.

Musket Smoke 2 will be a normal paid app and will be universal.  Those that want to try before they buy will also be drawn to Musket Smoke Classic as a sampler app.  So this will help add new players to both apps and is pretty much ideal as MS1 and MS2 are not competing apps.  They are more like 2 apps in a collectors series, as they each have ‘different’ features.