It's been a long while since anyone at twiDAQ HQ has made any noise about the future of twiDAQ. So long in fact that you'd be forgiven for thinking that there wasn't much going on here.
Far from it, we've actually been working feverishly on a huge tranche of changes & updates to the platform for quite a few months now and since we're getting pretty close to releasing all our hard work I thought I should explain what these changes are all about.
twiDAQ is broken
The twiDAQ you see today is the second site that's been live. The first - a primitive prototype - was unexpectedly successful. So much so if fact that we couldn't possibly have coped with the number of new signups we were getting either architecturally or financially.
Focus on Scalability
The site you see today is the result of many, many months work redeveloping the twiDAQ trading platform to be entirely .json API & memcached based, more efficient and most importantly; more scalable. We put a great deal of energy into ensuring that site would be able to grow to thousands or even tens of thousands of traders without slowing down too much.
To that extent I think we've done a reasonable job. twiDAQ tracks 1.2 million Twitter accounts, adjusting every single one's share price every few minutes, we've a few thousand traders, we've transacted a quarter of a million individual trades and we're just about coping with charting data well into the billions of data-points. Mechanically, given our limited resources, things are going pretty well.
Missing the point?
Does all of this miss the point? Yes.
twiDAQ is a game.
A game is nothing if it's not compelling and fun!.
Sadly I'll be the first to admit in it's current form twiDAQ is neither compelling nor fun. The truth is we have some fundamental design flaws in the game and some other serious hurdles to vault before twiDAQ becomes a success.
What's wrong with twiDAQ?
We've identified a couple of fundamental problems with the game but the greatest of these is stagnation.
If the aim of the game is to make (pretend) money then you invest your $50 and that's pretty much it. The next day, if you look back at your portfolio, what are you going to find?... some stocks are going up - so hang on to them! - and some stocks are going down... well best hang on to them too until they go back up.
So what are you going to do? Nothing. Game over.
Sure, there are some other glaring faults... there's no real expression of the point of the game - we forgot to explain that at all - our game-character is completely characterless and there are no properly explained goals but stagnation is the real killer.
There are also problems with the market - it's not volatiles enough, the movement in share-price isn't closely enough tied to the real world and there are just too many stocks not well enough organised. These last few items though aren't really to do with gameplay as much as they're a product of the volume of folk playing and the resources we have to categorise stocks respectively... both things that will change when we get the gameplay right - we hope!
Is there a future?
I believe twiDAQ is fixable and we think we know how to fix it. Strangely enough a lot of what we're doing now is implementing all the ideas that we had when we re-built it last time but just didn't realise were so important.
I'm going to explain a few of the new ideas that are going to be released in the next couple of months in the hope that those of you who've been good enough to reach out to us over the years will be honest with us about whether you think they'll help.
What does the future look like?
Here are just a few of the game features we'll be releasing in a month or two:
Moving the goalposts, making a point.
The first and most important change is that we're moving the focus of your day-to-day gameplay from making money to earning points. Points are awarded for skill; making good trades, beating highscores or completing challenges. What they're awarded for will be clear.
Yes, of course, making money is still important - you won't do well if you stay poor - but progressing through the game happens as you also earn points.
Telling your story
We've made sure that we're actually telling you the story that we always had in our minds when developing the game. This is the story of your trusty stock broker and his meteoric rise from a rural backwater to the heights of city life.
Challenging you every day
To tell this story we've designed (so far) five separate game levels. You will be free to choose how you want to complete these levels depending on your own trading style and you'll develop an individual character as a result.
What you're supposed to be doing to complete these levels and all of the challenges along the way will be crystal clear, without getting in your way.
Rewarding you with power
Throughout the game you will now unlock a great range of power-ups in the form of new suits and accessories for your trader. Each of these power-ups gives you one type of competitive advantage or other but they all come at a price - you'll have to decide which power-ups are worth the investment.
The flow of money
By giving you somewhere to spend your hard-earned wealth it means we can start putting more money into the game without upsetting the credibility of the market. Most obviously we'll finally be switching on dividend payments - the code for which has been sitting idle for years.
Paying the man
... and on top of dividends we'll be paying you a weekly salary too - if you've earned it that is. How much salary you're paid will be up to you of course but even a little bit of spare cash means you can make new decisions each week about where to invest.
Finally we're broadening the gameplay to include more things for you to strive towards like becoming a board member of a big, popular stock or even beating all the other players in the game to become a stock's CEO... for as long as you can hang on to the post!
Sticking to the web?
We're working hard to make the website faster and more responsive. We're very aware that if you're not on the hottest computer the game can be slow and frustrating - this isn't good for anyone.
Going native - a whole new iPhone experience
Perhaps most excitingly of all though is that all of this new gameplay will be available on a brand new, fully native (and we think pretty slick) iPhone twiDAQ app that we've been developing in parallel to all of these game changes.
You will be able to get the full experience of the new twiDAQ game on the iPhone without ever realising that the web version of twiDAQ exists. That's a major goal of this new release.
Unfortunately this means that the Android Phonegap (Hybrid) app is going to be temporarily discontinued. That's really not what we want to do but we had to focus our resources. Fear not, we're already in talks with some awesome local Android developers to have the app ported to Android as soon as we're confident we've got things right this time.
Why are we telling you all of this?
If you've played twiDAQ in the past and if you have just the smallest glimmer of an opinion on whether all of this makes sense we want to hear from you.
Reach out to us and let us know what you think. Please don't be shy.
The all new third attempt of my mad vision of twiDAQ will be live in the next couple of months with the iPhone app following very closely behind (at the AppStore's pleasure..)
If you're signed up (and still subscribed to receive email) then you'll get an email from us a when we relaunch but it's probably best to follow @twiDAQ if you're keen because we'll announce it here a few weeks before we email everyone.