Lately, I’ve been quoting from last year’s survey results left, right and centre, and seeing how we still don’t have a nicely linkable version online, I guess it’s high time to change that.

Around the 0.5.0 release in early August 2009, an innocuous discussion on IRC turned into an impromptu poll about Stonesoup’s player base. The survey was subsequently ported to various forums, hosted on CAO and pointed out in the mailing list.

Between August 17 and some time in early November, we received a total of 274 replies to the following 12 questions:

  1. What is your age?
  2. What is your country?
  3. Do you play locally, on a server, or both?
  4. Do you play Tiles, ASCII, or both?
  5. OS(es) at home?
  6. Roguelikes played before? (NetHack, ADOM, etc.?)
  7. Where did you learn about Crawl?
  8. And when?
  9. How many Crawl wins? (If none, you may specify your best game.)
  10. If you take part in the tournament, where did you hear about it?
  11. Ever recommend Crawl?
  12. Which computer game have you played most in the last month (July)?

The results, as posted once we had 250 replies, can be found here.
In November, I presented the complete results at the International Roguelike Development Conference in Geneva.

In the rest of this post, I will attempt to summarize the most interesting findings, but leave the more detailed numbers and in-depth discussion to the two files linked above.

The average Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup player at the time of the survey (or at least the average survey participant) can be described as follows: He (94% likelihood of being male) is between 25-29 years old (31%, average age: 27.3; most common age: 25) and lives in the USA (54%). Even if he doesn’t, he’s very likely to speak English as a primary language (75%). He uses Windows XP (52% Windows, of these 63% Win XP) at home, and only plays Crawl locally (54%) because he prefers Tiles to ASCII (60% if playing locally, 38% total). This also means that he did not take part in the tournament (39% participants total, 23% Tiles players).

He’d probably never even heard of the original Dungeon Crawl and only started playing after Stone Soup came out (65%). Crawl is not his first roguelike (91%) and he’s very likely to have at least tried NetHack before (73%) and maybe also ADOM (40%), Angband (28%) or one of the smaller roguelikes (e.g. Rogue, DoomRL, Dwarf Fortress, POWDER, various Angband variants, etc.)

At the time of taking the poll, he hadn’t won Crawl yet (62%) and probably hadn’t even found his first rune yet (79% of non-winners), but he nonetheless claims to have recommended the game at least once (83%) and also lists Crawl as the game played most “within the last month” (53% total, 27% if discounting tournament participants). Though, to be fair, hardcore players are more likely to take part in such a survey, so we should take all results with a grain of salt. Still, thank you! :)

There’s an interesting rift between ASCII players and Tiles players when it comes to percentage of winners (49% ASCII, 25% Tiles). However, interpreting this finding to mean that “ASCII players are better players” would be overly hasty. For one, Tiles players tend to be relatively new to the game (Tiles: 72% joined since Stonesoup, 34% in 2009; ASCII: 61% joined since Stonesoup, 20% in 2009) if not the genre, whereas players who knew Crawl from before tiles were introduced were already used to the console “graphics” and might have seen little reason to switch. Second, and more importantly, there’s a much stronger correlation when comparing local vs. server play (25% local winners, 68% online), possibly because players on the server are more likely to use the ##crawl channel to ask for playing tips and can receive advice from more experienced players watching them. The survey also showed that many players felt they “weren’t good enough” for online play or the tournament, so it might be that the more experienced Tiles players eventually switch to online (ASCII) play, even though they would prefer a way to continue playing the Tiles version online.

In general, Crawl’s popularity has increased significantly once tiles had been added. Downloads jumped from 2,472 and 4,321 in total (source and various platforms included) for 0.1.7 and 0.2.7, respectively, to 10,374 downloads of the Windows Tiles version alone in 0.3.4. (All numbers taken from SourceForge on March 31, 2010.)

A few conclusions

The impact of language is much stronger than we expected. It would be interesting to compare this effect with other games which rely a lot on text (e.g. MMORPGs which have not been translated or text adventures, i.e. interactive fiction).

A good many players have known the game for years, yet have never won. This is important for design purposes: adding features for the early game (e.g. new gods, shallow vaults, etc.) will be appreciated by those players.

The Crawl tournament would benefit immensely from tiles play over the internet. While some players oppose Tiles on principle, we also got a lot of praise for the quality of Crawl’s tiles and interface; for example by players who said that they play other roguelikes in ASCII, yet Crawl with Tiles. As developers, we plan to keep supporting both modes. Each of them has advantages of its own and we will continue to improve their interfaces.