Review: Yes Sire
There are three good reasons to take a close look at this game: It’s one of the most successful #VoiceGames overall (featured rank #6 among US ‘Game’ Skills), a brilliant example of a #VoiceFirst management simultation, and one of the most enjoyable things you can do on your Echo device. Let’s start!
What is this game about?
In ‘Yes Sire’, you assume the role of a medieval lord who got the king’s commission to rule over a small fiefdom. In each round, you have to make an interesting choice about how you rule your lands. Each choice results in an equally interesting (and often unexpected) consequence, and a gain or loss in your wealth and influence.
Now all you’ve got to do is to maximize your wealth and influence? No Sire: This game is all about balance. If you get too rich or influential, you will receive a royal sacking — Just as you will be banished for losing all your wealth and influence.
Cool, a game about numbers! Where does the engagement come from?
‘Yes Sire’ is so engaging that it’s difficult to figure out where to even begin… Let’s try!
- Interesting choices
The choices you have to make in each round can well be described a ‘stories’. They cover a huge spectrum of medieval fantasy life, like foreign politics, war, espionage, love affairs, itinerants, dragons, last night’s feast, and the ever-ungrateful citizenry.
- The right amount of interesting choices
After the playing the game for a while, the choices repeat themselves, but slowly — My guess is that there are about 60 choices in total, but definitely enough to surprise and delight for multiple games.
Please keep this point in mind, we’ll come back to it when we think about retention factors.
- Interesting outcomes
For some of the questions like ‘The Baron of Bavaria offers you a lion from the african lands as a gift. Do you accept?’, the answer is predictable — In this case, it is expensive to keep (decrease wealth), but boosts your status (increase influence). In other cases the outcome is not predictable, typically because there’s a risk involved (‘Do you want to install a spy at the Duke of Dayton’s court?’ or ‘Do you accept the services of a traveling alchemist?’).
Consequently, your success depends partly on chance and on skill, which is one of the basic receipes for a good game.
- Multi-turn stories
The majority of choices are independent of their predecessors, but in some cases you get ‘stories’ that involve several choices, like when you’re attacking a neigboring castle. These stories are seldom, but somewhat more interesting than the default singe-turn stories, and contribute to the variety of the gaming experience.
- Recurring characters
The choices you make about matters of love and foreign politics are mostly connected to one of four characters: The Duke of Dayton, the Baron of Bavaria, the Earl of Wigglesley, and Lady Lindon. Even though these characters are not extensively sketched out, they do contribute to the immersion.
- Thematically matching narrator
This is one of the strongest engagement and immersion factors: The narrator, your Chancellor Sir Brian of Polly (he’s never presented by name and title, but these describe him fairly well), performs both jobs of moderating your regency and creating athmosphere splendidly. These are his 3 secrets: 1) He has a naturally aristocratic voice, 2) his choice of words is is stereotypic for nobles at the time of feudalism (e.g. ‘My liege’), and 3) his way of commenting ranges between neutral reports, praise and subtle irony (e.g. ‘Your honesty continues to amaze me.’)
Similar to what we’ve seen in Panda Rescue, the narrator’s character strongly shapes how the game feels like.
Alright, these are some strong egagement factors. What about retention? Why do players come back and try again?
As a successful #VoiceGame, ‘Yes Sire’ has several ways to motivate you to do just one more game:
- Consuming more novel content
The stories are so engaging that you come back just to hear more of at, at least for a while. After about four games, this factor decreases in strength, as you’ll have heard a good part of the questions already.
- Beating your highscore
The game remembers your highscore and compares your result against it at the end of each game, effectively setting you up to compete with your earlier self.
This is a solid method to appeal to competition, but it comes with a slight disadvantage: The higher your highscore gets, the more difficult and time-consuming it becomes to beat it, so eventually you might be discouraged to try.
- Steep learning curve
You get measurably better in the game the more you play, and this feeling of competence and improvement encourages you to try again. The obvious way that this learning happens is that you understand the game better, but on top of that, this is where the ‘right’ amount of stories comes back and pays its dividend: As you have heard progressively more stories before and know about their consequences by experience, you can control your score better and play longer.
Impressive! Is there any way in which this game could be even better?
Well… There are three things that come to my mind.
- Some ‘audiodrama’ elements
Your game situation is that you’re sitting in your regent’s office or throne room and confer with your Chancellor, so you don’t exactly expect to hear sounds from the stories you are presented with. But a nice feature would be if some characters (like Lady Lindon, the Baron of Bavaria or various itinerants) would speak for themselves with distinct voices.
- More consistency and references within a game
My impression is that except for multi-turn stories, the choices are picked at random, which sometimes results in dissonances, e.g. the Earl of Wigglesley offering you a strategic aliances, even though you have ‘damaged your relationship beyond repair’ with him several turns earlier. Optimally, the stories you get should depend on choices you made earlier in the game.
- Global leaderboard for advanced players
In the first few rounds, challenging players to beat their own score provides a solid motivation, but it decreases as it takes longer and longer to reach a higher score. I think a good method to boost retention in later stages was to tell players about their position (in terms of the percentile, not the abolute number, unless they are in the top ten) in the global leaderboard.
Any general word of conclusion?
‘Yes Sire’ is outstanding in both concept and execution, and personally one of my favorite #VoiceGames. The interesting question is what you can learn actually learn from it.
The creators (Max Child from Volley Inc, as far as I know) describe the game as a ‘fantasy RPG’, but I’d personally say it’s a management simulation game. As such, I think these are some of the points to be learned about this genre:
- Two is a good number of ressources
‘Yes Sire’ wouldn’t benefit from the added complexity of another ressource, and for me it’s already challenging to keep up with the current numbers.
- Story-related choices are the best way to keep the player engaged
There are some other management simulation games I’m aware of (including the one I gave a try) where you can manage your ressources and interact with the game world by ‘performing tasks’ where not much storytelling is happening, like gathering ressources, moving to a different location, and interacting with non-character elements. However, I found neither of this is as engaging as making story-related choices, like in this game. I personally conclude that to make a good management simulation game, you need to make sure you can generate a lot of interesting content.
With which points do you agress? Where do you think I missed something or even got something wrong with ‘Yes Sire’? In either case, or if you know great #VoiceFirst games you think I should analyze, especially in the broad ‘simulation’ catecory, please let me know! I hope this review was as helpful and interesting to you as it was to me! :)