Last night, I had the opportunity to show the latest build to some friends, who are developers themselves. Now usually I take pity on any poor soul who has the misfortune of asking a developer to playtest his or her game–but I have to say how impressed I was with their restraint; all three simply offered feedback from a player’s perspective, and didn’t rework the design of the game from the ground up, like I have a tendency to do.
My friends shall remain anonymous here, since I didn’t ask permission to use their real names in this post, and these days, one can never be too cautious about this sort of thing.
The one who played the longest actually took the time to clear the entire floor of monsters (which took about 15 minutes). He said he was compelled to do this because
- He likes to completely clear games out of principle
- The rats were so repulsive he felt the need to exterminate them to extinction
It made me realize one of the things the prototype is sorely lacking: state changes on the in-game map, to show which rooms have been discovered and cleared. It also made me think a bit about rewards for clearing an entire region–maybe this is how you get the boss to appear, or maybe a special NPC (like a merchant) appears only once the realm is free of monsters. Or I could go full Captain Eo style, and have the boss turn into a friendly NPC after you break the corruption within him. (Bonk’s Adventure did this too, now that I think about it.)
Continue reading First Prototype – Playtesting Results
This evening was a small scale playtest party with Randy O’Connor (who had played Escape Goat) and two of his friends (who had not). Huge props to them for sticking through and playing the WHOLE game start to finish, trading off levels among the three of them. Things got started around 8 and ended around midnight, with some breaks in there, so we’re still at about 3 hours of gameplay give or take.
I’ve got tons of notes, so it’s a matter of determining what’s possible to do for this game while still keeping control of scope.
I can also proudly say that for the first time, there’s no placeholder music in the build anymore. Not all songs are complete, so a couple levels shared the same background music, but it was all mine. I’m digging the sound so far and I hope you will too.
This morning was lost to computer issues, but I recovered and came back strong. Inspired by the awesome Bastion soundtrack, I got pumped up to make some Escape Goat music. As of this evening, I’ve got drafts and sketches for 14 songs, and only need about 9 final pieces to complete the soundtrack.
Tomorrow night is a playtest with an all new crew, and this should be the first time it’s got all the placeholder music stripped out. Exciting! It’s coming together.
Week 2 of 3 in the final escape from project Escape Goat is complete. I held a small testing party with some friends tonight, and am holding 3.5 pages of valuable insight into where the game needs to go from here. Most of it is small fixes per level, or things I need to keep in mind when designing levels. There are a few small glitches in there as well, the type of thing that’s bound to surface when people play your game in unexpected ways. Though not all games ship glitch free, and physics and collision are hard to get right, even for the pros.
Overall, one of the biggest problems is that there are too many levels. Depending on the player’s skill at puzzle solving, there are probably 2-4 hours of gameplay here, and I need to get that down to 1-2 hours. Some of the puzzles devolved into joyless trial-and-error, and other ones were just too time consuming during the non-interactive parts, like waiting for a machine to operate and pressing a switch at the right moment.
So there’s tweaking some levels and removing some levels. Not so bad… but…
There are some scary things staring me in the face for this week:
- A crash bug during regular gameplay
- The player actor got destroyed but the game wasn’t detecting the player being gone, so it let the level play and couldn’t restart itself
- The new linear level layout is an improvement over the exploration model I had before, but there are two problems with it. First, the player doesn’t know you can exit the level and return to the hub, retaining progress on that level. And second, getting stuck on a single level sucks. Ideally the player can skip tough levels and come back to complete them later. This would require another rework of the world layout, to a gallery-style stage select, and I don’t know if this is worthwhile, even to experiment with in the next week.
Tomorrow: bug fixing, level fixing, brainstorming improving the world layout, and music composition.