My First Public Showcase! (Part 2)

Recently I showcased my game-in-development Ambience for the first time at a large gamers’ event. In my first post, I talked a little about the event and how things went. This post is all about the specific feedback I received from the people who were kind enough to play-test the game.

Also, in case you missed it, here’s the livestream showcasing Ambience from the event:

After the event, I went home and wrote up a long list of all the feedback I received, both good and bad. That in turn helped me develop a sort of “battle plan” for making Ambience even better. I’ll start with the good points first (since they’re just as important as the bad ones!) and then talk about some things that could be improved.

On The Good Side:

  • Graphics. Several people noted upon starting the playthrough that the game looked quite polished, and a few even asked me if the game was finished yet (it’s not, really!) For me, that’s a very good sign. Finally there’s some confirmation that all my hard work making the game look good are finally paying off.
  • Gameplay. None of the players encountered bugs in the dungeon-crawling gameplay system, and one or two even commented on how robust the game engine was. Another good sign!
  • Little things. One player remarked that the “Happy” Ambience at the beginning of the game was a nice touch, especially since it tied in well with the story.

On The Not-So-Good Side…

  • Ambiences. There were a few aspects of the weather-controlling “Ambience” system that needed a bit of tweaking.
    • At the moment, the player receives all four Ambience powers at the very start of the game. In practice this meant that the enjoyment factor plateaus quite quickly, since the player isn’t continually being given “new stuff” to play with as they progress.
    • One player remarked that the descriptions for each Ambience were a bit too vague, which led to a lot of “shooting in the dark”-type experimentation early on in the game.
    • It became clear quite quickly that the Ambience of Rain, which restores HP, was far too powerful. As a result, in many cases this was the only Ambience that players used.
    • Some new mechanics for Ambiences were also suggested that would allow players to use their surrounds more effectively. For example, the player could lure enemies to a particular spot on the map, then drown them by activating the Ambience of Rain. I really like this idea, and I’m currently thinking about how this might work in practice.
    • There were a bunch of other suggestions too, such as giving Ambiences their own menu, getting reactions from allies when you activate an Ambience, and tweaking the mechanics surrounding “permanent Ambiences” – but I won’t go into details here. Suffices to say that there’s still some work to be done.
  • Storytelling. There were a few places where the dialogue did get a bit long, breaking the course of the gameplay and making players impatient. In fact, one player skipped the entire opening sequence without reading a single word! He then commented that people tend not to read text much, but absorb information from what they see – in other words, the story should be communicated through gameplay and visuals rather than just text. It’s an excellent point, and I’m definitely going to go back and redo the writing aspect of the game now that’s been brought to my attention.
  • Gameplay and mechanics.
    • Some players had a bit of difficulty with diagonal motion, which required players to press two arrow keys at exactly the same time – an oversight on my part. One player suggested that I add a slight delay after the player presses the key before the player actually moves. When I did this, diagonal motion was made much easier.
    • Some players felt that the progression of weapons and player level was a bit slow – again, limiting the novelty and enjoyment factor associated with getting new stuff to play with. I did talk about tweaking experience and level growth in a previous post, but it looks like I’ll have to revisit that once again.
    • One player commented that when an ally is defeated in a dungeon, the player should fail the mission rather than carry on alone. That way, the player can bond more with the characters rather than seeing them as just a means to an end.

At first glance, it looks like the not-so-good list is a bit overwhelming – but I’m okay with that! Having a list of “things to do” like this gives me motivation to check those items off my list, and possibly have some fun while doing it too. In any case, the game was well received overall, so I’m happy for that. I’m also really happy that the gameplay mechanics and graphics held up to player scrutiny, since it makes much of the mechanic and storytelling aspects far easier to fix.

With that all said and done… it’s time to fix this game!


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