Monday, March 31, 2014

Update #5: GDC and MMF Demo Feedback

Hey guys. I've been doing a lot of traveling lately in order to get some feedback on Quest For Funk. Two weeks ago I showed off the game at GDC and last weekend I had the game on display at the Mini Maker Faire in downtown Cleveland. Quite a few people got their hands on the game during these events, and it was very insightful to be able to get some feedback on everything. Some people seemed to like it a lot, others simply scratched their head in confusion, but overall I think it was a fairly positive experience.

At GDC, I actually entered the game into Pocket Gamer's Big Indie Pitch event, where I got to show off the prototype to a panel of judges, ranging from various game journalists to folks from Rovio. This was my first time really showing off any gameplay to anyone, so as expected it was messy and nerve-wracking. As you'd expect from a prototype, certain things broke and there was a lot of "well in the full game, this will be..." But I'm really happy that I presented the game in the stage that it was in. It opened my eyes to quite a few issues that I might have otherwise overlooked, and I think it will change the final product for the better. Here are some of the biggest takeaways that I learned.

1. The cross-genre gameplay might not work. When I explained the whole twinstick-shooter crossed with a 2D platformer idea, a lot of people nodded their heads but I could tell they were a bit confused. Even regardless of people's reactions, the gameplay sounded a bit ridiculous coming from my own mouth. I think the core flow of the game might be a bit more complicated than it needs to be, and I've been thinking of ways to amend that.

My solution is going to be that I will primarily focus on the 2D platforming stages. The twinstick shooter portions feel too out of place in the flow of the game, and I'm going to do away with the 2-stage setup for each level. The twinstick part won't go to waste, as I will repurpose it as a bonus stage that shows up every so often. But I think keeping it as 50% of the game is just unnecessary, as most players seemed to have a lot less fun with this portion as they did with the platforming stage. Speaking of the platforming...

2. The platforming controls need to be reworked. A lot of folks seemed to have trouble navigating some of the sewer areas, especially the younger crowd that tried out the game. Something about the controls just doesn't feel as smooth as it should, and I think I need to research some good platforming games to get a better feel for how to fix this. In addition to that, the layout of the sewers could probably also use some work. Jumping from pipe to pipe in the current design is too difficult (especially once I throw touch screen controls in), so I might need to change up the layout. Wall jumping or being able to jump through the bottom of platforms are also possible solutions to this problem.

3. The art was fairly well received. Considering I'm an artist first and an everything else second, this one actually made me pretty happy. I got complements on the color palette and most people seemed to dig the character designs. A minor issue, but I need to make doors in the sewer area more obvious, because a lot of people had trouble locating them. Also EVERY SINGLE PERSON initially walked right past the ladder in the first room. There wasn't even ONE person who went up there before heading right. So I might need to make it a bit more obvious that you can climb up there.

4. The game is still pretty buggy in places. On numerous occasions, I encountered the bug where Dyll spawns backwards. This means he ends up running backwards for the entire game, which looks pretty sloppy. I thought I had fixed this issue, but there is clearly still a bug out there somewhere. Also I need to tighten up collisions because people often went in places that they weren't supposed to. Luckily no one made it to the very end of the stage because there is just an endless chasm over there that I was terrified someone would try to go to. This is all pretty minor stuff, but it's things I wish I would have fixed before demoing the game.

All-in-all though, I'm happy with the state of the game. I know what needs to be addressed, and now I'm fired up to make even more progress on the game. As a side note, the images you see throughout this post were last minute cutscene images I drew before leaving for GDC. I wanted to make sure the story was clear rather than just dropping the player in the level, so I threw them in there right before I left. They will all be replaced with proper artwork later, but for now they do a decent job of telling the story. Anyways, that's all I've got for you this time. Hopefully I'll have another update soon talking about how I fixed all of these new issues that I discovered. Until then... Adios!

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