End of Week Six
During this week we had the pleasure of speaking to Ian Turnball from Square Enix. It was interesting listening about his career in the games industry and afterwards he played Ruya which he enjoyed and said that it was very well scoped. He gave some excellent constructive feedback.
At first he didn’t understand what to do. He didn’t understand the two parts to the game, the first part on how the player taps the coloured seeds to place them and the second part in trying to swipe them. When we come to create the tutorial we are going to split these two parts up. So on level one they will learn how to swipe, then on another level they will learn how to tap and place the seeds.
Once he understood how to play, he wanted to jump to some more challenging levels so that he could understand how the game will progress. A large amount of testing in level design will need to be made to find the perfect balance in difficulty for new players, but still challenging enough as the player’s skill increases so that they stay in the gameflow.
He questioned the direction of gravity. He found it unintuitive that when a shape is swiped all the ones below move up, instead of the other way around. It also didn’t make sense that gravity was the right way up when the seeds bounce on the pod, but not when snapped to the grid. This leads me on to our first major change. We have re-ordered the cells so that gravity acts normally. Interestingly, once we had this in, I gave it to people who’d already played it and they had to be told of the change before they realised what’s different. It’s now much more intuitive for first time players, they learn how to stategise faster. It’s also been made in a way so that we can easily reverse gravity which could potentially lead us down even more game play routes.
During the develop conference we got some really good advice from Leanne Bayley. Part of the feedback she gave, was how we could show the player that there is a shape available to be swiped. Similar to candy crush flashing candy when a match 3 is possible. We’ve now got a system which checks if there is shape available and flashes to let players know.
An issue that we’ve been having is what happens when the player runs out of spaces. Before, it was a lose condition but this felt unfair. Sometimes the player could be playing the best they could but be unlucky with colours on the last few cells. Running out of cells and failing was not a perceivable consequence. Instead, we’ve used the same system but to check where a potential shape can be swiped. It moves the seeds to that position and shuffles the rest then shows a quick hint.
Feedback has shown that this is feeling great. The game no longer takes you out of your immersion state and its one less constraint for the player to feel pressured on. It makes the swipe count that more meaningful. One problem its caused is that people can spam the grid and keep using the shuffle to complete the level. We’ve found an elegant solution to remove the multiplier every time the shuffle is activated so the player can never get to the higher scores that will win the game.
We are separating levels into chapters with each one expressing a different emotion. Our artist is in the process of creating different styled backgrounds to conjure different moods. We want the player to experience different states in the game where things may look sadder or less bright than before and vice versa to change their emotional response. This will be reinforced by weather particles and ambient sounds.
We have the first 10 levels designed. These are currently being tested by a handful of players so we have the insight we need to scaffold our mechanics and refine everything.
We can control what colour seeds there are, what shapes to make, size & style of the grid, the swipe count, the score objective and placement of bubbles. Not to mention the block cell which completely reshapes the players strategy. Difficulty gets layered on to the game by increasing the colours and reducing the number of columns by restricting the sorting areas. Bubbles being located high in the grid and forcing the player to complete the level in a certain number of moves, allows us to create so much content, and so many dynamics with just a few simple rules.
We are extremely busy. We have a massive list of tasks that we need to get complete and ideally we’re aiming to get these tasks done by Sunday 14th August. We can then spend the second from last week on play testing, balancing and refining the tutorial. Next week is going to be a real push!