I thought I would never ever make a blog with the title ‘Delayed’. So instead I put something with ‘quality’ in the name to empathize the positive. But yeah, the idea is the same: delays.
This is an article in the ‘Behind the scenes’ category where I share my personal experience developing games professionally.
First, the delay: Instead of releasing on the 4th of June I’m going for the 29th of June.
Second, the reason. And I hope you are all with me on this one. If not, speak out!
I have conducted a lot of beta testing, and especially the v0.3 feedback proved to be very usefull. So I started the ‘one fix to fix it once and for all’ and announced v0.4.
But, as you could read between the lines in the recent update on the progress on v0.4, the amount of work to do is huge.
Back then I didn’t go into details of what that feedback was. So I’m going to give you all some details on where this game is currently and what I envision it to be when it releases.
It it all about the gameplay, isn’t it?
In v0.3 the game is like this: 1 small scene, 1 large scene, and 14 levels that use a segment of one of those scenes. There are 2 gamemodes: in normal you try to find them all, in timed you have to find a portion of these gnomes but they are in random spots this time.
In v0.3 this is the ‘why’ you should play: because of the challenge it is to look for gnomes in dark area’s or in parts of the level you easily overlook. And the reward you get in the end: full completion or a good time.
But the testers did point out a huge issue with this kind of gameplay: why am I doing this and why should I keep playing?
I think that the underlying issue in my game is that difficulty should not have been the foundation under the ‘why’. This game targets children and wants to entertain adults as a by-product.
Currently both gamemodes focus on the difficulty of finding objects in a 3D landscape, and both gamemodes don’t offer much else.
And I did know this.
If you look at one of my first posts, I point out that the core experience is situated around finding. It doesn’t state that it should be ‘a hard discovery’ that makes up all the gameplay.
Rather, all of the words I use are situated around the ‘experience’ of finding. So difficulty is not a target in this, at most it should provide the experience. And if it doesn’t, what it clearly does not, another instrument should be used to provide this experience.
So what are the instruments I could think of to implement in v0.4 to make a more interesting experience?
- Make it like the ‘find wally’ cartoons. There is an established reference for how to do this and people are known for loving it. I do love books with this theme myself and I even have some of them. By the way, it was a beta tester that directed me to this approach.
- Add a story. With a story the ‘gnome’ idea could be given more context. And gnomes are known to do cool things, so that could improve the game feeling dramatically.
- More vibrant environment. Stuff that moves, rotates. It should fit really well into the game because it will make it harder to search but at the same time make it a more diverse experience.
- Make it a phone game. Add sparkles, events, flashes, power-ups… lootboxes?! (I have to admit I didn’t want to think of this whole ‘going mobile’ option, but a tester pointed it out to me. It has a good some really nice underlying mechanics that could be integrated in our desktop game (without lootboxes of course… hehe))
A bit of everything
Well, there is a big problem with all of the previous pointed-out improvements: the cost time. A lot of time. That’s because it is situated more around content production and less around programming, and with me being a senior programmer but a junior designer/writer/modeller… things get out of scope really quickly.
So after a lot of thinking, planning, talking to people and staying true to myself, this is the idea:
- Story driven progress. The main menu is the 3D map of the Netherlands. Between each level you get back to this map, someone talks to you and points out the progress… you get the idea.
- Story driven ‘main gameplay’. A few levels ‘find wally’ style where the mechanics gets introduced. In these levels you see a lot of same-looking gnomes but a few of them are strange and you have to pick them out of the crowd.
- The ‘original’ gamemodes are now transformed to an ‘in-between’ for the story levels. These are now called ‘hide n seek’ and there you just have to find all gnomes.
- This ‘hide n seek’ mode has 2 game formats available in each level:
- the first format is called ‘normal’ and consists of childish ‘just find them’.
- the second format is called ‘time trial’ and is the more arcade ‘do fun stuff more mobile like and get a good time’ approach to the same levels. (I try to get as much sparkles, power-ups and stupid things in there as possible with my junior modelling skillset.)
I think this is the maximum I can pull of if I want to stay true to the original scope of the game. (The scope was: learn a lot, do it myself, make a fun game for myself and my son, stay withing the deadline.)
So, do we get a new delay somewhere down the line? Isn’t the new goal even more ambitious?
I don’t hope so.
Where are we at now?
Currently the story driven progress is 50% on modelling, 90% on programming, 50% story writing. The ‘find wally’ style levels and mechanics are on 50% modelling, 25% level design, 90% programming, 0% story writing. The ‘hide n seek’ mode ‘normal’ is on 100% modelling, 95% programming, 100% level design. The ‘hide n seek’ mode ‘time trial’ will get the remaining time… and thus is likely to be skipped to be enhanced after release.
And yeah, I did think of the other open issues: need for music and more diverse sounds, more settings, and a few good screenshots and video’s that show of the game.
I think the release will contain all story and all ‘find wally’ stuff. And the music, sounds and overall finish of the game will be good.
After release I will add more to the ‘time trial’ mode, add more Steam integration (achievements, cloud, etc), and look for ways to add more levels (or a whole new country) to the game, controller support… but this depends on the feedback I receive on the game.
Thanks for reading!