34 Polish

Polish isn’t my cup of tea. But playing a polished game is definitely more fun than a rough one. So I go polish hunting this time!

Its only a few years now that I am actually able to handle feedback. So I take a look back at how I became more easy on myself.

Enjoy the read!

Video

No game-play fragments this time. Making video content is very time consuming, I had other priorities this week.

Getting feedback

My plan is/was to release a public Steam version in 2 weeks time from now. I have like 3 levels ready, and felt like I could make a push for it to release something worthy. And from there on improve it.

However I haven’t shown my ‘improved’ version to many people yet. Yes a lot of the content is out in the open, and yes I actively test my game in a closed group, but I have not actively asked a larger audience for feedback. And that was stinging me, not ‘actually’ knowing if my improved version of Find the Gnome is actually an improvement.

So then an opportunity opened up: this new reddit group r/DestroyMyGame came along. It focuses on providing ‘actual’ feedback instead of the default ‘O your game is awesome but I dont want to discourage you and hurt your feelings’ comments you normally get.

I got destroyed: https://www.reddit.com/r/DestroyMyGame/comments/o4wqug/i_recreated_my_game_is_it_better_now/… and to my surprise they got some really good points.

It might be clear that I’m not going to release in 2 weeks time hehe.

Polish, not my strength

Almost all things pointed out are, sadly, known to me. I hadn’t given them priority yet.

  • Fading in/out gnomes and the helicopter instead of the hard appear/disappear they currently have.
  • No feedback when clicking gnomes.
  • Bad UI, mostly unnecessary.
  • Overhead map has too much detail compared to the levels.
  • The tutorial level looks really nice, but the mansion is ‘meh’.

I do think this habit of me of not applying polish is a bit problematic. Roan has pointed out some bugs for a few weeks straight before I got to fix it. And when I ask people for feedback they immediately pointed out stuff I already knew, these points are apparently so distracting. (And maybe I am missing out on other feedback because of this?)

However I do have to give myself leeway. ‘Knowing’ what is broken isn’t the same as knowing how to fix it. I think that is my main issue, I just don’t know what to do if the solution isn’t that apparent.

And there is another issue: I know that I can fix anything, given enough time and iterations. But I don’t have that much time available per week, and to redo stuff feels much less like progress comparing to adding new stuff.

These are my interpretations on the feedback and the approaches I am going to take to solve them:

  • Fading in/out gnomes and the helicopter instead of the hard appear/disappear they currently have. I have to just fix this, its on my own list for months already. Difficulty that withheld me to do this until now is how to fade an object. I looked into it and it is actually fairly easy.
  • No feedback when clicking gnomes. This about FX and animations, I am just not that versed into this. But I know already a few possible fixes. I only have to test which one looks best.
  • Bad UI, mostly unnecessary. Yeah, I know. I specifically told: its a placeholder. But after thinking about it some more they actually are more right than I thought them to be. The current implementation contains a lot of unnecessary elements: you can complete the game without needing most of them. Other games in this genre do this minimalist hand drawn UI. I am not fond of that. I have to give it some time and active experiments and try out a few different things to see what works for the looks. And the objective system is too complex, its can be simplified into ‘find x amount of gnomes’.
  • Overhead map has too much detail compared to the levels. I had the same feeling. But what is a proper solution to fix this? I need to have some content on my overhead map, cant just delete all trees… and then it dawned on me: I think the coloring is wrong so you get distracted by unimportant objects, and I could experiment with the block-ish island-ish approach I have in the tutorial level and apply this to the map too.
  • The tutorial level looks really nice, but the mansion is ‘meh’. I do have the same feeling as they do, but couldn’t point out on how to improve upon this. Until I came to that same conclusion I had on the overhead map: its about visual consistency. The island-ish approach (from the tutorial level) makes scenes much more interesting to look at, gives it a distinct vibe, and break up colors (so you don’t end up on uninteresting big large brown-ish fields).

So that’s quite some changes I have to make. I have to revisit a few level designs. Fully overhaul my UI. Experiment with colors.

But it feels really good actually. To know what ‘was wrong’. It is starting to feel like carving a diamond, gradually seeing something valuable going to get shapes.

And that ‘knowing to get some value’ is a good anti-dote to my feeling of not having too much time. If I dig deep down in my mind I think this comes down to very badly wanting to have some basic monthly income, so not to have to work for someone else anymore, and to ‘relax’ my mind so I can do more creative processes. The fallacy I see my mind getting into is: favor getting something low-value on the market quickly, instead of getting something valuable onto the market after a period of fruition.

But this ‘allowing time’ thing is still something that needs a lot more attention and thought on my side.

That brings me onto growth.

Personal growth

If you think I am late with asking for feedback just a few weeks before launch: you are totally right. However it was much and much worse. I am seeing a lot of growth on my side on this subject.

With Find the Gnome in 2018, I felt this massive pressure. I didn’t want to look at what others made because it felt like I was sooo bad and a fraud and such. Also I didn’t have that much experience with anything game related, but insisted on exploring it on my own without much outside help, so I was very hard and harsh on myself there. Requesting the impossible.

That resulted in a massive disappointment. In myself.

That behavior didn’t come out of nowhere. On the contrary: I remember feeling like a fraud as a teenager when programming stuff. Or when attending to school. Or when getting into relationships. And this continued when getting into professional life. I always felt this sting like ‘o maybe I am not that good as I think I am’.

It started to change 6 years ago when I entered into consultancy at Luminis. The more consultancy I did at different companies, the more I realized what my capabilities where. What I was good at. And also: what I was bad at. I indeed wasn’t that good in tech stuff, but not the way you might think. Technically I am very strong, but I have a hard time understanding what is actually needed and I have a hard time communicating what I need myself to be fully productive. Being harsh/unclear on myself also had the effect I was harsh on others.

It was 2 to 3 years ago (when I was 31 years old) that I started seeing things change to the better. I finally learnt how to ask for help, take someone’s advice and filter the right things out of it. At the same time I became better at working with others because with me understanding that I am a flawed human being, I now better understand how this works out in everyone else.

Same struggle, but now with more ‘accepting reality’ and ‘humility’.

I don’t know what triggered this change. I think its a combination of things. Find the Gnome did fail at that time. A few other things happened in my personal life. I encountered a good mentor at Luminis, and then discovered some other people around me that could mentor me on other subjects as well. Or maybe it was just me hitting 30 and realizing what is life about, and then me opening up to it.

So yes, I am grateful where I am today. With Find the Gnome. That I learned some valuable lessons from it in the past, was able to get feedback a few weeks before launch, now delay launch again, have some work to do…

If you feel like you want to help me out, join me over on Discord! Follow this link https://discord.gg/PywvqdEJ6b. I always post links to all things I do related to gamedev there. I have paused my monthly mailing because it took waaay to much time and I didn’t like doing it, so looking over at Discord is a good alternative.

Automating bug hunting

Another topic, but slightly related to ‘polish’: bug hunting. Bugs are also polish, but more a technical take on it.

I currently still employ manual testing, with me doing the testing on new stuff an Roan doing the majority of regression testing. I am getting into situations where bugs start to reappear or having a hard time getting them fully fixed.

Combine this with me trying to get a nice CI/CD pipe, and I am starting to see the value of automating my testing. I am still a bit unsure on how to do this, because the scripts I create currently are these modular MonoBehaviours that don’t lend themselves to a unittest that easily. But I am looking into ways in getting my code better test-able.

Expect some updates about this automated testing some time soon.

For now, enjoy your weekend. And see you next time!

Published by Erik_de_Roos

Erik de Roos is a Freelance software developer.

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