I’m really glad I decided to set a date to test Readapt with a bunch of friends. Since the game is a local multiplayer game that supports 4 players I knew it would super useful. I managed to polish off the short list of features and fixes I mentioned in an earlier post which I am pretty happy about considering I spent nearly two whole days restructuring major parts of the player scripts.
Having said that it was still a mad rush to get what I wanted done, I did finish adding things around midnight the night before the Saturday test session but unexpected bugs persisted. Those bugs included not being able to navigate within the pause menu, missing sound effects and not being able to restart after someone had won. So the morning of the test session I had a small list of bugs (that I knew about) to fix before I had to leave for the testing session which was held at a friend’s house.
Conveniently I have a group of friends who all more or less live in the same area which takes about 40 minutes with traffic to drive to, so it made sense to hold the session over there. All up I had 12 testers (including myself), so I decided to hold three 4-player session around 20 minutes long, I would take notes for the first two and play against three others in the last session. After each test group finished playing I would ask my friends to write down what they liked, didn’t like and any suggestions they might have.
Disclaimer I didn’t take any photos so this will be a giant wall of text. Sorry!
Within the first round I realised that the game might be too confusing as my friends spent half of the round figuring out what had randomised and how to leverage what they figured out. This also involved a lot of laughing and screaming at themselves and others, along with a handful of “Aha!” moments. Early in development I had considered surfacing what had randomised in each round but I thought it would make the game too easy. The feedback I got told me otherwise. While players enjoyed the novelty and variety presented by the game, being confused in a combative and competitive scenario for too long is not fun. I think it was easy for me to take for granted the amount of confusion I would be inflicting on new players. since I know the game inside out.
Prolonged confusion is not a fun state to be in, which is why getting lost is always a bad time and the primary reason why I hate mazes. So I’m thinking of signposting major things that change at the start of each round like weapons, abilities, players, boundaries and environmental objects. I’ll also include an option or a “hardcore” mode where such a feature can be turned off once players become more familiar with the game or want more of a challenge.
Feedback also pointed to some information that was not visually represented well enough. The boundaries that border the screen often have properties but were too thin and not noticeable enough. In addition when players were on one health it was hard to see the player sprite. Another point that came up was that it was hard to tell if players were still alive as there is no death animation, a player simply disappears and a sound effect plays. I think that these issues arose because I developed these aspects on a computer monitor sitting less than a metre away while the game was played on a TV with people sitting a few metres back on a couch. So I’ll have to make visual cues including death animations and who won each round more obvious in future builds.
There were also some balance issues which I found interesting. One weapon is chargeable by holding down the fire button, the charge time is increases projectile size, duration and speed. You can also not choose to charge the weapon at all which fires a small projectile, the problem was that at the time a small projectile would cancel out a fully charged one. Obviously this lead to some serious balance issues as my friends quickly exploited this fact and that I had not implemented a slow rate of fire (as I thought that most players would spend most of their time charging) which lead to everyone shooting all the time. This issue was made so obvious and so quickly that I was a little embarrassed! The AI I coded to use this weapon would pick a random float number between 0 and the maximum charge time, so it would rarely shoot successively without charging at all. Thankfully the solution was rather simple, I’ve added a cooldown period between shots and made larger charged projectiles destroy smaller projectiles but not themselves.
Oh and there were a bunch of bugs on the day too. The ghost ability which lets player move through objects would not restore the player colliders properly, player one’s score showed up on all characters, input for player 3 was broken for one particular modifier which restricted movement to a path and one of axis of movement was incorrectly inverted for player 3 too. Despite this the game was largely playable and most importantly it didn’t freeze or crash and as one of my friends put it “was more stable than Battlefield 4”. I expected some bugs since I added, restructured and fixed so much code that it was pretty likely I would miss things or make mistakes.
Some of my friends suggested power ups to pick up which I am a little on the fence about. From a design standpoint I like how players are on equal footing despite the randomised elements as they are applied equally. Adding power ups would skew this balance but I could use it to encourage players to actively move around instead of hanging back. I also noticed that some of my friends talked to each other while filling out feedback sheets, which lead to some repeated feedback. So I’ll probably have be a totalitarian dictator and impose silence among testers next time.
There’s more feedback that I could discuss but this post is already super long. Next time I should also record my friends playing so I could re-watch gameplay footage in my own time. In other news I recorded another episode of the Should I Play This Game Podcast on Sunday, which has our first email ever and benefits from my new mic. I was pretty tired at the time though, so I apologise if I seem off-point or sleepy. The podcast is already up for your listening pleasure so you can download it from the website or find it on iTunes thanks to Mike’s speedy editing. For the next week I’ll be working with the feedback I have gotten so far and I aim to put a build out next week so you guys can finally get around to trying Readapt for yourselves.