“That’s a great milestone!” someone replied to me on Twitter when I was making the announcement of Oggipital, and mentioned it went into beta testing at the same time. Well, beta and beta. Very early beta. But who cares about the wordings of development phases in a small indie game studio anyway.
It is, of course, a great milestone. WIth the announcement and distribution of the game to outside players, it’s kind of the point of no return. If I back out of this NOW…that’ll be embarrassing . Actually, it wouldn’t be in normal circumstances, but my intention is to be – become – a game developer full-time, and for the time well into the future. Plus, my motto is to make games I want to play, so it would be silly to not develop such a game. When I already started to.
But apart from a great milestone it’s a very stressful situation, too. Maybe it is just because it’s my first game announcement, but I had that awful nagging feeling for a full three-four days and nights, “what if this is complete crap, what if I have a really bad bug in there for the testers?”. Even though one should just take it easy and announce games early on and take the feedback from the audience – be it a closed test group, Twitter, or readers of a blog – as constructive criticism, humans seldom work like this. So it’s pretty nerve-wracking to wait for the first real feedback on a game.
Thank Darwin I started the testing with external people. In retrospect I should have done it earlier but I always feel like I need to have some parts of the game near final before I do it. In this case it was the core game mechanics. I closed some serious bugs the last week before beta and did some very needed adjustments to the core mechanics.
And I got immediate and good feedback – first, I was naturally like “screw this!”, but it didn’t take me many hours to see what needs to be done, and then I was back in the creative loop I so love about game development. The feedback was unanimous: the game’s impossible to comprehend without a wayyy clearer way to show beginners how it’s done. And it’s correct – the game has rules which are not logically derivable. Even if there aren’t many rules, not getting the main ones will result in complete player frustration. By “not derivable” I mean rules like “you must cut like this, but you cannot cut like that”, and the “cannot” being just due to a rule I made up, one that you cannot visually spot in the game.
I had only first-revision help pages in the game, available only in-play behind a “?” button. Pushed by the feedback of my testers, I am now implementing an active/interactive tutorial, which is offered as the first thing a new player should do before playing a real round. In addition to being really fun to implement, it teaches me also a way of looking at the game, and gives a fresh view on the gameplay. AND I get really accustomed to Cocos2D animation functions. 🙂
I’m working with draft art on the tutorial still, but for the sake of Screenshot Saturday, enjoy this complimentary shot of the tutorial. It’s on the house!