This past weekend, we had the exciting opportunity to present our game at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle! We were there with about a dozen other games created for the Seattle Indies Game Jam held two weeks ago. Since then, we and the other jammers have been polishing up our games in anticipation of the showcase.
PacSci hosted the venue for the game jam itself as well
We were also absolutely thrilled to be recognized with the showcase’s 🏆 Community Choice 🏆 award! During the exhibit, votes were collected from the attendees on their favorite game, and we are super grateful to everyone who voted! To be honest, I was not expecting this given the many great games on display, and I strongly encourage everyone to check out the other submissions as well.
The prizes for the game jam were… jam!
In this post, we’re sharing what we’ve been working on since the jam, what we learned from the showcase, and what we plan to do next.
In the previous devlog post, we covered 5 key points of game design, and over the past two weeks, we focused on those points we thought needed the most attention. We believe our efforts during the jam reasonably covered (Game)Play, Polish, and Progression, so we prioritized Payoff and Personality next. This involved adding:
- A Level Summary at the end of each level, displaying a star rating on how efficiently the player solved the puzzle
- Dialogue text between the Magician and Villagers, highlighting the humor in destroying the Village to save the Villagers
The villagers show a peculiar attachment to their belongings
Beyond these, we made a variety of other improvements:
- Three (3) brand new levels added!
- Dynamic music that follows the player’s progression
- Pause menu with options to Restart or Quit
- Custom cursor changing to an open hand over adjacent buildings
- VFX over UI counter to highlight inventory changes
- Intro sequence at the Magician’s Tower
- Larger models to make Magician and Villagers more visible
The intro sequence serves to set the premise
We also squashed a few bugs:
- Prevent Magician from walking past Villager
- Check win condition when Villager exits (in case the Magician is already at her own exit when the last Villager escapes)
- Add missing SFX for Villager teleporting
SHOWCASE REACTIONS & OBSERVATIONS
One of the great benefits of exhibiting at the Pacific Science Center is the wide range of people who show up and play your game (we’ve previously presented both Else Return Home and Good Night Rowan there). Because there are a lot of families, you get toddlers to parents playing your game. Some are experienced gamers, and others rarely play games at all. Kids especially provide some of the most honest feedback you’ll ever get! And, you get to hear fellow game developer feedback from the other exhibitors.
Kids really teach you how to explain things better
Seeing all these people play our game, there was both a lot of positive feedback and a variety of things we recognized we could do better.
Here’s what went well:
- Of course, receiving the Community Choice was a major positive!
- Even some of the youngest kids were solving the puzzles (in some cases, despite their parents’ misguidance).
- One parent approvingly noted how our game could help kids learn critical thinking and logical problem solving skills.
- A dad and his daughter completed all eight levels and came back later to play again!
- Many people laughed at the silly dialogue we had scattered throughout the levels.
- A couple jammers remarked how much the addition of the dialogue enhanced the experience.
- Many people complimented the visuals, music, and game design.
Folks got a good chuckle from some of the lines
Of course, the game is far from perfect after just two weeks, so we took notes on areas for improvement:
- Our biggest concern was on how long it took many players to grasp the control scheme. We’re considering a variety of ways to make this more intuitive.
- Some people thought an early line (“Save the windmill, not me!”) meant there was a solution that left it standing when you couldn’t. We realized this line should only come after more thoroughly establishing the Villagers’ excessive materialism, and/or use it on a level where you can avoid destroying it.
- It was not clear to some how the star rating was determined. We’ve now edited this from “Moves Taken” to “Tiles Walked”.
“Tiles Walked” is hopefully less ambiguous
Now that both the jam and the showcase are over, the first thing we’re doing is taking a rest. 🙂 Otherwise, we’re looking forward to our next opportunity to present the game to the public, which will likely be around February 2020. We’re already considering a handful of things we can do next:
- Build development tools to create levels more quickly
- Add improvements to better signal the game’s mechanics
- Explore alternative control schemes that may be more intuitive
- Detect puzzle fail state and prompt player to restart
- Introduce new mechanic(s) to extend puzzle scenarios
- Add dynamic villager responses to the player’s actions
In fact, we’ve already added an optional hint system
What would you like to see most? Leave a comment, or follow my itch profile to be notified of future updates. We look forward to sharing the next iteration with you in the near future!