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998606 Posts in 39169 Topics- by 30582 Members - Latest Member: luisfelipeart

April 20, 2014, 05:18:19 AM
TIGSource ForumsFeedbackPlaytestingSpellirium Minute Episode #10: Fuzzy Wuzzy was a Puzzle
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Author Topic: Spellirium Minute Episode #10: Fuzzy Wuzzy was a Puzzle  (Read 5033 times)
UntoldEnt
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« Reply #30 on: April 19, 2013, 11:09:22 AM »

So i had a hunch it probably wouldn't work, but i had to give it a shot.  This is first footage of Spellirium running on the Oculus Rift:


This is the first in a series of video developer diaries about Spellirium, in which we'll explore the creative process behind the project, and then make fun of a bunch of stuff.  Enjoy!

- Ryan
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UntoldEnt
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« Reply #31 on: April 20, 2013, 01:43:56 PM »

The Spellirium Pre-Order campaign has been running for a week and a half now, so i thought it would be a good time to check in with stats and reportage.

Although we don't have a fundraising target posted, a dream scenario would have us raising $50000, so that we can cover off voice-over comfortably (at ~$20k), and then have enough left over to hire storyboarders and animators to clean up existing cut-scenes, and animate new ones for the third act (~$20k), leaving $10k for the balancing, gameplay testing and polish that the alpha requires. 

Here's how the first ten days of the campaign look, sales-wise:


The campaign launched on a Tuesday, and all kinds of magical, marvellous things happened. The little spike on the following Sunday was courtesy of Tim Schafer, who has generously helped out many crowdfunding campaigns since his own record-shattering Kickstarter campaign last year.  Big thanks to Tim for his generosity!

Moron Math

When i "ran the numbers" for the campaign, this is what i thought: at a dream target of $50k, and an assumed (and extremely conservative) conversion rate of only 1%, we would "only" need to drive five hundred thousand pairs of eyeballs to the campaign site in order to raise that kind of money.  No problem, right?  With a good mix of press attention and word of mouth, it was no small feat, but we were up to the task.

Reality paints a different picture.  Our actual conversion rate is astronomical, at 62.6%.  That means that most people who hear about Spellirium come to the site with wallets in-hand.  That's great news.


The glum news is that if we maintain a daily average of $192.30 (which will only decrease the farther we get from that large Day One sum), it will take almost three quarters of a year to raise the dough.  We've only budgeted one month to drive the campaign really hard, so a dramatic fall-off is imminent if we don't do something to increase traffic.

Something to Increase Traffic

So how do you get a whopping truckload of eyeballs to your website?  Common sense says that you go where the eyeballs are: in this case, press sites that have the attention of a large number of people.  But dig this: the media focus that so many indies strive for may not bring the boom that they expect.


Here is a list of the significant press attention the campaign has received to date:


Now take a look at the traffic sources for the website:


The three t.co links are Twitter traffic. @UntoldEnt has 3600 followers on the social networking site. That network, with considerable help from the likes of Tim Schafer and Tycho from Penny Arcade, accounts for the bulk of our visitors.

The second-biggest referrer is Mojang.com, the studio that created Minecraft (with their own legendarily successful alpha campaign). On Day One, Mojang's Marc Watson tweeted about the project.  The Mojang website features a sidebar where employee tweets roll by.


Marc's tweet couldn't have appeared in that sidebar for more than a few hours, but players clicking on his link have accounted for the second-highest amount of traffic to the campaign.  That's the kind of attention 10 million unit sales of Minecraft gets you!

De-Pressed

Press sources that you would expect to have driven more traffic are suspiciously absent from the Traffic Sources list.  Have you ever dreamed of seeing your game in lights on a site like Joystiq.com?  Their Spellirium article, posted in the apparent traffic Dead Zone last Sunday night, brought a whole 8 visitors to the campaign.  JayIsGames who, six years ago, brought two thousand people to Untold Entertainment in a single day, has only pulled in a tenth of that traffic in a week and a half!

Bizarrely, in other instances the posts i'm putting out seem to be completely traffic repellent.  Look at this weirdness from a post i wrote on the Oculus Rift message boards:


The Skydive post, which went up around noon, has had 230 views. A mere 3 hours later, the Spellirium post has only drawn 14 people.  Bizarre!  (Although in retrospect, i should have just titled the post "Spellirium" ... it looks like any mention of 2D is like a garlic-infused crucifix to the 3D-loving Oculus Rift vampires.)

Big Game Hunting

Now, please don't misunderstand: i am very grateful for all the stories press people have been writing about Spellirium so far.  It's just an interesting cautionary note that the "big score" you're chasing may not pan out. 


Help!  i'm being attacked by bad graphics!

Just this week, i heard an anecdote about someone who busted hump chasing an IGN story which, when it finally dropped, sent only a few dozen people to his website.  i'm placing a lot more hope in the mid-size sites who perhaps post less frequently, have a more intimate relationship with their readers, and can talk about Spellirium through a number of different avenues available to them, including Twitter, Facebook, and their email list. And in certain cases, maybe a trashpunk adventure game just doesn't interest the readership of certain sites?

Will You Give Me a Minute?

Search loves video, or so i hear.  The vlog strategy backfired on me a few years ago when i paid five-dollar increments to have the crazies over at Fiverr.com shoot ZombieGameWorld.com testimonials for me.  This time, i'm taking the vlogs into my own hands. Robby Duguay (AKA "the Doogs"), composer and campaign contributor, helped me bang out no fewer than eighteen developer diary videos, which we kicked off today with the immensely silly Spellirium Minute Episode #0: Tripping the Oculus Rift. We have enough segments to release one a day for the next two and a half weeks. And so we shall!


If you want to catch 'em all, subscribe to the Untold Entertainment YouTube channel.  The videos will appear in our "Spellirium Minute" playlist.  The first few vids talk about the different prototypes we built on our way to finding a fun mechanic for the game.   

Pimpin' Comes Easy

Having an entire month to devote to grassroots PR makes me wonder if i've missed my calling?  It's very, very difficult, and it means humbling myself and shaming myself and extolling myself all at the same time.  It's frenetic and exhausting and it sometimes feels like i'm in the middle of a Rube Goldberg machine, and have been tasked with making sure it runs properly.  But because of its intricate and challenging network of interconnected puzzles, <em>promoting Spellirium</em> is one of the most fun and exciting adventure games i've ever played!

If you have any hints for how i can achieve a complete score of 50000 by the time i finish the game, let me know with a reply!  Spoilers are encouraged.
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UntoldEnt
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« Reply #32 on: April 20, 2013, 01:51:15 PM »

Spellirium has been in development for five long years.  This is a video about the very first prototype we built for the game.

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UntoldEnt
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« Reply #33 on: April 21, 2013, 10:08:57 AM »

The second Spellirium prototype was interesting, but too many clicks meant too little fun.  And the time limit was universally despised:

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UntoldEnt
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« Reply #34 on: April 22, 2013, 06:41:18 AM »

We kept playing around with the Spellirium prototype. This time we reversed the control scheme we'd been using in the previous prototype, but it still wasn't working:

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UntoldEnt
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« Reply #35 on: April 23, 2013, 06:12:09 AM »

One of the biggest gameplay innovations in Spellirium is that beyond including a certain word puzzle mechanic, each challenge and battle is actually a unique and distinct puzzle-within-a-puzzle.  By "reading" the player's actions in the puzzle grid, we end up with a number of data points including word length, colour, quality and direction. There are many more of course, but those are the basics.


The prototype i cover in this video represents our first proof-of-concept for Spellirium, where we actually give this puzzle-within-a-puzzle idea a whirl and see if players find it compelling.  Thankfully, the game passed that test - which means we've got many more videos about the ensuing five years of game development to share with you!

Always Be Subscribing

Check out the growing Spellirium Minute playlist, and subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don't miss a thing!




Word.
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UntoldEnt
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« Reply #36 on: April 24, 2013, 06:39:28 AM »

When i say that Spellirium is a cross between Loom and Boggle, i ain't just whistling Dixie. Brian Moriarty's adventure game masterpiece, which was so classy with its use of a Tchaikovsky soundtrack, remains one of my favourite games of all time.


It turns out, as i reveal in the video, that i didn't rip off Loom as badly as i'd thought.  And Lloyd Alexander, who looks in person every bit like Quentin Blake's drawing of Roald Dahl's The BFG (due to his other-worldly schnozz), liberally borrowed from Welsh mythology for his Prydain Chronicles.

Great artists steal.
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UntoldEnt
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« Reply #37 on: April 25, 2013, 05:16:16 AM »

Just to illustrate the diversity and divergent thinking of the puzzles in <b><a href="http://www.spellirium.com" title="Spellirium">Spellirium</a></b>, we prototyped a battle with a creature called a "flobbert":


This challenge is interesting because it implores the player to <em>not</em> excel, by word game standards. By making longer, more difficult words, the player gets into more trouble with a harder-hitting monster. 

The flobbert hasn't made it into the current game, but if it does, it will probably be based on this slimy design:


The creature's name will have to be changed, though, because it's eight letters long. i'd like all the creatures' names to be spellable in the game grid, because reasons.
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UntoldEnt
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« Reply #38 on: April 26, 2013, 05:05:27 AM »

Pokémon has a collectible compendium of creatures. Spellirium has a collectible Dictionary of words. Every original Pokémon teevee show ended with the Pokémon Rap.  And what's better than the Pokémon Rap?  Practically everything.


Robby "the Doogs" Duguay is responsible for the bang-on musical homage, while you can thank Jon Remedios for the chorus that'll stay in your brain far, far longer than you'll want it to.

Spell all the words!
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UntoldEnt
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« Reply #39 on: April 29, 2013, 05:19:19 AM »

Spellirium's third prototype is nearly identical to the mechanic the game presently uses. But the moment you tell a player not to go somewhere, that's the first thing a player tries to do.  It's the Garden of Eden all over again. The limits of this prototype became very obvious very quickly.


In the video, i tease a fight i had with a fellow game dev.  It's actually <em>not</em> going to be mentioned in the very next video, but it is upcoming, so watch out for it!
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« Reply #40 on: April 29, 2013, 05:21:55 AM »

i had never ever seen a word game like Spellirium, in which the Dictionary of fifty thousand-odd words is collectible and exposed to the player, AND collecting those words has some sort of bearing on gameplay - in Spellirium's case, those words become your currency.  To pull that off, the real trick was going to be organizing the UI (user interface) for the Dictionary in an enticing - not overwhelming - way.


Well, Mission Totally Failed during our first attempt, which we outline in the video.  Based on that initial UI failure, we made the following critical changes to the Dictionary that you'll find in the current version of Spellirium:



  • By default, the Dictionary filters by words you've already made. So the first time you open the Dictionary, you see it filled with words that you recognize, because you just finished building them in a challenge.
  • Instead of only two word states ("got it" and "don't got it"), there are now four states: unseen, seen, owned, and spent.  You can filter the Dictionary using any of those parameters for more or less granularity.
  • There's a cheeky % complete counter at the bottom of the current dictionary, which usually says something like "0.0017% complete".  This is almost there to dissuade players from building all fifty thousand words because, come on ... get a life.
  • There are two Cheeves in the game related to collecting words. One of them is called "You're Almost There", which rewards you for completing 2% of the Dictionary Wink  The other one is for 100% completion, but it implores you NOT to achieve it, offers you no reward, and encourages you to get out and join a community group instead.
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UntoldEnt
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« Reply #41 on: April 29, 2013, 05:25:04 AM »

By the time we'd reached prototype 5 of Spellirium, i was pretty confident in the concept. We went ahead and prototyped around twenty different puzzles to put them out to players and to see which ones stuck, and which ones were Fit for the Pit.



As the video reveals, the most popular puzzle was "Picture", so we put it in the current game such that players would be playing it again and again.  But our implementation was a bear, and it turned out to be a level of work akin to fighting through a 100-level randomized dungeon in order to power up a single, consumable health potion in Disgaea. We're going to be less heavy-handed with the Picture puzzle in future revisions of the alpha.

SUBSCRIBE, and Prove that you are Noble of Heart

Check out the growing Spellirium Minute playlist, and subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don't miss a thing!
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