First off, let me say that designing casual games is a lot more difficult than I expected it to be. Watching live, blind, player testing showed me two important things. One is that the average person doesn't like to experiment to figure out the rules of a game. The other is that things that seem obvious to developers or other people experienced with games are totally opaque to many people.
That said, I'm trying to revise my game PongVaders based on what I observed at PAX and some feedback from a game designer (who shall remain anonymous) who really knows what he's talking about.
In my game, there are two paddles arranged Pong-style and aliens in the center of the screen. The invaders fire shots that behave like the ball in a pong or breakout game. Shots from the invaders do not collide with invaders until it is reflected by a player's paddle. If a shot is volleyed between both paddles, it is supercharged and can pass through multiple invaders instead of exploding on contact.
Right now, invaders fire hollow white shots. When the shot is reflected by a paddle, the shot is filled in so it looks like a white square. The charged shots become red and draw a motion blur.
There are several problems with this: one is that hollow-white-red is not an obvious sequence. Also, it is not obvious to players that paddle contact is advancing the sequence. The other issue is that it is possible to reflect shots off of scene geometry back to the paddle. These shots are white, but do not become supercharged upon reflection. If the other player is attempting to volley shots to you, and you reflect a shot off of the scene geometry, both incoming shots will be white and it is not obvious which balls have been 'volleyed' and will be charged upon reflection.
What's a better sequence? What's a better way to communicate that paddle contact is advancing the sequence? How do I let players know which shots have already been hit by the other player?
( Screenshots and video here
- excuse the self-promotion).
Thanks for any advice,