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TIGSource ForumsFeedbackDevLogsThe Dilating Pupil - puzzle-platformer, shrink and grow yourself
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Author Topic: The Dilating Pupil - puzzle-platformer, shrink and grow yourself  (Read 4487 times)
stevesan
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« on: February 01, 2012, 07:26:31 pm »

Hi folks,
"Pupil" is a puzzle-platformer based on the ability to grow and shrink your character (the little box dude). There aren't too many puzzles in there right now, but I'd love some early feedback. Toast Right

Play in your browser (Unity FTW)

The prettiest screen shot I have so far:



INTRO:
I'm Steve, an aspiring indie game developer. I've worked briefly at a AAA studio as an engineer, but decided to do a PhD instead (almost done). But, I think I will definitely go back in to the industry in some form, whether indie or not, cuz I just love making games that much. My background is mostly in graphics and gameplay programming, but I have a strong desire to grow as a designer as well. So, here is my first prototype submitted for your approval. I've been working on it for over half a year in my spare time, and although it's far from finished, I figure now's a good time to get critical feedback.

FEEDBACK DESIRED:
The main questions I want to answer are: 1) Do the controls feel good? How could they be improved?  2) Are the puzzles interesting and give you that "ah-ha!" moment? 3) Did you have fun playing it, and would definitely be interested in playing more puzzles with these mechanics? 4) How do you like the music?  5) Anything else that comes to mind, such as puzzle flow, design, points of frustration, etc.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2012, 03:01:16 pm by stevesan » Logged

TheAdam
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« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2012, 08:25:39 pm »

Really cool idea, and well executed for the most part. There are some little collision problems, but nothing game breaking. The one thing I would say could stand to be improved is that a couple of the puzzles made me feel like I had to almost break the game in order to advance... like use collision glitches in order to advance. Not sure if that was the case or if that's just what worked for me. I can't for the life of me figure out how to finish the last one right now... it seems like I probalby have to jump and shrink and hope to fit in the hole. If that's the case, I'm not really a fan of that design. Seems way too hard.

Also, I really like what you did with the art in terms of simplicity and elegance, but the player character seems slightly out of place in my opinion.
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stevesan
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« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2012, 08:40:31 pm »

Really cool idea, and well executed for the most part. There are some little collision problems, but nothing game breaking. The one thing I would say could stand to be improved is that a couple of the puzzles made me feel like I had to almost break the game in order to advance... like use collision glitches in order to advance. Not sure if that was the case or if that's just what worked for me. I can't for the life of me figure out how to finish the last one right now... it seems like I probalby have to jump and shrink and hope to fit in the hole. If that's the case, I'm not really a fan of that design. Seems way too hard.

Also, I really like what you did with the art in terms of simplicity and elegance, but the player character seems slightly out of place in my opinion.

Thanks for the friendly feedback! I agree about the collision issues and the art, and they'll get fixed eventually.

Could you give more details about what puzzles you feel you had to "break"?

The last one is indeed annoying - it may be better suited as an "extra" puzzle.

Cheers!
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suggo
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« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2012, 10:49:11 pm »

I didn't play all the puzzles but I think you will find you need to focus a lot on the way the puzzles work and in what order you present different mechanics to the player so as not to alienate or confuse the player. I have been reading a lot of stuff about game design lately which I had lost sight of in all the code I've been looking at, so sorry if I go into too much depth about that, just been on my mind lately but I think it is very important in a game like this.

I'm with TheAdam, that last level seems too tricky or maybe I missed something in skipping ahead too quickly.

I did enjoy a little moment in the first level when I realised I had to grow really large and just jump over a small area I previously passed through. It is a nice little introduction so the player knows that this game is going to mess with their perception of scale.

I also liked the scale up and scale down areas and they could work for some interesting puzzles. Slowly introducing these kinds of things to the player then when the player has seen it work, bring something else into the mix and make them see it in a new light and how to use it differently, that will help with those ah-ha moments I think.

I think it has some potential with more polish and really well planned puzzles.
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stevesan
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« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2012, 11:00:14 pm »

I didn't play all the puzzles but I think you will find you need to focus a lot on the way the puzzles work and in what order you present different mechanics to the player so as not to alienate or confuse the player. I have been reading a lot of stuff about game design lately which I had lost sight of in all the code I've been looking at, so sorry if I go into too much depth about that, just been on my mind lately but I think it is very important in a game like this.

I'm with TheAdam, that last level seems too tricky or maybe I missed something in skipping ahead too quickly.

I did enjoy a little moment in the first level when I realised I had to grow really large and just jump over a small area I previously passed through. It is a nice little introduction so the player knows that this game is going to mess with their perception of scale.

I also liked the scale up and scale down areas and they could work for some interesting puzzles. Slowly introducing these kinds of things to the player then when the player has seen it work, bring something else into the mix and make them see it in a new light and how to use it differently, that will help with those ah-ha moments I think.

I think it has some potential with more polish and really well planned puzzles.

Thanks for the advice. Indeed, the design and structure will make or break this game. Was there anything in particular that you found confusing?
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Noyb
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« Reply #5 on: February 01, 2012, 11:48:47 pm »

Finished all the puzzles. Didn't really grab me like SCALE did, though I did like "Getting a Foot in the Door" and "Like A Rolling Stone" puzzle-wise.  Smiley

- Kind of buggy. In "Getting a Foot in the Door," I can grow beyond the bounds of the initial room and totally break the collision detection. In "Take a Deep Breath," I dropped the block into the first pit, only to have it get stuck in the lower-left corner, unable to grow or shrink. 6A's solution usually involving a block getting stuck in a toggled floor felt a bit wrong.

- Finicky timing puzzles like "Getting a Foot in the Door II" and the last level I didn't find that satisfying to solve. Nor the continual jumping needed in the shrink laser levels.

- I expected to spawn near the "next" level in the level select screen after beating a level.

- Level design doesn't always respect a player's time. e.g. Starting 9c on the wrong side of the pushable block just adds complexity and time to the level in a way that's trivial and unnecessary at that point in the difficulty curve.

- Special cases like blocks growing and shrinking with your character, needing to hold "F" to make them grow, and blocks attached to invisible springs need to be visually communicated to the player in much clearer ways.

- This game doesn't really feel playtested. Suggestion: wrangle up some students at your university to help test the game. Watch their playthroughs without offering any help or commentary.

The last one is indeed annoying - it may be better suited as an "extra" puzzle.
Don't feel you need to include every level you design, even as an extra. Sometimes a shorter, more polished game can leave a better impression than one whose length is padded with self-described "annoying" levels.
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stevesan
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« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2012, 12:24:12 am »

Finished all the puzzles. Didn't really grab me like SCALE did, though I did like "Getting a Foot in the Door" and "Like A Rolling Stone" puzzle-wise.  Smiley

- Kind of buggy. In "Getting a Foot in the Door," I can grow beyond the bounds of the initial room and totally break the collision detection. In "Take a Deep Breath," I dropped the block into the first pit, only to have it get stuck in the lower-left corner, unable to grow or shrink. 6A's solution usually involving a block getting stuck in a toggled floor felt a bit wrong.

- Finicky timing puzzles like "Getting a Foot in the Door II" and the last level I didn't find that satisfying to solve. Nor the continual jumping needed in the shrink laser levels.

- I expected to spawn near the "next" level in the level select screen after beating a level.

- Level design doesn't always respect a player's time. e.g. Starting 9c on the wrong side of the pushable block just adds complexity and time to the level in a way that's trivial and unnecessary at that point in the difficulty curve.

- Special cases like blocks growing and shrinking with your character, needing to hold "F" to make them grow, and blocks attached to invisible springs need to be visually communicated to the player in much clearer ways.

- This game doesn't really feel playtested. Suggestion: wrangle up some students at your university to help test the game. Watch their playthroughs without offering any help or commentary.

The last one is indeed annoying - it may be better suited as an "extra" puzzle.
Don't feel you need to include every level you design, even as an extra. Sometimes a shorter, more polished game can leave a better impression than one whose length is padded with self-described "annoying" levels.

Thanks for your detailed feedback! It's very helpful and I'll address it soon. I playtested a bit but I plan on doing much more. Some follow up questions:

- Do you have a copy of SCALE? The link on the TOJAM site is broken. I'd love to play it - hopefully I'm still doing something new with the mechanic Smiley

- What was your solution to "Getting a foot.. II"? That wasn't meant to be a timing solution, so I need to fix the layout if you found one.

- And, I'll definitely consider cutting Level 10. I've cut many puzzles already, and if I can't "extract the essence" of that solution, then I'll cut it.

Thanks again!
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Noyb
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« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2012, 01:03:15 am »

- Do you have a copy of SCALE? The link on the TOJAM site is broken. I'd love to play it - hopefully I'm still doing something new with the mechanic Smiley
Oh weird, I did keep a copy. Requires you to install python and pygame first, as described at the TOJam site. http://www.sendspace.com/file/oe9fm2

- What was your solution to "Getting a foot.. II"? That wasn't meant to be a timing solution, so I need to fix the layout if you found one.
Pushing the block next to the up/down crusher thing, triggering the switch myself when relatively big, trying to hit the block to block the crusher thing while shrinking a bit. Seemed to be a bit of variance in my success, since the crusher thing wobbles up and down a bit while going up instead of laying flat.
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SirNiko
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« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2012, 03:57:37 pm »

On "Getting a foot in the Door" if you push the right block all the way to the right next to the biggest block, then shrink as small as possible next to it, that block disappears. It's still there and blocks you, but is not visible.

"Like a Rolling Stone" feels very clever, but inside the wheel I kept getting stuck on edges. I'm not sure what was broken with the physics.

The final level was made more difficult by the sticky physics of the avatar. I really wish I had a much higher rate of acceleration capped with the same top speed I have now. I think that would have make the trick at the end much easier to solve.

The difficulty of the levels was consistently pretty low, which I think was a good thing. I enjoyed playing through them all!

When you maximize your size in a room sometimes you can clip the walls, which looks terrible. Obviously, the graphics are incredibly boring and detract quite a bit from the game. Polished graphics and a better level select would go a long way to making this game much more fun!

Also, the "Quit" hole just makes me fall out of existence. I think maybe it isn't correctly implemented.
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stevesan
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« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2012, 04:36:35 pm »

On "Getting a foot in the Door" if you push the right block all the way to the right next to the biggest block, then shrink as small as possible next to it, that block disappears. It's still there and blocks you, but is not visible.

"Like a Rolling Stone" feels very clever, but inside the wheel I kept getting stuck on edges. I'm not sure what was broken with the physics.

The final level was made more difficult by the sticky physics of the avatar. I really wish I had a much higher rate of acceleration capped with the same top speed I have now. I think that would have make the trick at the end much easier to solve.

The difficulty of the levels was consistently pretty low, which I think was a good thing. I enjoyed playing through them all!

When you maximize your size in a room sometimes you can clip the walls, which looks terrible. Obviously, the graphics are incredibly boring and detract quite a bit from the game. Polished graphics and a better level select would go a long way to making this game much more fun!

Also, the "Quit" hole just makes me fall out of existence. I think maybe it isn't correctly implemented.

Thanks for the very detailed feedback, and I'm glad you enjoyed it! You mentioned a lot of new bugs I didn't know about before.

For the "stickiness", do you mean it would be nice to have any acceleration at all? Currently, you just go at a constant speed. I have no experience making platformers, so I need to study up on that...

Fixing physics and collision, and also art (this is all programmer art), are my top priorities right now.
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SirNiko
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« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2012, 06:56:15 pm »

Start a new game. Move right until you hit the first wall. Keep holding right, and jump. You'll notice the player has a very steep trajectory, so they barely clear the step before they land on the wall.

Try it again, and jump before you touch the side of the block. You'll get a nice wide jump and clear most of the wall before you land. This is what I mean.

Honestly, I didn't notice I accelerated instantly on the ground! I noticed the wall-jumping thing and didn't even think about my ground acceleration.
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stevesan
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« Reply #11 on: February 02, 2012, 07:05:30 pm »

Start a new game. Move right until you hit the first wall. Keep holding right, and jump. You'll notice the player has a very steep trajectory, so they barely clear the step before they land on the wall.

Try it again, and jump before you touch the side of the block. You'll get a nice wide jump and clear most of the wall before you land. This is what I mean.

Honestly, I didn't notice I accelerated instantly on the ground! I noticed the wall-jumping thing and didn't even think about my ground acceleration.

Ahh I now see exactly what you mean. In-air acceleration. And I think I totally agree with you! I will go implement it. I might need to re-adjust some puzzles, but maybe not.
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stevesan
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« Reply #12 on: February 02, 2012, 09:34:08 pm »

- Level design doesn't always respect a player's time. e.g. Starting 9c on the wrong side of the pushable block just adds complexity and time to the level in a way that's trivial and unnecessary at that point in the difficulty curve.

Also, could you PM me your solution for 9C? Because for my solution, I'm pretty sure I start on the right side. Perhaps you found an alternate solution Smiley
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stevesan
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« Reply #13 on: February 24, 2012, 01:50:20 pm »

Update: No new content (except for a little bit of art), but I completely re-coded the controls and growing physics. It should be much less buggy/glitchy now.
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TheAdam
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« Reply #14 on: February 25, 2012, 01:42:07 am »

Liking the new art, and yeah it feels a lot more stable. I didn't play through the whole game again, but I smiled when I saw some of the puzzles again. I really like the game overall. It's obviously too short to sell or anything, but it's a great portfolio piece and you could probably expand it into a full game if you wanted to.
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« Reply #15 on: February 25, 2012, 04:22:31 am »

I really like this. Puzzles are neat, though zooming in and out make me dizzy quite a bit. I'd love to see you expand this to a full game. Or just include more puzzles.

One thing I don't like is the puzzle select screen. It should go next to my previous puzzle , as well as showing which puzzle I've already cleared.

Keep up the good work!
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stevesan
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« Reply #16 on: February 25, 2012, 11:08:48 am »

Liking the new art, and yeah it feels a lot more stable. I didn't play through the whole game again, but I smiled when I saw some of the puzzles again. I really like the game overall. It's obviously too short to sell or anything, but it's a great portfolio piece and you could probably expand it into a full game if you wanted to.

Thanks for the kinds words! Yeah it's my first puzzle game, so coming up with more puzzles is my top priority now. It would be cool if this bloomed into a larger game, but we shall see.

I really like this. Puzzles are neat, though zooming in and out make me dizzy quite a bit. I'd love to see you expand this to a full game. Or just include more puzzles.

One thing I don't like is the puzzle select screen. It should go next to my previous puzzle , as well as showing which puzzle I've already cleared.

Keep up the good work!

Really glad you like it! Heh I did make the sizing (growing/shrinking) much faster after ppl said it was slow, but perhaps some sort of acceleration is due.

And agreed about the level select - I'll fix that up soon.
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« Reply #17 on: February 25, 2012, 02:19:03 pm »

Reminded me of Specter Spelunker Shrinks. Back then I enjoyed the growing/shrinking mechanic, but SSS didn't do anything really interesting with it. Your approach of using it for puzzle-solving seems like a better idea. I especially liked Foot In The Door and Like A Rolling Stone. If you can think up two dozen gimmicks as clever as those, this game could really be something special.

(I also liked the fields that make you grow or shrink automatically, but the level they were in was supereasy. Maybe it'd be more interesting if those zones were obstacle courses where you have to do some fast platforming (before you get too small or big) instead of just having to run as fast as possible).

Controls felt solid most of the time. Except in Rolling Stone where I had a really hard time jumping into the rolling maze. Maybe I shrunk the guy too much, but I just couldn't jump left fast enough. The thing kept rolling over my head.

The level select screen is kinda confusing. Even with the "Done!" signs, I was still disoriented whenever I came back there. Couldn't you make me re-appear on the last block I was on before I fell into the previous level? That would help.

I also think this game will benefit alot from having proper graphics. They would add a sense of scale. Like, at first you're in your house shoving furniture around, and then for the next puzzle you go outside and grow bigger than the entire house. (Or supersmall so you can crawl into the plumbing). That one scene in What It Do Baby Boo already looked really nice, I can't wait until the entire game is like that.
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« Reply #18 on: February 26, 2012, 12:48:24 am »

The moment when you leave the tutorial area and realize that it's relatively small compared to the rest of the level is awesome. I think if you can, you should definitely try to have more elements of juxtaposition like that as you continue with the project.
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TheAdam
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« Reply #19 on: February 26, 2012, 02:48:46 am »

I agree with spolvid. That moment is really cool. I like that you threw the map back in later too. I went back in just to check it out. Cool easter egg.
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