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TIGSource ForumsDeveloperPlaytestingGrind No 1: Space barnacle, Scanlines and teethed crustaceans
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Author Topic: Grind No 1: Space barnacle, Scanlines and teethed crustaceans  (Read 19916 times)
Guert
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« on: October 01, 2007, 09:08:45 PM »

Space barnacle

Scanlines and teethed crustaceans

   Upon reading a title like “Space barnacle”, one may strongly wonder how a game about a small crustacean that attaches itself on surfaces found in the exosphere may be of any entertainment. Rest assured, the title is deceptive and Space barnacle offers more than steady and sturdy cementing action. In this game, the player will assume the role of an unnamed gun-wielding youngling alien out to avenge the death of his pinkish and fully toothed father. The creators, team doomlaser, want us to take a walk down the eight-bit road once more to enjoy a fast and simple shoot-hem-up platformer. Scan lines included. Is the result convincing? Let’s find out…

   First of all, I will look at the game from an emotional point of view, investigating if the game is intuitive, immersive, how many levels of experimentation it offers and if the player is kept motivated throughout the experience. Afterward, I will move on to dissect the game under a technical point of view by peering at the game’s mechanisms, its economy, ergonomics, flow, stability and accessibility. Finally, I will expose various bugs found throughout my experience and then suggest various possible modification to enhance the game. 

Emotional

How emotionally involved is the player in Space barnacle? The following will try to understand why and how the player feels during the experience.

Motivation
A player’s will to play comes from his motivation. It is crucial for a game to keep the player completely motivated on various levels to keep him, dare I use the expression, barnacled at his controller.  Always keep in mind that the player’s motivation is, at the same time, the true “raison d’être” of the experience. Why would the player be playing this game instead of another or simply doing something else? Why does it exist? These questions have to be answered within seconds of play.

Space barnacle has serious motivation issues. The player is frequently left on his own, questioning his role within the virtual world. What am I doing here? Where am I going next? Why am I doing what I’m doing? Too few answers are given and too many loose ends remain untied.

The introductory sequence is a good example of this problem. The game loads up and we are thrown in space, moving to the right. As meteorites passes by, the team’s logo is displayed. Right after, a blue spacecraft slowly travels in the same direction as we are moving and, few seconds afterward, a red laser strikes the shuttle. The screen quickly fades away and we are brought to the main menu. At this point, we should know a lot more about the virtual world offered to us. We have no idea who is the character presented in the main menu, we don’t know who was aboard the spaceship or what happened to them. We have no clues about who are the assaulters and why they attacked. The player then starts the game with no initial motivation and doesn’t know why he his playing this game. He doesn’t even know what the game will be about.

An introductory sequence is used to introduce the virtual world to the player so that when he first controls the avatar, he will have minimal knowledge of his new virtual situation and will have an idea of the tone of the game. All these little information found in the sequence will motivate the player, sometimes until the end of the game, and will also dictate the player’s first move when he’ll begin the actual interaction within the game’s world. If the game shows a calm ocean while playing a sweet melody, the player will start the game softly and will not anticipate any action. On the other hand, if the game shows cars exploding and big thugs brawling, the player will expect some action right at the start and he might even look for a fight with the first thing he spots. In Space barnacle’s case, the player should be given crucial information such as knowing who is the avatar he will be controlling, what is his relationship with the father character and why the player will have to shoot creatures on sight. The introduction would also greatly benefit from an elaborated action scene that will give a good premise of things to come.

At this point, I would like to point out that introductory sequence doesn’t inevitably mean cinematic sequence. An introduction can very well be played. A cinematic should feature optional or skip-able information while a played introduction should feature crucial information. I could elaborate a lot more on the subject but instead, I will refer to the SNES game Megaman X. The game features excellent introductory scenes of both playable and cinematic style.   

Another reason why Space barnacle has motivation issues is the fact that the player is presented a possible progression within the virtual world but cannot know exactly how it works. For example, the player will easily find that he can gain more health by destroying door-controlling machines only to discover later on that only the red orbs can actually raise the maximum health. The player is motivated to find health power-ups but doesn’t know exactly what he has to look for since two elements seem to be leading to the same result. Of course, it’s not the case, yellow replenishes and red rises, but there is a confusion. A simple way to clarify the situation would be to show the player the currently maximum health possibility. At the same time, showing that this maximum can grow would also help. The God of War and Resident evil series have well designed energy gauges following this logic. They allow the player to know what is the current maximum health possible as well as seeing how much health it’s possible to get throughout the game.   

An element that lowers the player’s motivation is the lack of pressure. Since the player has no penalties from loosing, his interest in the game can easily fade by adopting a behavior of “who cares if I play well or not, I won’t loose and I’ll get the same reward in any cases”. The game doesn’t reward the player who tries to achieve a high degree of mastership. There are too few quantifiable elements to have players competing over. It is very crucial to feature this kind of elements in competitive games such as Space barnacle in order to keep the player motivated. The game could feature scores, but I strongly suggest going for an achievement-based system that will reward players who invest time to gain titles or objects that will influence gameplay. There could be hidden special objects that boost your character’s attributes or a special reward for a player that kills all enemies or destroys every machine he finds. There are many possibilities here; the key is to be creative to find interesting challenges that will pressure the player in doing more than the basics. 
 
It is important to say that Space barnacle does offer a good amount of motivation. Most of the virtual world’s design has been crafted using exploration elements. The player is shown a possible path that he cannot reach and contraptions he cannot use right away which titillates the player’s curiosity.  It is also possible to find new objects, such as the parachute, that requires the player to use a new gameplay technique.

To summarize, the game lacks motivation because:
1-The player has not been staged properly before playing
2-Nebulous progression due to confusing elements
3-Lack of pressure and special rewards

But the game features these motivational elements:
1-Teases the player by showing him alternate, unlockable paths
2-Offers upgrades to the possible mechanisms, such as shooting or jumping

« Last Edit: December 21, 2007, 07:01:39 AM by Guert » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2007, 09:09:30 PM »


Intuitivism

   Can the player find out what he has to do with ease? Does he always know what he is supposed to do to reach his goal? The next section will focus on how much the game allows the player act with his gut reactions.

A certain lack of intuitivism can be found in Space barnacle. Although very intuitive, the player is often left wondering about what he has to do exactly to reach the next phase of the game. For example, most of the game’s design is based on finding door-controlling machines and destroying them to access new territories. It is relatively intuitive to destroy them since trying to use the machine will injured the player, but it is very hard to know how many of them is needed to unlock a door. When one element is associated with numerous other similar elements, it has to be clear for the player. Right now, all machines have red lights on them and all doors have a red light indicating that it is locked. Naturally, a player will associate those two elements together. The problem resides when a door requires more than one machine to become unlocked. The door should tell the player this condition, perhaps by having multiple red lights or displaying a different color.

Controlling the avatar is very intuitive. One can easily move the character around with ease and the game is responsive to the player’s reflexes but a few weak spots would need some fixing. The first issue lies in the jumping control. The height and speed of the jumps are acceptable but the jumping length is not very intuitive. If the player stops holding the direction of the jump, the character will stop abruptly. The game should feature fixed jumping lengths that can be altered by the player. For example, holding the direction of the jump would make it a bit longer while holding the opposite direction would “brake” the character. With these elements, jumping would become easier to control hence more intuitive.
 
Another thing that bothered me about the controls is that you cannot jump while climbing. Doing so should allow the player to climb ladders faster. At the same time, the player should be able to slide down a ladder using the downward direction and the jumping button. This way, the player who wants to zoom through a ladder area can do so by simply using the jump button.

As mentioned earlier, the controls are very well crafted and intuitive but the player is allowed to perform a move that is close to useless through the game. Sliding is not mandatory anywhere in the standard course of the game. There are two possible ways to fix that problem. Either remove the sliding technique or add sliding challenges in the level design. Right now, the game is simply offering something that is useless to the player instead of giving him something he can actually use within the game area.

To summarize, the game has a lack of intuitivism in different elements.
1-The player is often left without a clue on what to do to proceed to the next step of the game, such has how many machines must be destroyed to open a door.
2-The jumping mechanism needs refinement

However, Space barnacle remains a very intuitive game due to its responsive controls and simplicity.

Experimentation level
What does Space barnacle has to offer to the player in terms or learning? How many different ways of playing the same challenge does the game offers?

Despite it’s short length, Space Barnacle offers great experimentation possibilities but fails to use them at their right value. All the game’s sections, or levels if you will, have been designed with multiple paths but they all lead to the same results. The player can use his imagination on numerous levels but it will all end up at the same place. This spoils the pleasure of experimentation of the game. In addition, the player cannot find many alternate, hidden paths. All possibilities are displayed on the screen and it’s simply a matter of taking it or not.

Speaking of possible paths, the game’s experimentation lies partly in its exploration. Exploring in Space barnacle is a bit weird due to how it is presented to the player. The game tells him that he will need to explore to reach the ending by dispersing the numerous door-activation machines throughout the areas. At the same time, the game tells that exploring is bad because trying new things will result in loosing. The player will usually not know exactly where he will land before he jumps and it is hard to tell where the death pits are when jumping down a platform. A good example of this is in the very first area. There are too many death pits in the area where the player learns how to play. This tells him that exploring is a bad thing because of the high chance of failure. The first area doesn’t need to feature as much death traps and places that lead nowhere: it should be quite the opposite. The first area should promote exploration and make it very easy in order to tell the player what he’ll have to do later on in the game.

Another thing that makes exploration less interesting is that most platforms can only be reached by performing a very high jump. It would make the game more interesting if, in the first three areas, all platforms could be reached by using three quarter jumps instead.

The different gameplay techniques found in the game are interesting but will not change the course of the experience. Even if the player masters one technique in particular, he will not be rewarded accordingly. It’s important to let the player learn what he desires to and give him rewards for doing so. A simple example of this would be to add a section in a level where the player must shoot various objects to get to a secret area where he would get a special item. This challenge would be optional since it’s not needed to finish the game but it would tell the player that if he wants to invest time, he will be rewarded. 

To summarize, the game has great possibilities of experimentation but it does not use them
1-The levels are designed with multiple paths but they are all available without much search and will lead to the same result.
2-A player investing time in learning the game, like focusing on mastering certain techniques such as shooting, will not be rewarded and will get the same results as a player who doesn’t learn anything.
3-The game will have to clearly tell the player that’s it’s ok to explore by making the first areas less dangerous.

Story and progression

Story-wise, how is Space barnacle doing? Does it offer a good progression? How is the player involved in the storyline?

Unfortunately, in Space barnacle, the story is nearly inexistent and the tidbits we find are not involving. In the game, our primary story-based motivation is to avenge the death of our father. We have no idea who is our father before the game begins and when we find him, the scene is drab. The game would need to establish a better mood for this event by explicitly showing us the crashed spacecraft as well as debris lying everywhere. The player also needs to understand that he was also injured in the crash and that he was lucky to survive, a chance that his father didn’t get. 

Following the idea of vengeance, the player should be able to destroy the first enemies he finds with only one shot. This would help to strengthen two elements: first, the idea of vengeance for the father’s death. The second element would be to establish a progression within the game. When the game starts off, the enemies are weak and the player feels strong. As the experience unfolds, the enemies grow stronger and the player will need to find new objects to eliminate the threats and get the feeling of overpowering back.

Between the first territory that the player must explore and the last meeting with his dad, no story elements are given to the player. In addition, upon reaching the position of the newly reborn father, we find the same flaws as in the father’s death scene. The father is not located in a dramatic emplacement within the last area and the overall mood is too tame for an event of this importance.

So, to recapitulate, the story of Space barnacle is close to absent and is ineffective.
1-The player is not emotionally involved in the game
2-The dramatic scenes are bland and would benefit of a more dramatic staging
3-The game offers very little progression from start to ending. The enemies do not evolve and there is only a small variety of them throughout the game.

Graphic and Sound direction

The artistic direction taken by team doomlaser is following the look of the games of the eighties. Simple graphics, few colors, few frames per animations, chip tunes and scan lines form the heartbeat of the art used though the game.

Graphically speaking, the game is very constant and all the objects fit together. The colors used for the main character are easy to see and the player is never lost. The minimalist approach is generally followed through the game at the exception of certain animations. For example, the animations of the exploding machines feels more elaborated than the rest of the game. Other elements simply do not fit with the tone of the game. The ladders are an obvious example but the falling donut platforms and the saw blades also feel out of place. Besides those elements and other few details, such as the unique animated blue flowers or weird backgrounds, the game fits together.  The use of scan lines and television borders strengthens the look of the game.

Sound-wise, the game also fits. The effects are well done and very retro. The chip-tunes are fun and interesting to listen to. My only complaint is that they do not fit as much with the tone of the game. A song like Urethra Franklin is a good song but does not inspire the player to blast creatures up. I believe that a soundtrack with faster rhythms will enhance the experience.

To recapitulate:
-Graphics are good and most game elements fit together
-Sound effects and music are well done but music needs to fit more within an action context

Immersion and continuity

How much is the player transported into the virtual world offered by Space barnacle? Is the game immersive enough to grasp the total attention of the player to the point of belief? Are there illogical factors that catapult the player’s mind back to reality? Let us look at how the game presents a continuous and believable experience to the player.

Many factors come in line to establish the immersion and continuity of a game such as the responsiveness of the controls, the ambient sound and music or the graphic representation of the ideas. Since I already talked about those elements previously, I will list events and situations I have encountered through the game that broke my immersion inside the virtual world. 

•   Finding the parachute is really odd. It’s just standing there for no reasons, out of nowhere
•   Re-spawning the enemies and door-controlling machines breaks continuity. When the player has killed or destroyed something, it should remain that way. The same thing goes with door. Unless you can explain to the player why a door has re-locked itself after being opened, the door needs to be left unlocked.
•   When moving from one area to another, the position of the player should be kept in order to keep the continuity intact. For example, when the player is located on top of the elevator and he reaches new screen, the character is repositioned inside the elevator instead of on top.
•   The ladder is plain out of the space context and there is no animation when climbing. It would be better to find an alternative to ladders.
•   The enemies do not alter their graphics after being shot. The player has no feedback to tell how many times he has shot an enemy.
•   The father needs to be animated, or at least show a sign that something will occur when moving near him. He simply does not attract enough attention, especially since the player starts by facing the opposite direction.
•   The father should be clearly shown when dead. This is an important moment of the experience and the game has to make it believable to set the mood of the last story event.
•   The minimalist HUD helps to immerse the player but the superfluous cut-scenes that occurs when we die or gain a new object, slows down the pace of the game and breaks the mood.
•   The rock gun does not cause more damage to enemies while allowing the player to destroy rocks. If it can destroy rocks, it should be more powerful versus enemies.

To summarize, Space barnacle can be considered immersive but numerous little things affect its continuity and the belief of the player. 

Technical
We know how the player feels when playing. It’s time to examine the game as an application. Is the game easy to use? Is it stable? Is the design strong? Let’s take a look at everything that is transparent to the player.

Mechanisms

Mechanisms are how the game interprets how the player is doing. Every time the player acts, the mechanism takes the input and reacts accordingly. The game can then give an appropriate feedback to the player, telling him if what he did was good, bad or pointless.

Listing all the possible mechanisms would be a tedious task and wouldn’t be of great pertinence in this context. On the other hand, looking on how the player receives feedback from those mechanisms and how can the player figure out how they work is quite relevant.

In Space barnacle, the mechanisms give a good amount of feedback to the player.  The player will always know if what he did within the virtual world had an impact. Hitting an enemy will always result in a red flash and hitting an object that is immune to our shot is also clear. Every time the player acts, he will get a response from the game.

   The only cases where the player needs to have a bit more feedback is when loosing health. The avatar animation is clear enough but it is hard to tell exactly our current state. The health gage does not attract our eyes enough when needed. Whenever the player’s health changes, the health gauge should tell in a clearer way that something has happened.  For instance, making the bars flash before disappearing or fall off screen would help. Of course, at this point it’s really hard to tell since, as mentioned before, the gage needs refinement. Another way of solving this problem would be to have different states for the main characters that would reflect his current state.

All in all, Space barnacle offers enough feedback to the player to let him understand how to use all the game’s mechanisms without puzzling his mind over them.

Flow

Taking the game as an application, how well does each screen flow together? From the second the game is loaded to the end of the game, are there some logical irregularities from one screen to another? When waiting for those screen to be displayed, is the loading time acceptable?

The flow of Space barnacle is very fluid. Except for special cases, the overall application runs smoothly. The flow is not as smooth as it could be in two cases. The first one has been mentioned earlier. The in-game cut scenes break the flow of the game and do not blend with the rest of the application. Modifying them to have the information they give in-game instead of being placed in another screen would truly help. The second case is when the player wins. After the ending, the player cannot return to the main menu. The player is then stuck at the end of the flow, unable to restart the game. The game should link back to the menu, or perhaps even the introductory scene, to finish the loop.

The game doesn’t have any loading time and the transition between game areas goes smoothly. Overall, Space barnacle’s got a good flow.

Economics

What is the player working for in Space barnacle? How is he rewarded? What does he looses? There are two different economical elements found in the game: health and upgrades.

The main economical element found in Space barnacle is the avatar’s health. The player can easily loose health by touching an enemy, an activated door-controlling machine or a laser beam of any type. The player can also loose all of his health by falling into a pit. Upon loosing all of the health points, the avatar dies momentarily and the player will have to restart at the beginning of the current area. The player has a limited amount of health points he can possess. The player can also regain health by destroying a door-controlling machine, which gives a yellow orb, or by finding a “max health +1” orb. In both cases, the player will need to fight to obtain those regenerations. The orbs are harder to obtain since they are hidden and protected by enemies, traps and locked doors but they replenish all of the player’s health and rises by one point the maximum health limit. The health element is valuable to the player since it is a lot easier to loose then to replenish.

Health points are valuable but are not as valuable as they can be.  Since the player has no penalties from loosing all of his health points besides restarting at the beginning of an area, dying is not much of a threat. Also, since dying replenishes all of the player’s health so, in most cases, the player is better off dying than trying to survive. The best strategy is to reach a new area before dying, jump into a pit and restart the new found territory fresh as a daisy. This behavior causes all the game’s challenges to be easy and pointless since the only stress a player could have would be to die before getting to a new area. No matter how hard the game may try to be, the player won’t care.

The next element in the game’s economy is the upgrades the player can get along the way. There are two different upgrades: the rock gun and the parachute. In both cases, the player needs to work a lot to obtain those elements. The player cannot loose those upgrades once acquired but that does not mean that their values are low. In fact, it’s quite opposite. Getting the upgrades is crucial to the game since they are mandatory to progress toward the final area. These upgrades are great rewards since the player cannot loose them and allow him to reach new areas as well as unlocking new gameplay techniques. There is one little problem with one of the upgrades. As mentioned earlier, the rock gun allows the player to access new areas but does not enhance the player’s power. It feels less valuable this way.

   Overall, the economy of Space barnacle is undeveloped. The game needs to find new economical ways to reward the player. In this case, I believe more upgrades would be a good solution to fix this issue. This way, the player will have more objects to search while keeping a simple economical system. I do not believe that adding more elements, such as armor or bullets, would help the game but more ways to exchange the current elements would enhance the player’s experience.
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« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2007, 09:09:49 PM »

Ergonomics

   It’s crucial for a game to be ergonomically polished. Good ergonomics allows the player to focus on the most important thing of all: gaming. When done poorly, the “software” side of a game will ruin everything. A good game allows the player to adapt the application to its liking so that he is comfortable when experiencing what the game has to offer.

   The ergonomics of Space barnacle are weak. The game is too rigid and does not adapt well to a player’s need. The first problem is that it is impossible to resize the window. It is important to allow the player to resize the window to his liking. Even if the game only offers few fixed resolutions, the game will be easier to use.

   Another problem is that the player cannot configure the game to match his preference. The player cannot adjust the sound and music volume, cannot remap the keys or use a joystick. As a matter a fact, the player has no control over the settings of the game. It’s important to let the player decides if he wants to hear or not the cool chip tunes or sound effects the game features or to use or not the default control scheme.

   When using game platforms with established standards, such as windows, it is primordial to follow its rules. The player will expect certain behaviors from certain actions and if the game doesn’t act in a similar way as the platform, the player will be irritated. For example, the ESC key in windows always means Escape. So, in the main menu, pressing this key shouldn’t bring the player to the game screen, it should close the game.

   Speaking of this topic, the game must always ask for a confirmation before doing something crucial such as leaving. I always follow this simple rule: whenever an action from the player will result in him leaving the game or make him loose some kind of progress, the game must ask for a confirmation. So, when saving, erasing, resetting, exiting a game and exiting the application, the game has to ask the player if that’s his true intention. The game cannot know when the player miss-clicks or external factors press an undesired key. For example, when using confirmations, if the player’s cat decides to jump on the keyboard and lands on ESC, the player can answer “No” to exiting the game and will not loose 3 hours of gaming.

   In the main menu, the player should always know what to do. Instead of having the controls scroll across the screen, the game should simply display them permanently.

   The game cries for pauses and a saving system. It’s important to allow the player to take a break and stop playing when he feels to. Including a save system shouldn’t be much of a problem since the game has already a checkpoint structure. By allowing the player to save and pause, the game can easily grow to great proportions without irritating the player. Of course this direction means that the game would need a saving and loading screen of some sort.

   To recapitulate, Space barnacle really needs to work on its ergonomics.
1-There is no window resizing
2-ESC key should always mean exit or cancel and should not make the player progress.
3-The game should feature confirmations when exiting the game and the application
4-The main menu needs to display the possible actions permanently
5-The game needs a pause system as well as a way to save progress.

Accessibility

   Strongly linked to the ergonomics, the game’s accessibility allows players with restricted systems to enjoy the game. Can a player who doesn’t have speakers play the game as well as one who does? Are the important messages expressed in various ways so that all can understand it no matter what?

   Space barnacle is very accessible. If it were not from the fact that a player cannot resize the window in order to see better, everything would be fine. The game expresses all the important messages using text, images and sound. All dialogues are written and there are clear visual cues whenever the player acts within the game.

   All in all, the game is quite accessible.

Stability

There’s nothing more frustrating than having a game crash when playing. It’s the worst thing that can happen to a player. Not only is he robbed from his fun but he is brutally reminded that all that he has done was fake, fixed, encoded. And on top of that, the message that explains him what happened makes him feel like a moron because it’s simply unintelligible. That’s why a game has to be extremely stable.

Space barnacle has not crashed while I played. I tried numerous times but the game kept on running smoothly. Well, almost. Although it never crashed, the game is heavily bugged. I have found many wonky behaviors in the game but luckily, none of them was nasty enough to trash the experience.
   
The game will need a good clean up but the situation is not critical, especially knowing that the development was somewhat rushed. I have listed a few bugs along with some comments at the end of this grind.

Conclusion

   So there you go! Space barnacle is an interesting title full of potential but still needs a lot of work. The game is emotionally un-involving, the immersion and continuity is frequently broken, there is a lack of motivational elements for the player, there are flaws in the intuitivism of the game, many exploration elements are weak, the ergonomics are jagged and the game has many bugs. Nevertheless, the game shows great stability and accessibility and is still very fun to play, The controls are responsive and the artistic direction taken is interesting and well crafted. The game is still at its early stage so it is normal to have many issues to deal with. Team doomlaser has a lot of work to do but at least they have something good in their hands and they are building on good framework.

 
Bugs appendix

•   Health will not reset when falling in a pit.
•   Pressing arrows or fire button bugs the death screen
•   In the introductory scene, the ray doesn’t hit the ship at the right place.
•   The text displayed when getting the new gun is displayed too fast to be read
•   The music cues are only made in key screens instead of happening in each screen, which causes some music to remain turned off when respawning.
•   For some reason, the space ship disappears after meeting with the father.
•   The elevator’s height is too short. It’s easier to get on top of it than inside.
•   The laser beam should warn before appearing


•   The avatar is blocked by the red block when he should simply jump next to it with ease.


•   When killing the jumping red guys in the air, they remain in the air.


•   When dropping down the following pit, the character dies even though he’s supposed to appear in the previous screen. 


•   The door has locked itself making it impossible to revisit the previous area.

 
•   Various elevator problems




•   The player is frequently found in empty screens without anything to tell him if he is moving or not. 


•   The background artwork sometimes feels rushed and incomprehensible


•   Various ladder problems



•   The player can find himself off-screen



•   The player can shoot enemies that are off-screens but enemies will not attack


•   Some areas suffer from slow downs, such as this one


•   Certain jumps causes the screen to change when not supposed to


•   Here is a suggestion to make the first area of the game easier to play and more emotional. In this screen, the player will start next to the crashed ship. He will then proceed to the left where he will find his father. Then, he will see him die. Here, the player can explore safely but still can kill himself if he truly desires to.
 


Voila!
Now, let's discuss! And don't be shy to tell me if you feel there is something wrong with my criticism!
Guert
« Last Edit: October 01, 2007, 09:14:35 PM by Guert » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2007, 09:34:55 PM »

A heavenly choir descending,
on the wings of seraphim
Guerts mind is open
 and inside lay truths
make the angels themselves-
and their infernal compatriots,
bask in the beauty of Guert's song
Mark is blessed today, for he,
who has Guert's song sung
unto him, has opportune
to use the genius
to expand
his own
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real art looks like the mona lisa or a halo poster and is about being old or having your wife die and sometimes the level goes in reverse
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« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2007, 09:41:13 PM »

well fuck me.
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« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2007, 10:03:31 PM »

Now that is a long post.
And also an awesome one, wonderful.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2007, 10:06:19 PM by Eden » Logged
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« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2007, 10:30:38 PM »

Thanks, Guert.  This is an incredibly thorough critique.

Here are my initial thoughts:

On the subject of reward, I realized late in the competition that the game was missing something like the equivalent of coins, or the torches in Castlevania.  I was playing Castlevania III and realized that I'd collect torches even though they really aren't completely integral for playing through the game, and I couldn't figure out what kind of collectable element to put in Barnacle that would give the player an incentive to collect them, besides just being there.  Maybe more actual powerups, as you suggested, would be enough, and the ability to switch and manage them.

As far as lives, I decided that I kind of hate running out of lives when I'm playing through a game -- I almost always play emulated games with save states these days, so I didn't want to have lives, per se.  I was going to keep track of playing time and display how long it took to beat the game at the end, but I haven't added that yet.  Perhaps a counter that displays time elapsed when you pause...

I totally agree that the reactors that open doors when destroyed need to be more clear.  At the very least I should play a sound when they've all been dispatched to indicate that doors are unlocked, maybe even some text on the screen.

As for the cutscenes, the entire intro sequence was added in the last hour of the competition, so yes, it is fairly bad and needs attention.  There is a backstory.  Your father has been to the asteroid archipelago before, and whoever runs it (The Space Barnacle?) has it out for him, which is why his corpse is resurrected as a cyborg to taunt his son.

Additionally, we wanted the dialog cutscenes to be intentionally cheesy and bad, as with the death screen, to fit the theme of the competition, but I'm open to changing them.  As well, the father's head is supposed to explode in a grandiose display of blood after you talk to him, but I ran out of time for this as well.

The difficulty curve needs to be refined.  I plan to split the level on the way to the Quantum Disruptor up into chunks, so there is less slowdown, and it is not so harsh a punishment to die.  As well, it is possible to beat the game without the parachute, and many people have commented that they never even went towards the parachute route, because it isn't obvious enough that there is an exit to the right of the hub/mezzanine area.

Wow,  there is certainly so much more content in your grind to review.  Thanks again, Guert.  The grinds are a great idea, and I can't stress enough how valuable it is to get such thorough criticism.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2007, 10:45:11 PM by Golds » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: October 02, 2007, 12:22:24 AM »

As far as lives, I decided that I kind of hate running out of lives when I'm playing through a game -- I almost always play emulated games with save states these days, so I didn't want to have lives, per se.

Keep in mind, losing all your lives doesn't have to have tangible disadvantages in-game, it's more of a psychological thing, to discourage people from considering death a legitimate tactic. Many games have 'life' systems which simply serve this purpose. If you can find another way to enact a 'disadvantage' on death - perhaps missing a bonus based on survival time, or losing powerups on death - then that could be equally effective.
« Last Edit: October 02, 2007, 12:36:10 AM by KingAl » Logged
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« Reply #8 on: October 02, 2007, 12:48:49 AM »

Keep in mind, losing all your lives doesn't have to have tangible disadvantages in-game, it's more of a psychological thing, to discourage people from considering death a legitimate tactic.

The idea was, when you beat the game you'd get something like,

DIED: 52 TIMES
TIME: 23.7 MIN
SLAYED: 647 GUYS

And maybe some sort of rank, or saying based on the combination of these factors.
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« Reply #9 on: October 02, 2007, 04:08:25 AM »

The idea was, when you beat the game you'd get something like,

DIED: 52 TIMES
TIME: 23.7 MIN
SLAYED: 647 GUYS

And maybe some sort of rank, or saying based on the combination of these factors.

That's a good idea. The lack of 1-ups isn't a problem, it's all just a question of motivation for the player. The biggest problem with life in general is that nothing is utterly good or bad: it's all a matter of context. I personaly say stay with a 1-up less system but give the player something else to compete over and a stronger penality. A cliched RPG will not count how many times you died, it will simply cut half of your gold and XP instead.

Anyway, I hope this has helped you and I'm pretty sure you can come up with cool and fun ideas to fix the issues I pointed out. Try to resolve the problems not by changing the example I gave you but rather by examining your game from different point of views. Just like the 1-up example: the problem isn't the fact that there are no lives, it's just that the player needs to be penalised and to be more motivated.

Well, I know it's a big post so I'm not expecting that people will read it all unless very interested in the subject. Wink

Golds, do you mind if I make an html verison of this so I can put it on my website?
Later!
Guert
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« Reply #10 on: October 02, 2007, 04:33:26 AM »

Golds, do you mind if I make an html verison of this so I can put it on my website?

Go right ahead.  Thanks again, and I can't wait to see another game get grinded:)
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« Reply #11 on: October 02, 2007, 07:53:31 AM »

Wow... just absolutely jaw-dropping wow!

Guert, you rock! I'll have to patch Roach Toaster 2 up to get grinded. Smiley
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« Reply #12 on: October 02, 2007, 10:22:22 AM »

Guert... you just absolutely, totally, in 200 percent (and with a 1000000 points bonus) rock!

I really mean it - you kick ass so hard it leaves marks! You own harder than a Korean pro-gaming celebrity on four Redbulls owns a 70 years old, handicapped politician, playing Starcraft for the first time!

...

And now expect thousands of submissions :D. 
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« Reply #13 on: October 02, 2007, 12:39:58 PM »

Eh he well, thanks!

I'm curious to know... Who read the whole thing? Was it fun to read?
Later!
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« Reply #14 on: October 02, 2007, 01:03:34 PM »

Well, I have read what seemed interesting for me. Wouldn't call it "fun" Wink, but it's useful as hell. Good way to learn a bit about game design. And yes, good reading as well. I like how you separated things - with such amount of text it was necessary. It also makes it easier for folks like me (who are not related to the game, but want to learn a bit about this or that) to find what's interesting for 'em.

In fact, I remember that a guy on indiegamer took money for doing such deep analysis' and people thought it was worth it.
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« Reply #15 on: October 02, 2007, 01:25:21 PM »

Was he better than me? ;P
Seriously, I find this a bit cheap to charge indie developers who have little money. I mean, I don't mind gettin' paid when workin' on big titles but the indie guys are trying to do the best they can without any budget (or little).

Besides, I'd like to have people see my grind as an honest to god critic and not just some comments. I feel like critics are as important to the medium than those who work with it. The creators make something, the critics tells how they feel and the creators learn from the reactions. Although I don't want to be one full time, I'd like to think I'm helping aspiring crtics to have the guts to start. Oh what marvelous day it will be when we'll have a fat guy yelling at a thin guy about which guy is immersive or not! Smiley 

Anyway, thanks for the feedback!
Later!
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« Reply #16 on: October 02, 2007, 04:08:43 PM »

The only stylistic things I would say are maybe add more screenshots of the game you're grinding at that top of the article, and maybe intersperse a few more screens throughout your copy to break it up more, and give more entry points.
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« Reply #17 on: October 02, 2007, 07:28:36 PM »

Well... that was indeed a Grind. Every possible aspect disected and esposed nude and crude to the world. Love it, though it is a big-ass wall of text, it's still a very useful wall. :p

I agree with most of your opinions on this, however in some parts you specifically state that some of the flawed parts should be an exact way that you believe is best. I personally don't like that, since it may diminish the developer's will to, instead of doing the tried-and-true, experimenting with the flawed parts and finding more unique things that work just as well, if not better.
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« Reply #18 on: October 03, 2007, 04:54:18 AM »

More screens... Check!
More entry points... Check!
Create a section with my personal opinions instead of telling while exposing the flaws I find... Check!

Thanks alot! Especially about the opinion thing. Thanks!
Also, are there things I have not talked about that would've been interesting to have? For instance, I just realized I haven't analysed the different challanges found in the game even though I talk about them... Sad Sorry. Have I missed anything else?

Later!
« Last Edit: October 03, 2007, 05:11:15 AM by Guert » Logged

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« Reply #19 on: October 03, 2007, 02:01:41 PM »

How do you get enough time to do this kinda stuff anyway Guert?
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