Beta test feedback, Ambitious Indie Game Night 2.0, call for test pilots
Hey everybody and welcome back to another Gravity Ace devlog.
This week I want to talk about the recent beta test and share the results with you. There will be another one soon and I'll let you know how to join at the end of this video.
But first! If you're watching this on February 17th before 9 PM Pacific time then YOU ARE IN LUCK!
We're having our SECOND Ambitious Indie Game Night in beautiful Long Beach California on February 17th. My friends and I will be there showing our games including: IGF “Excellence in Design” nominee Patrick's Parabox, Flock of Dogs, Monkeys with Guns, AND MORE! There will be a bunch of games there for you to play and the beer at Ambitious Ales is fantastic. It's FREE. The first one was a BLAST. You should DEFINITELY come and hang out, play some games, and talk about game design and beer! There's a link to the event in the description.
OK. So, I ran a beta test and signed up a bunch of brave test pilots to try the game. Right off the bat I want to say THANK YOU to all of the test pilots. Your feedback is priceless. The game will be better because of your help and participation.
Now, here's the thing about feedback. I love it. I need it. But sometimes people tell you things you don't really want to hear. Like, I need to know there are bugs in the game. And somehow the test pilots found several very strange bugs that I've never seen before. But bugs means more work for me and I'd prefer if there weren't any. But that's reality. That's GOOD.
If you've ever put anything out there in the world… it can be rough. People judge it. And if you ask them to tell you what they think, well, they will. And you need to be able to accept that criticism, really listen to it and understand it, and then make a decision about what you're gonna do about it.
I've been putting products out into the world for years and years and let me tell you, receiving criticism doesn't really get any easier. Intellectually I understand that constructive feedback like I've been getting is GOOD and I absolutely NEED it. But emotionally it's always rough for me.
Once you get the feedback you've got to make some decisions. Do you change your game to please people? For bugs, it's pretty straightforward. Bugs are usually something you want to fix. Other things are more flexible.
So the feedback I got basically fell into a few categories. There were the bugs, of course, and I plan to fix all of those if I can.
Another class of comment had to do with difficulty. For the beta I created a tutorial and 3 levels. Now, I designed those first 3 levels as examples of an easy, medium, and hard level. But I didn't tell anyone that and honestly I was a bit lazy about it. But it turns out that the test pilots felt like the levels were more like, hard, very hard, and impossible. Several people never made it past the first level. There are a few reasons.
One, I'm too good at my own game so I can't judge difficulty correctly. I felt like the levels were all pretty easy but they're not.
Two, the level design needs improvement. Specifically, I need to make the corridors wider and add more room to maneuver and use the tractor beam, especially on the early levels. Players need time to learn how to use it and to do that they need lots of opportunities to practice.
Three, the difficulty ramped too quickly. I need a more gradual increase in difficulty and I can do that by adding easier levels between the levels I have now.
Another general class of comment were user interface issues. Subtlety has its place but mostly I need to err on the side of being super obvious. That means making things bigger and more visible. Giving lots of overt and clear feedback when something happens. And making it extremely obvious if the thing was good or bad. An example is the cargo platforms which have a green progress bar that fills up as you drop cargo boxes on it. Not obvious enough. So I'm adding a numeric counter that shows how many boxes you have and how many you need, a big animation that plays when a box is put on the platform, and a sound effect.
Finally, I need to set better expectations about what the game is before people even play it. My worst case scenario is someone buys the game without really understanding what it is, hates it, then leave a bad review. I'd MUCH rather they didn't even buy the game. Several test pilots were expecting a different game. I'm happy with what the game is and I'm not changing it into a different game. So I need to make it very clear what type of game this is. I'm working on revamping the store pages, the website, and the trailer to really make it CRYSTAL CLEAR what the game is and what you can expect when you play it.
Along those lines I'm going to really lean into talking about the lineage of this game. It's never been SECRET but I also haven't gone out of my way to make it obvious. In case you didn't know, it's based on THRUST. It's an old arcade-style game from 1986 that is part of a long history of GRAVITY SHOOTERS going all the way back to the very first video game. I'm going to incorporate that info into the trailer, the website, and the store pages. And I'll do a video talking about the history of THRUST-LIKES so everyone knows where GRAVITY ACE is coming from. Some people may not be into it and that's FINE. I want everyone to know what they're getting into before they spend any money.
So, the beta test went great and I'm making the game better as a result. I'm still looking for beta testers. I'll probably cut it off at some point but there are slots open right now. If you're interested in testing the game and you can provide feedback and video playthroughs then please come join the Discord server and request a beta key. Go to GRAVITY ACE DOT COM for the link.
That's it for now. As always keep those questions coming and please help spread the word about Gravity Ace. And come join me in Long Beach February 17th if you can! I'd love to meet you.
Thanks for watching and see you next time!
Published February 16, 2020