Saturday, August 17, 2013

But is it any fun?

This is a question I have been asking myself a lot of lately.  Is the game any fun?  It can be a very difficult question to answer yourself, elbow deep in the guts, a tweak here, a kick there.  I have been building the campaign scenarios, and in play testing them, I have started to get very nervous.  Is it too complicated to make sense of?

That is a funny question to have, as the game is much less complex than the original plan, which included a global morale mechanic in addition to upgrade-able settlements.  There is one major mechanic that sets Shattered Throne apart from similar games, the combo star system, in which every attack against the same unit in a row becomes more powerful.  This idea was born a long time ago when I wanted to make a formation based war game that modeled units losing coherency as they engaged in battle, while at the same time being enamored of how playfully fun and engaging of a game Peggle was.  It seemed a perfect solution, and it has come to define Shattered Throne.

I think the Combo system as a whole is solid, what I am worrying about is all the other structures I built up around it.  Specifically the various unit traits and leader powers.  Each unit in Shattered Throne has 2 traits that make it unique.  A lot of these traits interact with the combo system and each other in significant ways.  It may be that the traits have grown too big, and will cloud the player's ability to make meaningful choices.  I must admit, that even as the game's designer, I sometimes cannot easily know how much damage a unit will take in an attack.  Now that is a rather large red flag.

So what am I to do, rip everything apart and find a better way to put it back together?  I really should, but I would lose a lot of momentum and risk the project never getting done.  Though I also do not want to release something I am not really proud of.  Again I might just be over reacting, being too close to the project.  But I do not feel as proud of the game as it currently stands as I did when dreaming it up.

What I have decided to do, is to finish up with the first pass of the campaign game, a task that has been very difficult.  Then get it some play testing, see what other people think.  I need some serious brutal honesty.  I think that I also need to play Advance Wars again, with a more analytic eye, pick out why exactly makes me love that game so much, and whether I am missing a key ingredient.

6 comments:

Unknown said...

Hi Harvicus,

I'm working on a turn based game myself, and I wanted to say thanks for writing your blog! Very interesting read, and very insightful.

Now, about the whole 'is it fun?' thing. I've shipped a number of games, both AAA and indie titles, and to be very honest, there isn't a single game I shipped that I really enjoyed playing by the end. If somebody had asked me 'is your game fun' at those times, I would have said 'meh, I guess it's not bad' :) Now that possibly sounds a bit.. odd.. but the whole 'being in the guts of it' statement is very, very true.

I don't know where you are located, but I would highly recommend going to a local indie meetup (if there is such a meetup around where you live) and just show people the game. Make them play it, watch them play (without giving too much information about what to do!), write stuff down. Repeat. It's an amazingly eye opening experience, as there may be things lacking in the game that harm the fun factor that you haven't even considered as being a problem. I think that you'll get more valuable feedback from that than from an open beta where you're relying on people to send you comments. A lot of comments will be either very positive or very negative, without the context. Most people will probably not even bother to send in any comments! Sometimes a super negative comment is simply the result of a very trivial UI problem, causing a lot of frustration to the player. If you're there to see it happening, you might be able to fix it within seconds, and your player is able to focus on the actual game.

Anyway, don't want to lecture or whatever, just trying to share some experiences I've found helpful. And watching the youtube videos you posted makes me want to play it, it looks like fun! I saw that you made it available for public playtesting. I'll definitely give it a go!

Cheers and keep up the good work,
Nick

Harvicus said...

Thanks for the great advice Nick, good to know that other developers have experienced the same issue with determining the fun in a game they have been working on for so long.

I do not know of any indie meetups in the area, but I will take a look around (I am located in San Diego, CA area in case someone reading this knows better than I).

Your comment is also very timely, because I have been obsessing over it a bit lately, and it helps to keep me focused on getting the campaign completed and a new test build completed, instead of endlessly fiddling around with numbers and unit abilities.

Unknown said...

Hi Harvicus,

I'm not sure if this is an indie dev meetup or a geenral game dev meetup, but I found this on meetup.com: http://www.meetup.com/sdgamedev/
Not sure how active that group is though, but it might be worth checking out?

I'm up in Vancouver, BC and we have a fantastic meetup group here called Full-Indie. I can't stress enough how much help it was to be able to show my game at this meetup and get feedback. Very much worth it!

Good luck with the game! I'm playing it now, and compiling a list of impressions/feedback. :)

Cheers,
Nick

Unknown said...

By the way, I can't find an email address to send feedback to. What would be a good address to use?

Cheers,
Nick

Harvicus said...

Thanks again Nick, I will check out that group. You can send any feedback to: stacktrace@gmail.com and thank you for any and all comments.

-Mark

Fuhans Puji Saputra said...

Hai, i am interested with your project especially the AI, could you please tell us how to make AI on the turn-based strategy game? because i am doing similar like yours. I am able to move the AI character by itself, but it is not follow the right procedure (not following the pathfinding). Thank you very much! I will keep in touch in this game!