Life on a tiny earth, the symbolic ages
"Original design, a cool and easy to use interface, and it’s fun”…but…

Today, I would like to share with you some feedbacks I’ve got from judges of the Independent Games Festival 2014, a couple of months ago, in a transparent way.

http://www.igf.com/php-bin/entry2014.php?id=1965

The feedbacks concern the 2.0 beta version of the game, not available yet (only the prototype of the game, known as the version 1.0, has been published in March 2013).

 “Wow, this is a pretty neat combination of pacman and puzzler as you say, I really like the base design for it. Also: very cool music.”

  • That’s the kind of feedback that gives motivation, as I was responsible of all the design.
  • Regarding the music, I’ve managed to found different ones free or at a very low cost, thanks to the community…so big thanks to the community who help indies ! 
     

Ok, that was the best part. Time for work now:

“The levels might need more iteration, or at least I was surprised at how often I died and felt like I’d been screwed over by the enemy’s movements and the lack of exits for me to take”

  • Definitely. This is something that had to be improved a lot, in order to find the best difficulty progression. The current version has changed a lot now, especially to give player additional skills for more options against the opponents.
  • Still something very difficult when you’re alone without a panel of testers.

“Seems like some of the enemies move in a nondeterministic manner”, “I feel like I either need more exits and choices of where to go (more arcadey), or a “right” path that if I just find, I can take through the level every time and win (more puzzley).” 

  • That’s another hard topic in game design…deterministic versus nondeterministic. Some opponent behaviors are deterministic and some are not, which can lead indeed to frustration for the player.
  • The current version gives clues about each opponent behaviors from time to time, and I will spend more time to test each level again.
  • There is still a place to make something better so I keep working on it.

“I keep wanting to treat Life on a tiny earth, the symbolic ages (great name BTW, lightyears better than “1.0”) like a puzzle game. But it’s really more arcade”

  • Even myself, I’m not sure to know what exactly this game is!
  • It’s not pure arcade and it’s not pure puzzle I’m afraid ;-) The current version offers more options and skills to the player and to the game world, in order to increase the puzzle spirit, and I’m trying at the same time to give more reward to the player who will be good on the arcade way. But the more features you add, the more incoherence you can get and it’s not always - never ? - easy to make the good design decision, and I’m not sure if I’m doing the best or the worst of both worlds.

“Your control systems are quite nice given that you say you are a first-time developer! The motion on the sphere is really enjoyable and well done, and I did not get stuck on the movement which is great.”

  • It’s true that I haven’t made a game since I was young. I made a lot of different kind of game prototype, and I choose to start with this one because I was quite happy with the control system and the sphere approach. I’ve had very good feedback on this and that’s cool.
  • 80% of the alpha version gameplay have been developed in 2 months. The remaining 20% have taken…6 months as I’ve started from nohing (time spended for GUI / UI was a nightmare, mainly to get something which can adapt to different screen size).

“I did feel unclear on how this connects to the biodiversity theme.”

  • This was one of the biggest cause of frustration for me, since the 1.0 version of the game, because I’m deeply aware that the biodiversity aspect was not enough present in the game, although I’m trying to make game speaking about biodiversity preservation.
  • So, since the beginning, I’m looking to make a game talking about biodiversity but with a gameplay that can target an audience who will not choose a game only because it would talk about nature preservation, in order to have some pedagogical effect (even if it’s only on 1% of the players, it will be something for me).
  • The current version tries to address this in order to reinforce the biodiversity theme through the gameplay (additional bonus based on species dependencies, additional player skills based on species preserved, ecological threats to avoid, species description interest, etc…).
  • The fact I’m doing everything myself (except sound & music) is also a big limitation because I need to use…the only skills I have…mine!
  • My next game will have a gameplay entirely focus in biodiversity but this current one is still a challenge for me !
     

“There seems to be a lot of narrative or intent behind this game, which is interesting because it sets up a relationship between what you are doing and what you are playing. So with this, I tried to put myself into the mindset of saving species and seeing how that influenced the game. I’m not sure if it did for me, though, as it felt more like an iteration on Pac-Man more than anything else. The symbols could have been anything and would have achieved the same effect. It would be interesting if the different species had different affects on the player, and there was a relationship of balancing all those forces, as I think it is in reality.”

  • Yes, same feeling than the previous one and I entirely agree, and quite happy with this kind of feedbacks. I’m working hard to improve this as I have the same frustration!
  • The desktop version will also have more narrative parts.

 “I think it’s a fine puzzle game though, seems like it’d be a good game for the mobile/handheld.”

  • I’m also thinking that this game can be a good candidate for mobile or tablet, even if it’s one drop in the ocean of applications.
  • I mean I hope it’s a good candidate.
  • I have a current version running and Windows Phone 8 and Android Nexus 7 and I’m happy with the result.
  • IOS is targeted too but I need to invest…on a Mac development environment ;-)
  • I have 2 main issues at the moment.
    • First, I’ve chosen to use a GUI asset whose performances are not so good with mobile, and I’m waiting for a new version of the asset. Maybe I will have to change all the UI to use a new GUI system (maybe the Unity new GUI which is coming).
    • The other issue is that the game uses a lot of 3D and it’s not easy for mobile except the last recent ones, which is not coherent with the ‘nature preservation’ spirit of the game. At the moment, the features for mobile and desktop are very close but I will maybe have to first publish a desktop version, then a mobile one with different features / rendering to extend the targeted devices range which will be able to run the game in good conditions.
    • The desktop version will probably have more advanced features but I’m not sure at the moment.
       

“I wish it was just a little more obvious when you’re about to roll over the last of a symbol and trigger the white-squares mode where you’re invincible. There might be a number somewhere on the screen to indicate it, but I’m always to focused to look around for it”

  • Definitely, and I’m trying to add a lot more indicators to improve the experience (information, progression, feedback both through display & sound…) !
  • The UI of the game seems quite simple, but it represents more than 50% of the total development Time, as I was obliged to change the GUI system different times (and I still have to change it once more). I hope to make one day a game which would not need a UI !

 “Anyway, I’m talking your ear off about this because I like the game. It has a neat mix of symbolism and save-the-earth-ism, an original design, a cool and easy to use interface, and it’s fun”

  • That’s the problem…even if it’s a good one off course : the feedbacks I’m receiving are good in general so it gives me the need to improve the game rather than to jump to another development, because I believe in this game. The current version has many improvements comparing to the one which has got these feedbacks.
  • I’m also developing games as a hobby, on my own free time which is quite limited.
  • I hope the game will not be lost with too many new features added. This is one of the reason why I haven’t published a video since quite a long time. The current version has many new features but I’m not sure to be able to keep each one of these and I don’t want to give wrong expectations.

Thanks a lot to judges who take the time to give feedback (there were not obliged).

Thanks a lot for all the feedbacks I’m receiving in general. For an alone indie developer, it’s a huge help.

To be continued.

Better ways to see player progression.

Better ways to see player progression.

Pedagogical achievements.

Pedagogical achievements.

Redesigned UI and Touch Mobile support.

Redesigned UI and Touch Mobile support.

New tutorial mode.

New tutorial mode.

Text about “eco-bonus” and species preservation has just been translated to French & English. If you can bring help for other languages, please send me an email.

Text about “eco-bonus” and species preservation has just been translated to French & English. If you can bring help for other languages, please send me an email.

And comes the wall.

And comes the wall.

Life on a tiny screen (Nexus 7 2013 & Lumia 925)

LOATE UI (a part of it) in wireframe mode, using DF-GUI asset.

LOATE UI (a part of it) in wireframe mode, using DF-GUI asset.

This presentation includes a short demo of the in-game editor. The minimalist B&N cover picture has been integrated, thanks to good feedbacks I’ve received.

After 2 weeks of inactivity due to a big issue in my development environment, I’m currently working on a new feature, available in the editor, to propose power-ups at the beginning of a custom level…