Feb 5, 2016

Suzy Cube Update: Friday February 5, 2016

#suzycube #gamedev #indiedev #madewithunity 

The beautification efforts continue! Also, I received more tester feedback to incorporate to further improve the World 1 levels.

Chunky trees

As you can see above, I've spent much of my week prettying up Level 1-2 with stuff like nice chunky log built guard rails and boxy foliage as well as making gameplay changes based on observing my wife playing the first levels of the game for the first time and feedback from a friend and his son who have been playing builds of the game for a few months now.

Making The Second Level Feel Like The Second Level

One piece of feedback I received, which was backed up by what I saw from my wife's experience and the gameplay videos I got back from my testing duo, was that Level 1-2, the game's second level was simply too hard. I thought it might be interesting to walk through some of the changes that I made in an effort to address these concerns.

Guardrails for an added sense of safety

There are two sections in this level in which the player must, effectively, climb up around these big tree trunks along narrow walkways. One thing I noticed in one of the videos from the testers was that the player kept angling Suzy in toward the central tree, seemingly afraid of falling off the walkway. Now, there are some systems in place to help prevent this, but they are invisible to the player. I decided to add guardrails to the first of the two tree climb sections, in the hopes that it will allow the player to get comfortable with making the climb up before having to do it without the guardrails the next time.

Make it safer, make it less stressful

In this screenshot, we see a series of tree trunk style towers, each topped with a jump pad. Getting across is, actually, trivial and simply requires the player press forward the whole time and the jump pads do the rest. The issue, originally, was that the tree trunks were only as wide as the jump pads themselves. I noticed this caused my wife a great deal of anxiety which, in turn caused her to misjudge and flub jumps. By adding the extra padding around each jump pad, the player should, hopefully, feel less nervous knowing that narrowly missing a jump pad will no longer result in death.

Your player deserves freebies

When I originally built this section of the level, it was somewhat challenging. You see, there's a jump pad (cyan) at the bottom followed by seven accelerator rings (pink) which move back and forth out of time with each other. As I said, originally, getting to the top could be quite challenging as the rings lined up well enough to get the player up about half way up then forcing them to start manoeuvring left and right to intercept the moving rings to get all the way to the top. Well, after watching a video of one of the testers struggling with and reattempting this challenge way past the point of frustration, I decided that it simply wasn't in the spirit of what I was trying to achieve. I ended up retiming the movements of the accelerator rings such that hitting the first ring right as it's over the jump pad will cause every single ring to be right overhead exactly as you need it, essentially making the climb automatic. After putting players through the previous jump pad section I think they deserve a fun free ride, with coins of course.

Bouncing over a bottomless pit is scary enough as it is...

The last change I'll mention calls back to the jump pads section. Originally, it involved five much smaller bounce pads with no wood frames around them, just five floating bounce pads with plenty of room to fall. I figured the fun of the bounce pads, versus the jump pads is that you can bounce higher and higher on them, like a trampoline, so I changed this section to highlight this rather than just prey on the player's fear of heights and give them a heart attack! Players are now fairly safe from falling and the challenge is really about avoiding the bees while trying to bounce up to get the goodies.

These are the major changes I made to the level to make it much easier and, more importantly, less intimidating to new players. Some of the other changes I made were to add a 1Up pickup (visible above) as well as more coins, making it less likely that a player might run out of lives this early in the game. I also made a slew of other small tweaks throughout the level. 

Just another reminder that there is no substitute for putting your game in the hands of other players! I've said it a million times: The most important game design lesson I've learned (and keep relearning with every project) during my career is that as developers, we are so much better at our games than we think, and it makes us completely unaware of how hard they are to other players.

And The Changes Don't Stop There

A guiding hand

Level 1-2 isn't the only level to have gotten some love this week. I added a lot of guardrails to Level 1-3 to reduce accidental falls as well as help guide players forward. I'm not strictly opposed to the idea of adding arrow signposts if I have to, but I'de rather avoid it at all possible. I much prefer the way obstacles can subtly guide the player toward the right path. I have some bigger changes planned for this level, but that will have to wait for another time.

Star Light, Star Bright

Here's a clue, it's in the centre block!

Level 1-4 also got a couple of sizeable changes to the locations of two of its three secret stars. I felt that the way of getting all three stars were both, too similar and not challenging enough. So, star number two is now found in a bonus area (seen above) in which the player must dodge Suzy-Seeking-Rockets while guiding them to blow up a set of nine rock blocks to reveal the star.

Pretty much like the Confederation Bridge

The third star riffs on the level's other core mechanic: switch activated temporary blocks. The challenge being to get all the way to the star and back before the bridge disappears under your feet!

By the skin of your teeth

As you can see, the timing can be quite tight, and exciting!

Riddle Me This


Finally, after some feedback from a tester that he simply couldn't figure out even the first puzzle in Level 1-S, I decided to add a camera move before each puzzle which, essentially gives away the puzzle before hand. After this change, his son was able to complete all four puzzles on his second try.

Well, I think that sums up my week pretty well. Next week is Carnaval here in Venezuela which means Monday and Tuesday off, so my next update will probably involve more talk about improving the look of the game rather than any big stuff. I hope to make it up to you with a long overdue Lessons From Suzy Cube post.

Until next week!

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