Ok, short update, because I don't have a lot of time to write deeply about it, but I just wanted to write about my first time showing RBRB to people. Actual people, that weren't my friends or family or anything; Just gamers.
It was at a small(ish) Danish game industry event called "SpilBar" (means "Game Bar"(as in: a bar where you drink and talk and stuff)), that happens every few months in Copenhagen. I applied to have my game shown there, and got in (everyone did, to be fair). It is a fairly informal event, so I just showed up with a laptop and a controller and set up on a small table. It is also primarily a networking event so I didn't really know how many were going to be looking to play stuff, but I was pretty pleased with the results. I don't have an exact count but I think around 10'ish people tried it over the course of 2 hours. Here is a general summation of the things I learned:
- The mechanics are difficult for people to understand. Well, that's partly true. The basic concept is simple enough, but the slightly more advanced stuff, like how you have to place blocks to get Redirect is a lot more tricky, and many people who played it didn't really get it at all. Granted, I had no tutorial and their understanding of everything came from me trying to tell them as best as I could in a noisy environment, and naturally some things were going to slip---but that was the general outcome. I am not particularly surprised by this in any way. I had kind of already guessed that the redirect-acquiring mechanic was the trickiest one to understand, but this really highlighted how games like these that don't behave exactly like you'd expect really need tutorials.
- The controls generally took a while for people to understand. Now, granted, most of the people expressed how they were not used to playing with a controller, so I must take this with some grain of salt. However, there's still one thing I need to improve from this: People usually let go of the Right Stick when placing a block before or at the same time as LT, meaning they wouldn't place the block. I probably need to add a small delay on releasing the stick before the wall pops back. Will give a better result I think.
- The main positive outcome was this though: However difficult people
thought it was, they still tried, and expressed how they actually found
it fun. That's probably the best thing I could have hoped for. That
people even found it fun, and often tried again and kept playing a
while, even though they rarely got over 20 points? That's awesome.
That's fantastic. The highlight was when two guys started competing with
each other for highscore, trying out different (mostly inefficient)
strategies, and passing the controller back and forth when they lost. I
was smiling the whole time :D
- In the smaller scale stuff, I found some bugs, and these few things:
- The line and blocks in the middle were first thought, by some, to be a part of the level, because they are also black. People also didn't relate them to the walls, because the walls appear white when you place them.
- Someone missed the timer running low feedback (which I've also done on occasion) even with this much visual indication, so I definitely need a sound there. (about sound: I generally need more and better sound---also music, but I'm not a sound guy).
- This relates to the block placing thing from above, but some found it weird how the Right stick doesn't actually do anything in itself. Maybe I should let just a flick of it shoot a bullet? hmm, it's worth thinking about, but I'm not sure.
- Some also found the player ball to move too fast, but that should be fixed with a sensitivity slider in the final version.
Also, as a final mention, a lot of people said how this could be really fun as a 2-player competitive game, and I completely agree. That could be really cool. I already have a few ideas about how to implement that, but that's for a little later. First, now Nordic Game Jam is coming up this weekend and I'm planning to show the game there too (this time with a (slightly rushed) tutorial!), so wish me luck :)