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At the end of October, I ran a playtest of the introduction level with 6 pairs of players who had never played 39 Days to Mars. A final push made sure that all the puzzles, artwork, and dialogue was in place, and on a technical level the playtest went more smoothly than I could have hoped. I gained a lot of insight into how people play and approach the puzzles, and have screeds of notes I've been slowly going through to make the game better.

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What's New this Month?

At the end of October, I ran a playtest of the introduction level with 6 pairs of players who had never played 39 Days to Mars. A final push made sure that all the puzzles, artwork, and dialogue was in place, and on a technical level the playtest went more smoothly than I could have hoped. I gained a lot of insight into how people play and approach the puzzles, and have screeds of notes I've been slowly collating to understand what needs to change to make the game better.

So, What's Changing?

There are lots of small points and minor changes, so I'm outlining just the major things here:

- The initial thought for the introduction level was to introduce the "puzzle" interaction on an individual basis, with two single-player puzzles that could be done at the same time. This would force each player to have a meaningful interaction, rather than the strongest player taking over straight out of the gate. In reality, all that happened was that one player interacted with their puzzle while the other player watched and commented. The solution to this is simple. I'm keeping the same puzzles, but changing them so that both players can interact at the same time.

- The interaction pop-up looked nice, but made it difficult to understand what was story exposition, what were items to pick up, and what were puzzles to be solved. I've already re-drawn this with extra information about what you're interacting with. Hopefully this will make things more clear.

- Some of the puzzles use light-bulbs and lamps to show when pieces are completed or switches turned on. In some cases the level background interfers with these and they're difficult to see. I'm going to have to find a better way to convey this important information.

- Most players understood the basic puzzle cues (Albert needs his hat, Baxter needs a map, etc), but any exposition longer than a sentence was usually overlooked as the player was focusing on the puzzle. Up until this point I've tried to write dialogue in a 1-2 sentence form. The first sentence giving a gameplay instruction, and the second giving some exposition. I now think it's better to wrap these together where possible and give clues in character with the story, even if it means a little loss of clarity.

Artwork

I've been working on new and final artwork for puzzles in the first story arc of the voyage. Among this are the water pipes mini-game, the gravity puzzle, and the mining mini-game. These are all mostly implemented, and just need debugging and balancing. I've also been designing a new "control" puzzle, and will be working on this over the next month along with final artwork for the rest of the puzzles. You can see some of this new artwork below.

What I'm working on:


Oct 22
Playtesting 39 Days to Mars @GamePlaySpace in Montreal. Lots of great feedback, ideas, discussions and fun!

Nov 7
Just finished drawing some new artwork for the gravity puzzle!

Nov 8
Implementing interactions for the gravity puzzle.


Nov 12
Drawing new options for interaction pop-ups.


Nov 14
Today I updated the interaction pop-up for 39 Days to Mars :).


Until Next Time

I'll be designing the two final puzzles for the voyage, and drawing the artwork for them. Expect the next update in January, as I'll be travelling during December.

Don't forget that IndieDB is doing a best-of-2015 voting thing! I know it's not released yet, but if you enjoy reading these updates then click the huge green button up the top to support 39 Days to Mars.

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