A couple of weeks ago, I released a beta to the tester group, and they’ve provided a huge amount of feedback and ideas to help improve the game. The overall quality of the feedback has been outstanding, and their impressions of the whole thing were generally good! The story/plot was well received, which was something that was bugging me in the back of my head. Testers' main issues revolved around some game-mechanic comprehension and the early game’s difficulty curve.
The game isn't designed to spell out every aspect of the engine to the player. I’ve always liked games with mechanics that aren't explained but seem to be working in the background. Or, for instance, I find it rewarding when I discover a mechanic I could perform right from the beginning of the game that other players might not find until later. However, essential mechanics should almost always be explained in some way, and I missed doing this with a couple of things.
One of these things was the level-up system: leveling-up increases your magic attack and your defense, but I had failed to mention it in-game before this build. Originally, you could only level up from level 1 to 10, so any level ups would change your stats right away and you’d definitely notice. However, long ago I went back and made the game support levels 1-99, so the effects of leveling-up were no longer as clear.
To fix this, I implemented a small stats window in the inventory screen (pictured left) to show the player her/his growth as she/he levels up. DEF and MATK increase automatically at different intervals, and they now clearly tell the player something’s happening. There were also a couple of other obscure power-up mechanics that I ended up making a bit clearer.
Thus, some rooms need to be changed in design, some enemy patterns tweaked, and some extra HP given at the start of the game to make an easier and less frustrating experience.
Now that this stage of testing is over, all effort is going into developing the desert areas. This part of the world is designed to be much more open than any the player has visited before, so it should feel like a breath of fresh air. Hopefully it'll be a lot of fun to develop it!