This week, we’ve significantly improved the player experience of our game. The menu screen features significantly improved aesthetics to match with the feel of our game, and also better explains the controls of the game as well as the special abilities of each character. Players are also guided better through the game by having smoother transitions from the menu to the first level, between levels, and before the final fight; these transitions should better convey the story of the game, which should help players better understand their objective at each stage of the game. Along the same lines, we’ve added an “escape pod” mechanic to the final phase of the game since it can help players understand their objective in the final phase.
In addition, we’ve improved the base gameplay by adding additional enemies and player abilities. We’ve also rebalanced many weapons and enemies, so better weapons only appear later in the game and are appropriate for the enemies faced at that time. This should give the player a better experience of progression through the game, as the weapons picked up throughout the game feel qualitatively better and better.
We’ve also made several quality changes in response to complaints from playtesters, including: improved readability of and simplified powerup descriptions, better balanced audio, improving enemy navigation, removing i-frames from attacks so that automatic weapons feel better, allowing players to choose when they want to change levels rather than forcing them, showing where enemies are aiming to allow players to hide better, and various minor bug fixes.
What’s the motivation?
These changes were primarily motivated by feedback from playtesters. We noticed that many playtesters did not understand their objective at different points in the game, which causes some frustration as they did not know what they should be doing when collecting upgrades; there was also some confusion about what was going on when changing levels. We hoped to fix this by adding the more detailed transitions between phases to allow players to better understand what is going on in the story of the game. This also makes the game more thematically cohesive, which should improve the player experience; this is one of our main focuses going forward. The additional instructions on the main menu were also targeted at clearing up player confusion that was noticed in playtests. The escape pod mechanic was also added to better fit with the story of the game, which should explain why players have to fight at the end. It also made camping at the end of the game worse, which addressed some complaints about strategy made by playtesters. Our changes to weapon progression and enemy variety were addressing complaints made that the collection phase can feel tedious and luck-based at times if it doesn’t feel like progress is being made; allowing skill to be shown in the collection phase was one of our main goals. The various minor changes were also made in response to individual playtester complaints.
For the next iteration, we plan to focus further on improving the polish of the phase transitions and the in-game storytelling. We think that this will further help players understand what they should be doing in the game while minimizing confusion. In addition, we will likely be making balance changes to HP values and damage values in response to playtester feedback. We will also add more powerups and a new type of weapon (explosive) for increased variety.