FRENCH-SPEAKING FRIENDS: Cliquez ici pour lire la version française !
Hello everyone, and welcome to this new devlog! Normally, we post one every two weeks, but exceptionally, last week’s one has been postponed to today. In addition to the « usual » production constraints, we also have to adapt to our class schedule. But don’t worry, we are making good progress on Godmorgon: Spooky Ride, in particular thanks to you! All the participants to the playtests have been a great help to us for the rest of the adventure, so thank you all! In this fourth devlog, we will come back to these tests: what are they for, how to organize them, and most of all: what did we get out of them?
As we told you in our playtest recruitment article, this is a common way to test the game with future players. It allows to know if the mechanics work well, to test problems that the team wants to validate or identify, to report bugs, but also to know if the players enjoy the game. It helps the game designers for the design, can guide the artists on certain details, but it can also help to guide the marketing.
There are surely many ways to manage playtests, depending on the size and specialization of the team, the platform used, the type of game being tested, etc… The organization we defined worked well, so we wanted to explain how we did it! Note that these playtests were organized by the game designers and the live producer.
Before starting to prepare all the documents and start the machine, it is important to know what you want to analyze, which information you want to get out of it. In our case, we mainly wanted to test the « fun » potential of the game, to check the understanding of the game mechanics, and the variety of cards that are offered to the players.
At the same time, we tested a lot the last version of the game that was presented to the players (fixing bugs, spotting the ones we won’t have time to solve, improving some visual effects, etc…).
Then we can start organizing and documenting! All these documents exist in english and french, to be able to welcome as many players as possible! Here is the small checklist we had established:
- The Discord server: establishing a community discord, with private channels for testing. You can do this using private conversations, but we prefered to do it all in one place to make it easier to organize.
- Registration form: a form containing all the necessary information to understand a player’s profile before a test (age, gambling habits, knowledge of similar games, availability, …)
- Testing protocola document that describes the entire test process. It is very important that all supervisors have the same speech so that all tests can be analyzed correctly. It also specifies when the supervisor can speak during the test and what he or she is allowed to say in particular situations, as this can also have a big impact on the analyses.
- Players’ welcoming document: a document sent to each player before his test, to give them all the indications to follow: where to connect, where to download the game, the purpose of the test, … As we had planned the sessions in mid-October, we have created two versions of this document: one for the on-site tests, and another one for the remote tests, in order to be prepared for each situation.
Finally, the last stage of preparation is the invitation of the players. We wrote an invitation article, which we then shared on the game’s networks, but also on our personal networks and those of our school. The goal was to reach as many potential players as possible!
The positive thing about these testing sessions is that all the players seemed to have fun and thought that the game has potential. Having encountered a few production issues (which we’ll talk about in a post-mortem devlog in late December or early January), the team was very pleased to know that.
For the in-game observations, game designers have noticed that the game is working well, so we have not encountered any design crisis. The players are not as blocked as we thought, but their game was a bit long, which means that the level design is probably too big. And finally, the players’ behaviors are very different depending on their gaming habits. For instance, players used to playing deck-building games were confused because they wanted to put their card anywhere on the screen and then click to do the action. Players less used to this type of game appreciated being able to put the card at the place of the action, and understood the mechanics right away.
It was also noted that the players were not very enthusiastic about walking blindly through a maze filled with fog. They prefer to go straight to the point, which is to find their way out. One of the reasons for this is that the principle of exploration, although a pillar of the design, is not rewarded enough during games.
Finally, most of the players didn’t pay attention to the timeline mechanic (4 next actions performed by the Ringmaster, great enemy of the game), which is however Godmorgon: Spooky Ride‘s little plus, which gives it an original side.
All these observations are, for the most part, things that the team had more or less intuition and wanted to verify (especially for understanding the timeline). Thanks to the tests, we were able to validate that the cards work well, whether it’s the actions they allow on their own, or their synergy with the other cards, and above all: we were able to confirm that the deck (or set of cards given at the start) is versatile and works well to move forward in the game.
The optimal strategies implemented by the players are also those that were thought by the game designers during production (use a map when your trust matches the current trust, avoid enemies, …).
Finally, as expected, game designers will have to continue to improve the user experience (which we talked about in the last devlog!). Although they were already planned but not yet implemented, the infotips giving information about cards and other interface elements are really crucial for a good understanding of the game.
Some observations have led us to apply changes to gambling, with three major ones.
In terms of design, the game requires two things from the player: exploring and anticipating. However, the fog of war makes it impossible to predict, and therefore does not make the player want to explore. For Game Designers, the most important thing was the mechanics of anticipation. So they decided to remove the fog of war hiding the whole map, so that the player can anticipate every situation and dare to walk through the maze without getting frustrated.
But that takes some of the challenge out of the game. Since we can no longer explore blindly (one of the main pillars of the gameplay), it was decided to change the behavior of the enemies. This allows to make them more interesting and dangerous, and especially to find that part of the challenge that no longer existed without the fog of war.
Finally, the store system has been cancelled. Players could access it via their interface, and buy cards or remove them from their deck using gold coins earned along the way. This feature was not fully implemented for playtests, so could not be used. The Game Designers realized that the players didn’t need it and that it wasn’t necessary for the game to work. This mechanic was therefore removed, allowing the team to concentrate on redesigning the enemies. From now on, since players will be able to anticipate their moves and anticipate, they will be able to move to special rooms in the maze, where they can remove cards from their hand.
The playtest sessions all went very well, and the team would like to thank the players very much for their time and kindness. As you can see, these tests allowed us to highlight important points of the game, and to make major changes to improve the experience. A few bugs occurred during the sessions, but we can note that three players got close enough to the release to consider the level as finished!
We still have a lot of work ahead of us to come up with a playable game in a few weeks, but we’re confident, and we can’t wait for you all to get started! The game won’t be on Steam, due to a setback with the platform, but don’t worry, it will be accessible for free and to everyone on itch.io!
Until then, fasten your seatbelts, keep your arms in your wagon, and don’t try to get out of the attraction on the way… !