The aim of the play test was to identify whether participants could complete the session goals outlined in the play test plans. There were two different plans: the first was a plan for experienced gamers and the second was for players that matched the characteristics of our target audience, Sam. For the experienced players, the goals were: finding out how meaningful the crackers are to the players, finding out whether the level of difficulty was appropriate or not, and finding out whether the players feel the game play and the game world flow naturally. For the participants who have the most Sam-like qualities the session goals were: finding out whether the difficulty of the level is in the right level, finding out if the game meets the expected player’s experience goals and lastly finding out if players find the game world appealing.
The play test was conducted with 4 naïve participants. Additionally, there was one knowledgeable participant who was familiar with the games construction. None of these play testers were close to the age of our target audience, however some of them shared similar qualities to them. Each participant had ten minutes to complete five relatively simple levels within the prototype game. Before participants began playing the level they were required to fill out a questionnaire to find out what type of gamers the participants were. Below is a summary of the collective data gained from the Questionnaire:
These players ranged between experienced and beginner. None of the participants played longer than three hours per day, some even played the same length of time as our target audience, that is, half an hour each day. All of the participants played on various platforms, however they all played on computer, except participant 2 who doesn’t’ play video games regularly. None of the participants rated either platform or side-scrollers as very highly enjoyable. Only two of the participants liked the same genre as our target audience.
While the player was playing the prototype the players screen was recorded with screen capture technology whilst simultaneously their voices were recorded on a mobile device. (See appendix B for video of the play test). After play testing, notes were taken to record the key features discussed during play testing.
After completing the prototype, the participants were required to fill out a Survey that informed us of how they felt about the prototype. Along with the notes we found several key findings that were related back to our session goals we were trying to achieve in the testing.
One of the key findings was the controls of the game. The participants were familiar with the basic game controls such as left, right and jump, however implementing the controls into navigating obstacles by manoeuvres such as wall jumping was not clear to them.
Another key finding that was displayed in the testing was that the background music was stagnant and repetitive for each level. This annoyed players and added to their frustration, which was not intended. There were also problems on the fourth and fifth level of the prototype with the background music stopping and not starting again.
We found with the collection of the crackers that players didn’t really feel any motivation to collect the crackers, the crackers were merely part of the game play rather than having any real meaning to the player. With some participants, they began to give up on collecting the crackers towards the end of the levels and just focus on completing the level. With some of the players we found that if the portal was not in their view when they collected the cheese they didn’t understand where to go next.
In regards to the difficulty of the levels, based on our observations and feedback from participants, we believe the level of difficulty was appropriate for not only the experienced player but also for a participant similar to Sam. This was due to the fact that some of the challenges within the puzzle were quite frustrating, which helped to build tension while still providing a fun and exciting experience.
We found that players enjoyed the appearance of both the game world and the character. The mechanics of the game never effected the visuals of the game. Many of the players got the sense of story behind the game as well as many of the elements that were used to construct the level were conducive the storyline. For example, level four had the player had the player jump on a light fixture to get to the next platform, which fits in with the environment of a lab.
To help visualize these findings I made a video that displays some of these findings as well as some of the features that were implemented into the prototype. (See appendix C)
Based on key findings and player feedback some improvements to the overall game design needed to be considered. We concluded these findings:
- Having different music playing on each level so that the soundtrack doesn’t become monotonous and frustrating.
- Including a tutorial level where the player is slowly introduced to the mechanics and elements of the prototype so as to help the player understand what is required to complete the levels.
- Adding a point system to the crackers to give them greater meaning to the player.
- Adding a stopwatch to get the player to complete the level in the shortest amount of time. This would give the player additional tension as well as giving the player enjoyment in aiming to complete the level in the shortest amount of time.
- Including a level select button at the title menu to provide the player a chance to revisit which level they want to play.
- After a certain amount of time of idleness an arrow would appear to help guide the player in the direction they need to go.
- Adding a greater celebration to the end of each level, such as fireworks as the mouse is sitting on a pile of cheese, satisfied. This would give more enjoyment to the levels and increase the motivation to complete each level.
- Cleaning up the small visual elements such as the opacity of the mouse ball and animation of the mouse and rat as well as the design of the traps.
- Include more levels with various changes in design and appearance. This would provide more appeal to the visuals as well as add to the overall entertainment of the game.