Cycle 3 – Playtest Report

Preface

Game has drastically changed from planning phase: only one cheese per level, details on textures and objects have been fleshed out. Furthermore, I have made minor changes from the playtest plan to the procedure and structure, this does not change the final result of the report but does help it flow better.

Pre-test prompt

Hello tester,

Today you will be playing a prototype build of Cheese and Crackers, a side-scrolling platformer targeted towards 12 year olds.

This play test will require you to play the given game for a minimum of five minutes, you may continue till ten minutes or until you have finished all five levels, whichever is shorter. After testing the game, you will be given a series of survey questions relating to your game experience. If you are struggling to answer a question, you are allowed to play the game again to help formulate your answer.

Please think aloud while playing, say everything that you are feeling, thinking or doing. Again, this includes everything that you are feeling, thinking or doing. If you feel there is a problem with the game or you have a question please do not hesitate to ask.

When playing the game, please understand this is not designed to test you but instead test the game. Though you may indicate whether you are experiencing difficulties, I cannot assist you in getting past them other than providing explanations for mechanics.

Thank you for participating.

Survey Questions

Experts Survey

Difficulty of the Game

  1. From 1 to 10, how difficult would you rate the game?
  2. What elements made the game difficult?
  3. Did any elements in particular make the game easier? If so, what are they?
  4. How would you recommend the difficulty be changed?

Meaningfulness of Crackers

  1. How motivated were you to collect the crackers?
  2. Was motivation, if any, intrinsic or extrinsic? (wanted to collect vs wanted to fulfil point quota)
  3. Did you find crackers were too easy, too hard or comfortable to collect?
  4. What would make crackers or points more meaningful to you?
  5. Would another scoring system motivate you more? What would this be?

Gameplay Naturalness and Progression (overall game feel)

  1. Did any aspect of the controls feel unintuitive or ill-fitting?
  2. Was the path to the cheese too short, long or did you not noticing a problem at all?
  3. Are there any improvements to controls or pathing you feel would benefit the game?

Additional Questions

  1. Any final thoughts or questions you have?

Target Audience (Sam) Survey

Difficulty of the Game

  1. From 1 to 10, how hard would you rate the game?
  2. What parts made the game hard?
  3. Did any parts in particular make the game easier? If so, what are they?
  4. What would you change to make the game more or less hard?

Excitement and Tension (PX Goal)

  1. From 1 to 10, how exciting was the game?
  2. From 1 to 10, how tense was the game?
  3. Did anything particular make the game exciting or tense?
  4. What do you think would make the game more exciting or tense?

Appeal of Game World

  1. What did you think about the aesthetics of the game?
  2. Did anything look missing or out of place?
  3. What would you add or change to improve the game’s aesthetics?

Additional Questions

  1. Any final thoughts or questions you have?

Summary of Playtest Sessions

Summary of Experts Playtest

A total of four experts were used for testing, all experts were confidants with extensive time put into playing games of various sorts; however they do not possess much recent experience with platforming games. All testers were able to complete the game in ten minutes or lower.

All experts were found vary wildly in terms of skills and approach towards the game and platformers in general. Only one was found to be suitably comfortable with playing the game while the other three struggled at parts. However, there was even more variation in the experiences and problems found with the game; as each player viewed the game differently and had a larger focus on certain aspects of the game, such physics, graphics or technical challenge of the game.

Summary of Target Audience Playtest

The play tester selected to fill in for the target audience was a 17 year old that had a vested interest in Minecraft, Pokémon Go and other mobile games. It was gathered that she had an interest in some games but overall did not possess the intrigue of game fundamentals that Sam would have. But given the age difference it is assumed the level of game knowledge is similar for both. It is known that she has additional game related influences in her life, such as another family member.

The playtest conducted for this took a total of 30 minutes to reach but not complete level 5. Observations made were mainly based around her difficulty in not only navigating difficult component but struggling with the basic control scheme at times. Most notably, she took near six minutes to complete the second level and near 15 minutes to complete the fourth level even with guidance on how to reach the cheese.

Though not the most fitting candidate for a Sam substitute, she and Sam align on having a more naïve understanding of game mechanics and deeper game concepts.

Key Findings

Experts

Goal 1 – Difficulty of the Game

The experts found the average difficulty rating to be approximately seven, with ratings ranging from five to ten and two sevens. Not yet looking into further analysis, this indicates a drastic variation in skill level with the experts used for testing.

Following suit with this variation of skill, the testers all found different elements of the game to have added difficulty. The expert that rated the game a difficulty of five found the traps in the game to have been a major source of difficulty, while also mentioning the precision required for wall jumping hard to satisfy. Another tester that rated the game a difficulty of seven felt the jumping itself had made the game difficult, finding the force exerted when jumping to be too high. The other two testers found the aesthetics of the game to have added the most challenge, wherein the lack of visibility made the gameplay itself difficult; they were battling the visuals and the camera to find where the player was and needed to go. A lack of space was also mentioned as a source of difficulty but this seems to also be a central problem that may have contributed to the problems with the jump force and how cluttered the view was.

The tester rating the difficulty 5 was the only tester that had answered that a component of the game was making it easier to play. This being that there was only one cheese per level, based on the gameplay observed for this expert it would seem that they sought more challenging gameplay.

Most gripes from the testers in terms of difficulty seem from the fact the aesthetics of the game were too busy/cluttered and that the level design was too densely packed. As for the aesthetics of the game, this could not necessarily be helped given the lack of skill from any one group member required for this task. However, an option to handle this matter could have been to focus more on a minimalistic design philosophy and then focus more on elements that assisted player visual awareness and more complex level designs. Level design may have been too packed as a result of transitioning designs made on paper into designs for the game, this transition should have been made with more care towards the scale and scope of the levels.

Goal 2 – Meaningfulness of Crackers

All testers were found to have been motivated to collect the crackers but experienced varying levels of desire due to a number of reasons. One tester noted in the interview they did not necessarily feel motivated to collect the crackers, even though they actually wanted to, due to the lack of visibility and ended up giving on collecting crackers when he couldn’t see them. However, in testing it did show that he made a concerted effort when first seeing where the crackers were. Another tester felt motivated to collect the crackers thinking collecting at least one was a requirement of the game. They had thought this given the title and a lack of clear explanation as to what the goal of each level was. It is of note that this tester was the one that had rated the difficulty as five, it is possible not searching for the more difficulty placed crackers may have lowered their difficulty rating.

Half of the player found the motivation to collect the crackers be intrinsic, while one found their motivation to be extrinsic while another found it to be both. Those that found motivation to be intrinsic linked it to the natural ‘gamer instinct’ for collectables, especially those in platformer type game.

All experts found the cracker placement to be comfortable to reach but there were problems with the visuals preventing easy identification and the jumping too strong to control finely.

Goal 3 – Gameplay Naturalness and Progression

Problems with the naturalness of the gameplay controls and feel were very distinct from each. Two testers felt the control scheme itself was not natural to them, where one commented the lack of arrow key controls and another felt the game would better suit the traditional flash game control scheme of strictly WASD. While the first recommendation will be included for consideration, the second will not be considered given placing the jump button so close to movement would hinder wall jumping capability.

Another expert noted the wall jumping was an issue, where the time for input was too short. This concerns has been expressed by the other testers as well, most commonly in the form of frustration while testing. Finally, an expert found the booster pads to have been a problem in that suddenly makes the player too fast. This is a valid concern given the game does not have a focus on speed but instead on strictly the difficulty of platforming and finer controls. Such a distinction does typically come up in comparing Sonic and Mario, where the Mario series focuses on platforming and complexity whereas the Sonic series relies heavily on speed and linear gameplay.

No testers indicated there were problems with path required to reach the cheese, however one tester felt the need for this path to gradually increase in difficulty if additional levels were made.

Target Audience

Goal 1 – Difficulty of the Game

The tester gave the game difficulty rating of seven, this however is in contrast with the gameplay observed and the fact the tester had taken up to 30 minutes to reach level five.

The tester found that the game was made difficult by the necessity for fast player input when performing more difficult actions such as wall jumping. This was evident during gameplay, as they struggled with basic movement such as jumping up to a higher platform, which typically required an initial speed build up then timing of the jump to be successful. The tester especially struggled with wall jumping components that required multiple wall jumps to scale two walls, mainly attempting to stick to one wall or not attempting to wall jump when they could. At least in the case where the player would attempt to stick to a single wall when two were available, it is assumed this was an attempt to reduce the player input demand by constantly moving in one direction while only having to time the jump.

They had also found the rat enemies difficult to overcome, it was observed that they struggled in finding the timing for when they needed to jump. It is assumed that this was not just the case, but was in conjunction with the struggle with the mechanic of jumping itself.

Goal 2 – Excitement and Tension (PX Goal)

The tester rated the game’s excitement a nine out of ten while rating the tension an eight out of ten. The tester reported the game’s main source of excitement and tension was the fast pace of the gameplay. Additionally, they describe the animations as having added to the excitement of the game; most likely in reference to the player character and the rat enemy. The first comment links to the PX goal as the intention was to induce feelings of excitement and tension while reacting to game situations with reflexes and agility. The second comment enforces the idea that Sam would have more of a vested interest in the world of the game, as opposed to someone older than him.

Goal 3 – Appeal of Game World

The tester felt the aesthetics of the game were of a high standard, visually fitting with the idea of a standard platforming game. Moreover, they felt the glue could look more fitting if it had glowed, so as to better fit with the background of the game.

The above supports the idea that Sam would appreciate a more cohesive game world that was well thematically linked. The preconception held by the tester towards platforming games are also assumed to be held by Sam in this game. Most notably, the tester’s interest in Minecraft and other mobile games but lack of experience in other genres.

Recommendations

Playtest given recommendations (from survey and during testing)

  • Fix bug on level 5, where player is thrown out of map
    • Easily fixable
  • A formalised tutorial level or tutorial scheme across levels
    • Could be further abstracted into breaking down the mechanics of the game and allowing the player to experience and experiment with a singular mechanic (such as moving left and right) on a single level without tutorial guides.
  • Expand space present in level designs
    • This would complement the current system for player physics.
    • Alternatively, player physics could be altered to allow for tighter spaces but this would impact the excitement felt by the player as it would slow down the player character.
  • Improve graphics
    • Testers commented on the difficult it added to the gameplay as some traps and platforms blended into the background.
    • As the target audience tester did enjoy the graphics already present, there would have to be a compromise struck where graphics would be altered to enable easier visual recognition while maintaining the same style.
  • Change colour or shape of crackers to be more easily seen
  • Increase leeway for wall jumping
    • Multiple expert testers struggled with wall jumping successfully and when requiring fine controls with wall jumping
    • Target audience tester struggled multiple times with completing particular sections requiring wall jumps.
  • Implementing a time-based scoring alongside crackers
    • Expert tester says this would increase motivation to play the game faster, providing themselves with a measurable challenge.
    • Would be implemented alongside a leader board system.
  • Time limits for levels
    • Could be used to create an additional level mode with an extra emphasis on speed rather than complexity.
  • Implement cartoon death
    • Though this was taken out to assume a completely G rating for the game, its inclusion would only increase it to PG
    • This would change the dynamic of gameplay quite dramatically and require a complete reworking of levels as player would have to restart instead of just getting knocked back.
    • This change would allow for an implantation of crackers as incentive to collect more lives or health.
  • Include more than one cheese per level
    • Could be used to create more opportunities of progression necessary challenges for players.
    • In cases of early tutorial stages, could be used as incentives for players to learn controls by having to figure out how to reach certain areas.
  • Hard mode
    • This could include the addition of more enemies, a life system or timers.
  • Power ups
    • Details would have to be worked out later but power up are known to be major sources of incentive for players and would definitely be beneficial.
  • Unlockable skins for the character
    • Potentially unlocked by collecting crackers
  • Support for arrow key controls
  • Checkpoints to prevent progress loss
  • Expand on back story for game
    • Suggested by target audience play tester

Tester response derived and other recommendations

  • Change colour of glue to actually represent glue
    • Many testers commented on their confusion as to what the glue object was until explained
  • Add more crackers and progressively increase the challenge in acquiring crackers
    • This is for players that find collecting crackers to be intrinsically motivated, a further challenge would complement their desire.
  • Add a reward for collecting the crackers in game
    • This is for players that find collecting crackers to be extrinsically motivated, attaching the crackers to a greater and more substantial reward would complement their need for meaningful points.
    • These maybe in the form of different character skins, similar to those in mobile games, or unlocking possible additional story elements.
  • Adding more than one path to reach a goal
    • This could take many forms but one clear example is allowing the player to manipulate rat enemies to be knocked back into progressing further into the level.
    • This sort of play was noticed when players were trying to reach the cheese of level 2 by using a rat to knock them upwards but the game was designed this and did not allow the required upward force.
  • Change background music
  • Remove booster pads
    • This would prevent the use of curves in the game, as the speed required to loop in a curve could only be generated outside of the player’s own movement speed.
    • Could be implemented in a more world-friendly way such as booster pads on the ground or implemented onto the curves themselves.

Survey Results

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