Cycle 3 – Reflection

1. How you have approached learning new things and/or finding new information during the semester

In terms of the work I have completed over the semester, attaining information and learning has been done as needed; if I struggled on a code solution, searching for a solution online typically solved my matters. Learning in the workshops has been hard but rewarding, especially in understanding alternative perspectives and approaches to designing game concepts. Tutorials have been incredible learning experiences in talking to the tutors, found to be both knowledgeable in Unity and general game content.

2. What additional, non-technical skills you’ve developed during the semester

During the semester I have better understood how to construct game concepts and strip away content as need be. At the beginning, and even now, I find it difficult to strip content from a game idea as it feels like the game would be worse off for it, but now do recognise the value, and the much more important necessity, of at least creating a viable but smaller scoped product than an unfinished mess.

Though I do find soft skills such as conversing with group members and debating game ideas to be difficult. This is possibly due to the lack of a functioning group for a fair portion of the semester. Instead I find myself too heavily invested into my own ideas and wanting to reject most ideas offered by other team members. To cope with this, instead of compromising on an idea I would just drop my idea altogether and go with another’s idea to prevent team conflict. This would leave me unsatisfied in most cases but preferred the dissatisfaction to my team potentially falling apart again.

3. The most effective strategies you used for managing individual and team activities

The most effective strategy for managing individual and team activities was to meetup at another point over the week. By establishing a second point of contact, we were able to designate a day just for working on the game and allow for more discussion on ideas. This especially worked for ideas as we would often begin brainstorming for certain concepts relating to the activities for the week during the workshop but never really reach a conclusion. This second meeting allowed for us to develop ideas on our own and present them at a later date to finish the discussion.

4. The ethical responsibilities associated with working in a team-based environment. Areas to consider could include: justice (fair work practices); responsibility (specifying tasks, completing activities); honesty (avoiding deception); and reasonableness (level of participation, reaching consensus).

I feel the largest ethical responsibility required in a team-based environment is trusting one another. This is not only trust that you are being honest to each other but that you trust each other’s competency. I felt the importance of this working in this cycle, but throughout the entire semester I would question my team member’s competencies constantly and felt bitter doing so. Though I would never openly declare how I felt, most of my decisions in the earlier two cycles were guided by this. By the third cycle, I had near cemented this suspicion but while working in the group it seemed that they were more capable than I had initially thought. But even still, I do hold some reservations in trusting the ideas of group members wholeheartedly. This is something I have to learn to resolve with not only myself but attempt to resolve with team members when I feel this way.

To elaborate on the above, keeping lines of dialogue open between team members would be most beneficial to resolving such conflicts. This would particularly help in promoting honesty and reasonableness between team members so they may openly share ideas and challenge others when necessary.

Alternatively, the pre-coordinated delegation of work would go far in ensuring an even workload between team members. Even with this, all members of the team must be vocal and present to ensure everyone is satisfied and motivated to work towards a common goal.

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

Cycle 3 – Activity 4 – Mechanics, Objects and Rules

Player Stories & Mechanics

  • Playing as a mouse, I will roll in my hamster to ball to move around
    • Physics-oriented – Movement
    • Acceleration based movement to a maximum speed
    • Roll left
    • Roll right
  • As a player I will manoeuvre the hamster ball to collect cheese
    • Progression – Locks/keys to control progress
    • Several cheese to collect per level
  • As a player I will manoeuvre the hamster ball to collect crackers
    • Economy – Collectable
    • Points given on collection of cracker
  • As a player I will jump over water traps to avoid being slowed down
    • Progression – Scenario to provide challenge
    • Upon entry of water trap player will slow down immensely
    • Not necessarily adverse effect but is still frustrating to player
  • Playing as a mouse in a hamster ball, I will jump over mouse traps to avoid being knocked back
    • Progression – Scenario to provide challenge
    • Knocks back player to impede/reverse progress
    • Not necessarily adverse effect but is still frustrating to player

How These Mechanics Appeal to Sam

Physic-oriented (Movement)

Through the other movement related player stories not included above, the simple movement system for the game appeals to Sam as the controls themselves pose no challenge in an of themselves, allowing him to “pickup-and-play”. Consequently, the main learning curve is not present in the core control system but instead lies with the challenges enabled by that movement system. Examples of games where core control systems are a challenge are those in the Street Fighter series (learning frame perfect input) or Mirror’s Edge (timing and contextual input).

Progression (Locks/keys to control progress, Scenario to provide challenge)

Both progression related mechanics appeal to Sam but in a more general sense that most players would derive incentive to play from the existence of a challenge. Focussing more on Sam however, these challenges will not be made too difficult to allow for a lower barrier for entry in terms of player skill.

Economy (Collectable)

The appeal of the collectable aspect of crackers has already been detailed in Activity Post 3, describing how Sam enjoys games with collection mechanics as a main focus. Though used typically as a standard staple of simple game mechanics, a basic means of challenge and player incentive, it is assumed that Sam would further enjoy collection mechanics based on his persona.

An aside from mechanics

On a more personal note, I find that commenting so extensively on the appeal of particular mechanics for Sam is a misguided effort. I say this with the experience of working with children of similar age to Sam in making platforming games. They do not focus on the mechanics of the game, though not to say that there are not those who do enjoy breaking down gameplay to its core, but instead they more focus on the construction, look and feel of the game world. Reasoning similar to this could the rationale as to why series such as Sonic or Mario, though limited in mechanic scope, were popular among children at the time and with subsequent generations. These series have such a heavy focus on their characters and stories, while maintaining a “pick-up-and-play” simplicity that made their games so accessible to younger audiences.

In light of this, I feel there is a much stronger need for a game catering at Sam to hold an emphasis on the graphics and consistency of game look and feel. Delivering on these fronts may be a major problem given the lack of an artist in the team but the key aspect is to at least plan for the game world to be cohesive and immersive. An example of this is the inclusion of a key mechanic being the cheese, as opposed to a real key, or the water trap to prevent hamper progress, as it would better suit the current theming of a lab and the mouse as the player character.

Object Table

Game Object Purpose Attributes Relationship with other objects Rules, events and effects
Cheese A key mechanic to open the exit door. One or more cheeses may be placed on a level. ·    Collectable

·    Non-moving

(No interaction with other objects) ·    Collected by player
Water trap A trap to slow down the player. Not directly harmful to player but designed for frustration. ·    Slow down player upon contact

·    Non-moving

(No interaction with other objects) ·    Slows down player
Mouse trap A trap that knocks the player back with strong force. Designed to impede player movement. ·    Triggered when player is near trap

·    Knocks back player back on contact

·    Non-moving

(No interaction with other objects) ·    Knocks back player
Rat A patrolling enemy that knocks the player back with strong force. Designed to impede player movement, while moving around. ·    Patrols in a designated line

·    Knocks player back on contact

(No interaction with other objects) ·    Knocks back player
Cracker A collectable coin-like object for a rudimentary point system. ·    Collectable

·    Non-moving

(No interaction with other objects) ·    Collected by player
Button A button requiring the player press it to deactivate barriers impeding player progression. ·    Can be pressed

·    Non-moving

(No interaction with other objects) ·    Pressed by player
Barrier A barrier to block the player from progressing further, deactivated by pressing the related button. ·    Blocks player if active

·    Deactivates if button pressed

·    Non-moving

(No interaction with other objects) ·    Blocks player

·    Deactivated by button

Platform/Wall General world objects for platforming around and onto. ·    Can be stood on

·    Can be wall jumped off of

·    Non-moving

(No interaction with other objects) ·    Collides with player to allow contact
Booster An area/zone increasing player speed upon contact. ·    Speed up player on contact

·    Non-moving

(No interaction with other objects) ·    Speeds up player
Exit door The door to complete the current level, only unlocked when cheese has been collected. ·    Finishes current level if cheese has been collected

·    Non-moving

(No interaction with other objects) ·    Entered by player to end level

 

Cycle 3 – Activity 3 – Gameplay and Player Stories

Game Concept Statement

In Cheese and Crackers, the player controls a mouse stuck in a hamster ball trying to complete a series of obstacle courses in a lab. The obstacle course is completed by manoeuvring around the hamster ball, i.e. rolling, jumping and wall jumping. The player collects cheese while completing the obstacle course to open the door at the end of each level. Various obstacles will slow down the player from completing the course, such as water pools, rats and mousetraps.

Player Stories

  1. Playing as a mouse, I will roll in my hamster to ball to move around
  2. Playing as a mouse, I will jump to move from platform to platform
  3. Playing as a mouse, I will wall jump to move from wall to wall
  4. As a player I will manoeuvre the hamster ball to collect cheese
  5. As a player I will manoeuvre the hamster ball to collect crackers
  6. As a player I will jump over water traps to avoid being slowed down
  7. Playing as a mouse in a hamster ball, I will jump over mouse traps to avoid being knocked back
  8. Playing as a mouse in a hamster ball, I will jump over rats to avoid being hit
  9. As a player I will press buttons to open doors
  10. As a player I will engage in friendly competition with the second player (deemed out of scope for the prototype and will not be implemented)

Relation to Target Audience

Sam enjoys making his own games

Sam loves to makes his own games using simple tools, it is assumed this includes tools such as Stencyl, Flash or Game Maker. Player stories 1 to 3 would apply to these sensibilities as it would allow Sam to understand the simple movement mechanics of the game and create a similar game by himself. Additionally, the simple movement mechanics means that the fun of making his own game would mostly occur in the level-making phase. This appeals to his creative nature of constructing and combining, as exemplified by Sam’s interest in Minecraft.

The game is a strictly G experience

Player stories 6 to 8 detail that the traps in the game do not induce a death state to the character, instead progress in only impeded by affecting the player’s speed and position. The removal of death as a mechanics applies to Sam’s persona as he is only allowed to play G/PG games. Though this does not necessarily tap into motivations, this strongly suits his persona, especially considering this is a family enforced restriction.

The game features collection mechanics

Sam has been shown to enjoy games that heavily feature basic collection mechanics as core gameplay, these being Pokémon Go and Minecraft. Thus, the inclusion of such mechanics would improve a game’s appeal to Sam. Player story 5 relates to this as crackers are a collectable to be found in game; though not mechanically similar to the collection of those in the previously mentioned games, this should still be a suitable alternative. Furthermore, it is planned for crackers to pose an additional challenge for the player and be inserted into areas that diverge from the path required to collect the cheese or in areas that would require backtracking.

A mechanic of this sort is likely to induce emotional and creative motivations, particularly joy and constructing. The challenge presented to collect these crackers requires the player to construct a solution, by enacting this solution and succeeding they experience joy. The joy from this is assumed given Sam’s pre-existing interest in collection-based games. The creative motivations are also assumed to link to Sam’s like of Minecraft and making his own games, a creative talent in its own right.

Sam likes playing multiplayer game

Given Sam’s tendency to play multiplayer focused games with elements of friendly competition, we have considered multiplayer for the full implementation of the game. More specifically, it is known that Sam has had his first gaming experiences with Wii Sport and Mario Kart, which are both family-friendly competitive games. Furthermore, Sam is a current fan of Minecraft and Pokémon Go; both of these games contain multiplayer features that enable competitive play, especially Minecraft depending on server setup and environment. As detailed by player story 10, the game would have had a second player, racing with the first player to reach the end of the map. This is also applicable given Sam could play with his parents, as his parents are both early adopters for game technology and already play Pokémon Go with him.

Multiplayer mechanics in the game would frequently engage in social motivations, primarily competition and secondarily cooperation. This is given a friendly multiplayer environment would pit Sam against his friends or his parents, giving him inherent motivation to beat whoever he was playing against. However, in cases where one player was struggling to learn gameplay mechanics or controls, it is likely the other player would help guide them until they no longer required assistance.