Cycle 3: Reflection

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

I mostly relied on online researches whenever I found difficulties in both technical and non-technical aspects during the development. I am really eager to take an extra steps to pursue personal improvements in skills and knowledge, so I went through many online tutorials to help me with technical aspects, including basic modelling, advanced scripting and making animation in Unity. I also researched other similar games online to collect ideas regarding to environment and theme designs. For the third cycle, I also went online to research the similarities between Pokemon Go and Minecraft to analyse the preference patterns in Sam as well as to find out what game aspects that Sam would hate. Overall, I enjoy learning new things online as I can improve myself better with time flexibility.

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

Throughout the semester, I believe I have significantly developed my game design skills. The last game development cycle which required the team to develop game concept that suits the specific target audience demographic has trained me to design appropriate experience goals, relevant player stories, as well as game theme that is appealing to target audience. I developed my design thinking that enables me to learn the players’ preferences through their gaming experiences and behaviour. I also learned to document thoughts and researches through sketches and notes effectively, which can be used to develop ideas to build the main game concept. Through this skill development, I really see the significance of design stage, which motivates myself to develop my game design skills to a higher degree.

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

I personally found that working in a team is way more difficult compared to working individually since we need an extra skill for team management, which includes dividing tasks commensurately,  ensures everyone deliver the tasks in time, and integrating every chunks of the results into one big solution at the end. What I found most effective to manage team is developing an active communication channel to keep all the members engaged to the project. State clearly every task division, emphazise the deadlines of every tasks, inform every update we individually have progressed, appoint meetings a week in advanced, etc. For individual activities management, good time management is the ultimate answer for me. I set a deadline for every half a week for myself to accomplish my own task.

The ethical responsibilities associated with working in a team-based environment.

My studio team was really tolerant, supporting, and covering each other’s weaknesses, but we all were aware to keep the development activities as professional as possible by practicing good ethical responsibilities. Although all the members have unequal development skills and background, we did our best to give equal contributions to the prototype, e.g., member that has no experiences in Unity would focus on level designing and providing resources, member who is a programmer would focus on scripting and building mechanics, etc. We keep the communication optimum, reminding each other’s tasks, so each of the member is transparent and manage to deliver every task on time.

Cycle 3: Playtest Report

The playtest conducted for the Cheese and Crackers game prototype was mainly based on two playtest plans posted in the Playtest Plan post. The first playtest plan aims to obtain some insights from game experts (either gamers or developers) regarding to the measure of how meaningful the crackers are, how appropriate the level of difficulties of the game, and how natural the players feel the game world flows. In the other hand, the second playtest plan aims to obtain insights from player that has similar demographic to Sam (the selected target audience) which includes finding how difficult the level is for the player, finding if the game meets the expected player experience goals, and finding if the game world is appealing to player.

Data Collection

The playtest was conducted to seven participants, which includes five expert participants and two participants that have similar demographics as Sam. Five selected participants for the first playtest plan are mostly both developers and gamers with varying gaming experiences, but they all are confidants and naïve to games. Two selected participants for the second playtest plan are Bryan and Owen which are respectively 15 and 13 years old at the moment, experienced minecraft players, and enjoy playing PokemonGo just like Sam. Both of them like to design their custom map of many games, which is considered similar to Sam who would like to create games using simple tools.

The playtest session to experts took around 10 to 15 minutes for each participant, while the playtest session for the target demographics took around 15 to 20 minutes. The session began with filling the questionnaire form to filter the player demographic. It is then followed by briefing about thinking out loud before the playtester plays the prototype. Around 10 to 15 minutes were spent for the player to play the prototype and speak out what they were thinking, while I observe and took notes any important information relating to the primary playtesting goals. After the completion of the game, the playtester were instructed to fill the survey form.

Please refer to appendix A for the complete player playtesting note, questionnaire, and survey form results.

Key Findings

Plan 1 – Session Goal 1

Finding out how meaningful the crackers are to the players.

The collected quantitative data from player survey forms:

Question Player Response Score
1 2 3 4 5
I tend to collect every crackers in the game 4 3 5 5 5 88%

 

Player observation and note reviews:

Generally, all players tend to collect every crackers in each level before progressing to the next level. Most of them relatively put a lot of effort to collect every single crackers, although some gave up at some points. Some missed to collect the crackers because they did not notice the existence of the crackers. Those players added that they require the game UI to display the number of crackers they have collected or the number of crackers left to collect. A player that does not really enjoy platformer games did not see the importance of collecting the crackers and more focused on progressing through the level.

Based on the relevant data mentioned above, there are some standing out key findings:

  • The crackers are relatively seen as important elements in the game that players have to collect.
  • Players are not clear with the number of crackers in each level
  • Players sometimes miss to collect a remaining cracker because they thought they have collected all
  • Players require a UI feedback to keep them updated with the total crackers collected

Plan 1 – Session Goal 2

Finding out whether the level of difficulties is appropriate or not.

The collected quantitative data from player survey forms:

Question Player Response Score
1 2 3 4 5
The game was easy to learn how to play 5 5 4 4 4 88%
I find completing the game is difficult 3 5 4 5 4 40%
I find collecting the cheese is difficult 4 4 4 4 4 50%
I find collecting the crackers is difficult 4 4 4 3 3 70%

 

Player observation and note reviews:

Based on the observation to how the participants adapt to the game, it can be said that the controls and mechanics are relatively simple and easy to learn. Playtesters mostly took less than a minute to figure out the control of the character. Participants have no issues with completing level 1, but started to get frustated once they progressed to the second level onwards. Multiple jump attempts made to complete level 2 and 3, while level 4 was quite frustating to use the booster. They found it difficult to jump over platforms and walls appropriately because the friction of the game is set to be minimum, so the ball easily slides off from the platforms.

Based on the relevant data mentioned above, there are some standing out key findings:

  • The game was relatively easy to learn how to play
  • Completing the game is found to be difficult by most players
  • Collecting the cheese is found to be difficult by most players
  • Collecting the crackers is slightly difficult but still at reasonable level
  • The platforms minimum friction makes the players feel difficult in controlling the characters to jump over platforms and walls
  • The difficulty for level 2 onwards need to be nerved

Plan 1 – Session Goal 3

Finding out if the players feel the gameplay and the game world flow naturally.

The collected quantitative data from player survey forms:

Question Player Response Score
1 2 3 4 5
The game world is just perfect for the gameplay 4 3 4 4 4 76%
I feel the gameplay and the game world flows naturally 4 3 5 5 5 88%
The game’s concept and mechanic is interesting 4 2 4 4 4 72%

 

Player observation and note reviews:

Throughout the playtest session, most of the playtesters stated that the game mechanics’ flows is just nice and reasonable. The look and feel matches quite well with the gameplay, making it looks natural. Some ambiguity between platforms and backgrounds was a small problem. The playtesters generally asserted that the game concept and mechanic is quite common and non-innovative, but still interesting.

Based on the relevant data mentioned above, there are some standing out key findings:

  • The game world matches with the game story and mechanics, but still can be improved
  • The gameplay and game world relatively flows natural
  • The concept of the game is common and non-innovative, but still interesting

Plan 2 – Session Goal 1

Finding out if the difficulty of the level is in the right level.

The collected quantitative data from player survey forms:

Question Player Response Score
1 2
The game was easy to learn how to play 4 4 80%
I find completing the game is difficult 4 5 25%
I find collecting the cheese is difficult 4 5 25%
I find collecting the crackers is difficult 4 5 25%

 

Player observation and note reviews:

Two of the players basically learn the controls and mechanics of the game quite fast for their ages. Playtesters mostly took about a minute or two to figure out the control of the character and the jumping mechanics of the game. Participants seemed to be able to complete level 1 easily with two crackers, leaving the last one on the corner because feeling difficult to collect. Participants started require help with completing level 2 onwards. They were keen to collect every crackers throughout the game but due to time and skills limitation they gave up and focused on completing the game instead. Similar to the experts, they found it very difficult to jump over platforms and walls appropriately because the friction of the game is set to be minimum, so the ball easily slides off from the platforms.

Based on the relevant data mentioned above, there are some standing out key findings:

  • The game controls suit the target audience demographic characteristics and gaming background
  • Completing the game, collecting cheese, and collecting crackers are too difficult for the target audience demographics
  • Friction on platforms need to be reduced to make the mouseball more stable
  • Crackers and cheese positioning need to be refined

Plan 2 – Session Goal 2

Finding out if the game meets the expected player experience goals. (Get a sense of excitement and tension)

The collected quantitative data from player survey forms:

Question Player Response Score
1 2
The game was exciting to play 5 5 100%
The game gives some moment of tensions 5 5 100%

 

Player observation and note reviews:

The playtesters generally gave positive response to the excitement of the game prototype. The player seems to be energetic and passionate in completing the levels. At some points where they were gonna make a big jump, they encountered a moment of tensions. They ultimately enjoy the excitement and tensions throughout the playtesting session.

Based on the relevant data mentioned above, there are some standing out key findings:

  • The target demographic playtesters are 100% excited when playing the game
  • The participants encountered moments of tensions during navigating the characters to jump over platforms
  • The participants’ experiences meet the expected PX goal.

Plan 2 – Session Goal 3

Finding out if the players find the game world appealing.

The collected quantitative data from player survey forms:

Question Player Response Score
1 2
The game world is enjoyable to look at 5 5 100%
The character is enjoyable to look at 5 4 90%

 

Player observation and note reviews:

The playtesters responded that the character is good looking when prompted a question during the playtest session. The participants stated that the game world, furnishes and elements look enjoyable. There are no much commends about the appearances of the interface, indicating that they perceived every objects in the game well and suitably.

Based on the relevant data mentioned above, there are some standing out key findings:

  • The game world is enjoyable to look at from both participants’ perspective
  • The character is enjoyable to look at from both participants’ perspective
  • The target audience demographic see the game world relatively appealing enough

Recommendations

Based on key findings and playtesters’ feedbacks, some potential changes and improvements to the overall game design need to be considered. These includes:

  • Add UI that informs the number of remaining and already collected crackers in the level to avoid players missing crackers
  • Add some friction to the platforms to increase character stability
  • Increase the length of the platforms to make the players easier to jump into
  • Increase the sesitivity of wall jump
  • Place crackers in the more easily reachable spots
  • Add more lighting to the platforms and reduce the light for background to make them visually more separatable
  • Add more platforms in the top right corner of level 4
  • Widen the platform in the bottom right corner of level 5
  • Add an additional level for tutorial that slowly introduce players with the controls and mechanics of the game
  • Add arrows that points to crackers or cheese to guide players where they have to go.
  • Reposition portal in the level 2 because players are mostly confused where to go after collecting the cheese
  • The rat enemy should be redesigned more nicely instead of just using sprites

Appendix

Questionnaires, Surveys, and Notes

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- Reflection

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

I struggled with programming as it is a new skill for me. I understand what can be done and the length of time that is required for programming and feel that is necessary for the profession of game designer. I have been able to work out any difficulties I came across when learning new things by observing my team mates and asking for help from tutors and team mates when I need it. I have also sought solutions to some obstacles by familiarizing myself with new concepts by looking on line in discussion forums. I still feel my programming skills are not great but I have a basic understanding and hope to build on my knowledge base in the future.

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

There are a number of non-technical skills that I have developed during the semester. Firstly, time-management. As I was sick in the first part of the semester I fell behind in what was required. For this task, I was aware of the time required and didn’t want to fall behind again so I tried to always be ahead in the project and planned my time better. Another important skill is that of playing to the strengths of each team member. I feel that my skills were strongest in design and story, whereas my team mate’s strengths were in programming and construction of the game. Working in a team environment also helped to develop our communication skills. It is essential to listen to other’s ideas and be clear in expressing your ideas to others. Concepts that may be clear in your own head may not always be clear to others and you must be able to show them by talking, drawing or showing examples of already existing games. Compromise is a skill that is significant in decision making. You learn to be open and flexible to changes in your own ideas if someone suggests something different that would be better for the game. Another non-technical skill that I developed is that of delegating. To manage the workload, it is necessary to break down the project into parts and delegate each team member tasks to complete. Delegation requires trust in your partner’s abilities and work ethic, and it is important to have frequent meetings to make sure everyone is on task.

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

For managing my own activities, I set myself deadlines so there was a sense of obligation to complete certain tasks by a certain time. For managing team activities our team used Facebook messenger to communicate with each other and discuss the information that was needed to get each job done. We also held regular meetings, every Thursday and Monday, to keep up to date with each other’s progress and assign any extra tasks that may have come up. The meetings were about brainstorming and helping each other with tasks if necessary. For example, it was my responsibility to handle the player experience goals so we all got together to develop what these goals should be and then I organised our ideas and wrote them up. We also used these meetings for giving each other feedback to improve the game.

  1. 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)?

 To work well as a team there are certain ethical responsibilities that should be considered. It is important to treat each team member as an equal with ideas that are valid, even if they are not the same as your own ideas. People need to feel they can express their ideas and be treated respectfully and not have their ideas be ridiculed. Feedback on ideas should be everyone’s responsibility and all team members should be able to give and take criticism in a way that is respectful.

Another ethical responsibility is that each team member must do what they said they would do. If you agreed to complete a certain part of the project then you must do it, and by the deadline that was set. Team members should not be deceptive and say they are working on it when they have done nothing. Also, team members should be honest in whether they have understood what is required of them or if they have the ability to perform the task or not.

The tasks delegated to each team member should be as even as possible in the amount of time that is required to complete them. The delegation of tasks should be clear to everyone and allow each team member to feel they are participating equally to the project. Delegation should be agreed upon by all team members, not just one person, in order to avoid the “good” tasks going to some people and the “bad” tasks going to perhaps unpopular people.

Overall it is important to the success of the project that team members co-operate with each other rather than compete with each other and are respectful in their interactions.

Cycle 3- Playtest Report

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.

Data Collection

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:

Questionnaire Results

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.

Game Play

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.

Key Findings

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.

Survey Results

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.

Appendix A

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)

Recommendations

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.