Cycle 2: Playtest Report

The goals of this playtest following the studio’s playtest plan are to identify the difficulties the player faces in figuring out how to solve the puzzles, the ability of the player to pass the actual puzzles to complete the game, and if the player meets the second aspect of our player experience goal, which is feeling the sense of adventurous throughout playing the prototype.

Data Collection

The playtest was conducted to five participants, including one playtester from studio member, for around 15 to 20 minutes for each participant. 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 15 to 18 minutes were spent for the player to play the prototype and speak out what they were thinking, while I took notes. After the completion of the game, the playtester were instructed to fill the survey form.

The playtester participants are all confidants in video games. In average, all the participants play games for 3 hours a day. Two participants play more than around 5 hours a day, while the other three play around one to two hours. All participants are familiar with keyboard controls since they are all computer gamers. Their preferences are ranging from casual players to intense players, but all of them are already familiar with the movement controls of the prototype.

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

Key Findings

Session Goal 1

Check if the players are able to figure out how to solve the puzzles.

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 3 5 5 5 92%
I always understood what I should do next to solve the puzzles 4 3 4 4 4 60%

Player observation and note reviews:

Generally, all participants managed to figure out how to solve all the four puzzles. The time needed to solve each puzzles differ between each participant. All players immediately knew what they have to do to pass the fallen tree. Some players took time to find the stone buttons. They understood what they have to do with the stone buttons, but many of them spent a lot of time locating for the objects to press, especially the coconut. They tried different things make the coconut drop. Many participants did not perceive well if all stone buttons should stay being pressed to keep the gates open. All participants were surprised when the crates sank after they put in the river, but then quickly realised what they have to do. Participants seemed suspicious with the weight measurement of the crates to float. All participants also figured out how to pass the double gate puzzle after a short time playing with the rock.

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

  • All the puzzles in the prototype were generally solvable by common players’ creative thinking.
  • The first puzzle (fallen tree) was easy to figure out how to solve it.
  • Players could understand how to solve the second puzzle (gate and stone buttons), yet they were not clear with the mechanic of the stone buttons and the gate – “will the gate open if all the stone buttons have been pressed?” or “should the stone buttons stay being pressed to keep the gate open?”
  • The coconut was not visible to players to locate.
  • Players tended to solve the coconut puzzle by experimenting rather than thinking.
  • Players could understand how to pass the third puzzle (the river) given three crates nearby.
  • The weight limit of the crates to float was not clear.
  • The mechanic of the fourth puzzle (double gates) was clear enough.
  • Player could figure out the solution to pass the double gates mostly after experimenting with the rock and the stone buttons.

Session Goal 2

Check if the players are able to complete the game with current difficulties.

The collected quantitative data from player survey forms:

Question Player Response Score
1 2 3 4 5
The game’s controls made it easy to do what I wanted 4 5 5 5 3 88%
The game was frustratingly difficult 2 3 1 1 1 88%
Time needed to complete the game (minutes) 11 15 14 15 16

Player observation and note reviews:

Every participants managed to pass every puzzles and complete the prototype. The total time spent for each participants to complete the prototype differ slightly. Many playtesters had no problems with solving the first puzzle, where they could correctly place the rocks next to the fallen tree and perform a double jump easily. The players mostly tried to locate the stone buttons near the gate, and did not notice the actual path to the stone buttons. Few errors were found when players attempted to place the rock, crate or coconut to the stone buttons. They tended to misplace it to the ground instead of the button’s surface, which made them reposition the objects a few times for the button to get clicked. The real difficulties were found in the third stage (the river). Many playtester found it really hard to jump over the floating boxes. They tended to fall to the river instead, which made them spent the most time in this puzzle. All of them tended to alleviate the crates into 0Kg, which were not heavy enough to carry the players across the river. They seemed confused when the character fell through the river eventhough they have made the right jump to the floating crate. The fourth puzzle was easily done by all participants with a few errors in rock placement and the shooting range.

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

  • The character’s controls were generally easy enough to perform necessary movements to solve the puzzles, such as jump over the crates to cross the river, altering and carrying rocks, etc.
  • The overall prototype were generally in the right level of difficulty.
  • The prototype could successfully be completed by all participants for on average 15 minutes.
  • The double jumps for the first puzzle (the fallen tree) was easy to perform.
  • The location of the second puzzle’s stone buttons were quite unnoticeable.
  • Carrying and placing the objects to the stone buttons precisely were a bit challenging, so players tended to reposition them many times.
  • Jumping over the boxes from one to another to cross the river was very challenging.
  • Bringing 0Kg crate case where players will still fall through it even after a correct landing brought much confusion.
  • Altering the rock’s weight from between the gates was easy to perform.

Session Goal 3

Check if the players feel the sense of adventurous throughout playing the prototype.

The collected quantitative data from player survey forms:

Question Player Response Score
1 2 3 4 5
The game’s background and world was adventurous to look at 5 5 4 3 5 88%
The game was adventurous 3 2 3 4 3 60%

Note reviews:

During playtesting, the participants were prompted with questions relating to “Do you feel a sense of adventurousness?” and “What makes you think that way?”

“Not really, I can say that I am being lost than being adventurous. Especially, when there is no puzzles on the way, for example on my way from the gates to the river, I would feel bored.”

“You can say that. However, I prefer if there’re some other living NPCs, such as deers or tigers to make the game feel more real adventurous”

“Yes probably, but I think the game is more into fantasy and futuristic since you are holding a gravity gun and you move objects around with imaginative effects”

“Yes, the game world looks really well set up for giving adventurous senses, but I would expect the game to be more sci-fi adventurous as you are playing with gravity gun”

“Looking at the environment, yes, but when you play the game I personally did not feel 100% adventurous. Even the background music is a bit relaxing and not relevant to adventurous in a sense”

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

  • Testers did not find the game really adventurous from its gameplay and stories.
  • The game world has been appropriately designed to look adventurous.
  • The gravity gun concept did not support the atmosphere of adventurous.
  • Non-existent of wild animal NPCs reduced the sense of adventurousness.
  • The background music was too relaxing rather than bringing the spirit of adventurous feelings.
  • The gap long distances between puzzles make the players feel bored.

Recommendations

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

  • Increase the height of the fallen tree and add another bigger-size rock which prompt player to perform a triple jump instead of double jump.
  • Give a clearer indirect instructions, such as by direct pop-up messages or additional tutorial points, to explain the mechanic of the stone buttons that tells players how heavy the objects should be to be able to press the stone buttons.
  • Prompt clearer feedbacks that indicate the gate has been successfully opened, such as sound effects and pop-up messages, only when all the stone buttons are pressed by interactible objects for the second puzzle to prevent the dilemmas.
  • Implement radiance effect to the coconut and make the model bigger to be much more noticeable in the game.
  • Give clearer indirect explanations to the exact weight of the crates to be able to float on the river to bring more sense to players.
  • Remove the 0Kg crate edge case in the third puzzle (the river) to prevent confusion.
  • Shorten the paths between the gates to the stone buttons in the second puzzle, as well as between the second puzzle to the third puzzle.
  • Slightly increase the player movement speed.
  • Implement a linearly vertical shadows to interactible objects to allow players identify the location point the object will drop.
  • Increase the size of the surface of the crates in the third puzzle, and increase friction to help players jump to each crates more easily.
  • Redesign the path to the second puzzle’s stone buttons to make it much more noticeable.
  • Modify the gravity gun’s model, visual effect, sound effect, as well as the game background music to be more adventurous rather than fantasy.
  • Add wild animal NPCs to help increasing adventurousness.
  • Bring wilder varieties of nature to the game world, such as wild grass, chasm, giant rocks, etc.

Appendix

Playtest questionnaires, notes, and surveys.

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Reflection Post

What did you learn about professional development by going through the design process?

I found understanding the principle of professional game development by following the complete steps of design activities, starting from designing player experiences to creating a playtesting plan, is really important. This process has transformed my perspective into developing a more player-focus instead of mechanic-focus game. Having journals that lists down how players should experience and feel from playing the game, how they would behave through player stories, and what choices they would have, will give a great guidance to the development process. In my studio, the player experience goal that aims to player’s creativity to think outside the box helped my development to First Person puzzle game concept, and other supporting design journals also improved and sharpened many parts of its mechanics. Overall, I learned that the professional design process would help develop a more robust game by applying player-centric thinking approach.

What did you learn about the other majors in the degree by working in mixed teams?

I personally learned that communication plays a very significant role in game development team since there is no solo game developer. Every members in the studio with varying skill background are equally important. In my studio, every members focused on their main area. I built the whole game mechanics while my partner designed the game world, then we combined those resources together. Since every member focused on different area, maintaining a good communication in the team is very critical in order to prevent significant work mismatches. This has happened to me many times in my personal experiences working in a team, but I think how I and my teammates would respond to it will primarily determine the quality of the final work.

What did you implement in your own individual work that you found the most satisfying?

I found successfully building the interaction between objects through scripts was very rewarding. This included creating the relationship between the gravity gun to either carry or alter the weight of certain interactible objects, which involved playing with physics. This also included the mechanics between the interactible objects and the stone buttons, which were directly related to the gate objects. Overall, what make me find completing this part most satisfying was actually when I could successfully ensure that there will be no bugs among hundreds different possibilities players could face in the object interaction. This because as my personal experiences being a Computer Science student, developing a free-bugs app is extremely challenging. I found that not only finding and fixing many parts of the scripts that contained bugs improved my technical development skills, but it also boosted my confidence in building games.

Do you think that there are any ethical issues attached to designing a First Person Experience inspired by recent events?

According to a personal perspective, one main ethical issue of designing a game using the idea from recent events is a high risk of being tedious. Games are enjoyable when they bring imaginative concepts and uncommon experiences to players, however events are realistics and mostly common – the main idea of the events are similar. It is difficult to turn events into a completely new imaginative and uncommon gameplay. Beside that, building a game concept using recent events most likely has a predictable background story or mechanics, which I believe the excitement would not last long.

Cycle 2 – Reflection

  1. What did you learn about professional development by going through the design process?

From past experience in a project that I completed for INB 280, Fundamentals of Game Design, I already had an understanding of the process involved in game design, however for this project there were more details to consider in building a game around player experience rather than just around the mechanics of the game.

There is a lot of effort and small details that we never considered. There are many choices that need to be made such as: what the storyline of the game will be, how the game will look and feel, how the mechanics of the game will work as well as having to consider what the player would find interesting and motivating. I learnt that it takes a lot of discussion to get the ideas from inside your head conveyed accurately to your partner.

  1. What did you learn about the other majors in the degree by working in mixed teams?

We decided to stick with our strengths in our particular fields. I was a designer and my partner was a programmer and in doing so we managed to produce, in my opinion, a better result with a game that looked more professional. From studying animation I became aware of how various skills are connected to produce a project. For instance, the designer would come up with concepts of how things would look and the animator would come up with the visual representations of these ideas and then the animator would come up with the movements to produce the final product. We found that we agreed on most ideas for the game and we had multiple meetings where we discussed the project in order to come up with ideas and solve any problems. We had no issues with understanding and accepting any of each other’s ideas and I feel we worked well as a team. I feel an appreciation for the effort my partner put in and was grateful for the skill and expertise my partner brought to the project.

  1. What did you implement in your own individual work that you found the most satisfying?

The level design and deciding on what types of puzzles should be used. My experience with games such as Portal and Tomb Raider contributed to the games overall look and feel and I feel satisfied with the games overall presentation.

  1. Do you think that there are any ethical issues attached to designing a First Person Experience inspired by recent events?

  When creating a FPE inspired by recent events it’s important to consider society’s views. We need to be politically correct to a certain degree. There are consequences to decisions to put controversial elements in games whether those are negative feedback or game classifications which reduce your player audience or even law suits. For this game there were no ethical issues. but the first person genre in general may have to deal with ethical issues such as shooting at people or animals, or behaving in a destructive way to the environment. In our game we were merely solving puzzles with the use of inanimate objects and there were no moral dilemmas or questions about values to consider.

Cycle 2- Playtester Report

The aim of the playtest was to identify whether a player could complete the three session goals outlined in the playtesting plan. These were: whether or not a player could figure out how to complete the puzzles, whether or not the player was able to complete the prototype, and whether or not the player felt a sense of adventure throughout playing the prototype.

Data Collection

The playtest was conducted with five naive participants, additionally there was one knowledgeable participant who was connected with the games construction. Each participant had ten to fifteen minutes to complete the four puzzles within the prototype level. Before participants began playing the level they were required to fill out a questionnaire to help understand the types of players the participants were. Below is a summary of the collective data gained from the questionnaires.

Questionnaire Results

Most of the players were experienced video game players, however their response to daily duration of game playing varied. Two thirds of the playtesters use computers to regularly play video games, and the others were still familiar with the controls used for computers. Almost all the playtesters wrote down that our main genre was one of their favourite game genres, which is FPS. 

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 playtest).

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. The participants were also observed whilst playing the prototype so any problems/issues with the prototype could be identified at the time.

One of the first key findings was the size of the level. Due to the fact that the puzzles were spread out and poor placement of the instructional gems, it took players a long time to travel between each puzzle.

Another key finding was that the prototype needed to include boundaries for the players in the form of invisible barriers in order to get them to complete the puzzles as intended. Players were able to bypass obstacles instead of figuring out how to complete the task and move on to the next challenge.

We also discovered that rather than instructing the players on how to complete the puzzles we allowed the players to interpret the solution to the puzzle on their own. As a result, many of the participants began solving the puzzles in ways that we hadn’t intended. For example, when it came to the third puzzle players were required to build a makeshift bridge, however some of the participants found ways to fly over the river using the crate. More of these findings are explained in the video in appendix C.

We found mixed results on observing whether or not the player could complete the puzzles. Some of the participants found them easy, whilst some of the players struggled with the puzzles. With all of the puzzles the players understood what needed to be done, but lacked some missing details that caused the players to be tripped up. For example, the required amount of weight needed for the detonator button to activate.

All the players completed the game in the required time. Overall the players found the game easy however they indicated that the game was also fun and enjoyable to play, as shown by the results of the survey (see below). As the prototype tested was a beginning level it was designed to be easy to complete, however the difficulty level would be increased as the game progresses.

Survey Results

Based on our questioning during playtesting it was difficult to determine whether the players had a sense of adventure during the game. It was determined that the prototypes infancy of development was the factor that made it problematic for players to gain a sense of adventure.

Recommendations

Based on key findings and playtester feedback some improvements to the overall game design need to be considered. We conclude:

  • The displayed weight above the object could be changed to display on the gravity gun in order to retain the game world’s reality and keep the player immersed in the experience.
  • Include all the instructions for the game controls at the beginning of the level. For instance, how to run, jump and control the gravity gun. This would enable the player to focus on solutions to the puzzles instead of how the game works.
  • Adding invisible barriers to the level to keep the player on the correct path.
  • Include instructions on weight requirements for completing puzzles. An indicator is needed to inform the participants that they have reached the required weight to complete the task.
  • Adding obstacles or small puzzles along the way to the main puzzles in order to make the distance between each puzzle more interesting.
  • Adding a game menu for the player to begin the game to improve the visual presentation and be more user-friendly.
  • Cleaning up small visual elements such as height of trees so that players solve the task as intended.