SLIDE: Alpha funding on Desura and pricing philosophy.

So, finally (mostly for us) we’re ready to release SLIDE for alpha-funding, on Desura. This will happen on april 25, 2014. Hooray!

In this very first Desura build you will find at least 15 levels, which should be enough content to keep you playing for 2 hours. I’m sure you are well aware that this is a playable alpha, which means that there will be lots of stuff missing. But we made sure that the game is stable and there are no progress-blocking bugs. If there are – you can skip the level, but this feature won’t last long – we are planning to get rid of it shortly.
Also, do not be surprised to play without sounds and interface (you do not need the latter)

You might have noticed that we claim to have versions for PC, Mac and Linux, but only windows version is currently available. Two other versions will be added shortly.

Anyway, pricing. Without any doubt purchasing a half-made game is a huge risk for you. Our pricing takes that into account. As we will add more content to the game the price of the game will gradually rise. The earlier you buy it – the more you save, potentially.

So, the game is divided into 3 chapter, 25 levels each. As we are working on the first chapter and SLIDE costs $2.99. The plan is to add $1 to the price tag every time we complete a chapter. And $1 after the round of polishing. Those numbers are not set in stone, but that’s the plan.

Needless to say, no matter when you decide to purchase SLIDE you will constantly get new builds and eventually a complete game.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you like SLIDE. Have fun!

Desura Digital Distribution

Greenlight_button_small  indiedb

SLIDE – Greenlight and IndieDB

 So, finally, we are on Steam. Well, not on STEAM Steam… We’ve submitted SLIDE on Steam Greenlight, like 20 hours ago.

Now, everyone says that Steam is something different, and it is. Before that, only couple of people have seen our game. In less than 1 day, almost 2000 people has seen our game. Or at least the page of our game. That is a lot, and it’s just the first day. And what’s more important, there are people who like it. Frankly, this is the most excited I’ve been for last several years. On the downside, instead of working on the game I’m constantly refreshing game’s page to see the numbers rise.

Upvotes, as heart-warming as they are, are not the only one thing we got from submitting to greenlight – actual, real players send us their feedback. And it is useful in 2 ways:

1) it is highly motivating. I mean it – just one person saying something like “I kinda like it” means the world to me, and makes me wanna make SLIDE better in every aspect there possibly is.

2) there is stuff I’m blind to, just because I see it every day. New players have fresh eyes, they do not know that “it’s just for now and will be better in such and such ways” – they just see flaws and report them. ANd it is really good! Of course, there is the matter of filtering the feedback, but having it is definitely going to benefit the game.

Of course, not everyone like the game – and I knew that’s the way things are. But still, everything has “the other side”. And the hardcore 2d platformer is not supposed to be universally loved, but on the emotional level I’m a bit sad that some people vote “not interested”. I know that it’s the way it should be, and if I were not bothered by “downvotes” I guess I would by bothered by the fact that I’m not bothered… 

Anyway, we have also submitted SLIDE on IndieDB – those of you who do not know, it’s like the main hub of indie games, linked to a digital game store Desura, which is the platform we hope to have SLIDE on, when it is ready for sales.

Anyway, if you are interested in hardcore 2d platformers – take a look at the playable demo:

If you like the gameplay, here’s our Greenlight page, where you can vote for us (thanks): http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=231718917

Greenlight_button_small  indiedb

First round of playtesting

Today was fun. I put together 5 levels, waited for a lunch break and ambushed several co-workers. I watched them closely as they suffered through the finger-breaking challenges.

The purpose of this test was to determine if my core feature – the controls system – has the right to exist or it should be revised.

The first victim was discouraging. He had lots of problems as he could not see the basic logic behind what defines the jump. And even if he did try to do the right thing he failed miserably. It was a torture, not only for his fingers and ego, but for my eyes and confidence as a game designer. Not really surprising, considering that he’s not into platformers, but still demoralizing.

He said that it was kinda fun, but I know, for him it was not.

finger-knots

The metaphorical effect of my game on people.
Pic source: foundshit.com 

I approached my second victim with bad expectation, but there was still hope – I knew he’s a masochistic Super Meat Boy-and-like fan. Right away he started to experiment muttering “oh, I see” every 2 seconds. In just 15 seconds he got more understanding of the game than my first prey. He was good. Not in a way “he does stuff the way I expect him to do” but rather in a “I have a plan and I will stick to it and I will improve my skill” way. Yes, he chose actions I’d never say are obvious (and they are like 5 times tougher to pull off than the “optimal route” I planned), but he never got discouraged (despite or because of swearing A LOT). He obviously had fun during those 5 levels, and I had fun watching him suffer \ play.

When he was done with what I had to throw at him I showed him “the supposed way to pass some challenges” and we shared a laugh. “I love to come up with absurd solutions and succeed with them”, he said not without pride.

The good news is that as soon as he grasped the principle the controls work, he became pretty excited about it and totally made my day.

The third playtest was not planned, but my colleague saw us playing and got curious (poor fella), so I decided to collect more data. Well, he did weird. He struggled with the most basic moves, but easily completed several rather hard chains of moves. The internal logic of the controls was a mystery for quite some time and by the 3rd level I thought he would quit. But at the level 4 there was some sort of “eureka” moment and I could feel the enjoyment (and understanding) level rise. In terms of positive (for game, not my ego) feedback he was the most helpful one – I spotted several places to improve level design and to better convey the basic controls principle (and yes, I want players to experiment and find stuff “on their own” rather than to feed them info with a tutorial).

Slide 2014-01-21 21-23-21-65 png

This violet thingie says “experiment”, but noone seems to understand / care / try to do so. On a side note – on this picture you can see like 60% of the level and it really takes practice to complete it.

Oh, by the way, this last dude is no stranger to platformers, but not as hardcore as Super Meat Boy. So that means I’m pretty much in the place I wanted to be, as I was making a game inspired by Team Meat’s SMB.

Anyway, my worst fear that the core feature would not be understood, to some degree, was confirmed. Good news is that the problem seems to be not in the system itself, but in the fact that I do poor job at giving players right hints. As long as I find the way to better communicate it, I should be fine.

Also, what I’ve found out is that people choose anything but what expected them to. Of course I knew it would be so, but I could not imagine in what ways this phenomenon would translate to an SMB-like platformer. And I did design most of the levels in a way that allow some deviations, I just thought they were smaller.

Another fun observation – even if there is an explicit directive to experiment, people tend to think of one plan and stick with it even if it obviously does not work until it starts to work.

Also, it seems to have little to no use to watch someone else play. That third tester observed the second one for some time, but he made lots of the same mistakes (and lots of his own) regardless. Just a fun observation. =)

This game is supposed to be difficult. I want players to jump right at the edge of the cliff. And I expect them to time their actions. It is not simple and it was usually the reason my testers died. However not all deaths were resulted in their inability to do so – obviously I made several mistakes in level design. It’s a good thing I now know them now and I will fix them ASAP (probably today).

Although the game IS supposed to be challenging and I expect players to die like 10 times on each level, I looks like that ATM I’ve made it a bit too tough.

Slide 2014-01-21 21-16-09-54 png

“WTF am I supposed to do?!?!?!? and HOW did I just do it?!?!?” seems like the most natural reaction in this situation. FYU you can’t just run under those spikes and you cant just jump over that small spike-hill…

So what’s next?

Fix the levels, think of a better way to explain the controls without actual explaining, and test again. Sadly I won’t be able to use the same people (unless I test new levels), so I’ll have to find someone else, like you. But I feel wrong showing only 5 levels, so it might take some time. Also there are some things I am uncomfortable with (like the fact that the game still has no name), so they need to be fixed.

On a side note, if you wonder how big\small  one level is, think of SMB. They are approximately the same.

Anyway, if you like challenging platformers you might consider warming up your fingers and prepping extra keyboard.

 

Tweet, share, comment. You now how it works =)

BG2MVG11: Update

Hi there.

So, last time I mentioned that we were undergoing transition to 3D. Indeed we played around with this concept, and found out that

  • It requires way to much effort
  • It looks COOL
  • It is harder to navigate which requires challenges to be altered and simplified
  • It looks really COOL

The pros and cons were close, obviously, but with pain in my heart I have to say that we have rejected three-dimensionality and returned to 2d.

The “story” was altered but that deserves its own post (one that I promise to write since July).

Anyway, we’ve had some progress. I mean that we’ve finally implemented proper progression and death. Well, not death, but death, death, death, DEATH. Because it happens a lot.

What we need to do now is:

  • Graphics
  • A bit of polish
  • A name for this game

And we’ll be ready to upload playable demo in the net!

So stay tuned and we’ll see what happens next =)

BG2MVG 10: Changes, Artist and 3D!

Hi! I guess I should report on what’s up with the game =)

First of all, an artist has finally joined our team. Yay! Looking forward to… See (and show) what we’ll be able to achieve together =)

Secondly, currently the game is being dramatically visually changed. The gameplay will not be affected by that, hopefully (the gameplay is kind of hardcore and I have no intentions to change that).

So, for example, this is how the very beginning of the first level looked like previously.

old lvl

And this is what it looks like now (yes, this is exactly the same place).

new

Of course it’s no good for a final game and it will be changed and upgraded. Think of it as of a blueprint for an actual level, which will hopefully look a lot better. As for now, the whole “blueprint” was constructed with Unity standard assets or were very roughly sketched in the 3ds Max.

Third change lies in the game structure. Previously I was thinking to make levels like the ones in the Super Meat Boy. But now I am drawn to a seamless world, like the one in Limbo or Trine. Of course it will require me to alter my level layouts in 2 ways:

  1. I will have to eliminate all the “dead ends”. I had plenty of those initially, because why would I care that it’s a dead end where the player has to go to pass the level? He would immediately start the next one. after all. Now this won’t work.
  2. I will have to include “have a rest” sections. Previously most levels were build to challenge players. And one could catch a breath between those short levels. Now, it would be unwise to chained hardcore challenges into one mega-challenge. Pacing is important =)

And of course 3d gives a lot of freedom to toy with camera and that’s what I am looking forward to do.

So, stay tuned and we’ll see what happens next!

BG2MVG 09: The Value of Playtesting

In this series of posts, I describe the process of me making a brand new 2d platformer from scratch. You can read the intro to this series here.

Also, this series is called a “guide” but it does not mean anyone should do things the way I am, it’s just the description of my action, which can be used as a guideline for someone who has never been developing games. Or you might be better off doing just the opposite of what I say=).

Hello everyone.

Last time I’ve published a new gameplay video, with moving platform, deadly spikes and narrow tunnel. This level was planned to be on of the earlier ones. Today I gave it to my brother, who is fully aware of game mechanics, because… well he is the programmer of this game=). I expected him to pass it rather easily, especially given the fact that he saw my video and the way to pass this level.

During this playtest session several interesting things have happened.

  1. This level is MUCH more challenging than I’ve anticipated. Yeah, I know, the “curse of knowing” and it was taken into account, but still, I was really surprised to see poor orange ball die again and again.
  2. As far as I could see, the fact that he saw my walkthrough changed nothing. It didn’t help him much. After all, when one has to do something really quickly he does not think of some video. Reflexes are what matters. Apparently I have miscalculated the learning curve. Well I have no chart of that curve or anything, but I should give more similar but simpler tasks to players to master before this very level may be presented to them. So now I have to tweak sequence of levels a bit.
  3. No matter how constrained the level is, there are always ways to play it “wrong”. Well, not wrong, but differently. For me this part is always fascinating. Somehow, when player does something I never thought anyone would do, there is some strange sort of connection with him. And of course I am to assess those “gameplay variations” – some are perfectly valid and are actually better then my original plan. And some are not and have to be taken care of.

It’s been said billion times – playtesting is essential, feedback is the real treasure, do it as soon as possible. And the initial plan was in accordance with this concept. We planned to prepare a demo version with 20-25 levels, with somewhat good-looking visuals and concentrate on the Steam Greenlight and crowdfunding campaign. But so far we failed to find a reliable artist (predictably enough people hesitate to work for free). So here is a new plan: we are preparing a demo version out of the assets we currently have and give it for you to play. We keep looking for an artist, and we hope this demo will prove that we are not giving up this game.

If you think this series could be interesting and have not yet subscribed to this blog – feel free to do so. Do not forget to share this post and comment on it, we really could use some publicity and feedback. Thanks!

Good bye and we’ll see what happens next!

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We are looking for a 2d artist who would help us determine the visual style of the game (our thoughts on this matter will be discussed in the next article) and aid in prepping crowdfunding campaign.

If interested, please, contact me!

Skype: arseny1987

Email: arseniyshved@gmail.com

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