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My critical design mistake

2017-08-25 14:39:51 by Maxiecole

Before adressing my critical design mistake in Hobbling hero (and dragonmyths) I should adress my first mistake, rushing the completion of the game. Every other comment was about some sort of bug. The launch was a mess, unexepected freezing and crashing, as well as weird uncompleted features that I forgot to leave out. The obvious best choice was to delay the relase and play through the game and test it properly. Lesson: NEVER say fuck it - upload.

To the game design mistake... I recognized this first when people started PMing me "How do I craft X? How do I get feathers?" etc... Then I saw a Youtube video called "Saving the world, one limp at the time" which was a video commentary of a lively girl playing the game for about half an hour. When I saw her play, she wanted to creatively figure out how to do things by crafting together different items. She tried to use wheat on chickens in attempt to lure them so she would get their eggs. 

The game instead, wanted the player to grind through quests to unlock/learn new features, such as magic bolts to kill the chickens to get their eggs.

Dutch cognitive psychologist Christof van Nimwegen began a study of computer-aided learning a BBC writen would later call "one of the most interesting examinations of current coputer use and the potential downsides of our increasing reliance on screenbased interaction with information systems."

Basically, the study involved a puzzle game where two groups had to transfer color balls between boxes in accordance to certain rules. One of the groups used software that was designed to be as useful as possible, providing visual cues, and displaying hints. The other group used another version with no hints or guidance.

In the beginning, the group with the helpful software solved the puzzles quicker than the other group, as expected. But as the test proceeded, the members of the group using the bare-bones software actually ended up faster than the other, with fewer wrong moves!

Nimwegen reported, that those using the unhelpful software were better able to plan ahead and plot strategy while those who has been reliant on the helpful software, relied solely on trial-and-error and aimlessly clicking around.

This experiement was repeated. The consistantly showed that the users using the unhelpful software demonstrated more focus, more diret and economical solutions, better strategies, and better imprinting of knowledge. The more people depended on expicit guidance from the software the less engaged they were in the task. 

When I watched the playthough video, the youtuber's default state was in a puzzle-solving, engaged mindset. The function of my quests were basically to show the player exactly how to do things, so they don't have to think. This makes the player less engaged and the result is that they expect the game to tell them everything, and their brain kind of shuts off the creative, exploritive, part. So instead of trying to figure stuff out, they PM me "How do I get feathers?" or as I witnesse in the youtube video, it seemed like the player refused to find out things by doing quests, and when they got stuck, they got tired of the game.

The best solution would be to keep the lore, because I think it serves a purpose, but remove the quest's function as a tutorial. Instead of NPCs being guru's and the player being the fool, the NPCs should be in need, an the player should have been the helper. For example, instead of the Wise man telling you how to make a stone club, the player has to figure out for themselves to make a stone club and experiement with different combinations of things to solve increasingly different problems. I would also remove the furnace and anvil's list of recipes. Maybe list those that the player has already crafted.

I want to make a new game to redeem my mistakes, using the same base mechanics, but totally new graphics, and use a Don't Starve type of camera perspective, so 2.5D-ish. I'm thinking about a desert island game where your partner gets sick and you have to find a cure. The game will be in a smaller scope so I have more time to focus on game design rather than the programming, it helps to have done the hard part of the code anyway. I might have to find time in the christmas vacation. So it wont be out for a while. I really hope that this new game will be my first properly "well-recieved" game, The hard part will find an artist. I want to make the game emotional, instead of funny and cute. I'm thinking the title "I'm here for you." The frantic amount of trying to craft/interact with differnet objects is supposed to replicate the desperateness of the situation.


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