View Full Version : 2006 PGD Annual: Stage 6 questions

26-04-2006, 11:07 PM
I released a beta version for my stage 6 entry which is still missing some things, but is playable with all atm implemented features.
Personally I designed the levels depending on how "fast" I can go through them, then added enemys here and there, then added a time limit, put an addon here or there etc.
After all that I made the levels MUCH easier as I personally need to get some real action to finish them.

Now nearly all of the people who are testing my Betaversion claim, that they are not able to finish even level ONE after several tries.

My question now:
How much time will the judges take in the end to test a single entry?
I want (and I will) implement every single feature which is needed to get all points for game demo content. But what if the judges won't see it because they just don't manage to come to level 3 because they only play every entry 30 minutes or something?

What I mean is: Should I design my levels as I would to motivate a real player to try again and again? Or should I design the levels as a "blind rush", where you reach the end without any danger, just like using a cheat mode? This way the whole "thrilling feeling" will be gone, no matter what I do. So judges, what do you want to have? Showing all content in a easy rush or do you want gameplay which maybe needs to find out tactics etc.

This is not only a question of level design. This is also a question of BOSS design. This is a "Big Boss" competition and I think it is really important that you design a boss which cannot be defeated within 5 seconds.

So how much time will the judges take to try going through the whole contest entry?


27-04-2006, 01:47 AM
This is only my two cents: No one can really tell you if its too hard or not until they play them. If your testers are telling you its too hard then take it down by 40% and try again. If its easy then take it up some place 1/2 way between. Rinse and repeat until you get it just right.

Balancing game play with difficulty is one of the HARDEST things to get right in game development and (from my companies studies) one of the main reasons games don't go. People either get board or they get annoied.

PS: As I stated before if you want to send me a copy I'll give it a go since their is no way in hell I'll get around to completing my entry (life is just too busy to complete, but I can squeeze in time to play).

27-04-2006, 02:12 AM
Alot of people have very short attention spans and alot of those people play games.

Keep in mind that your interface will always be easier and more intuitive to you, the developer, than it will be to anyone else. What takes you .1 second to get immersed in the game could take 5-10 minutes before a new player is familiar. Plus you know exactly how the enemies move and how to defeat them. As hard as you try to pretend to be a new player, you'll never be able to predict how a truly new player will react.

Fortunately this contest isnt about "quick and simple" games. Given the quite long coding time, 3 levels with bosses, four months to make a new game from scratch.
I think you are safe making a game that takes more than 10-20 minutes to complete. Many of the most successful commercial games have a steep learning curve and take many hours, sometimes months, and fresh tries to complete (Black and White for example).

The whole point of a game, in my opinion, isnt to be spoonfed a bunch of nice graphics and explosions. Its to challenge your mind and reflexes. Otherwise you are just watching a fancy video...;)

oh, and our boss is going to kick the judges ass!!
if they cant beat it, there are cheat codes

27-04-2006, 06:20 AM
What I mean is: Should I design my levels as I would to motivate a real player to try again and again?

Game balancing is long and time consuming, rare are the commercial games, even with teams numbering in the dozens, achieving it...

What you should try to avoid (if possible) is not to aggravate the player, like if you make a half-second mistake 5 minutes in the game, you have to replay the whole 5 minutes, at which point there is still that half-second where survival is decided... So the first time the player gets killed there, give the player a clue to what killed him (by having the camera look into some "interesting" way, having the boss parade its weakness, prompting a text hint, etc.).
Though what is not easy is that to you, the game developper, that half-seconde decision point may not exist, because you know from where to attack the boss, you know the telltale signs and you know *what* to do (even when you try to play naive... f.i. in AirBlast last year, I found during testing that certain people had a whole lot of trouble surviving enemy missiles in the frontal dogfights, while I personnally was untouchable except by the highest-level enemy AIs... I knew exactly how and when to break off or use decoys, knew the maths behind it, knew you could take advantage of missile inertia, etc. while "normal" players had to discover that by themselves through trial and error).

Or should I design the levels as a "blind rush", where you reach the end without any danger, just like using a cheat mode?

IMO that's a bit as bad as "too tough", except instead of aggravating the player, you're boring the player :roll:

There should be a challenge, but split-second failure shouldn't force you into replaying the same "initial" sections of the game again and again. One way is to give the player "lives", so that he respawns a certain number of times nearby, can try several strategies to beat the hot-spot, and hopefully find a way to beat it.
That doesn't mean he'll be able to complete the whole game that way, but that when the "lives" run out and he has to restart, he'll know how to beat that hot-spot (ie. won't be stuck forever on the same spot).

Having levels "unlock" themselves (for direct play from the start menu) is also good IMO (otherwise the first levels become a chore when you've to go through them dozens of time, however nicely designed they are).
To have the player revisit early levels willingly, you have to change the challenge (harder difficulty level with more enemies, "time trial", different weapon selection, etc.).

All of that takes time - a lot of it - so if you absolutely want the judge (and players) to reach some "special" point, make sure to have a walkthrough, hint, or cheat mode... just in case ;)

So how much time will the judges take to try going through the whole contest entry?

Not sure, though personnally if I have to go through the same lengthy section repeatedly, only to die at the very same spot, without any savegame to reduce the 'lengthy' or hint of a way to beat that spot, I'll likely try to cheat my way through. :lol:

Overall, I guess the maximum amount of time will depend on all the other entries: if almost all entries can be mastered in 1 hour f.i., then an entry that would take 10 hours to master would have to be quite above the rest if it wants those 10 hours to be spent for it.
I say "master" though, rather than gameplay length (which may be infinite): there are games that are easy to master, and that can be (re)played many times because they have a level of challenge sufficient enough not to get bored, but controled enough so that you know you can beat it, if you just pay enough attention. :wink: