So, it’s been a little quiet around here recently on the blog. That’s because if you listen carefully you can hear our collective noses being pushed to the grind stone… or however that saying goes. We’re hard at work getting as much done as is humanly possible in the month of July. And boy oh boy have we got some sweet new developments to share with you! There’s still a ways to go before we are public beta ready (sorry for the wait to all the Kickstarter beta testers), but it’s gonna be a real treat once we get there!
UI Tweaks and Cold Turkey Testing
As any designer can tell you, any game on the App store will live or die by its UI. It’s probably one of the most important features and most hated parts of developing a game. See, when you’ve spent the better part of a year playing and developing a game, you start to become blinded to ways you can improve the user interface. You get used to the way things are and it’s hard to think outside the box.
Enter the “Cold Turkey Test.” Yes I made that term up, but I like it, so I’m going to keep using it in hopes that it will catch on. A cold turkey test (CTT form here on out) is performed by giving your game in it’s current form to somebody who’s never played it before and watching them try and figure it out. It is essential that it be a fresh set of eyes and that you offer no assistance. Even if you have to sit on your hands and gag yourself, you must remain an observer and do nothing but watch and listen. You’d be amazed at what you can learn.
By listening and watching just a few CTTs, we were able to almost totally overhaul our in-game UI to become more streamlined and intuitive with a few simple changes. We were able to take a ‘decent’ UI and turn it into a minimalist masterpiece of design and intuition complete with bouncing icons (a la OS X), particle effects, and a whole gallon of polish.
Sometimes it takes a fresh set of eyes to give you a whole new perspective. The trick is finding fresh cold turkeys to test your game out on throughout it’s development!
The Devil Is In The Tutorials
A good game MUST have a good tutorial. And a good tutorial must be enjoyable. Portal is of course the epitome of a good game, and in fact it is mostly tutorial.
We’ve been working hard integrating the tutorial into RoboArena. The first 3 levels are essentially tutorial levels introducing the core concepts of the game. Since RoboArena is in a genre all its own, and has a totally unique control scheme and game mechanic that hasn’t been seen on the App store to date (that we know of), it’s important that we nail these. The CTTs have helped us improve these tutorials immensely, and we still may have some tweaking left to do. The trick is making the tutorials engaging enough that the players still feel like they are playing the game and having fun while learning about the mechanics at the same time.
Taking a page from Angry Birds, we introduce new game mechanics slowly over the course of the levels. First teaching the player with plenty of hand holding, then letting them solve some simple problems on their own using what they learned, and finally we present them with a challenge that makes them use this new mechanic in conjunction with what they’ve already learned in the past.
It ain’t easy, but it’s well worth it!
Once we pull it off, you can prepare to be engrossed in the game and on the edge of your seat from beginning to end! Oh, and if you thought getting 3 stars on Angry Birds was hard… you are in for a bit of a surprise in the later levels of RoboArena. It’s gonna get downright devious.
Next up: new enemies, new weapons, and an exciting “New Feature”