For game developers, play tests are a rollercoaster ride, both nerve-wracking and exhilarating. We recently buckled up for this excursion when we put the combat system for our flagship RPG, Project Legends, in front of real gamers for the first time.
We tested a narrow slice of our game — about 10 minutes of fighting off waves of enemies in a small courtyard — and we had very specific goals:
- To test combat controls for usability and intuitive mastery.
- To get qualitative feedback about the game’s concepts and basic combat attack and defense mechanics
- To let players weigh in on some of our newest art concepts.
Setting the Stage
Our test was conducted at the Los Angeles office of Interpret, a premier game testing lab. Eight handpicked players — all with varied gaming backgrounds but each a “core gamer”— were present. This playtest was a litmus test, a golden opportunity for real-world gamers to interact with a build of Project Legends for the first time.
After a brief introduction to the game’s mechanics and objectives, each player embarked on a 25-minute gameplay session. Two members of the Azra team were on-site while the Azra team observed remotely through live feeds.
The Gameplay Challenge
The demo presented a scenario where players maneuvered a brute class hammer-wielding character into a medieval courtyard. Their mettle was tested with consecutive waves of enemies — a mix of swordsmen and archers. Each wave intensified in challenge, with the player’s objective to clear each one before advancing. The crescendo was the fifth wave, and it’s worth noting that only two players triumphed over this final challenge.
Real-time reactions of players, captured on camera, provided Azra with an unfiltered lens into the gaming experience. While some players grappled with the initial wave, others showcased prowess by advancing through multiple waves.
The gaming session was followed by a group discussion, digging deep into the players’ perceptions of the game’s concept and, more crucially, its combat system and controls. Players were able to freely express their experiences, critiques, and suggestions.
I really enjoyed lining up enemies and knocking them down all at once.
The feedback was enlightening:
- The combat system, while engaging, posed certain challenges and limitations. Some players sought more intuitive controls and expressed desires for more strategic depth.
- The varying difficulty across waves was noted. While some relished the increasing challenge, others felt a steeper learning curve.
- The game’s environment and character design were well-received, but players hoped future builds would provide more context and characters’ backstories.
- All players were left wanting more: more ways to fight and block attacks, a variety of enemies, and more types of characters with various abilities like magic and healing.
I loved the splash attacks!
Validating the Roadmap
What stood out from this feedback was its alignment with Azra’s product roadmap. Much of the constructive criticism and positive affirmations mirrored the studio’s own aspirations and concerns for “Project Legends”.
But perhaps the most resounding endorsement came at the conclusion of the session: a whopping 7 out of 8 players expressed eagerness to explore more of what “Project Legends” had to offer. This was not just a nod of approval but a testament to the potential of the game.
For Azra Games, this playtest was more than just an evaluation. It was a collaborative dialogue between gamers and developers, a step towards refining and enhancing “Project Legends”. The insights gained have set the stage for iterative improvements, ensuring that when the game finally launches, it’s not just a product of Azra Games, but a collective creation shaped by genuine player feedback.
As “Project Legends” continues its development journey, one thing is certain: with its foundation rooted in feedback and collaboration, it’s poised to carve a niche for itself in the world of action RPGs.