Early Feedback Proves Valuable Again

Update #2 from an upcoming action puzzle game for iOS and Android.

I completed another iteration to my upcoming action puzzle game, codenamed “Move the Blocks”.

This is the 2nd playable version and includes input from feedback I got from the first round of testers. The big takeaways were to utilize more player feedback and to change up level progression.

Player Feedback

To be clear, this is my definition of player feedback: any visual or audio response when the player interacts with the game.

I went on a Youtube binge of videos about player feedback, also commonly called “game feel” or “juice”. Basically, the little things in a game that make your game feel good to play but don’t necessarily add to the game play. These are things like an animation when the player kills an enemy, or particles that shoot out when you do something good. It is a vast array of things that make the game responsive and “fun”.

It might not make sense to add juice to a puzzle game, but just look at a game like Candy Crush. Yes, Candy Crush is a puzzle game and yes, it has lots of juice to keep players coming back. Most of my juice was different animations and movements. Audio is something I still haven’t introduced yet.

This is a list of some of the improvements:

  • The dashes along the perimeter now disappear when the ball moves over them. It’s kind of like a Pac-man type visual and adds to the goal of getting the ball to the end.
  • Time rewinds after death instead of just teleporting everything back to its starting position. Blocks move back to where they started, the ball retraces its steps, and the dashes that disappeared now reappear.
  • The blocks grow and shrink when moving them to add a sense of weight.
  • I added more tweening animations to almost everything. The dashes don’t disappear, they shrink out of sight. The levels don’t appear and disappear, they slide in from the left and out to the right.
  • When blocks hit each other, they change colors.
  • Particle effects when the bonus coin is collected or the level is completed

All of these may not seem like a big deal and will go mostly unnoticed. But without them there, the game can feel stale and unpolished.

Level Design

Level design improved a lot as well. I took the 10 existing levels and added an additional 20. Each section is split into 10 levels called a “level set”. Each one has similar gameplay elements. Each level flows into the next as you complete the previous one. After all 10 levels in the set have been completed, your death and bonus coin stats are displayed.

One major gameplay element that I added were blocks that you can’t move, but that the ball can go through. Basically it blocks passage for the blocks on the edge of the game area.

I then gave this new version to a few more friends for testing and more feedback.

The first and most frustrating thing for players was that they had trouble touching and moving the blocks. They thought they were touching the block but the game didn’t register the touch. I am using Unity’s built-in system for handling touch. The fix I made was making the “touch box” bigger on all the blocks.

The next complaint was that there is no way to control the pace of the game. As soon as you die, the level restarts. The players felt stressed when they died a bunch of times while they were just trying to figure out the puzzle. I will implement some sort of pause into the game. Whether that’s just a basic pause button or something else is yet to be determined.

The next thing is making the bonus coins more desirable. There really isn’t a use for them other than adding difficulty. Constantly showing whether they have gotten the bonus in this level and making the coin stand out more are a few ideas that come to mind. Of course you need to be able to use the coins you have collected to buy something. What that is and what the store looks like is still unknown.

The first level is also still confusing players. I originally didn’t want to have a tutorial, but instead have players figure out the game on their own. To a certain degree, that is actually working. No players need further explanation to finish the game. They just don’t like to feel flustered or confused, even if it’s just for a split second. I’m thinking of adding some sort of quick image at the beginning of the first level.

The last thing is how the levels are laid out. There are 10 levels in a set and players were complaining that it’s too hard to go back and replay one if they didn’t get the bonus or want to play it again with less deaths. The concept of level sets is not perfect yet. Think of it like a golf video game, you can’t just play an individual hole, you have to play the whole 9 or 18. I think the first step is to bring down the set count to about 4 or 5. Then maybe add a way to play individual levels. I just like the way the game flows from one level to the next. I don’t want a level end screen after each level that may only last 10 seconds.

There were a few levels that were a bit too difficult for players. It is hard for me to know how difficult a level really is since I am the creator of the puzzles. It’s pretty easy to either make the level slower or take the complexity down a bit.

Iterations will keep happening

It has been incredibly valuable to watch other people interact with these versions of the game. There is constantly something to work on and the game is improving because of it.

Let me know if you want to test the game out! Preferably I would like to be there so I can watch, but I will also have a beta ready soon.

If you’ve made it to the end, thanks again for reading this blog and supporting me! It means a lot. See you next time.

Cheers