So, as I mentioned in the previous post, I spent last weekend sending out a build of the game to several testers. Because the game is starting to get a bit large, I decided to cut out a couple of the areas which will be in the full game in order to focus the demo only on things that have changed.
What was left took most testers around 2 hours to play through, although some finished more puzzles than others. I’m uncertain how much additional playtime the removed areas would be, but I believe what was tested is a substantial portion of what’s in the game at the moment, so I wouldn’t expect it to add more than another half hour or so.
That’s obviously not really indicative of the final playtime of the game, as things will probably change and some areas will be expanded or reduced in certain ways. I’m a bit ambivalent about the length of the game, as the game is both intended to be “as long as possible” and “wasting as little time as possible.” I’m not entirely certain that it’s not entirely wasted time free, as there is still a lot of traversal time, especially for players who want to leave areas and return to them later. That’s certainly a problem that I hope to solve before shipping a final version of the game, probably by allowing players to warp in/out of each area.
Across all 5 testers, all puzzles were solved at least twice, so that’s some good evidence that the game is at least not totally off in cat hair moustache land. I’d like for people to have a hard time with at least some puzzles in the game, but at the moment there were really only two puzzles which totally stumped people. Not to say that the puzzles were easy, some players would easily spend 10 minutes on some panels. But I would like there to be quite a few more puzzles in the final game that cause people to pack their bags and go home without solving them, as long as they’re good puzzles.
For the most part, most of the things in the game are working the way they should be working. There weren’t many catastrophic failures, but I did have an issue crop up that I’m not entirely certain how to deal with.
(The following could be considered to contain minor mechanics spoilers for puzzles in the game. I don’t describe how the mechanic works in detail or show any puzzle solutions, however.)
One of the issues which came up in this round of testing is one which I had already considered for some time, but have been unable to really come up with a proper solution to. And that’s for the puzzles in the “dice face” area.
For reference, the puzzles look like this, where they have tiles which are marked by black or white dots. The color of the dot indicates whether the tile should be on or off. As a player, which of the two answers on the right would you presume to be a correct way to interpret the symbols? Stop for a moment and think…
If you chose the one on the left, congratulations! You’re correct.
The issue, however, is that many players see the solution on the right as more intuitive. This is not particularly out of the question, as white meaning “turn it on” is quite a natural assumption, and I make use of that assumption elsewhere in the game. It makes sense, but there is an issue. Really, two issues.
Firstly, that when the player solves a puzzle, I light up the panel tiles which were highlighted very bright. In this case, white:
The issue should be immediately apparent here. If the correct answer is white on white, that means there is no contrast and we cannot even see the white dots anymore. It is difficult to see the black dots as well, but this could be remedied by choosing a brighter panel background color.
Alright, but I could still solve this issue in one obvious way, which is to make the solved panel color be something other than white, or make the white dot colors be not as bright, both of which are shown below.
This is fine a fine solution, apart from my other reason for choosing contrasting colors, which is simply for the aesthetics.
Where are the Dice?
There are puzzles later in this area which have more dots per each tile. The patterns of the dots are the same as those which are found on the faces of dice or dominoes.
Notice something about how dice and dominoes are colored? Notably, they are colored for contrast. Black on white or white on black.
There is another aesthetic consideration when it comes to the coloration, which you will find at the top of this blog, but I’m reproducing below in case I change the blog design later on:
If I take as a solution to change the solved color or the dot color, we would get the following:
Neither of which really look very good or imply what the original means to. This is a somewhat less important point than the previous one about the dice, but I believe it still stands.
Okay, so you may be thinking about one other possibility which I have not thus far entertained. Why not simply outline the white and black dots?
The issue here is, I think, quite apparent. I just don’t really have the pixels to go around to properly outline them. The five white dots on a white background is just a mess and doesn’t read properly as five dots.
Perhaps if I make the individual tiles bigger?
This solves the readability issue, but my concern now is that it is not very apparent which of the two possibilities is correct simply based on the visual.
I have perhaps rambled about this one point for long enough, but suffice to say it is not a problem that is entirely simple to solve, and I wanted to be clear about how much I have thought about it. I think I have a bit of an idea on how to mitigate the issue with future players, however. As I think a big part of the confusion is the lack of awareness of why they are even that way in the first place. So, I will try priming players with the idea of dice before they enter the area and this may help them to make that connection.
Even if it doesn’t, I have not had a ton of testers complain about this issue, and I believe I have at least two other minor changes that can be easily made to reduce confusion in the area.