I’ve come to realize that I am the worst game tester ever; for my games that is. I’ve played Major Escape hundreds, nay, thousands of times. I have escaped the clutches of an exploding planet so many times that my eyes glace over when I see the points screen. In Major Escape, you need to reach a space rocket that will leave the planet without you if you don’t reach it in time. There was a time, a long time ago, when I could not escape the planet. For almost 2 weeks I kept playing, and kept dying, without being able to reach the rocket.
I got better at the game, and today I can beat it in my sleep, which is the kind of progression I want players to have. It also makes me a terrible tester of the game. The game seems easy to me, and I have no idea how difficult it will be for other players. I designed the game to be difficult on purpose, I just don’t know if it’s so difficult to the point of being unfair.
I need testers, of course. But my testers are other developers that I know, friends and family. Some testers are better than others at articulating their experience, so I decided that I needed data on top of the opinions of each tester. I designed a way to get analytics from each tester by simply writing on a text file every single interaction that the tester has with the game. It’s basically a log that writes stuff like: when the game started, when each run has started, how long each run took, the points earned, the points spent, etc. This is not an original idea of course, logs like these are very common in gathering objective data from a player’s interaction with software. This will not be part of the final game, its just part of the testing phase.
With this data I hope to be able to know how much time it takes for a player to get his/her first upgrade, or how many times a player plays every day, stuff like that. Analyzing this data will be crucial for the balancing of the game and it will be a very important tool. Here’s an example of data inside the analytics file:
1 08/04/2015:05:34:26,48479493,0,start_game,25065 2 08/04/2015:05:34:33,48479493,1,start_round,25065 3 08/04/2015:05:35:36,48479493,2,habitat,2,25065,10 4 08/04/2015:05:37:34,48479493,4,escape,142,178963,24,3,3525,28590
This is very basic stuff. It logs when the game started (1), when the round started (2), when the player reached a checkpoint (3) and when he/she finished the level. I hope that with this information I will be able to balance the game in a way that is hard, but fair.
I need to expand the pool of testers, so I’m considering releasing the PC version first and getting as much feedback from that as possible by having new random players play it. So far, this will be a free to play game, with ads. So I have no problems with releasing the PC version for free, and having a bunch of people tell me what’s wrong with it, in hopes that this information will help me build a more solid version for mobile devices. Updating the PC version is easy; Updating the mobile device version, not so much.
The next few weeks will be focused on making the game progression better, juicing it and giving the game some needed polish. Most of the core mechanics are in there, now its just about making them as best as they can be. The beta is coming… I can feel it.