I thought I'd forgo the usual Tech Tree post this week in favor of an anecdote. Please visit BYOND Strategy for this week's column. Three new games have been added to the featured list, a new turn-based battle has been added, a postmortem was written, and numerous reports on a variety of strategy games are available. I can toss IGF winner Inventive Dingo's name into the mix as one of the featured game owners if it helps any. (You don't read this thing anyway, do you, Crispy?)
I recently released (and updated... and will likely still be updating) Wrangle, Warp And Weep. It's an arcade action game for a single player that I made with BYOND. It involves timed collection of panicking people by a futuristic rescue worker with occasional fits of insanity. I've had a lot of fun testing it and at least some people are having fun playing it.
However, I've had to adopt a filter on the feedback. That's not something I'm used to. My pool of players has never been very large, but those who speak usually understand what I'm going for.
As far as arcade games go, I'm a Williams fan who grew up loving Joust, currently adores Bubbles, and nods in agreement when Eugene Jarvis explains the power of rage in Robotron:2084 on Digital Eclipse's PS1 collection (even if I can't play with dual joysticks). Wrangle, Warp And Weep is strongly influenced by Bubbles and has a bit of Defender thrown in. I'm not saying they're equal in quality, and applying a space theme to Bubbles probably earns me some shame, but they're what I was thinking of. I wanted bite-sized sessions of quick deaths to force a user to learn how to play.
It was suggested that the game's difficulty be toned down. I complied, but I hated the result. I kept thinking of the "Wii is for babies" quote I heard in an IGN podcast. I don't know why.
The next suggestion was to add difficulty in later stages by adding new content. Though I had been suspecting it earlier, it became painfully aware that the person who was kind enough to give me most of my feedback, something which I have asked from BYOND players both for myself and other developers, just didn't understand what I was going for.
From that person's perspective, an arcade game should be easily accessible and exploratory, like Super Mario Bros. I don't know if the fellow game developer managed to miss the hype of The King Of Kong, but it seemed to have been forgotten that beloved Miyamoto was repeatedly hurling barrels and fireballs in arcane patterns earlier.
Through no real fault of the player's own, the references I had made to Williams games, both in questionably imitated mechanics and in explicit text, went over the person's head. And, though it may have started in ignorance, it was done in kindness. The person was attempting to ignore the influences in order to judge the game on its own merits. That's respectable. It's too bad the schools of design don't quite mix.
There's a certain point where, no matter how forthcoming the players have been, a developer has to say no... At least, there is for a lone developer who isn't likely to make any money with the project either way. ;)