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New School Blues Dev. Diary #35: Playtesting Changes Part 2

On the 14th of February, 2013 we added a second entry on game changes brought about by playtesting regarding New School Blues. This post focuses less on game and puzzle design and more on cosmetic changes that can make a big difference.

Last week we talked a bit on how gameplay design had been tweaked on account of beta testing feedback.  Playtesters played through the game and then gave us comments, which we then addressed as much as humanly and technologically possible within our development window.  But gameplay isn’t the only area that needed more polish and with the help of outside eyes we got feedback on how to improve the game cosmetically to not only look and sound better, but improve intuitiveness, immersion and player interactions.

Another comment we received a few times was that some of the characters didn’t seem “alive” enough.  There wasn’t much movement on screen besides your character, which lead to the world feeling a bit lifeless.  We addressed that comment by adding a lot more idle animations.  An idle animation is what we call it when something animated on the screen isn’t moving, it continues to be animated.

 


For us and many classic gamers, this was the first idle animation we had ever seen!

 

For example, let’s say the Mrs. Singh is standing in the schoolyard to supervise children.  If she stood perfectly still it would get the main point across (Mrs. Singh is standing there) but adding some idle animations of her casually turning her head to look around, checking her watch, shuffling her feet, etc, can really liven up her character and bring personality to the scene.  That being said, most of the characters in NSB already had idle animations, but with the extra time afforded us by Untold publishing the title, we knew we could go back and add more.

Another recurring bit of feedback was that in clicking to advance text and narration, people would click too fast and miss lines of the story.  To address that we changed the interface from being clicking anywhere advances the action, to the player must click a certain area to advance the action.  Granted this is not a 100% flawless fix since we had a couple people comment that constantly clicking on that area can be grating for some, but we felt it was a balance we needed to maintain since between missing the story and a minor inconvenience, missing the story is much more aggravating to the player.


Aw crap, now I’ll never know who ran away with the spoon!

The latter instance illustrates a common problem when modifying your game’s design: sometimes tweaking one aspect of the game affects another.  It’s up to developers to balance out the consequences of said tweaks and go with what is best for the game and the user’s experience.

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