University of Skovde level design student and Source Engine modder Filip Coulianos devises and puts into practice a way to track and test pacing
in first person shooters in GameCareerGuide's latest feature.
Says Coulianos, "The word 'pacing' has become more and more of a buzzword, but no one has really defined what it is. In this article I will present you my view of what pacing is, and how you can measure it and adjust it to perfect the end user experience.
Working from an existing analysis of the content of Duke Nukem Forever
, Coulianos then breaks down his own Half-Life 2
mod, Project 25
, and maps out the content. He then playtests it to discover how close he came to his expectations, and refines the content from that point forward:
"The basic abstract of Project 25 was like this: 'The player gets introduced to game and her goal (reach station 25) in a rebel base located in a tunnel. The player then progresses through the tunnel, and gets up to street level. There the player battles through combine forces until she finds and saves a couple of rebels. The rebels lead the player to station 25 where the player gets ambushed, survives and finds Alyx.' I then made a breakdown with timestamps of what should happen in my mod.
However, it took many iterations for Coulianos to find the proper pacing.
"In total I did 10 play tests of Project 25 before release. Project 25 was fully playable from beginning to end when I had been developing about one third into the project. I then continually tested throughout the development once or twice a week improving the game each time. I also took notes about completion time for each gameplay element and compared the data between experienced and inexperienced players.
"I found that the sweet spot is about eight play tests (or iterations if you will) is about enough to collect information you need, after that information starts to get redundant. Interestingly enough I found that the game studio Rebellion uses a minimum of seven iterations before giving a section of the game green light for shipping. However really big projects most probably have a lot more than eight playtests.
You can read Coulianos' full report
right now at GameCareerGuide.com, Gamasutra's education-focused sister site.