We hosted our second formal playtest last Friday at the Entertainment Technology Center. We began by targeting our classmates that we knew had experience with FPS or Rhythm games then filling out our 14 slots with other people that self-identified as FPS or Rhythm gamers. It was a huge breath of fresh air to have all players that fit into our demographic as opposed to our previous playtest.
There were a number of hypotheses confirmed by the playtest and we received a lot of great suggestions of ways we can still improve the game. In between this playtest and the previous playtest, we had added a few different things to provide feedback for the players. We finally added sound FX for various events, such as when a player takes the lead, somebody has been neutralized, when the crossfader is moving etc. One thing that is unique about our game is how the music is louder and more heavily featured than in most games, so there is not a lot of sonic room left for the SFX. Equalizing the SFX can help, but especially during the drop we can’t count on SFX too much to provide feedback.
Due to some of the additions we made, clarity of the game was generally a lot better in this playtest, but remains a critical area that we need to improve. It was very encouraging to see how many people loved playing the game and expressed interest in playing more.
One of the things we are constantly battling is the fact that our players are usually focused almost entirely on the notes coming across the screen, making it very hard to notice anything else in the scene. Players only occasionally have a chance to notice things like: The score, their health, changes in the arena’s environment, what color they are, etc.
The best place to get the player’s attention is in the center of the screen, where they are already focused on because of the notes. We had already been leveraging that by adding text to notify the player of events such as when the drop is coming, when a player takes the lead, when players have been neutralized, when beastmode or combobreakers have been used, and also we are using a combo status indicator in the center of the screen.
After the playtest, we decided to utilize the center of the screen even more. Up above you can see the score closer to the center of the screen. When a player takes the lead it will move the score from the top to the middle temporarily to show the players and also to reinforce the connection between the text/score and where the score is located. Also when your health is low you will now get an indicator near the center of the screen that stays until you are neutralized.
You can also see a clearer gun that takes up less percentage of the screen in the bottom right and a new player icon/health indicator in the bottom left that helps reinforce which color you are. Also the notes for each player now reflect what color you are so you can see what color you are without having to look anywhere else on the screen.
Menus and Endscreen
Before the playtest, we also implemented a simple menu system and end screen. The menu screens are all placeholder now (Elizabeth is working on prettying them up) but allows for switching options, selecting songs and eventually will have a small how to play video and credits as well.
The end screen clearly shows the winner, your score, kills/deaths, your highest combo, and your rhythmic accuracy.
Pushing the Crossfader
One large issue that we noticed in both of our playtests was that a majority of players spend nearly all their time standing right next to the crossfader. While we wanted players to be going for the crossfader as much as possible, it is pretty boring if that is all they do because it creates a lot of stalemates. A while back we had added the beastmode item which at least provided some motivation to spend time away from the crossfader, but it wasn’t enough.
After the first playtest we experimented with making it so if both players stay inside of the crossfader circle for 3 seconds, then an explosion will knock both of them away from the crossfader. This partially achieved what we wanted, but still was making quite a few stalemates with players typically just rushing back to the same spot. Also, great FPS players were more easily able to circle their opponents to control the crossfader. Intuitively, we felt that you should be taking more of a risk to push the crossfader, so we designed a new system where the crossfader pusher is much more vulnerable.
We are currently testing making it so you cannot shoot while in the crossfader circle. In the picture above you can see the weapon is on the cyan player’s back because he is pushing the crossfader. Now there is a little bit more nuance to the strategy rather than just always trying to stand next to the crossfader no matter what. We have still found some emerging dominant strategies, but by adjusting the re-spawn time, damage dealt, and player speed, we have found it getting closer to the balance we imagine. We will be testing all of these additions as soon as we can to see how well it is working.
Thanks for tuning in!