One of the hardest things about projects is finding meaningful milestones throughout the “open weeks” of the semester. There are multiple three week stretches without a real deliverable or due date assigned, so at times, it can feel like teams are walking around in the desert waiting to be told to do something. Sure, teams can set arbitrary goals and deadlines for themselves, but it takes a group with a special amount of discipline to really hold themselves to those timelines.
Fortunately for us, we had one of those motivating milestones this week: Playtest Day.
Playtesting is a major design pillar of the entire ETC, as well as our project specifically. With that in the front of our minds, we knew we had to take advantage of the opportunity to test with lots of guests both in and out of our target demographic. We spent the week deciding on final features to implement, game mechanics to stick to and questions to ask our playtesters to get the most out of our 6 hours on Saturday. Here with the iterations we made to get ready for our first guest:
- We added a basic battling mechanic. As guests chased each other and would get closer to the other player, a lightning bolt would zap the other player. Our original thought was that some guests would immediately enjoy chasing each other instead of going for rings, or use chasing as a strategy to immediately steal rings, and wanted to see if that was the case. In the longer term, we started thinking of using “zaps” as a secondary scoring mechanism for players. We did not implement the scoring side of battling for the Playtest, but we did put in the “zaps” just to see if guests could recognize what they were and why they were happening.
- We added *some* collision physics. From other playtesting sessions, we had lots of questions regarding how we would handle collisions with the world. We knew that doing realistic collision physics with chair reactions would likely be too jarring and unsafe for our guests, so we were looking for more subtle ways to “nudge” them to fly back into the playable map. We settled on a colored UI overlay and a slight chair rumble whenever a guest flew their Pegasus into a building or off the map. We wanted to see if that 1) caused them to turn back, 2) caused them discomfort or 3) if that stopped them at all.
- We added more UI ring feedback. Now, different particle effects show on screen when a guest flies through a ring. Little “+1s” fly around if you gain a new ring, but “-1s” could your vision if your competitor takes one of yours. We wanted to see if this visual level of feedback would add sureness to the ring audio feedback.
- We fine-tuned some of our motion sickness solutions like vignetting and motion controls. We figured they would help, but we wanted to make completely sure that they did without hurting the game experience.
- We “changed” our playtesting approach. Our original goal was to just cycle as many people through our experience as possible and give them surveys, but we also felt like we needed to give our guests something more engaging to really understand how they felt – especially when it came to skill development and mastery. Thanks to playtesting guru Jess Hammer, we devised a new system of playtesting that involved playing the experience, letting guests build their own 3D models of a potential new map, and doing a think-aloud of their run through their experience. With these two new activities, guests could give us more valuable insight into actual things they wish they could have seen or done based on seeing what they actually did.
It was a busy week for Front Seat to get all of this done, but it was well worth the effort because of the great results of Playtest Day. We had nearly 40 testers and more than just quantity of play-throughs, we received a volume of unique feedback based on our other activities that brought up brand new possibilities that we had not considered yet. With full hearts, opened eyes and tired everything else, we all took the rest of the weekend off to think about what we saw at Playtest Day on our own.
We have a lot on tap for next week including a full break-down of Playtest Day and what that means for us moving forward, more motion sickness testing and solutions, some potential new faces in the sound department, and even (maybe) a trip to the farm!