May 29th, 2012, 12:50 PM
Game design is HARD
I came across a YouTube video today of someone trying to play through the Dirk Dashing 2 v0.8.1 demo. It was very informative.
The first thing he did was turn off the music. I've heard that many gamers do that, but it was still a bit disheartening to watch, especially when I've invested several thousand dollars to get good, quality music. I wanted to shout, "Wait! You're missing half the content!" - but then I realized he wouldn't have heard me.
(As an aside, this is something about gamers I just don't understand. Can you imagine turning off the music when you watch a Bond movie or other film? I remember buying The Man With the Golden Gun on VHS some years ago, and somehow they lost the music in the midpoint of the film. For about 30-40 minutes, there was no music. Dancers at the restaurant were dancing to silence, karate fights had nothing but chop sounds and groans, car chases had no action music to build tension and excitement. It was very flat. I can understand turning off music if a game has a single tune that gets annoyingly repetitive, or if you're in a library or someplace quiet, but to turn off the music without having even heard it... that just ruins the atmosphere that the game designer worked hard to create.)
Anyway, the second thing I noticed was that the player totally skipped the intro comic. In this case, since he is recording a video of himself playing it for others to watch, I can understand skipping it - reading through it would make for a boring video, especially if the viewers can't read it because the font is too small or fuzzy on the video.
Then, after he started the first level, the player quickly got frustrated with the briefcases that pause the game to explain how to play it. I'm not quite sure how to handle this. The guy doesn't like to read (I imagine many gamers are the same way), but if I take out the briefcases, how would the player know how to play?
Next, the player runs past the 2nd door on the street, so he misses getting his mission briefing and initial set of weapons. As a result, when he reaches the first enemy, he has no weapon. But I think I can place an extra dart gun along the main path to compensate for this. I can totally see gamers who replay the game wanting to skip that 2nd door.
The other thing the player struggled with was the cable. It didn't seem like he was able to grab it. Without knowing what keys he was pressing and when, it's hard to know what was happening. It sounds like he was trying to press the Up key, but either it wasn't working or he was pressing it at the wrong time. I'll have to revisit the text for the briefcase hint to make sure the instructions are clear (assuming players bother to read it).
At any rate, the player didn't make it too far into the game. He ended up setting off the alarm by jumping up in front of the security camera, and when he got inside the building, he was quickly defeated - since there were extra enemies and he had no weapons. And at that point, the player gave up and quit.
Sometimes game design can be so frustrating. It's such a balancing act. I have to try to make the first level easy enough for beginning players, and at the same time make it interesting enough to keep playing. I have to teach the player how to play the game, but I can't assume players will read or hear anything. And then when the player gives up and quits because they skipped important information, it's the game's fault (and thus the game designer's failure). Sigh.
Sometimes I think writing business software was so much easier...