Questioneering

by amul on

It's been a long time

Roche Fusion has now been in development for over 14 months, and suffice it to say, it has become quite a bit bigger, and much more awesome, than expected.

Something that has not changed is that our community of players has always been very important to us. Ever since the beginning, we have been asking people for their opinions, suggestions and ideas, all in the hope of making Roche Fusion as much fun as possible. These days, we get almost all of our feedback through our closed beta forums, where our awesome core group of players is not afraid to criticise, talk about, and sometimes praise the changes and new features we are adding to the game.

That sort of feedback is absolutely invaluable, and the game could not be as cool as it is without it. However, by its very nature, it is also fairly undirected. So, since we are now getting closer and closer to our release (watch out for some news on that soon!) we decided to mix things up a bit with the release of the closed beta build v0.17 about two weeks ago.

With that build we included, among many cool new features, a questionnaire with a set of questions on the game's ships, upgrades, and enemies, and we want to thank everyone who took the time to answer those questions! Now, two weeks later, we had the time to do the math, and consider the different viewpoints expressed in that questionnaire.

Since we want to be as open with our community as we can, I am now writing this post, to give you some insight into the results of that questionnaire, and also let you know what changes we already made to the game in response. I wont go as far to give you access to the raw results, but I hope you will trust me to highlight the important things, and interpret them as impartial as possible, given my position.
However, for your inspection, here are the results of the multiple-choice questions, nicely tabulated, with their means and standard deviations, and some neat colour coding:

I am a link to a Google spreadsheet.

So, here we go

Overall, we are very happy with the results we got. While one of course always wishes for more responses and more data to analyse, we got enough to be fairly certain about how players experience our game.

First off, it should be said that from a statistician's standpoint, the answers to most of our multiple-choice questions have fairly high standard deviations, which means that people tended to disagree on those. Below I will go over those questions that, despite this, show a significant trend, and also highlight those few that only have a very low deviation, meaning that people very much agreed on them.

About Ships

The first part of the questionnaire dealt with Roche Fusion's ships.
Unsurprisingly, people have different favourite ships, and some do not have one at all. However, half of our participants share the same favourite ship, the laser ship (which we also call 'The Buddies', internally, named after the two primary weapons of the ship). From their explanations of this choice, it is clear that people find this ship much more powerful than the others.

From the following multiple choice question it further is very clear that people unanimously agree that having a choice of ships is a good addition to the game, as well as that each of the ships plays noticeably different.
Almost everybody also likes the addition of ship-specific upgrades.
Maybe unsurprisingly, those that like ship-specific upgrades the most also say that they are important for the way they play the game, while those that like them less find them less important.

On the other side, our players disagree on the balance of the ships, some finding them fairly even, while some think the opposite. They are also divided on whether they prefer using the same ship, or like to mix it up between runs.

About Upgrades

Regarding upgrades, we again see a lot of different opinions.
While there are definite differences in what sort of upgrades, and what sort of combinations of upgrades, our players prefer, a small number of upgrades got a significant amount of votes as favourite upgrades, compared to the rest.

These are: The Star Laser, the Armour, the L.E.D. laser drone, and to a lesser extend the P.E.W. drone and the Wasps.

In the multiple choice part of this section, we can see that people are mostly neutral about the overall balance of the upgrades. Further, and interestingly, people overall seem to find it difficult to know what upgrades do, yet say that they know how to use them, when they get them (In fact, there seems to be a slight correlation between these two, which is quite surprising to me).

The players seem to further disagree on whether whether to choose upgrades based on the ship one is playing with, how easy it is to get upgrades during the early game, and whether not getting ones favourite upgrades is worth restarting the game.

They do mostly agree however, that they get enough upgrades to properly advance through the game, and also that they do not have too many upgrades during late-game to still use effectively.

The free-form questions in this section, where we asked to explain the choice of favourite upgrades, and to name good and bad combination of upgrades was also quite interesting, though we got too many answers to go into every detail here. Something that is very clear however, is that people play the game in quite different ways.

In general, people seem to agree that there are three different 'builds' one can upgrade to, one being all-passive, focussing on defence, and dealing damage through drones, and other passive weapons, the second being all-active, going for secondary active weapons, and trying to kill enemies before they can shoot back, and the third being a combination of the two.

People varied widely on which of these three upgrade-paths they prefer to follow, one going as far as saying that only all-passive, or all-active are viable builds. At the same time, someone else said that they could only get far into the game with a good combination of the two. One other argument for the all-passive build was that it allows one to focus entirely on dodging enemy fire, thus increasing survivability.

About Enemies

In the third and last section, we asked about the enemies of Roche Fusion.
We asked the players to rate the different groups of enemies by difficulty (and yeah, we forgot to ask about the purple enemies, as was pointed out to us by one participant). Overall, green enemies and red bugs/snakes are experienced as being the easiest ones, while the blue laser drones seem to be the most difficult.

In the multiple choice part, the participants agreed that having more enemy types would be a good addition to the game and that the variety of enemies within a single game is not too much. There is also a mild trend for people to find the way enemies are spawned in the game to be unfair. However, only few people restart the game, when they encounter many difficult enemies in a row.

There is a lot of disagreement on whether progression in the game is based on skill or luck in what types of enemies are encountered. Similarly, players disagree on whether they like or dislike to encounter bosses. There is however a slight trend to the positive in the latter, and people overall experience beating a boss as a rewarding experience.

Analysis and Changes

So, now that we went over most of the results we got, what are we to make of it all?

Ships

Regarding the ships, and after looking into it, we are nor surprised that the laser ship is experienced as the most powerful. There was in fact a bug, where all lasers in the game would have full piercing capabilities, and thus deal much more damage than they should if multiple enemies were lined up. This has already been fixed.

We further discussed the issue and agreed that we want to make the ships even more different than they are now, to make each shine in its own niche and to further increase the replayability of the game. To do this, we actually buffed the damage of the laser ship, and increased the usefulness of one of its unique upgrades. However we also nerfed its shield by giving it a significantly slower recharge rate, and a higher delay between taking damage and recharging. In effect, by giving it the weakest shield, and the highest DPS, we turned this ship into the glass cannon in Roche Fusion's current line-up.

We further significantly buffed the shield of the latest ship, which due to its limited fire-range and guns to the sides instead of to the front has already been described by our players as 'the melee ship'. This buff enables the ship to absorb enemy projectiles, if it is under heavy fire (many hits per second), reducing the damage taken by up to 66%, making it much more survivable in close range combat. We also slightly buffed the effective angle of the unique aiming upgrade of this ship, to make it more useful as well.
Additionally we significantly buffed the damage output of the side-ways firing broadside cannons, also a unique upgrade, by giving them an AoE damage explosion, in addition to their regular damage. This offsets the problem of often not being able to hit anything to the sides, and strengthens the ships inherent abilities to deal with swarms of small enemies.

Upgrades

From the feedback on upgrades, a few things became very clear to us.

The most striking was how overpowered the L.E.D. drone was in the build in question. Upon doing the math, it actually did up to 5-8 times the damage of other passive upgrades. This has since been nerfed. Once, or twice.
It is still a powerful upgrade, but now has much less overkill, and can only hit most, instead of all, enemies in a single hit. It further has a larger cooldown, to balance it better against the damage of other upgrades.

We also noticed how most players like the Armour upgrade, while nobody seemed to particularly like any of the other shield-type upgrades we added recently. We believe that this is partly due to the Armour being part of the game for such a long time, that our players are used to taking it over other upgrades, and instinctively associate it with the ability to survive better. To 'force' our players to experiment more with other defensive upgrades, and maybe see if these are necessary at all, we therefore removed the Armour from the current build of the game. It will probably make its way back in later, but for now we would like to gather both statistics and opinions in the absence of it.

In general, we are fairly happy with how different the opinions of our players are in this area. We think that in a game like Roche Fusion, there should not be one singular perfect build. Instead, we want to encourage the player to experiment and find synergies between upgrades, and fundamentally see what works for them, and what does not.

In fact, the question of synergies is a very important one and will be something we will consider more and more, during this last phase of our development, when polishing and tweaking everything for the final release.

Enemies

From the enemy section we were also able to extract some very valuable feedback.

One clear point is that the green enemies do not fit in with the rest of the game in terms of their difficulty. Fortunately, we were already planning to re-design them to some degree (which has been done, and the changes should appear in the game in a week or two), so we are looking forward to feedback on that, once implemented.
The same goes to some degree for the red bugs/snakes. To remedy this, we added another longer snake enemy, and gave both snakes a rare special ability to fall apart into individual bugs when they die. We hope this will make them both more interesting, and more challenging, especially in late game.

Another clear point is that people like variety. They would prefer us adding more kinds of enemies, and most do not feel overwhelmed by the number of different enemies they encounter in a single game. This is one of the few outcomes of this questionnaire that we can not directly oblige. Adding new enemies, and especially entirely new groups of enemies takes a significant amount of work, which unfortunately does not fit into our current release schedule. However, we are already looking forward to update the game, maybe a few months after release, sort of like a free DLC, with some more enemies, upgrades and ships that would otherwise be lost on the cutting room floor.
What we can do however, and this is something that we are working on as well, is to make sure the enemies we have are as diverse as possible, and know a lot of different tricks. In fact, just the latest version of the game includes two completely new and really cool formations for purple enemies, and more is sure to come.

Lastly, and most importantly, it is clear that we have to increase the appeal that bosses have in Roche Fusion. We wanted to have epic boss fights from the very start of the game, but that alone is not enough. We want our players to look forward to, and have fun fighting bosses, and feel that the rewards are worth it.
We already made several changes to the bosses in this respect, and also brought back a boss we removed some time ago, the red snake boss, in a completely redesigned form.
Additionally we had a long design meeting discussing how to best schedule boss fights, and also how to make bosses less of a grind, while still challenging and fun. These changes, as well as a mountain of graphical improvements (to provide more visual feedback during the fight, but also as reward for defeating the bosses), are already in the pipe and should creep into the game over the coming two weeks or so.

Conclusion

Since this is already a huge post, I will keep it short.

We were very happy with the results of the questionnaire, and are really taking all your feedback to heart, which I hope this post, as well as the changelog of the last build are decent evidence for.

In fact, since we really really care about what you guys are thinking, we made yet another questionnaire for the new build (v0.19, released yesterday), and hope you will take the time to check out the changes that we made, and to fill out the questionnaire to let us know what you think about them.

Thanks for taking the time to read this mountain of a post, and I hope you found it interesting.
Of course always feel free to ask anything you would like to know, and:

Enjoy the pixels!