It has been almost a month now since our closed-beta tester Alarinth wrote a couple of long and detailed posts giving feedback on some aspects of Roche Fusion's multiplayer mode, and the game's pacing in general. He made a lot of good points, and certainly gave us a lot to think about, some of which I want to address here now.
But first, let me explain why I did not get around to this earlier. The most important reason is that we needed the time to think about the issues, to do our best to be sure we address them in the right ways. Game-design can be very complicated, especially once one gets to all the finer details surrounding balancing, especially in a game with so many variables as Roche Fusion.
We in fact had a special design meeting, and several discussions online both before and after on both the topics mentioned above, spread over the last few weeks.
The second reason lies within the nature of the development process itself. It is very difficult to stop and drop whatever one is doing whenever a player gives interesting feedback. If we would do that we would never get around to actually finishing anything properly. We often have to prioritize getting something else done first, possibly delaying our response to criticism and suggestions, to make sure the game as a whole moves forward. On the upside, this time does already allow for some reflection on the issue, and it also allows other players to respond, if they feel similarly, or differently. On the other hand, this pipe-lining is also necessary to make sure we do not run out of work when we do not get a lot of feedback for a while.
This last point might be mostly relevant to my own way of working, but I find it much easier to concentrate on what I am doing if at least the next few days are already planned out, and I do not have to also worry about what I will do after the thing I am doing. Having to pick something new of a list every few hours takes much too much time for me. Instead I usually plan each week ahead as best I can. While this increases my response time to feedback by up to a week or two, it does allow me to work very efficiently, always being busy with something or another. On a related note, it also is much easier to finish features that are less fun to work on this way, since scheduling such an item is much easier if one does it a few days in advance, instead of in the moment.
But enough of that.
What I really wanted to talk about was some of the feedback we got. And for now, the topic will be the overall pacing of Roche Fusion.
In his post on our closed-beta forums, Alarinth describes how the different ships of the game play very differently, and have different power/difficulty curves, some being easy in the early game but not scaling well, while others start out weaker but become stronger in late-game.
This is of course great to hear for us, since it is exactly what we intended when we designed and implemented the different ships.
He goes on to explain that (and this is when we only had a single large boss fight) the epic blue boss is also interesting, and can be fun to fight. However, he finds it much too punishing, since it more often than not ends the game by killing the player. This stops the player from getting to the true late-game of Roche Fusion, which he describes as the best part of the game.
Let me here include this image he made to illustrate his point, and highlighting the problem of the boss as the 'blue brick wall of doom'.
In the questionnaire we looked at a few days ago, as well as from other people's feedback on our forums, it becomes clear that many agree with this, and that our player's opinions on the boss fights is at best divided.
Now, I could say that we never intended the large bosses to appear as early as they did in the previous versions of the game, and that we only included them in this way so that players would encounter them more often and we could gather more feedback. All of this is true.
But more importantly, we designed the large bosses to be game-ending. We made the very concious decision to only allow the best of the best of players to defeat one of these bosses. We wanted the player to prepare and build up to fighting the boss during their game session, to have them fail at that point in most of their tries.
The feedback of the past few weeks clearly shows that this was a mistake.
Our player's are not particularly interested in spending several minutes fighting through the early and mid-game levels of Roche Fusion, just to have their game cut short, and reset right back tot he start, by a boss fight they know they have very little chance of defeating, and that will probably take them a good number of minutes to fight, even if they ultimately fail.
Clearly, we had to re-evaluate our decision.
And that is precisely what we did. As outlined above, we took this long since we wanted to be sure to not replace one problem with another, and hopefully come up with a solution that will actually work. So, let me now list the changes we decided to make to the boss fights.
- It is very clear that the boss cannot occur too early in the game. The player needs to have enough time to collect a number of good upgrades to stand a chance against it. Similarly, we want neither too many nor too few bosses. So we are now making sure that the bosses spawn much more consistently, in a much more even distribution between the different games, both for the smaller as well as the larger bosses.
- As already mentioned, the bosses, especially the large ones, will spawn significantly later during the game. This means that while we might not make them weaker, the player will have more equipment when they reach it, making the boss fight easier, without dumbing it down.
- Before, the boss fights were not always very rewarding. For example if a boss spawns in the end of a level, most of its experience points are wasted. But also graphically, they simply explode like other enemies do, which is very unbefitting their size and firepower. The solutions to both of these are fairly obvious: We are making a boss' death much more graphically appealing, and hopefully plainly awesome looking. Further we will make it more likely a boss will spawn at such a time that the player gets a lot of use out of the gained experience. In fact, large bosses always give enough experience to finish the current level, resulting in the player always receiving an upgrade as reward for defeating one of them.
Some of these changes are already implemented, and many will make it into the next build of the game. The rest will also follow shortly, and we are looking forward to seeing whether our player's will like these changes.
Our hope is to make the boss fights so much fun that at least a good number of player's look forward to fighting bosses, and find defeating them a rewarding experience.
This is it for now. Thanks for reading, and I hope this gave you some interesting insights into our development process, as well as the changes described above, that will be aprt of the game very soon.
I may soon also write another post on the other topic, Roche Fusion's multiplayer, as mentioned before, but until then:
Enjoy the pixels!