As I was running quite late with my prototype, it has been hard to arrange a session with the studio, so I got some continuous feedback with them while developing, but I also conducted the playtesting with 3 friends instead of 2 studio members and 1 friend. They all had experience in video games as well as programming, but never heard about my game before. They can thus be considered as confidants as well as naïve play testers. All of them are PC gamers so they are familiar with controls, and one of them is fan of shoot em’ up like Touhou (See reflections). The session lasted for approximately 5 minutes of gameplay + the time to do a little “Question and answer” after the gaming session.
I tried with the playtesting to get a general idea about what was good and wrong with the game. I found it hard to express this with numbers, probably because I can’t do it so I preferred to ask them for opinions rather than numerical judgements.
I divided my questions around the 3 areas we were trying to gather information on: Gameplay responsiveness / General gameplay // Balance and difficulty // Aesthetic aspect of the game.
As everyone had more or less experience in shoot em’ up and since the theme was imposed, my first question was: For a shoot em’ up, did you find the gameplay enjoyable?
I got several criticisms on this point. In general, the view in SHMUP is a vertical view rather than a horizontal one. Although it didn’t seem shocking to me, it did destabilize them a bit at the beginning. This could be changed in the future, as it is more about the position of the camera rather than the playstyle.
I also had complained about the lack of HUD as well as the need to quit et re launch the game to replay. This is already a planned upgrade of the game, so I didn’t really argue about it.
The second important thing was reported to me by the 2 players with a medium experience in SHMUP. They thought that the player should be able to aim instead of just shooting in front of them. This aim mechanics is probably more common in recent SHMUPS and I personally think that it is more a bias rather than something to change. I decided to keep the vertical shooting rather than a 360° shooting angle. This aspect was however important as it seemed to impact how they enjoyed the game.
Overall, they liked the gameplay, even if they thought that these elements could use some improvements. I got “nicer” feedback from the experienced SHMUP player, probably because my game is playing on a similar scheme than the Touhou series.
2: Balance and difficulty
Because the game is a prototype, I tried to show how the evolution of the difficulty could go throughout the game. I asked them 2 questions: Do you think the difficulty of the level is too high // Do you think the level was unbeatable.
To begin, when they started the game, I said that if they survived 3 minutes, they would win the level. None of them (and I didn’t either) survived that long. However, I got nearly the same answer from all of the 3 players. It is too hard for a first level, but as an end game level or high difficulty setting, this is acceptable. As said above, I tried to show a panel of level in 1 gaming experience, so this is fine. I just got some reflexions about that the screen (playable zone) might be a bit too small or the player hitbox might be too big for a high number of enemies. I can agree on that and I was especially expecting feedback about that point. Maybe the player should’ve a smaller hitbox, smaller than its actual mesh. For example, a core at its centre, and only the core could take damages. That would make the game simpler when it comes to dodge and slaloming between enemies.
Finally, 2 of the 3 said that this level might be unbeatable due to the constraint said above, whereas the last one said that with a perfect timing it is probably achievable.
As of now, the answer for the second question don’t really matter anymore until a real level is made, since the goal is the have a completable level which isn’t theorically impossible.
3: Game Aesthetic
In games, unless the work is really messed up, the aesthetic is a subjective matter. I tried to focus on general aspects rather than precise elements of the game. I asked them questions about the music, art style and atmosphere.
They all found the concept of evolution of power symbolized by the number of sides quite interesting, and I even got a suggestion about combining shapes to creates bosses.
The music was also approved by the testers but unveiled some comments about the colours. In fact, one of them said that with this music, some “blue” colours could be added to the game. As I said above, the black and white atmosphere is a bias. However, to what extent can we stray from it and maybe add colourful elements to the game? In any case, a music without a piano, with more drums could have been more suited to the game / level.
Finally, the atmosphere was deemed simple and non-oppressive. Because the player doesn’t make any sound while shooting, they can enjoy the music while playing, and the minimalist art style make it easy to look at.
Improvement and Recommendations:
- Make the camera vertical
- Add the HUD
- 360° shooting angle
- Make the playing space bigger
- Make the player’s hitbox smaller
- Combine shapes to create bosses
- Add colours to the game (Select another music)