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Feedback Friday #126 - August 14-17

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by Billy4184, Aug 14, 2020.

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  1. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    G'day folks!

    Getting feedback early on in your project is a great way to spot and avoid design problems, and speed up the completion of your game!

    Looking to get some help with a particular problem, or just have your fellow devs playtest your game and give their thoughts?

    Then you've found the right thread! Feedback Friday runs from Friday to Monday every week.

    What To Show
    • Minimally Viable Product (MVP) - Core game play > everything else
    • How To Scope Small (Unity tutorial)
    • Post a link to a playable game, preferably WebGL. If you don't have a playable game, post something substantial, not just text.
    How To Ask For Feedback
    • Be concise.
    • Specify what you want feedback on and what you don't.
    • Resist the urge to write an immediate defense. Take the time to understand their points. Remember that your friends here are taking time out of their busy schedules to help you for free.
    How To Give Feedback
    • Be positive. There's something of value in every game.
    • Focus on the design, not the designer.

    Feedback Friday #125 is here.
     
  2. TonyLi

    TonyLi

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    A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was helping a new game designer on a narrative bartending simulation -- kind of a mash-up of Overcooked-style gameplay with a sci-fi visual novel. We just put an alpha version of the first bit on itch.io after incorporating the excellent feedback you all provided in the past Feedback Friday. We'd be grateful for feedback on the alpha:

    Mixing Suns (play in browser)
    upload_2020-8-14_15-2-58.png

    A few questions to start the discussion:

    - How far did you get?
    - Was the bartending part fun?
    - How was the timing? Customers too impatient? Rounds too long/short?
    - How was the ramp-up of the nights? Too many/few drinks? Ingredients? Customers?
    - What are your thoughts on the dialogue?
    - Did you go through the tutorial or click "Skip" to skip the tutorial conversation? If you did the tutorial, was it too verbose? Too brief? If you skipped it, did you figure out how to mix and serve drinks?
     
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  3. JohnnyA

    JohnnyA

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    This is really not my sort of game, so take my comments as you will.

    - How far did you get? Practiced one drink, made two drinks.

    - Was the bartending part fun? No. It was a struggle to force myself to go beyond practice mode. I think better feedback may have helped. I got one drink wrong, but knowing what and why would have helped, or maybe customers saying this is not what I ordered but I do like XYZ, or something.

    - How was the timing? Customers too impatient? Rounds too long/short? Didn't play long enough to comment.

    - How was the ramp-up of the nights? Too many/few drinks? Ingredients? Customers? Didn't play long enough to comment.

    - What are your thoughts on the dialogue? Par for the course for this kind of game. Certainly not bad.

    - Did you go through the tutorial or click "Skip" to skip the tutorial conversation? If you did the tutorial, was it too verbose? Too brief? If you skipped it, did you figure out how to mix and serve drinks? Tutorial wasn't that useful, it had way too much dialog, so I skipped most of it. But it was intuitive enough that I had no problem mixing drinks.

    Suggestion: It would be nice if the game told you what you made during practice mode.
     
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  4. TonyLi

    TonyLi

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    Thanks! I'll pass that along to the designer. It's admittedly a niche genre that will probably only appeal to the overlap in the Venn diagram of people who like visual novels and people who like Overcooked-style games.
     
  5. JohnnyA

    JohnnyA

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    Sure, as I said it really isn't my thing, so I'm not sure how valuable my feedback is.
     
  6. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    I'm probably not the target audience for this, but the fact that I just came back from having a few drinks at the bar probably helps!

    Overall, I had some fun and the mixing mechanics are solid, but there is a lot of feedback missing from the customers as well as a way-too-long intro where I ended up just clicking speech bubbles until they didn't show up any more.

    How far did you get?
    Made a couple of drinks, made someone wait until they disappeared.

    Was the bartending part fun?
    The drink mixing gameplay was well done with the UI popping up intuitively at the right time to complete each step. I was expecting more reaction from customers which I think sort of bored me after a couple of drinks. I got 'not bad' for one drink and then made someone wait to see what would happen, I think they just disappeared. I would expect to play some sort of 'bartender personality' character with these customers and get some serious 'negative' feedback if I forget them.

    How was the timing? Customers too impatient? Rounds too long/short?
    Not sure if I played long enough but I got the first two drinks out in time, the third was running out of time but then I decided to ignore it to see what would happen. Overall I think it's actually a good balance for starting off, I wasn't rushing it and getting the first two out OK as a complete noob means its probably fine.

    How was the ramp-up of the nights? Too many/few drinks? Ingredients? Customers?
    Didn't play all that far, might give it another go tomorrow. I would have expected more recipes at the start and a bigger variety of ingredients (it's not hard to put a drink together from the recipe). I think two customers at the start is good, probably getting more intense as the night goes on would be good.

    What are your thoughts on the dialogue?
    Way too many lines imo. I didn't skip the tutorial and it went on for way too long with lots of irrelevant conversation threads that felt like someone floundering for small talk. It would have been good just to intrigue the player with the Dimension Jump goal and then focus on the customers and drinks with maybe a small amount of banter (5 or 6 text boxes). I also think that the visuals and ambience could do more to bring the player into the world besides the dialogue.

    Did you go through the tutorial or click "Skip" to skip the tutorial conversation? If you did the tutorial, was it too verbose? Too brief? If you skipped it, did you figure out how to mix and serve drinks?
    Tbh, I didn't skip the tutorial but didn't pay much attention to it and sort of raced though, I found making the drinks very intuitive despite not knowing what to do and I think this part of the game (UI layout especially) is very solid.

    --

    I would have liked to feel more engaged with the game, the mixing mechanics were fine but most of the rest wasn't intentful enough to draw me in. The customers didn't engage me, the visuals didn't conjure up a cohesive atmosphere and the intro did not set up the pacing (though it did a good job of setting up the purpose for making tips).

    One thing that I think would really help at this point is putting in some strong visual and audio feedback for getting things right or wrong. Getting my first two drinks done didn't give me a great sense of achievement. Especially at the point of serving customers there needs to be some real meat to the feedback.

    I don't want to sound too negative, I actually like the concept, had some fun, and I think I would like the finished game, but some fundamental elements are not operating correctly yet imo. The fact that the core mechanics are solid and intuitive is a very good start.
     
  7. TonyLi

    TonyLi

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    @Billy4184 - Thanks for playing! I'll pass all this along to the designer.

    One of the changes he made based on a previous Feedback Friday was to limit the number of recipes at first, and introduce them gradually over a few nights. Previous playtesters felt overwhelmed by the number of recipes and ingredients. Did he go too far in the other direction?

    I've also suggested to the designer that customers need more visible reactions to their drink orders. We can probably do this somehow without requiring more art. Currently there are some onscreen feedback popups. If you make a drink exactly to the recipe, an audiovisual PERFECT! appears. If you deliver it with lots of time left, SWIFT! appears. And if you add just the right garnish for the type of character (e.g., sardines for a cat-like customer), WITH IMPACT! appears. Is it more the times that you don't quite get it right that could use more feedback? What kind of feedback suggestions come to mind?

    How so? (I certainly won't argue; I feel similarly.) I'll pass along your thoughts to the designer.
     
  8. Lime_x

    Lime_x

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    Nice to see the progress of the game! :)

    - How far did you get?
    This time, I got until the third night..
    - Was the bartending part fun?
    Yeah, It's quite fun in a hectic kind of way. Though I think more specific feedback from the customers would be nice.As you mentioned in a more recent post, I think it's a good idea to make the characters have different reactions depending on what you serve them.
    In terms of mixing drinks, I think it would be good to have a picture of the drink next to its name in the recipe book. It would make it easier to quickly find the right recipe (At least for me, since I'm quite slow at reading text).

    - How was the timing? Customers too impatient? Rounds too long/short?
    I think the timing of the rounds was pretty good this time around. I didn't really feel like I got much feedback from the customers, so even if the timer was running low, it felt like I could get a "Perfect!" and "Swift!", which felt kind of odd since they had waited so long for their drink.

    - How was the ramp-up of the nights? Too many/few drinks? Ingredients? Customers?
    I felt like there was quite a big leap in difficulty between the second and third night and when I missed serving drinks, I sort of got overwhelmed by how many customers there were. I felt like the tempo in the first and second night was quite good. It felt good to be able to finish the first two nights without missing anyone.

    - What are your thoughts on the dialogue?
    As I've played it before, I didn't pay as much attention to the dialogue the second time around, but I think that Billy had some good points about it.

    - Did you go through the tutorial or click "Skip" to skip the tutorial conversation? If you did the tutorial, was it too verbose?
    Too brief? If you skipped it, did you figure out how to mix and serve drinks?

    I skipped the tutorial this time around to focus on the gameplay.

    As an additional feedback, I noticed that the order of the customers didn't match the order they were sitting in, which sometimes made it confusing and once or twice I was about to give a drink to the wrong customer because of it.
    upload_2020-8-15_23-20-10.png

    Over all, I think that the game is quite interesting and hope it goes well with it. :)
     
  9. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Hey @TonyLi ,

    A few thoughts about Mixing Suns. Note that I've played only a few Visual Novels, but I've never even heard of this particular subgenre.

    First impressions (will be really nitpicky because I just type what I think as I go, also may be not applicable):
    • Interesting theme. Nice art.
    • Don't like having to move mouse across screen to click away dialogues. Clicking anywhere or spacebar would be nice.
    • Go back button would be good (for dialogue)
    • Text typing noise is irritating (fingernail on chalkboard reaction for me)
    • I prefer instant text (fast reader. dont like waiting)
    • Portraits for characters will be nice. In visual novel first thing I try to do is start learning who is who. (maybe not important in this game, just writing my thoughts as I play)
    • Opening dialogue can be more focused to set the theme, setting more clearly. As is, it's a little to nondescript. Since we cant see character faces, its not always clear why a person is delivering a "..." or using other filler words like "anyway" "oh" etc. I hope that makes sense, kind of hard to describe. But the result is I start to consider dialogue not worth paying attention to since each line isn't delivering vital information.
    • "as long as it works, we'll be in good shape!" I may be speaking too soon here, but this could be example of lack of focus. Is there a mechanic in which things don't work? If not, maybe tutorial isn't place for non-essential information like this.
    • UI - the finalize menu gets in way of recipe. I have to click cancel a couple times to see what glass and mix style to finish with.
    - How far did you get?

    I finished one round. Librina was the character.

    - Was the bartending part fun?

    Sort of. I think it needs an immediate goal to progress to though. Getting tips isn't a strong hook for me. Perhaps we need stakes? You left your girlfriend at the other end of the galaxy and want to visit her before a wormhole blocks path? Just a silly idea but I think some sort of stakes is necessary to push story.

    And what about skill development? I want to know what the skills I will be asked to develop are, why they matter, and what my potential rewards are for gettin good. I want to know that if I am able to make drinks at a certain speed, then I unlock some new ability that will change gameplay in a meaningful way. Or maybe kiss a hot girl or something.


    - How was the timing? Customers too impatient? Rounds too long/short?
    i was taking my time and able to get drinks before time ran out. Round ended at a good time for me.

    - How was the ramp-up of the nights? Too many/few drinks? Ingredients? Customers?
    I'd keep it super slow and easy for at least an hour. Took me making the whiskey sour like 5 times before i was able to click through the ingredients without having to check recipe. For me its fun once I get it memorized and can do it fast. Rushing me before I get to that point wont be fun. That would be like army training.

    In other words, dont say "hurry up!". Say, "when you get faster, check out this shiny reward." Takes the stress out that way.

    You can probably set the tone just with dialogue too. "Sorry this is taking so long. It's my first night."
    "No worries friend. I've worked customer service too, so I understand."

    And of course cute member of opposite sex flirting is great way to focus player singularly.

    - What are your thoughts on the dialogue?

    This is the weakest link IMO. It can be hard to follow. I'd limit references and make sure there is plenty of context if using unfamiliar terms/nouns. It seems like you are sticking to universally relatable themes. As a rule, might say 90% universally relatable dialogue, 10% introduction of novel theme/setting.

    It might be a nice reward inbetween drink mixing to get a bit more dialogue from characters. It's always fun to meet new people, especially if each brings a distinct personality. I'd recommend focus the dialogue to really drive home distinct personalities. Characters I'll want to hear more from again. Another hook to keep playing.

    When the characters are doing more animation with face and hands to get some personality in there that will probably help a lot. I think key hook in a game like this would be falling in love with characters (dont mean in a sexual way, just, you know what I mean)

    As general rule for dialogue, I might try to make sure each line is either increasing likeability of character, or introducing some sort of stakes. Every line needs to move ball somewhere. I should either be laughing, saying, "Hey, I know somebody like that!" or "man, she is so sweet. I love her." or saying, "I have to know where this goes."

    I also am not entirely comfortable with the assumptions made about characters. For instance, Librina just moved out from moms so we assume she wants consistency. Why? Maybe she is all ready for adventure? I am not sure what the exact right answer is here, but if you simplify characters that much it makes me less interested in them. Complex characters is good. I am happy to spend time learning about a person.
    It may be a case of quality over quantity winnign the day. Fewer characters with stronger storylines, versus many with forgettable storylines.



    - Did you go through the tutorial or click "Skip" to skip the tutorial conversation? If you did the tutorial, was it too verbose? Too brief? If you skipped it, did you figure out how to mix and serve drinks?

    Did tutorial and felt unprepared.
    It could be tightened up a lot. Make sure every line is delivering essential info. This doesnt necessarily preclude character exposition. But as soon as I start getting lines that tell me nothing and dont make me laugh, then I start fast clicking. Lose respect for the game that way.

    Highlighters to walk me through the process of making complete drinks from A to Z several times would be good. Treat me like a five year old. It is better if I say, "I know already, I'm not a baby!" and start the game on my own, than get left wondering what I am supposed to be doing when the game starts. To me, that's just stressful, and this doesnt seem like a game I play for challenge. Its the opposite, right? This is something to chill out with. Just enough "challenge" to make me feel some joy from being "skillful" at something, but it ought to be easy. At least that's what I would expect.



    Sorry if thats all a bit rambly. Hope it helps!
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2020
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  10. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    I think what would help is to have a more balanced amount of stuff in each category. For example, in the category that had egg whites, there was just egg whites.

    I also think that there could be more varied recipes that use the same set of ingredients in distinct ways, i.e. not just adding random combinations of ingredients but drinks that you remember for their character.

    Maybe I'm just not into these concoction type of drinks irl, but I did feel a bit like the ones on there weren't making me go "hm that's a kind of interesting mix".

    I think the main things for the core feedback are more color and dynamic visual feedback, and particularly more sound effects. It just didn't have an impact for me. I think you can go for a more glitzy feedback given that it's a bar with everybody drinking and partying.

    It's certainly possible that the game was telling me "um you did OK?" and I didn't realize it. Which brings me to the point that I didn't realize you connect the animal representation to the garnish, I just picked a random one and didn't seem to get clear feedback on it.

    As far as the customer feedback goes, I think dialogue is your friend. I have a character sitting there in front of me and almost no dialogue. Getting a range of comments from them, and being able to pick options that either calm them down or piss them off even further would be ideal. I think more of a 'dating sim' style here would be the way to go, rather than trying to make the character really detailed or dynamic (though having five or six facial expressions wouldn't go astray).

    The background is lacking a distinct style. Based on the intro dialogue, I thought it was scifi, then it almost looks victorian or middle ages, though it's hard to tell. It's also lacking impact and energy. There's not a lot that makes you go 'wow'.

    Off the top of my head, something like the bar in deep rock galactic just looks like a place that draws you in:



    - There's lots of color
    - There's a big sign with the name to give it an identity.
    - There's lots of lights, neon and contrast

    Have you considered having the player looking toward the bar at first (rather than out toward an empty kind of dark room)?
     
  11. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    @Billy4184

    just playing off what billy is saying about the art style of the bar. I agree in general term that it can be improved, however I think the high contrast style might not be fitting in theme with this game (but again, i dont know the genre and its my assumption that this is a chill game, especially given the jazz music)

    I think i'd lean more towards a style like this with soft, muted, warm colors but clear linework. I think thats sort of how it is already, just not as polished. upload_2020-8-15_20-1-31.png

    But I agree with the premise that the art isn't sucking me into the world yet.
     
  12. TonyLi

    TonyLi

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    Thanks, all!

    That's something the designer went back and forth on. Currently the order cards in the upper left are sorted by time, so the oldest order is furthest left. This way you know which one is most urgent. Do you all think it's better to order them in the same order as the characters instead?

    What do the rest of you think about it? I agree with BIGTIMEMASTER, but the designer was pretty adamant about keeping it, feeling like it added more juice to the text.

    Excellent idea. The other UI annoyances that everyone reported are great, too. I'll be sure to mention all of them.

    Funny story: The first two people I ran the game by each paused after a couple lines of Librina's conversation and said something like "...uh, is it that kind of game?" It didn't help that the original music the designer chose had this light jazz porn sound to it. From what I understand of the designer's story vision, it's ultimately not meant to be that kind of game.

    Speaking of which:
    The designer's concept is that the protagonist is afraid of change and only wants to make traditional drinks. His story arc will involve embracing change. It's been interesting working with someone who is new to designing and writing for games. Some of his decisions are a bit rough, but some are pretty fresh and surprising.

    I suggested he limit his art budget this go-round to just what you see. It all went into characters, so the background is a render of a generic bar model that I had on hand. If the project goes forward, that'll be swapped out. He contracted a local artist to do the characters.

    Speaking of the characters and setting, another interesting first-time designer story: The original setting was going to be a cartoony postapocalyptic bar filled with colorful mutants. After signing the contract to get the artist started on the characters, he realized the setting wasn't quite in his wheelhouse and had trouble developing it. So he pivoted to a sci-fi multidimensional bar to be able to salvage the character art that the artist was already working on. It definitely helped, but I think his reach may be a little too far. I've also been suggesting that he narrow the scope -- quality over quantity, as was mentioned above.
     
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  13. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    typing noise for text is fine, just that specific one has a certain quality. i had to take headphones off. But i agree its right to have a noise. perhaps just a quick pass in audacity to cut off the higher pitch tone or something. assuming somebody besides me complains about that and its worth it
     
  14. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    I think this is a case where the game as a whole has not been 'blocked out' properly. The mixing mechanics/UI are an example of something that has developed properly - it's currently a bit quick and dirty (and that's fine) but it feels right, and it gives the player the right thing at the right time.

    The mood (not the detail) of the bar/room is what needs to be blocked out more, as well as the intro. Unless the designer is working with the artist to prototype specifically, I don't think it's the right time to be signing contracts and that sort of thing. There are assets on the store that would do a perfectly reasonable job of prototyping the game, and the designer himself could probably lowpoly model something and do a bit of lighting to try things out. In fact the whole game should be prototyped before hiring an artist, especially if money is tight.

    Was going to point that out, it's loud and scratchy, needs to be more subdued.
     
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  15. TonyLi

    TonyLi

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    Normally that would be the right thing to to. In this case, I told him he'd have exactly 3 weeks of part-time programming help from me, and I wanted to see how he'd handle working with a contract artist (with a very, very small budget) and building marketing materials, in addition to designing and putting together the game. So it was clearly a challenging task, but I wanted to see where his strengths lay. I also put together some lovely programmer art to prototype with first: ;)

    upload_2020-8-16_9-42-23.png

    Given those constraints, I think he's done a decent job. Your feedback has helped to identify that the bartending part could use some feedback iteration, and that much more focus needs to go to strengthening the visual novel part.
     
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  16. Billy4184

    Billy4184

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    Fair, I always give feedback on games the same way, based on the difference between how it is right now and the way I envision its perfect implementation. No matter which point I was at, I wouldn't want people to hold back on anything about my game. I always measure myself against the best, even if I can only currently get 10% of the way there.

    This is what the forums should be about, bringing people together to push each other onward as far as they can go. I'd say this is a pretty good stab at a more difficult type of genre, with some solidly implemented core mechanics, and I hope it just evolves and gets better from here.
     
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  17. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    yeah it is looking very nice overall, i think the artist has done good job. in particular i think the characters got a certain charm. UI is perfectly fitting too. when i write a critique i just try to think of every possible thing I can say. i dont like to take extra time making everything super polite cause that just takes more brain power from thinking of more critiques. but hopefully thats understood if seems too harsh or w/e
     
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  18. TonyLi

    TonyLi

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    I really appreciate it. I told him that I'd pass along everyone's feedback completely unfiltered. It's important to get real, honest feedback.

    I've only been relating behind-the-scenes stories because it's interesting to see the development of a new designer. Don't let that you hold back from any feedback.
     
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