Game Testing at Maker Faire KC

Maker Faire KC was this past weekend, and I was volunteering at the CCCKC table. To display some of our member projects, I brought along my tablet and showed off a couple of my newer Android games: Delfino&Katyuno and Pickin’ Sticks LXXIV.

Delfino & Katyuno

Pickin' Sticks LXXIV

Two years ago, I had my own table at Maker Faire and had two of my PC games: Rawr Rinth and Lenxion. These were quite a bit older but I hadn’t finished my project in time for Maker Faire. :)

Rawr Rinth
Lenxion

I don’t usually get to see people play my games in person, so it’s always a good experience. Most of the people who picked up my games were kids and teens, even though as a 26 year old I make games “for myself” and therefore for any age. ;P

Here are some things I’ve learned from people playing my games at Maker Faire:

1. Idle games are boring

Remember how old arcade machines had a “demo mode” that would start after some inactivity? I hadn’t thought to put one in any of my games until this past Maker Faire.  My two Android games were graphically more simplistic than the PC ones I showed previously, and not much happened when they were idle.  The Delfino&Katyuno game, in particular, couldn’t just be left in a level to keep going because there were obstacles to avoid and you’d end up on a “try again” screen.

So early on the 2nd day of MF I created a demo version of both games – Del&Kat was hacked up a bit to repeat the level once it ended, and only have obstacles in the air. I also added code so that, if nobody had been playing the game, the dolphin and kitten sprites would bounce around automatically.

In Pickin’ Sticks, I added in random movement for the player character and several “enemies” with different behaviors – follow you, follow items, and move randomly.

So, at the very least, there was something to look at while nobody was playing!

 

2. Pickin’ Sticks isn’t that bad

I would switch between the two games periodically because they both picked up attention. I had assumed that Pickin’ Sticks is a lot more boring and less graphically engaging, but a lot of people seemed drawn to watching the pink kitty and blue puppies running around the game screen.

The gameplay is pretty simple – you have a d-pad, but your cat is really floaty and bouncy, and you try to gather sticks on the screen before the dogs do. But I think the weird controls add an interesting layer to the game.  Even in “vanilla Pickin’ Sticks”, with no dogs, people that I had test the game would get kind of entranced in trying to steer the cat around the screen.

Both games feature kitties and are adorable, but I shouldn’t discount Pickin’ Sticks just because it’s not as sophisticated as Delfino&Katyuno!

 

3. Two Player!

There was another video game at our CCCKC table, made by one of our members’ sons.  It was essentially a two-player vertical SHMUP. Some kids weren’t that interested in the bouncing and floating cat games, but were really excited about the bi-plane game where you shoot enemies who come on-screen.

I haven’t made many multi-player games honestly… I guess it is because it’s harder to make “work” on a PC, as far as local-multiplayer is concerned.  How many people have more than one gamepad? And having one person on keyboard and one on gamepad, or mouse, or otherwise different control schemes is a bit weird.  Android is also not a very local-multiplayer-friendly platform (as in, sharing a screen), so I hadn’t thought much about it.

Maybe next year, I’ll have a game for OUYA. Consoles are much better suited for local-multiplayer!

 

4. Swipe Controls

In Delfino&Katyuno, poking the cat will cause it to jump, and poking the dolphin will cause it to jump. The cat rides on the dolphin as it goes through the water.

I noticed that a lot of peoples’ initial impressions is to swipe upwards to get them to jump. I’m not sure if I should implement that or not, since it would add more of an analog control – currently the cat can double jump, and you can get a longer jump by having it bounce off the dolphin when the dolphin jumps.  It’s kind of “exact”, so that you practice to gain mastery to navigate levels.

Hm, something to consider.

 

5. Easy to play

Delfino&Katyuno’s simple controls also made it easy to play for younger kids, on the simple levels. I am already planning on adding tiered levels, from easy to very difficult, so one idea might be to have a level that has no obstacles, and you’re just trying to collect the trinkets.  It could still be challenging to get them all, but forgiving so young kids can play.

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