Box Voyage – Dev Blog 6: Approaching Beta

So we’re about two weeks into this whole digital development thing, and it’s going pretty well so far! Well, as well as moving your entire life online and staying at home all of the time can go. It hasn’t been an easy transition, but luckily game development is one of the few jobs that really can be done from home. This week, Beta is technically due, but we’re not sure about any due dates or milestones anymore so we’re forging ahead! Let’s talk about where the game’s at, and what I’ve been doing.

The move to work from home has been strange, and it can be felt during team meetings. People were pretty quiet before, but now we’re finding it difficult to really rally the troops on smaller issues with the game. Motivation really has only dipped overall as work is still getting done, but you can feel an energy on the Google Hangout calls. We had a nice talk during class last week about how all of this craziness is affecting us and trying to motivate each other, but it’s difficult to say how effective it is for others. Personally, work on the game is the one piece of work that I’m actually 100% motivated about right now, so I’m excited to keep working on the game and getting it into a solid place.

The game is currently is that state between Alpha and Beta where we’re all working to improve the game in a variety of areas. Artists are touching up assets that they had to rush through, programmers are fixing the most glaring issues, and designers are figuring out what needs to be worked on next. As someone on the inside, it’s easy to see how rough the game is, but the fact we’ve made it this far is extremely telling of how hard working and creative we are as a team. As for me, I have been wholeheartedly taking on the Technical Designer half of my role on the team because I’ve been doing a lot of work with the programming team lately. I feel extremely useful whenever they pull me into a meeting to ask for clarification or help on design!

So, what can I actually show that I’ve done? Well, first I changed the Gift Shop up a bit! At first glance, it doesn’t look like much has changed. However, there’s a few key structural differences. First, the mug and Whaleter have swapped places because the mug is the first step in the puzzle and we therefore felt it should be easier to hit. It also only takes the mug falling once to break the board that is blocking the cart, as it was originally two hits.

The last and biggest change involves the win condition for the room. Previously, players had to complete a math puzzle of sorts where they had to get the exact price we asked for using the various objects in the room. Now, they just have to figure out how to collect one of each object in the room which is counted down on the cash register. We think that this streamlines the room and doesn’t just make a math puzzle, which no one likes anyways. I still think the Gift Shop is one of our best looking rooms, but we just need the room to feel as good to play around with.

Next is the cursor! For a while, we’ve had difficulty conveying whether a player has to push or grab onto an interactable object to use it. Our first pass had the cursor change to a blue square on grabbable objects and a red triangle on pushable objects. Players saw these cursors as too harsh visually, and they also didn’t really make sense because we never taught them. So, the first step in all of this was redesigning the cursor to not only look better visually, but to also be a bit clearer when a button is held. Below you can see a gif of what that looks like now. Next sprint, I’ll probably be working on stubbing out where we actually teach the updated intro sequence.

Lastly, I was tasked with playtesting the Arcade in its finished form to get stronger ticket values and give feedback on the games themselves. Each of the games has that classic arcade feeling which makes me excited about the room! We just need to tweak some stuff to get it feeling its best. But now, the tickets are paced out so that the player only has to spend a couple minutes in the room to beat it. We want to keep the pace brisk and the ideas fresh.

So there we have it! Work is coming along and things are weird, but I love this game and hope we can continue to improve it! See you again in two weeks.

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