Weekly Dev Journal 8: The Awkward Middle

Wow, has it been 8 weeks already?

Something I’ve learned about game development is that every project has a few distinct stages when it comes to your mental attitude as a developer. The beginning is always a blast, because you’re trying new things, and putting all of your exciting ideas into the game. And the end is usually pretty great, because all the polish is starting to shine through and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It can be excruciating because usually you’re itching to move onto the next thing, but generally at this stage your work is clearly broken up into tasks that you can simply work through.

Then there’s the middle.

This is the awkward stage. All of the gameplay elements are in, but you’ve been doing nothing but stare at this game for weeks (or months, or years in some cases) and you start to lose some objectivity on the game. Is it fun? It’s hard to say. Does the aesthetic work? I think so, but everything looks alright to me at this point. Is the difficulty right? I can’t tell, I’m kind of an expert at this game now.

This is the stage we’re in right now. All of the essential pieces are here, but it’s somewhat hard to tell what exactly the next big steps are.

So what do you do to get from this stage to the home stretch? Well, one thing you can do is playtest, and get feedback from people who aren’t as close to the game. Sometimes  patterns of feedback will emerge that you hadn’t anticipated, and it helps you get past that hump and look at the game in a new way. We’re planning to do this in kind of a big way. We’ll be making an “alpha” build and putting it up on Kongregate.com sometime soon. This will hopefully result in a great burst of invaluable feedback, and if we’re lucky, a bunch of dedicated fans who’ll be eagerly anticipating the final release.

The other thing it will give us, is lots of statistics. This week, I got Google Analytics hooked up, so we can collect anonymous stats for things like:

  1.  What stage do people make it to on average?
  2.  How long do they play?
  3.  How often do they use Jump powerups?
  4.  Where in the world are people playing from?

This data will be great, because it’ll let us ask questions like: “If we make the stages 10 seconds longer, do people stay playing longer?”

In other news:

1. we added a new type of entity to the game, which will appear starting in Region 4 if you make it that far. It doesn’t have a name yet, so I’m just calling it the “KillerBot” for now. If you have any ideas, we’d love to hear them!

2. We added this somewhat quirky system where random phrases will appear in the sky between stages. It’s still a WIP, we were thinking is that maybe we’ll make a system where users can submit their own “Race The Sun Poetry” and it would have a chance to appear in the game for everyone who plays.

Anyway, enough talk! Here’s this week’s build:

© 2012 Flippfly, LLC

8 Responses to “Weekly Dev Journal 8: The Awkward Middle”

  1. Adam

    130k! stage four. I really wanted to see the robots which I did. Still seems like the speed powerups are not worth taking. I suppose more skill on my part would fix that but now if I take one it seems like the speed could kill me. I don’t even know if I actually speed up but it feels like it.

  2. Kristopher Peterson

    Made it to Stage 8 – 338k. The game didn’t really feel challenging until stage 6, and stage 8 was less difficult than stage 7, which I felt like I only made it through because of luck. The point pickups are less obscuring than before but still feel like they are hampering my view of upcoming objects. Perhaps the glow intensity could fade out as the player gets closer to them? When I bumped objects without dying it felt like a helping hand more than a penalty as it slowed me down. I had a jump powerup that I never felt like I had a designed point to jump, and I never used it. Grabbing the speed up boost seemed like more of a risk. What if there were jump ramps that combined the boost and jump to give you extra speed and allow you to pass over sections? The space bar boost could then be something like a 1 shot last instant weapon to destroy an obstacle or allow you to temporarily phase out and pass through an object or something. I like that the clouds give you a reason not to just sit in a straight line with minor micro adjustments, but it wasn’t completely obvious why I would want to avoid them other then that the text told me to. I think they could be introduced earlier in the 2nd or 3rd stage and have some more obvious drastic effect of what they do to you since most people aren’t going to notice the score ticker ticks slower or know that they only have so much time before the sun sets.

    I had some weird flickering occur on the later levels on the objects. It seemed more pronounced when I was in the cloud shadows. Currently, the green crystals also break up the monochromatic look of the game.

  3. Aaron

    Thanks for the great feedback guys, this really helps. I think we’re seeing a pattern here where the speed boosts just don’t seem necessary, and maybe the overall difficulty is ramping up too slowly.
    The other thing I think I’m coming to grips with, is that the controls don’t really feel great as the speed increases beyond a certain amount.

    So we’re going to play around with some of the core mechanics this week – maybe we’ll try going back to having you move at a constant (but much higher) speed with the sun setting slowly, and the speed boosts will be necessary to keep adding daylight. Now that we have the moving entities and clouds, hopefully we can ramp the difficulty up without the per-round speedup.


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