Sometimes happens that what works perfectly for you, turns out to be just horrible for others. As an indie dev, I can say that this will happen again and again, as it’s a necessary step during the prototyping of a new concept.
This happened as well in our point-and-click adventure, Little Briar Rose, that features several mini games throughout the game.
Between its first and final version, many parts have been improved thanks to continuous testing and fine-tuning. So, as for the other parts of the game, we were pretty sure we had built a great fishing game.
How wrong we were! That mini game haunted us until the final version.
How the Fishing Game Used to Work
The mechanics were pretty simple, according to us:
You have two bars: The Stamina Bar and the Fishing Bar.
The first represents the energy that the Prince can use to capture the fish. When it’s drained out, the Prince will get tired and stops fishing for a while, letting the fish escape.
The Fishing Bar, instead, shows how near to be caught the fish is. If it goes too far, it’ll leave and the game ends.
By tapping the screen (or clicking), the player pulls the fish and consumes its stamina at the same time. When the player stops pulling, the stamina quickly recharges, but the fish starts to escape as well.
The trick is to pull and release the fish with a certain rhythm, so the Stamina won’t get used up, but the fish keeps getting close.
There are different kinds of fishes, having different resistance to pulling.
So What’s Wrong With This Game?
The problem with making a game in just two is that sometimes you tend to have a lack of feedbacks.
This is how we thought the players would have played the game.
This is how (most of them) actually used to play it.
The players were approaching the game as if it was a game of endurance. They were simply keeping spamming the input, hoping to get advantage from it. When we saw that it wasn’t an isolated case, we realized there was a serious problem.
Our first reaction was trying to compensate this by improving the tutorial or adding a few visual feedbacks to help them with the release timing, but it was almost ineffective: Even though most of the players could complete the game without any problem, there were a set of players that got completely stuck in the mini game. The worst part is: all players didn’t find it funny enough.
The more we were trying to improve the game, the more we realized that the game was simply bad and boring. Randomness and lack of variety tend to make the game incredibly unsatisfying, especially when you need to re-iterate it multiple times.
So… well, lesson learned! We needed to re-think the entire fishing game from scratch.
New Cool Version~
In the new version, we created a brand new fishing game keeping in mind all the key point to stay coherent with the rest of the game. We have kept most of the graphics, the “goal”(capturing fishing and items) and achievements. Instead, we changed the UI and the mechanics itself.
Here’s how it works:
There’s a small fish that can move left and right inside a slider. In the slider, there’s also a tip, that the player can move around by dragging it. If you keep the fish in the tip, the Fishing Bar starts filling. Once it’s full, the fish is captured. The more the fish escapes from your tip, the more the bar empties.
For the tutorial, we switched to a more visual approach than before: instead of writing, we preferred to show how you should the game. It took a lot more time to be developed than before, but it was extremely simpler to explain.
What makes this game funnier than the other?
- Every fish moves with a certain pattern. Even if you fail, you can learn from the previous experiences in the game and enjoy your improvement.
- There’s a difficulty curve. In the previous game, the fishes were picked randomly. Now you start finding harder fishes when you caught at least one of the “simple” fishes.
- Even if the mechanics are pretty simple, we could make it more interesting by tuning the patterns
- Thanks to the patterns, we could add a few funny jokes for the players 😀
On the Stage
After experiencing ourselves these improvements, we asked some players to try it out. Satisfied with the positive feedbacks, we released the new version on GameJolt as a preview. and waited to see if any problem occurred.
Fairly confident that players would enjoy it and that no one would get stuck anymore, we finally updated the Steam versions.
What did we learn?
- Random should never overwrite difficulty curve
- Simple concepts are often the best. The less you’re forced to explain, the most solid the concept is.
- Take your time to make your tutorials the best. A good game concept can become a bad one if badly explained.
- Think always twice before throwing away your work
- However, sometimes you simply need the courage to trash a bad idea. ;D
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