I talked about the general impressions from playtesters for Tumbleton’s Fortune here, but now I want to discuss 2 specific issues that I received good feedback on - introducing the main game mechanic to the player and level layout.
Right at the start when the player is introduced to the main gameplay mechanic of attaching powerup objects to anything in the level, the first puzzle doesn’t communicate the full scope of that well.
The problem is that one puzzle is not enough to explain to the player how the mechanic works. While the mechanic seems simple, there’s some small quirks to explain to the player. Things like
a) You can’t attach the powerup objects to the player ball
b) Once you attach an object to the environment, you can click on it again to reposition it
c) When the puzzle is complete, the object is rendered useless and the player is unable to pick it back up
d) The objects can be attached anywhere in the environment – floors, walls, ceilings, etc.
Communicating all of these in one puzzle would be really intimidating for the player. Instead, having a level composed of small puzzle that focus on each of these bulletpoints would make the experience simple and intuitive.
A couple playtesters also mentioned that the space where the ball (the main character, Tumbleton) rolls is a little too big. More interestingly, one playtester mentioned that it’s not the large space that’s the problem, but that there’s no carrot dangling in front of the player to lead him along! I thought it was a very curious observation, and I’m inclined to agree.
Each level is made up of what I call pieces – things like platforming sections, puzzles, enemy encounters are all pieces. It’s my job as a level designer to match and position these pieces throughout levels to give the player an enjoyable and fun experience.
What the playtester is suggesting is some visual way to link these pieces. Instead of rolling down a long ramp from piece to piece, a better solution would be to guide him. Since Tumbleton’s Fortune is all about finding treasure, the treasure itself will play a large role in this. Players will be led by the thought of finding more treasure.
Another way to lead the players could be by making more interesting scenery pieces that the players traverse. If a player just completes a piece and is moving towards the next one, there should be something cool up ahead that catches his attention – something like a huge pyramid, or a light in the distance.
I don’t want to completely get rid of these parts, because I don’t want to constantly throw challenges at the player. After a player solves a puzzle, there should be a short platforming section where they get to experience the joy of rolling and jumping around.