Shifting Assumptions

After missing a week we’re back with another post! The last two weeks have been very busy for us. In our previous blog post, we mentioned that we were planning to get Yellow Rock Road out in front of others. Luckily we were able to do just that on Friday of last week. The feedback we received was invaluable and caused us to ask some very significant questions about the ways in which the game worked. We have been very busy answering those questions since then (hence the lack of a post last week), and we’re ready to start sharing some of the conclusions we have reached.

The change we are going to focus on talking about today is the way the rhythm game is played. In our original prototype dating back to January of this year, the rhythm game was played using 8 buttons – WASD and IJKL (you can play the prototype here if you want to check it out for yourself). We wanted to create an experience that would emulate playing an actual instrument, and we reckoned that this control scheme would be pretty close to what it might be like to play a simplified piano. Even for us, the control scheme was not necessarily easy to pick up, but once we got into the flow of it, we found that it made for a really fun way of playing a rhythm game.

Fast-forward six months and we still had our 8 button control scheme in place. We were aware that the control scheme was somewhat challenging to pick up, but we figured this was not necessarily a bad thing as it would provide a skill ceiling for players to work towards as they played the game. Cut to the night where we were demoing our game to a few other developers here in York. What we noticed immediately was that people were not engaging with the rhythm game in the way we hoped. People were put off by the controls and not very excited at the prospect of getting better at them. With the couple of individuals who did push through, we found that once they had learned the control scheme, the game offered little challenge and they were able to complete songs with very high accuracy percentages (and this was with very little amounts of practice). What we had created was not a skill ceiling, but a skill floor. Once players had figured out how to play the game, there was little there to keep them interested.

One significant change we have made to combat this is to make the rhythm game use 2 buttons instead of 8. While this may sound counterintuitive at first, we have found that because of this change the game becomes a lot more accessible while also retaining the potential to increase in difficulty as the game goes on. Only requiring two button presses has meant that we can make the curses (as described in this blog post) present in the game more complicated and ultimately more interesting because there is much less information that the player has to process in the base version of the rhythm game. We’re hoping that this will be able to make the experience of playing the game ultimately more welcoming, satisfying, and complex in the long run, but like all of game development, everything is subject to change.

That’s all the time we’ve got for now as we need to get back to work on the other exciting changes we’re making to the game, the details of which we hope to share in the coming weeks! If any advice can be taken from this we would simply say: playtest as soon and as often as you can! We’ve found that the majority of decisions when it comes to the design and development of games are made on assumptions. To have those assumptions challenged as frequently and as often as you can will only make your game better and something closer to what other people will actually want to play. Anyway, enough rambling for the moment. We’ll be back before you know it. Love and respect!

Before we forget- we have a new bit of promo art, check it out!