Well, for one, we learned a ton of invaluable insight and knowledge as game designers, story writers, and programmers. One of our goals for this series was to give others some idea of the struggles and tribulations of this process from our perspective – to show that sometimes it is good to take a step back and look at what you are trying to accomplish and not fear that you have “wasted” time by removing content and scrapping ideas that just weren’t working. We get the opportunity to share our mistakes and help other designers in the process.
Not only is this a look into the development side of A Tofu Tail, but it provides us (alchemedium and all of you awesome readers) some important lessons and tools for current and future projects.
Before and After
Before the mechanics overhaul, the design revolved around purely procedurally-generated stages, with some controllable parameters. A Tofu Tail’s gameplay had some rather devastating flaws at this point…
What we had come to realize about halfway through the project:
- The gameplay was just missing… something…
- Our players felt they had seen everything there was to see much too early in the experience
- Difficulty progression and level flow balancing was very difficult and, more often than not, rather broken
- The additional “mods” to gameplay were only adding additional hindrances to the player, rather than increasingly difficult challenges
After the puzzle mechanics were revamped and levels were hand designed rather than randomly created, we had happened upon many noticeable gains:
- We had a more structured flow and balance of challenges
- There were several game mechanics that complemented the core color change mechanic well
- There was a deeper connection between the gameplay, the player, and the narrative
- The game as a whole possessed a greater depth of challenge and puzzle solving through emergent gameplay and mechanic synergies
- People played longer, and appeared to be more engaged
- Players had less suggestions on how to improve the experience when asked what they would improve
- Players learned how to play from the level design (which seemed rather impossible with the procedural-generated level approach)
- Players felt empowered as they learned the mechanics and solved puzzles
Early Stages of Mechanics Design
We have learned many things throughout the course of the development of A Tofu Tail, but there are a few key points that stick out that will remain with us during the production of our next games.
Major lessons learned during the redesign:
- Prototype any new idea before fully developing it
- Playtest at the next phase. Then playtest some more.
- Unexpected things can happen as you try new things. Experiment. Emergent gameplay is a beautiful thing.
- If a new mechanic is not going to enhance the gameplay experience in some significant way, it probably isn’t worth implementing it.
- Infinite levels does not equal infinite replayability.
Only the Beginning
As fun as this dive into the development changes of A Tofu Tail has been, I fear it has to finally come to a close. We at alchemedium have been on a fantastic journey from the early stages of development to our first round of play testing and realization of that missing component -to the rebuild in Unity and redesign of the gameplay experience; though, it definitely does not end here!
We still have a ton to share about Mr. Tofu’s journey through the realms of the Kitsune – and we hope to hear your thoughts and any insight you have on design, as well! Leave us a comment!
So… Farewell for now, and keep on ploppin’!