Playtesting Findings and Improvements
A screen capture of one of the playtests. This player was unable to complete the level on this runthrough.
In following with the playtesting plan, five volunteers were used to playtest Turn the Lights Off, with each player having five runthroughs of the level. As in the previous game’s development, two of the playtesters were studio members and the other three were naive testers. The playtests were checking for the three particular goals of speed, an ethereal ambiance and the use of prediction. Since my version of this design eliminated the prediction aspect, the questionnaire was refined to fit the first two goals, as well as to check for how well the mechanics worked.
The players produced some interesting but not unexpected results. Especially among the naive playtesters, it seems as though the game’s difficulty is at too high of a level. The main mechanic of my version of Turn the Lights Off is that the player must find and turn off all of the torches before the time runs out. This becomes easier each runthrough as the player’s memory starts to take part in this and allows them to move through the level at a faster and more confident speed.
There were no reported glitches in any of the mechanics and the game seemed to run pretty smoothly for all of the playtests. The only issue mentioned was that the colliders on the torches could be a little tricky to click on depending at the angles.
The other studio members did vastly better at Turn the Lights Off than any of the naive playtesters. While they held the obvious advantage of having designed the game and mad their own versions, it also proved that implementing a short tutorial or even just an instructions screen may seriously improve player performance.
Many players did not take note of how much time they had at the start of the level and became surprised when they lost the game. It may be of assistance to players to make the timer slightly larger and to flash at certain ‘checkpoints’ such as 60, 30 and 10 seconds remaining. Changing the timer to display minutes and seconds rather than just a large second value would reduce time wasting on players attempting to do their on calculations on converting the time values.
The rest of the text elements served their purpose at their current size and level of accessibility.
Increasing how much time the player has is always an option, however given the range of responses on that area (everything from too slow to way too fast), it would be more reasonable to simply add levels that are increasing in difficulty as the player progresses.
In decreasing difficulty, the torches should possibly be lit in a slightly different colour and at a higher intensity. This would make them easier to see from a distance, allowing the player to find them easier. Unfortunately this would change the ambiance of the game slightly, taking away from the second player experience goal of the game feeling ethereal. Since no one reported having any trouble with finding the torches though, this may not be necessary. Further playtests would be required to determine this change.
Adding more in depth mechanics was suggested by a couple of the playtesters. The current mechanics were designed to be as simple as possible so changing them would cause a complete change in both win and lose conditions, as well as how the game is actually played. A long term goal is to work the game up to be much closer to its original design. Unlike the current prototype, the player would work with the clock and work against a horde of otherworldly beings, vastly changing the playstyle of the game. Without going to such extreme measures, addition mechanics could be improved level design with some platformer elements or a more maze like level design.
Depending on the path the level design takes, creating a map mechanic would create a bit of a crutch for the players to lean on when stuck at certain points. If a maze is created then having a completed map would be counterproductive, however it may prove useful in a level that is simply larger and harder to keep track of. A map mechanic could still be added if a maze is created but instead of a completed map, it could be partially obscured or have some form of movement that is both helpful and confusing.
As mentioned earlier, the only bug found was that the torches could be temperamental to click on. This is easily fixed by simply adjusting the colliders to cover all areas of the torches.
To sum up the potential improvements:
- Tutorial or instructional screen
- Text, notifications and layout for the countdown timer
- Levels of increasing difficulty
- Changing the colour and intensity of the torches
- In depth mechanics
- Expanded level design (platformer elements, mazes and/or larger levels)
- Adjust the colliders on the torches
These improvements are simply the discussed recommendations but do not all need to be implemented to ensure the success of the game. More playtesting with some of these elements added would need to be done to determine the necessity of each one.