Overall, I'd say the test went pretty well. The players' feedback suggested there's a decent gameplay loop in there. It's gonna need some polish (a lot, actually), but I'd rather have that problem than the other way around.
Moves Per Turn
One of the bigger points of confusion involved the "movements per turn" and "end turn" mechanics. I think most everyone figured out that they have a limited number of moves per turn. But where things fell apart was how to replenish those movement points. It appears nearly everyone assumed the "Sleep" button was meant to rest and restore those points, rather than the "End Turn" button further down. And as a result, people were dying left and right in their sleep from dogmen and bandit attacks.
The few that did use the "End Turn" button mentioned that it could get tedious pressing it all the time. Fortunately, they had a suggestion: what if the game automatically ended the turn for you? Or better yet, what if each move was a turn?
That sounded familiar. Practically every roguelike out there operates on the same principle, not to mention many of the familiar board games. It meant deviating somewhat from other staples in the strategy and rpg genres, though. Namely, I was trying to emulate the early exploration mechanics in Civilization. Fallout and Silent Storm are both sources of inspiration too. And all of those games utilize "moves per turn" or some similar mechanic.
What should I do? I haven't decided yet, but I have mocked up the roguelike movement for the time-being. I've had a lot of time to test the Civ-like schema. Now it is time to give roguelike a fair shake.
Post Apocalyptic Monsters, Tracking, and Weapons
One of the other major changes I've made is to the wandering monsters. The game now has a raft of wandering creatures added randomly to the map at game start. All creatures, including the player, leave behind tracks where they walk. These tracks are "hot" where the creature stands, and gradually cool after the creature has left. Creatures will follow tracks when they can, and otherwise seek out loot.
|Tracking a creature.|
|Currently, the most powerful loadout in NEO Scavenger: dual-wielding the rusty meat cleaver and the monkey wrench.|
The game UI has undergone some refinement again. Both in preparation for playtesting, and as a result of it. You may have noticed that new status bars no longer have banded colors and needles representing state. Henry pointed out that it was tedious to keep looking over there for changes, and that it could just show a solid color to get the same point across. It was a great suggestion, and simplified the UI considerably.
|New loot icons, and player sprite!|
Playtesting also indicated that I needed more obvious controls. Buttons for inventory, clicking current hex to open loot screen, arrow-key and mouse-based map scrolling, even some conflicts with accelerator keys on Macs. It's all extremely useful feedback, and I'm glad for it.
The List Goes On
And there's more. Too much to list here without getting exhaustively dry. The summary is that the game still needs some work, but is starting to show its colors. Playtesting, even with a small number of people, has been a tremendous help. And I think I can make this into a complete game soon. Maybe within the next month.
Though, I'm starting to wonder if I've made something heavier than a Flash portal game. I feel like I'm in a weird territory between a heavy Flash portal game and a light premium/downloadable game. I still think a free option is necessary for increasing awareness, but now I'm starting to wonder if I've created a demo for a premium game (a la Armageddon Empires, or Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space). That'd be fine, except the premium version is unfinished.
I guess it's good that my business model can adapt even this late, but the uncertainty is a little unsettling.