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Archive for November, 2010

Playtesting

As part of my quest to create an enjoyable game, I regularly download and play other people’s games to see what works and, just as importantly, what doesn’t work.

Unfortunately, most of the games, for one reason or another, end up being deleted within just a few minutes of me playing them. This is a shame, because it must have taken the developers a reasonable investment in time and money to create the games, yet it would appear that the games themselves were poorly playtested, if they were indeed playtested at all!

The first thing that I, as a player, notice when starting a game is the initial load time. The operating system gives the game a maximum of 20 seconds to start up before it kills the game, which is why sometimes when you start a game it quits before you get to do anything.

Personally, I think 20 seconds is far too long to have to wait for a game to start, with 10 seconds being a more reasonable maximum figure. Even then, I still think that’s too long, so Animal Tracker currently starts up on a first generation iPod Touch in under two seconds. Just starting an ’empty’ program takes 1.6 seconds, so I don’t think 2 seconds is doing too badly.

The next things I notice are splash pages… one for the publisher, one for the developer, one for the wonderful game engine that was used to make the game, etc. What’s worse, is when you’re forced to read them all as there’s no tap-to-skip feature. Well, as a gamer, I don’t care about any of that, I just want to play the game. I’ve a couple of minutes to spare and I don’t want to be wasting half that time reading that lot! So, Animal Tracker has no splash pages and takes you straight to the main menu.

Okay, so now I’m in the menu system, wanting to toggle some option on. What could go wrong here? Well, when I tap an option, I expect the game to respond immediately. I want some indication that it has registered my tap, preferably a visual cue and optionally an audible one. What I don’t want to be doing is hammering the button a dozen times, trying to get my selection registered, only for my fifth press to finally select it, but then my ninth press to deselect it!

Even though a menu screen may have no animations going on, that’s no excuse to throttle back the frame rate to such an extent that the game only checks for taps once every few seconds! You have to trade responsiveness for battery life, but ultimately for me, an unresponsive game gets deleted in short order… which, in a way, saves even more battery life by me never playing it again… lol

All in all, it’s a wonder how any self-respecting developer can release a game with such glaringly obvious shortfalls. Rest assured that I won’t let Animal Tracker out the door with any of these in it.

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