Test early, test often. There is no other way to make a computer game.
That’s especially true when you’re still learning. When you’re still establishing formulae and generating ideas. You can make a game that seems like it’s absolutely fine. Until other people play it, you have no idea.
I’ve assembled a fantastic team of testers for Reality Falls, all of whom have provided some wonderful feedback at regular stages throughout development so far. And significant changes have been made to portions of the game as a result. Most of them are small things that haven’t required massive reworking, but have had an enormous impact on play. And the reason they didn’t require massive reworking is because they were caught early, and tweaked before anything was finalised.
Small things. Not everyone plays adventure games. Not everyone knows instinctively to use the hand icon on the object in order to pick it up and add it to the inventory, then use the inventory item on the character to give them it. You don’t need a massive tutorial to explain how that works. You just need the first task in the game to be, y’know, doing this. If you can’t progress until you’ve worked it out, you work it out quickly and it’s not a problem, it turns out.
Some players like reams of dialogue, while others want to get straight to the point. You don’t need to compromise. You can have all the optional stuff below a sub-menu and go into as much detail as you want, allowing those who want to hit the ‘what do I do next?’ prompt to do so straight away. It seems obvious. It’s only obvious when people point out where you’ve gone wrong.
Speaking of dialogue, researching its use in adventure games has been fascinating. Of course, I’ve played a great many adventures over the years, but you only ever really process anything on a superficial level. The range of dialogue amounts in adventure games is quite spectacular, but what’s been interesting is seeing how adventure games I always thought of as overly wordy actually aren’t, and how games I never levelled that accusation at are actually filled with text. There is a quite extraordinary amount of dialogue in The Longest Journey. It never feels like all you’re doing is talking, because the topics of conversation are ones you’d naturally be interested in asking about, and a vast majority of it is optional dialogue anyway.
Reality Falls is about 40 percent complete, I’d say. I’m working on adding a little bit to the game as the pacing was seeming a little off – lots to do at the start of the game before the story really kicks off, then a bit of an info-dump section that I really would rather avoid. So there’s that to add. I’m going to get back to working on it in the next couple of days. Having had a Christmas break, I’m itching to crack on with it again.