Blog posted by Ste Pickford on Sun, 04 Nov 2007
Subject: Magnetic Billiards: Seriously Casual
John and I had the first go on the two player mode of our new game on Friday afternoon. John beat me 3-0. I should have won the first game, but gut flustered just as I was about to win and messed up. I played against his eldest daughter next and beat her comprehensively, haha!
The game has been playable for a month or so, but only in single player modes while we mess about with different rules and game balance etc. We've been using a wired 360 controller on the PC to play the game with, which works brilliantly, but we've also got support for mouse control as well. It was only when John started work on the two player mode earlier in the week that we both realised that we would need two controllers! It's easy to forget this kind of thing when you work at home, and not in a studio with piles of spare equipment lying around. We both had a wireless 360 controller lying around (for our 360s), but that's no good on PC without an adaptor.
Just to give us something to test he got it working earlier in the week with the mouse controlling player 1, and the 360 controller controlling player 2. That worked but was totally unfair - the player with the mouse has a massive advantage over the player with the controller (in our game anyway), due to the speed and accuracy with which you can move the cursor around the screen. It was a bit like the old TV games where we always though the right paddle had the advantage, hehe. We both got around this by playing against our daughters; we put them on the mouse and used the controller ourselves, and compensated for the controller's natural disadvantage with our elite gaming skills.
We had a couple of goes of the half-formed two player mode this way, and something I took very careful note of was my daughter's very first responses to the game. Those things she didn't 'get' straight away, or which needed some explanation from me. Some of the visual feedback just isn't programmed yet, but mostly if she didn't get something straight away that told us that we might need to re-think that feature of the game. From just the first two or three plays on mouse v controller, I think we came up with three or four big changes to the way the two player game worked, all of which were massive improvements.
It's really good fun working in this way, without a detailed spec written at the beginning of the project (we started with just an outline of the style and scope of the game, and the game modes we plan to implement). We are able to design the actual details of the game - the different mechanics employed, how they will work, how they are balanced etc., as we go along, implementing, changing, keeping or throwing away. Not only is this method a lot of fun for the game designer, I think it produces the best results. Certainly, some of the best ideas are those we have after we've implemented and play-tested our initial ideas. It's only then, once you've played your game for a while, can you see what's wrong, and which bits you need to reconsider. I've worked on so many games in the past where the ideas we had at the beginning, which we had to write down and attach to the contract, became a straight jacket for the entire project, and revising or changing them involved so much contract re-negotiation that it felt more trouble than it was worth to pipe up with any new game-improving ideas you had mid-project.
Anyway, on the way to John's on Friday afternoon I picked up an extra 360 wired controller. I wanted a black, Elite controller, but they also had some nice looking blue and pink ones in the shops. Brilliant! I can get different coloured ones so I'll know which are for development and which are for my 360, and which are player 1 and 2 etc. Nope - the fancy coloured ones are wireless only, so I had to get another white one. John got controller #2 working in the game in a few minutes (after some initial puzzlement with port numbers) and we finally had the first proper two player game together.
It was really good!
As I say, I should have won. I think the deadzone was broken on my controller, or something, but John beat me 3-0.
Tags: game design, prototype, multiplayer, iteration
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