Week Twenty Three – Walkthrough & Reflection

This is going to be rather a short Weekly Walkthrough, as not a lot actually progressed or happened in terms of actual game development. Most of the week was spent completing the soon-to-be-due Reflective Journal option module, which took quite a bit longer to finish up than expected. We did get some user testing done though, so the week wasn’t a complete developmental loss.

The end of last week saw the successful implementation of the planetary landing/takeoff mechanic into the game with Prototype 0.5.5, which surged the game’s development forward pretty significantly; being one of the most fundamental mechanics that were required for the game, and also one that I had been rather dreading coding due to the complexities of it, so it was definitely a relief to see it (mostly) completed. The initial plan for this week (and Prototype 0.6) was to do a general “quality of life” update, but that was rather rapidly scrapped on Monday as we realised that the Reflective Journal would be something of a larger undertaking than previously anticipated. Additionally, Josh and I had volunteered to be Student Ambassadors at an event in Andover College a few weeks prior, and said event was happening on Wednesday, so preparations needed to be made.

Now I must admit, Josh and I had kind of forgotten about the event, since we had been rather busy with the development of Fortitude for the last few weeks. So on Monday when we were suddenly reminded, we had to get to work. Adam suggested that since we were representing the Games Design & Art course, we could take our game in its current state as a playable demo kind-of-thing, and so use the event as more user testing for the game. With this in mind, I spent much of Monday trying to get the game as stable as possible and coding in something of a “demo level” so that it would be easily playable and more importantly interesting to play.

For said “demo level”, I decided that it would be quite fun to set it on the surface of the Elcalowda planet (that had been previously coded in Prototype 0.5.5) and have the testers try to take off and successfully escape the planet’s orbit. The landing/takeoff mechanic does form a fundamental aspect of the game, and is also planned to be one of the biggest aspects of the overall “fear” theme that forms the thematic basis of Fortitude, so I felt that it would be a very good idea to have this as the central aspect of the demo. In order to make the takeoff a bit more interesting (and difficult!) I added various obstacles into the atmosphere of Elcalowda, including clouds that the ship can almost completely disappear into as well as high winds and dangerous mists that can throw the ship off course or in extreme cases rip parts of it off. The higher the player reaches, the more dangerous these atmospheric elements become.

The dangers of Elcalowda’s atmosphere

Adding all of these elements increased the difficulty of the game significantly, with the likelihood of a player successfully piloting the Fortitude ship out of the atmosphere and into space being quite low. The fast movement of the atmospheric elements also made the game quite scary and intimidating, as well as rather frustrating due to the “screw you” nature of the effects on the ship (i.e. spinning it out of control, pushing it back down towards the surface to crash etc.). As a last minute addition, I also made the demo playable with an xbox controller to make it easier to play (and the demo only really has two controls – fly up and side to side – so it was pretty easy) and simpler to demonstrate.

On Tuesday I then presented the demo prototype to Josh, who was rather pleased with it, saying it worked well as a demonstration of the game and also channeled the central themes of the game overall rather well. I then playtested the demo with Josh and several other members of the Games Design course, and the general consensus was that it was rather enjoyable and quite addictive due to the start-fail-restart gameplay loop caused by the high difficulty. Rather interestingly, only one person actually managed to escape the atmosphere, which further demonstrated just how tough I had made the game. It was a tad buggy, but overall I felt that it worked well as a demo prototype for Fortitude. The rest of the day was then spent working on the Reflective Journal, with progress moving slowly but surely.

It was then Wednesday, and the trip to Andover College was upon us. Adam had provided us with a box of flyers for the course as well as a big LG monitor to play the demo on, so with these in the boot of Josh’s car we set off on the adventure. Arriving on the campus, we were directed to a large room with a table already laid out for us, and we then began setting up.


The Games Design & Art table – with Fortitude’s demo ready to play

The show then began, and to our surprise the room was quickly flooded with a considerable number of secondary school students. There must have been a school trip or twelve on as we hadn’t expected anywhere near as many people. Still, this proved quite useful as we had a good number of them playtest our game as well as handing out a whole bunch of flyers. The feedback we then received was rather useful, with players praising the replayability and high difficulty of the game, and given how much each person played for, the level of game addiction also seemed quite high. The only major criticisms we got were of the somewhat buggy atmospheric winds, as well as some of the elements of the atmosphere being a tad difficult to navigate through. Overall though reception was rather positive, and so I found it particularly encouraging for the game’s development as a whole.


Game playtesting, with yours truly folding his arms

So all-in, the creation of this small game prototype “demo” has been quite a success. The new mechanics introduced in it have been received rather well, with the difficulty being particularly cited as making it both scary and fun to play. Said mechanics will be added to the full game at a later date, as the priority right now is the refinement of currently implemented game elements, hence the planned “quality of life” update.

The remainder of the week was then spent working on the Reflective Journal. This was a rather unfortunate turn of events in terms of game development, but the option module is important, so time did have to be dedicated to it.


Reflection On The Week

This week was rather slow in terms of developing Fortitude because of the focus on Reflective Journal, but the creation and subsequent user testing of the “demo” prototype actually proved rather useful, with players pointing out the enjoyability of the overall “make it to space” objective and the addictive nature of the “start-fly-fail” repetitive elements. Criticism was raised at the rather buggy nature of the new atmospheric elements (they weren’t very refined due to time, so this was expected) as well as some of the more extreme punishments they gave out for venturing near them. Overall though, reception was largely positive, which gave both Josh and I a fair bit of encouragement for development going forward.

Normal service will resume next week with the creation of Prototype 0.6, the first “quality of life” game update that will hopefully see various refinements and bugfixes of currently implemented mechanics, as well as some particular additions to the new landing/takeoff mechanic. From then on there will be a focus on environmental design, as March is our month of working on the game’s environment before then moving into working on implementing the narrative in April.

We are a smidge behind schedule, but things aren’t looking too bad.

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