Improving Game Balance By Understanding User's Expectation
It’s Sunday and I should not be working today. I usually tried to force myself not to do any programming on Sunday, ideally a self imposed weekends so not to burn myself out.
But this idea has been bugging me since last night and I justified the working by looking at its potential future rewards. Just one Sunday and I probably won’t need to work as much on the game in the coming weeks. Fair enough then.
So from the initial feedback after releasing Space Shooter X, majority of the users were complaining that the game was pretty hard, mostly due to the slow control and hard to come by power ups.
The next version 1.1, addressed those concerns. Then I noticed a big improvement in ratings.
But my goal has been to make the game challenging enough but not as easy as other shooter games in the market. Unfortunately players who downloaded the game have diverse skill levels. Those who are familiar with shooter game will probably find it’s challenging yet fun and hopefully want to get better at it.
I like to assume that the average player has played many similar games before and probably has a high skill level and enjoys a challenging game. To cater for these players, I am trying to make the game difficult without being frustrating.
But those who expect a game that offer mindless fun would likely be disappointed. The game is not just play and not think. You will be dead in no time. In such case I try to make the game easy enough without being boring. Finding the balance between difficulty and reward is the trick.
So far, I’ve made the early levels less difficult and improved ships fire power. The goal is to show that users can pass the early levels and see what the game is all about.
As users move to the next level, the difficulty will increase to keep a balance. And this is where user’s skill must also increase.
To encourage users to play more, I will also integrate a more comprehensive leaderboard system in version 1.3. Users can not only keep track of their global rankings but also their country’s ranking. I believe knowing that you are the best in your country for instance is good enough reason to play the game, and more so when someone is trying to challenge your position!
One differentiation I try to implement is not to offer Shield power ups, ever. You got shot once, you are dead and then respawn if you haven’t used up all your three lives.
The oxymoron of game balance
Ideally, the game difficulty should be adjust dynamically. Better players would get more power ups but the enemies ships become stronger and fasters.
But players who do less successfully will face weaker enemies, this ensures they still move forward. The only noticeable difference between those two type of players is the total point collected while at the same level so you will know who’s the better player.
With that in mind, I will continue to test and tweak Space Shooter X based on user’s feedback.
If you have any suggestions, feel free to leave a comment below. What you found easy or difficulty in the game? What features do you want to see in the future version of Space Shooter X?
Download Space Shooter X from the Windows Phone App Store.