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Groll’s Revenge Post-Mortem: Game Too Difficult?

Posted by
Sunday, September 6th, 2015 9:11 am

Thanks very much for all the feedback on my entry, Groll’s Revenge. Please give it a try if you haven’t yet.

When making Groll’s Revenge, I wanted to create an old-school arcade experience, something with good replay value that encouraged players to chase high scores. The core design has players raiding medieval caravans transporting wagons between castles. Destroying a wagon earns points, but caravans are often guarded by foot soldiers and archers. Castles have their own arrow defenses, plus fast-moving knights will periodically chase the player all around the map.

Run for it!

It’s a similar concept to the game Hoard (which I only realized once I was halfway through coding…), but the crucial difference is how powerless the player character is. The monster has no way to harm any other character besides the wagons. Instead, players can hide in the forest, which makes them undetectable to all enemies. Then they can use a short lunge ability to dart out and steal a wagon before running back to safety.

Biding my time...

Everything works reasonably well (aside from a few odd pathfinding bugs) and I was very pleased with the results of my efforts. It’s the first real-time game I’ve made on my own (my previous LD entry was turn-based), and even though I had to cut a number of features, mainly extra monster abilities, I think the game is pretty fun to play. There’s a nice cat-and-mouse element and some exciting moments from darting in and retreating to the forests with a line of soldiers on your tail.

Feedback has been positive, but a lot of players have commented on the game being very difficult. Some people say the enemies move too quickly, or that there’s no safe way to avoid being hit by archers. And although I only have a few data points from the comments/Kongregate stats, high scores have generally been quite low – sub 5,000, which is just the first difficulty-bump threshold!

So is the game too hard? In my opinion, yes and no. First, it is possible to do well in the game. I can consistently get over 10,000 points, and my high score is near 18,000. As the game’s creator I’d expect that, but it at least proves that it isn’t an impossible feat.

grollsrevengepm3

What it does suggest is that the game’s systems are not well communicated to new players. Furthermore, lack of understanding the systems is punishing. I believe the main issue is that enemies react instantly to the player entering their threat-detection zone, yet there is no indication of how big that zone is. A new player will be caught off-guard the first time a soldier chases them or an archer shoots at them and likely not react fast enough, nor will they learn the threat-zone size due to their surprise. This issue is compounded by the extremely fast speed enemies and bullets travel at, which is what causes a player’s lack of understanding to be harshly punished.

There are a few possible solutions, such as introducing an audio or visual cue when the player becomes spotted plus a slight hesitation in an enemy before they begin chasing. I wouldn’t want to reduce maximum speeds too much, since that would make the game trivial to experienced players, but a gradual acceleration might give new players more time to react.

The strongest lesson for me is to really think through the new-player experience and ensure that someone completely fresh to the game will not have a frustrating initial experience. Ideally get a friend to play test it at an early stage so that I can see what elements aren’t well-presented and what needs more highlighting. It’s somewhat the nature of a game jam to be totally invested in your idea for the duration, but I believe it’d benefit my future efforts immensely to take a step back and consider the game from a totally naive perspective.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this write-up and taken something from my mistakes. And if you do give Groll’s Revenge a try: be patient, stick to the forests, time your lunges, eat apples to regain health, grab wagons that have traveled a far distance, and try to break the 5,000 point barrier! Good luck, have fun!

Lots of Stealth Entries

Posted by
Tuesday, August 25th, 2015 1:42 am

A bit counter-intuitive given the theme, but so far I’ve played a number of games that use stealth mechanics for the monster. Games like Lurker of the Night, Horrifying Human Hunter, and my own entry Groll’s Revenge all have some form of the monster hiding from the non-monsters. I suppose it’s a natural design choice given that the monster is likely the only of its kind facing off against countless enemies. That kind of ‘me verus the world’ idea definitely suggested stealth mechanics to a few LDer’s.

Anyone found any other stealth games?

Maze of Doom

Posted by
Monday, December 8th, 2014 7:49 pm

Submitted my first Ludum Dare game, Maze of Doom! I wasn’t planning on entering the jam, but had a moment of inspiration late this weekend so I hurried to make it in time. Would’ve been an entry to the compo, but I started a full day late.

I had tons of fun developing Maze of Doom! I’m looking forward to revisiting it (once I’ve gotten some sleep) and adding in a few elements I didn’t get a chance to do for the jam. Even still, I think the game is pretty tight and fun to play.

http://ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-31/?action=preview&uid=47064
 

In case you’re having trouble winning, pay attention to the pro-tips! And for encouragement, here’s a screenshot of the ‘best’ ending:

 Maze of Doom Best Ending

It is possible!

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