Berlin Talk and Play is a free event organised by Berlin Games Scene that happens every 2 months at Game Science Center Berlin 2.0. It starts out with some gaming themed talks, then follows with announcements (usually jobs and events), and then the floor turns into an exhibit of games that have been submitted to be displayed.
Naturally, Catherine and I took the chance to showcase "To the Dark Realm" this Talk and Play. We knew it would be a great opportunity to get feedback through play testing. The crowd at the Talk and Play event is full of game enthusiasts that really know how to give constructive advice, which is super valuable.
What we observed:
1) Players, in general, do not read dialogue thoroughly. Anything in the game that required a player to read a bit of dialogue (eg: controls to exit the Dark Realm) were usually missed.
2) A lot of players tried to use the same button for attacking to pick up an item.
3) The UI for the timer telling you to leave the Dark Realm did not come across clearly.
4) There needs to be more feedback when the player is getting hurt. At the moment the hearts just disappear as the player loses a life and they do not notice.
5) There are inconsistencies in our scenes around how objects get possessed by the ghosts. Some scenes require the player to throw an object, while others let the ghosts go straight into the object. We should make everything consistent to make the world more believable.
6) The Dark Realm does not have a timer when dialogue is going on, but it does as soon as dialogue stops. This is another inconsistency to the player danger in the Dark Realm that should be addressed.
7) It's frustrating for players to drop items when they enter the Dark Realm. This does not add anything - it just means players have to keep picking up the object over and over if they miss.
8) It's not obvious to jump back and forth between the Dark Realm and real world as frequently as one needs to in order to hit the enemies.
What I've listed are mostly the things we need to improve on, so it might come across as a bit negative. However people did have nice comments too! Christopher's artwork went down well - the cover art on the presentation definitely helped to get attention! We also received positive reactions to the core gameplay concept. Although it did take people a bit of time to get used to the "Dark Realm" and "Real World" idea, once they did they really liked it! This is great, as the core concept is the one thing that's difficult to change without feeling like you are completely scrapping a whole idea.
The next steps for us will be to figure out how to solve these issues and document our next steps on one of Github/Slack/Trello. We will then make sure the highest priority features are put into the next iteration. Currently we think that addressing the on boarding of the game will help to solve the weakest areas. Further down the line, we're also keen to improve the overall feel of the game by rethinking some of the level design and UI design.
We were invited to present the game at an event happening on 10 June called Femisphere. The organiser happened to come round to our stall at Talk and Play which was fantastic. We're honored to have the change to display our game there and will use the deadline as our own to ensure we get the next iteration done!
Will keep writing updates as the game development progresses.