This post mortem will take a look at my final project for Studio 2, A Place to Call, looking at how it succeeded and where it missed the mark.
A Place to Call is a game that I made to evoke a sense of home. I wanted to do this in a different form and have some try to make home in another past home, I felt this was a different way of layering “sense of home“ in ways that people might not think of as a norm. Players take control of a player character displayed to the players as a set of footsteps walking around a darkened house trying to make a sense of home by collecting comfort and warmth to see out a night.
Player Interaction and Presence.
This area of the project was something that I wanted to be a main focal point. Starting with this player interaction and working other element to enhance and complement this was my central goal. This was the case in some ways, and it also presented its own challenges in turn, too.
This design choice of having a character represented by footsteps has a few reasons to it, firstly scope what a big part of this as making a character model for this game space would have a lot of work in it to make it feel right. So the footprints that were used in the game solved this and was received by players in a good way and if fit with the simple art style.
I decided to do this also to go against the grain of games I had been playing and was also influenced by fellow developers’ game at the time. They were all making games that were 1st person and the player were not able to see themselves. I thought how could I do this in the isometric camera view I was working with. I find that I like to make these limitations on myself and try to work around them and work them into my games instead of just opting out and doing something a way that it has been done time and time again.
This, however, created a different challenge. Players had trouble interacting with the environment as they were unsure where the character was at times. To add to this, objects that the player picked up would stay in a fixed position to the player location. And the moving of an object was based on player movement, so at time players just wanted to move the object and not the player and wouldn’t be able to. Instead of moving an object from the left of the player to the right like they wanted, players wouldn’t realize that you have to move the player to the left so that the object would now be where they wanted it.
A solution to this that I would like to add is that the player movement will be on the mouse as it is now, however once the player interacts with an object the movement on the mouse now moves to the object and where it is so that the player has more control over objects. This will them be returned to the player after the object is dropped.
Fungus and how to use it well.
This tool is something that I have used in the past, but for this game I was able to focus on using it in a much better way. My intentions where to use this for narrative to set the tone and feel of the game but to also use it as a tutorial for the players as they went about the house and interacted with objects to achieve the goals they had to achieve.
-:Image of fungus used:-
This was used to good effect and players were able to get a sense of this. Have text boxes come up when a player was near an important object to interact with or to give the player a sense of what the situation is. From looking over play tests of players that played the early mechanical test build, to a version that had the Fungus implemented, players got a pretense of why they were in a house and trying to break everything they could.
I wanted to have tutorial displayed to player as part of narrative to keep with the theme and not feel like blatant step by step instruction The use of Fungus as a teaching tool is something that can be achieved; however, there was more that I could have done to its structure to safeguard it to different players. From play tests that I observed during the exhibition, players would take different meaning from text in different ways—some effectively, other not. Players would read the Fungus and think I need to do ‘x’ and of this ‘y’ will help me do that. However, this was in a skippable Fungus text box and having narrative element among it to keep with theme I believe had some player not reading it and getting what I wanted from it.
After feedback and observation, I have come up with a solution to this issue by making the event of what the player is able to do be more of an impassable wall that players must experience and complete instead of leaving the up to players as all players play differently.
As my game stands, the list of things to do where more like a group of things that you could do in the house. Whereas it should have been more ‘you must do this then this, then this’ so as to gate the next part that players can do.
The good side of play testing with “A Place to Call” is that our first was a test of the core mechanic and weather players where about to play and understand the absence of a player model. This was something that players where able to pick up quite easily and moving around the environment with a control input of moving the mouse and the play moves to player position. It was how ever that the interaction of object in relation to the player. The moving of objects was based on physic based on the unity engine this was something that become more frustration for players as the player would drop or an object would be hard to maneuver easily.
As a result of the play test out comes where changed up how objects moved in relation to the player and make it so an object would be fix to the player while the moved around and this fix the issue of player moving objects. Now players where able to get objects from A to B more play test brought need issues ti the forefront, as all play testing dose.
After our final play test, which was in part an excitation the a public audience as well. We found that some people where wanting more fine tune control with their moving of objects. But because the players had to move the player to move object with them, player where trying to move a object and leave the player in on place. this is something that will become a major change to game and it control interaction.
Our UI also went through some iteration over play tests, the main changes to this were make the UI uniform and more understandable for players. As the relation for the two recourse that players need to collect where represented by names and numbers, so we made both of these represented by the same ways so that the relation between the two or understandable.
This project was a very different feel for me personally as I was the only designer working on it. The list of targets and element all fell to me to keep the ball rolling. From past experience this had me working on this project very differently as there had been more designers working on all the elements involved in my previous projects. So at times there were things I overlook and things that I didn’t work on in the past so it wasn’t in the front of my mind on this project and may have not been planned for. There weren’t really any new things that I put into play, it was that I double down on plan and scoping of documentation and overall game and design intent. This was I had a better idea of the work needing to be down and keeping track, but in turn meant more work on my schedule that I needed to complete
This project has giving me a wider view of what is needs to be involved for a game in a planning phase of the project. This has me now thinking of things in a lot more details early as they will impact the project down that line.
Communication was smaller but just as intense.
This project’s communication where a lot easier as there were only two primary members. This meant that the project had more of a casual feel to the flow of preceding, as all communication didn’t need to be huge meeting and collaboration. This, however, didn’t mean that the impact of these were any less or where to be taken lightly. With only two members working on the overall flow of the game meeting where able to be more often and were more of check list update or alteration if anything made another problem and add of other elements we could continue on with. The amount of travel that this communication was or a minimal as it did not have to travel between to many individuals. Coming from groups projects that need more work on this front i think we were over prepared for this.
This project in its simplicity has giving me a look more complex outlook on other games I will make from here on out. Working on such a small team had given me a better sense of my abilities and where I can improve. Sticking to the design intent of the game as well as we did was the best thing to come our time on this project and has me think on how well small projects and be effective games.
If you haven’t already why not give the game a look. Here
Thanks for reading.