I’m super thrilled that SpaceGameJunkie (SGJ hereafter) featured Masteroid on their blog, including a 20 minute gameplay video! I have done tons of personal playtesting as well as letting my friends and kids play the game. But watching a stranger play my game with commentary was so educational. I saw a lot of things go very differently (read: wrong) than I planned. I’m thankful and lucky that SGJ was gracious and patient with the game!
Here are things that Masteroid failed to communicate* and how I plan to address them:
SGJ did not realize that there is a station in every sector. This is a huge problem because stations offer different repair prices, cargo prices, weapons and ships. SGJ earned less cash and paid more for repairs than he would have had he known about the others. I already planned to add a station indicator but now that’s a priority for next release!
SGJ did not know what sector he was in. This is a minor problem but is annoying if you’re trying to remember which sector is which. I need to put the current sector name in the HUD or some other obvious place.
SGJ did not appear to see the cargo payouts on the station menu. This is a pretty huge problem because if you don’t realize payouts are different for each station you may get burnt out on mining endlessly for really low cargo values. This UI needs to be more clearly highlighted.
SGJ did not dismiss dialogs. Dialogs queue up in Masteroid and don’t show until the previous dialog is dismissed. This was borderline breaking for his experience because he didn’t get the “mission complete” dialogs due to the previous dialog being still active. He accidentally clicked “Okay” multiple times and finally got the success dialog by accident. Dialogs should auto-dismiss after a period of time so that players always see all dialogs. The font is also a little too small at higher resolutions.
SGJ struggled to dock. I’ve had other players mention that docking is problematic. I never have had trouble but, of course, I know exactly how it works! You have to stop in the docking area for the station to dock you. I already had a task to address docking difficulty but I’ve increased the priority of the task. I will probably also increase the speed threshold at which you can dock.
SGJ wasn’t sure if he was using the weapon he bought. I know the whole weapon equipping system is bad. I’m actually already rewriting the way that works. This is my current top priority.
SGJ struggled to damage NPC ships. I also know the AI is a little too good at fighting and fleeing. I plan to give the player some special abilities in an upcoming release. This will make combat more dynamic, exciting and survivable. For now, at least, the penalty for death is low!
SGJ couldn’t tell the factions apart. Factions have a unique color, unique ships and unique weapons. I feel like that’s fairly easy to spot (and he did) but you can’t easily match a faction name with their color and ship style. So when he got a “kill this faction” dialog he wasn’t sure which ships belonged to that faction. It’s not actually indicated anywhere! It’s also not clear which faction runs the current sector. I need more UI to communicate player status with each faction. A full solution will take more work but I should find some small ways to address this asap.
As a gamedev, watching someone play the game is both awesome and frustrating! It points out exactly how many bad assumptions or bad decisions you make as a game designer. Some of these are necessary compromises to get a playable game out as an indie. But others are simply things I failed to anticipate.
I’m super appreciative that SGJ took the time to highlight and play my game! A big shoutout to SpaceGameJunkie and all the indie bloggers, streamers and journalists out there.
* NOTE: If it wasn’t clear, none of these are complaining about SGJ at all. The user is always right in software. If they struggle, miss something or have a broken or bad experience, it’s the developer/designer’s fault! I’m excited to apply what I learned to make Masteroid a better game.