Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Responding to beta preview opinions…

Soo… GTB has got some nice beta coverage in a lot of different places. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, but paranoid and delicate little chap that I am, I naturally get drawn towards criticisms or suggestions for improvement. One that I had not expected, (but in hindsight agree with) came from the rock paper shotgun preview which stated:

“GTB’s eight episode campaign might be playable from two perspectives, incredibly challenging at the highest difficult level, and supplemented by an arsenal of user-made maps and challenges that grows by the hour, but you may still find yourself feeling short-changed.
Though community-crafted levels are always a convenient click away (assuming you’re online) and are rated and commented upon by downloaders, sorting wheat from chaff can still be hit-and-miss.
Cliffski’s inspired Blackadder-meets-Rogue-Trooper fantasy needed more space and time to grow. “

Because I’m not someone that ever pays attention to numbers or stats regarding game content (36 hours gameplay? for who? at what difficulty? at what speed?), I tend to have a bit of a blind spot to that topic in my own. To my mind, the campaign is just a teaser saying ‘here are some of the things you can do with maps’, assuming that even if 1% of the buyers ever made a map worth sharing, the number of maps would be huge.

However, it is fair to say that people don’t necessarily want to play user-made maps, and that obviously the person most fluent with the editor is me, so it makes sense to provide enough maps for people that user-made ones are entirely optional.

To that end, I’m happily chiseling away at the coalface making more maps. I’m 90% done on two new ones, a daytime snow map, And a nice evening desert battle.

I’m trying to be as inventive as possible. The snow map, for example has two main routes. One is short, but surrounded by concentrated enemies, the other is torourously long but the enemy locations are more scattered. So far, after many test battles, I can’t say that either route is an obvious choice, it all depends on your play style and unit choice.

I’ll almost certainly add more maps before release, especially once I get into the swing of creating them. The shadowmaps and the balancing take most of the time. So if you already bought the game, you have 8 campaign maps, and 2 more will appear in patch 1.04, hopefully this coming weekend. I’m hoping to add some more after that too, but I always try to be very conservative when it comes to promising stuff until it’s actually done.

If you bought / are considering GTB, how important is the number of singleplayer campaign maps to you?

20 thoughts on Responding to beta preview opinions…

  1. I’m one of those parent/gamer types who at most can play an hour or two in the late evenings, and I almost never play community-made mods or maps. As the RPS article states, separating wheat from chaff takes time and is generally not how I want to spend my few and precious gaming hours. However incorrect it may be, it’s a timesaver shortcut to assume that “official” maps will be of better quality and more entertaining. Once finished with those, it’s either consider “official” DLC or move on to another game.

  2. Cliff, another possibility you could look at doing something similar to what SpaceChem did (which I personally loved)? Basically, every so often (I think it was initially a week, but it got less frequent over time) they’d release 3 user created puzzles of varying difficulty over what they called the research journal, and if you went to that, all you saw was the officially picked maps. It meant the hard part (creating all the maps) was done by the community, but players (especially ones with less time like Kiddex mentions) could always find new, quality content.

    You could still have the full community challenge map interface as it is now, but another tab called ‘highlights’ or some such with the full list of the selected, quality maps for people to try.

  3. Cliff, your blog in general and this post in particular has moved my perspective on GTB from “poke the demo with a stick then consider purchase” straight to “buy right now.”

    Looking forward to it.

  4. Pretty important. As a dabbler, I figure most people who put forth the effort to make maps have probably gotten quite good at the game, and their fiendish creations are unwinnable by mere mortals.

    I expect you to have more balance in mind. :)

  5. I’m wary of relying on community content. You never know if a game will take off, or if the users will be fragmented by doc. I value a good range of built in maps, variety & quality over quantity.

  6. I tend to prefer the content made by the game maker. It is usually of better quality, and directly accessible, without having to search for the great levels.

    I like the idea of user-generated content, but more as a curiosity than the main source. My main concern, aside from actually finding the good levels, is that most people who spend time designing new levels are usually the ones looking for more challenge. And you usually end up with levels which are balanced for their tastes, much harder than the main levels. You see that a lot in platformer games, like super meat boy, for example. I assume it would be less with GTB, but it’s still a risk.

    It is hard to design a balanced level, and so, rare to find in such systems.

  7. I agree with a suggestion above. Perhaps what you should do is every week/month/whatever check to see what the most popular and highly rated maps are. Take them in, clean up any concerns if you have any and make them official while crediting their creators.

    I’m aware some other games do some similar things, I believe a number of the maps even in Team Fortress 2 that have become official in later patches were originally created by players.

  8. Massively important. I tend to have little interest in player-made stuff in any game.

    I do think that a weekly “developers pick” map – particularly if integrated into the game sounds like a good idea.

  9. I’ll concur that SpaceChem’s ‘Research Journal’ definitely added longevity to the game. User-generated content is useless if not curated in some form. Reviews for maps are good, but what the Research Journal provides is a way to know which ones you’ve already played, and how tough the ones you haven’t played yet are going to be, as well as winnowing out user maps that are too similar to ones that have already appeared.

  10. indeed, the GSB challenges just got overwhelming. In GTB, there is the option to ony show challenges issued by your friends, and I intend to beef up the functionality there so that the very best and most popular challenges will be much easier to find.
    (as well as adding more official maps :D)

  11. A bit of feedback that applied to GSB but might be relevant to GTB:

    It can be hard to visually/easily determine the effectiveness of various weapons/armaments against each other. It should be easy to get a feel for when a weapon is being effective, but I found it a little arcane in GSB and it made me feel a little disconnected.

    Unfortunately it’s actually pretty hard to make a solid suggestion on how to get this right. I know that Defense Grid got it absolutely spot-on, though. I think what helped was having little health-bars above each unit; I could see that if it was green before a cluster of towers and red afterwards, then those towers were effective.

    I guess I’ll have to buy GTB now and take a look to see if the visual damage you’ve worked so hard on does the same task just as effectively (I’ll report back in a few days?), but I know it was still hard to see in GSB.

  12. A few more single player campaign maps would be great.

    Btw. I tried to play online maps twice and GTB crashed… (example ID 10092) I choose captain – defend – scripted – the load recording panel is empty and when I click on the load button then GTB crashes (error “Missing recording file:.\src\GUI_BB_RecordingLoad.cpp 100”). I think the load button should not function when nothing is selected.

    I’ve got a question about game design. Why do you start off with veteran laser infantry (level 3 beam rifle) and have to unlock the lower tier beam rifles? (I guess there is a benefit if you can make the laser infantry cheaper… but sometimes I had the problem that I had money but the timer on infantry was running… so I did not need cheaper infantry but rather more..) Would it not make more sense to have level 1 or 2 and have to unlock the higher tiers? (At least most other games do it like this. Not that everyone should do the same. I just want to know why you choose to do it like you did.)

    Is there a way to see how damaged an enemy unit is? (Not visually or by the floating damage numbers but rather by a life bar.)

    I’m mostly playing on ‘captain’ difficulty, as ‘major’ is too difficult for me. And even then I sometimes just barely survive a map. I still need to experiment with unit designs to see if that makes a difference.

    Can you add more components and augmentations to unit design? Not not necessarily more tiers to existing designs but more variety.

    One thing I do not like in GTB is the dog tags to click on when infantry dies.
    I don’t know why, but I don’t like this kind of mechanic in games.
    Maybe because it gives me the feeling that I need to collect them to beat the map… because the game is balanced with dog tags in mind.
    Either I miss the dog tag money or I miss something else going on if I follow dying infantry to collect the dog tag.
    Could you include an option to disable dog tags? (Dying infantry could get you 50% of the money you now get from clicking on the dog tag. Or anything else to balance it out.)

    Other than that I enjoy GTB.
    I love it that you can slow the game down in multiple steps.
    Keep up the good work.

  13. Similar what Xietanu, Carl and others have mentioned:
    A good map could be chosen by player vote or developer.
    This map is then featured on the weekly challenge page which also shows high scores as well as your rank.
    You can play the map as often as you like during the whole week and improve on your score.
    After the weekly challenge for this map ends the high scores are frozen for eternity.

    I probably will not participate in the run for the highest score but I guess I will try the featured map.

  14. The single-player campaign for me is the most important part of any game, but particularly strategy games. I just have no interest at all in community-made maps, because I’m a misanthrope :)

    Mind you, I purchased GTB on day one, played it once, got horribly confused, and put it down and haven’t been back. But soon, soon.

  15. Why dont you just make a publicity stunt and allow the beta player to create new campaigns for you?

    You could buy them their work and improve your game for little profit and as a reward add a couple of steam achievements with the campaign maker name for completing that campaign.

  16. “You could buy them their work and improve your game for little profit and as a reward add a couple of steam achievements with the campaign maker name for completing that campaign.”

    Should read:

    You could buy them their work and improve your game for a little money and as a reward add a couple of steam achievements with the campaign maker name for completing that campaign.

  17. I prefer developer-content over user-generated content. More campaign maps is always better.

  18. More campaign maps is always a nice thing, and I would like to see more in the game.

    I personally wouldn’t say it’s that necessary though. I haven’t fiddled with the map editor much myself, but I can see there’s plenty that can be done with it. It should be easy enough, even without sorting through other people’s maps, to create a handful by myself to keep me entertained.

    However, not everyone will be good at making maps, and there’s always going to be blatantly unfair, one-sided maps posted online, so people may take a while to find balanced maps to play around with.

    Finally, not everyone, and I fear perhaps not many people will realise how much can be created with the editor, and will instantly be put off by the lack of maps available at the start.

    My advice would always be more is better. Not necessarily because it’s always needed; in the case of GTB it really isn’t, but because it looks better. If someone looks and sees what would appear to be a long campaign with lots of maps, they’re going to feel like they’ve got more for their money and reviewers will look on it more positively, even if in reality all they need to do is spend a few hours tinkering to make a load more content themselves.

    And one thing that occurred to me as I’m writing this is that more maps might help those who are not particularly skilled with designing maps themselves. The more maps you provide, assuming they’re well-balanced, the more examples people have to use as guidelines for how to create their own maps, which makes it easier for them to succeed in making fun, well-balanced maps for everyone to enjoy.

  19. What struck me just awhile ago, I have seen somewhere ratings in the form of “balanced/fair”, “fun/challenging”. A player could then vote if he liked the map.

    There are also several tower defense games which can give inspirations to map making.

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