Sunday, April 20, 2014

Mountain Climber Dev Log 04: The Measure of a Mountain Climber

April has been a busy month for me, but I finally carved out a weekend afternoon to implement some new features: win/loss conditions and stamina.

Click here to play the latest build. I recommend trying it in fullscreen mode by right-clicking the Unity player and selecting "Go Fullscreen".

The first change you'll probably notice is that the picks are different colors and there are matching semi-circles around the cursor. The different colors are to help players keep track of which pick is associated with which mouse button. The semi-circles are individual stamina meters for each pick. You'll notice they drain when you've got a pick pinned to the wall. They slowly recharge when not pinned, and if you're standing on a stable surface, they recharge quickly. If a pick's stamina meter runs out completely, that pick will become unpinned from the wall, which typically causes you to fall to your death.

Oh, that's another thing: you can now fall to your death. The game currently just prompts you to return to the main menu, but the important thing is that you can now lose the game. You can also win the game by climbing to the top of the mountain. The game even tracks how long it took you to summit the mountain, starting from when you first step off of the ground below. My best time is 37.625 seconds. Can you beat me at my own game? Post your best time in the comments below.

Although all of these new features are still pretty unpolished, this is an important step in the prototype's development. Going forward, win and lose conditions give me some concrete heuristics for tweaking the player movement and terrain generation. When I make a change, I can measure its effect on the game quantitatively: does the new jump height result in faster times? Do steeper slopes on the terrain result in more fatal falls? Better still, this new quantitative game data can be gathered from playtesters instead of from my own playthroughs. How often do new players fall and die? What is their average time on a successful summit?

Going forward, I'll be soliciting playtests from new players and using my observations to decide where to focus my efforts. In fact, that bit where I challenged you to beat my time was a not-so-subtle effort to get more people playing the game. I'll probably subject some unsuspecting folks to in-person playtests, too.

Finally, I've been thinking about this project (and being distracted by ideas for new projects), so I figured I'd share my thought process. I fully intend to finish and release this game, but the question is what "finished" looks like. Some open questions:

- What would a bare-bones version of the game look like?
- What would a fully-realized version look like?
- How fun is the game, as is? How fun do I think it could be if I add a bunch of new features? In other words, what is the potential of this project?
- How much am I enjoying working on it?
- Shall I decide on a finished state for the game and work on it until I reach that state, or set a deadline for myself and work on it as much as I can until then?

I'd love to hear your thoughts, particularly on the "how fun is the game" question!