Monday, August 18, 2014

Challenges with Idamu Caverns and iterative development

I knew, going in, that not everyone was going to understand quick iterative development.  In fact, when I started Idamu Caverns, I listed the ability to communicate what I was doing as one of the biggest challenges.

Things seldom turn out the way I expect.  For starters, the number of people who understand the "work in progress" side of things seems to be just about everyone, and the number of people tolerant of it, and even enthusiastic is much higher than I anticipated.

It seems, however, that explaining is still the biggest challenge, just not in the way that I expected.  I guess what's actually happening is logical, and I should have expected it.

People are looking at the graphics and their response is generally, "I understand that the graphics aren't very good because the game is a work in progress."  But when faced with missing pieces of functionality, people seem to get confused, or assume that there is a bug.

My earlier post about swords in backpacks is a good example.  Part of the problem is that the inventory system, like everything else in the game, is incomplete.  I expect that at some point I'll have inventory slots for a belt and scabbard so that you have a logical place to put long blades, but the work to create those bits just hasn't been done yet.

There are other challenges in this same vein.  People have complained that there aren't enough monsters, aren't enough weapons and treasure, etc, etc.  All of these complaints are completely valid, but are not really problems with the game so much as additional indications that it's still a work in progress.

Overall, I guess the answer is to simply keep communicating that fact to people.

Of course, because I'm me, I have to look deeper into things.  I have to see if I can extract some meaningful life lesson from things like this.

I spent last week at Gen Con.  I'm not the most serious RPGer in existence, but I enjoy occasionally putting my fate in the hands of a terrible accent and a good die roll.  I managed to get myself into a couple of Timewatch sessions, and watching the other players got me thinking about how gamers have changed over the years.

It seems that not too long ago, sitting down with gamers resulted in them constantly trying to find a way to do whatever they wanted.  "What do you mean kicking dirt in the Orc's face only gives him a -1?  He should be completely blind!"

Timewatch allows (and actually encourages) you to pull Bill and Ted-style shenanigans, such as "Oh?  My character is about to die?  Except that a future version of myself comes back to save her at the last minute!"  And it has game rules to determine whether such a stunt will succeed (hint, it usually does, that's the point of the game!)

I was disappointed in how seldom players took advantage of that ability, and I include myself in that generalization.  Looking back, it felt like doing that sort of thing would be against the rules.  Is that what the other players were thinking as well?  Or was it just a case of new players taking a bit of time to warm up to the system?

Either answer is interesting, but when I look at the lack of feedback and involvement by Idamu Caverns players, I don't know if it matters.  Whether they're unsure of the rules, or simply not warmed up to the idea, it's my responsibility to encourage feedback from them.  I think that's going to take a greater role in game development over the next few weeks.

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