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Post PAX Prime 2014

Post PAX

A ton of attendees dropped by to play the game or even to just say hello. Space sim fans and newbies alike gave Starfighter a shot and the response was mostly positive. Lines are a necessary evil, but it's always great to hear conversations about simulation games break out among strangers, or even the occasional, "DIVE! DIVE! DIVE!" shout echoed in line.

The game also won its first award ever, a Golden Sushi, from BigSushiFM. Thank you!

The MEGABOOTH

We've been part of the Indie MEGABOOTH for each of Starfighter's showings, and we're always blown away at the support we receive. A ton of great people volunteer their time to make sure the exhibitors themselves have a smooth experience. That's simply amazing to me. Thanks!

Combined with our fellow exhibitors, it reminded me why this industry can be so cool. It's just a bunch of awesome, talented people kicking it Bill & Ted style and being excellent to each other. 

 

Stuff To Fix

I generally use trade shows for focus testing first and for marketing second. When you have this many people play your game, you learn what to fix pretty quickly. Here are some of the major points:

Immediate Action Items

  1. Impact and Damage Readability - Some players reported having a hard time recognizing when they were getting hit.
    1. Some players offered feedback that the afterburner rumble was too high and maybe hiding projectile impacts. I'm going to lower the large motor rumble values and shift shield impacts over to the smaller motor.
    2. Screen space impact overlays seems like a hard problem in VR, so I'm going to find different ways to show direction and impact events without cluttering up the center of the screen
  2. Team Readability - I knew this would be a problem when I made the player's team red to match the rest of the "I'm the bad guy" tone of the theme and cockpit instrumentation. After a lot of consideration, I still believe in this call, so I'm going to find ways to teach it better. The good news is, once this was understood, players rarely got confused again.
    1. I chose to teach the players this information at the wrong time. I flashed tutorial text that said, "YOU ARE RED. ENEMIES ARE BLUE," when the player exited warp into the combat encounter. But in reality, this needed to be taught earlier, almost immediately.
    2. Most players that had trouble with this immediately clicked with the concept when you framed the teaching as "Red vs. Blue" instead of "Bad Guy and Good Guy." I'm going to try to find ways to frame this in a way that's immediately understandable.
  3. Performance - Starfighter wasn't hitting 75hz in VR unless it was in an ideal case. This hampered the VR experience, even though most players had no idea.
    1. I'm going to try things like using Unity's mesh combination commands on ideal areas like asteroid fields
    2. I'm noticing that projectiles aren't batching. This is probably something I'm doing wrong in ES so I'm going to read up on their documentation. The Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes! crew gave me some great advice on this. Thanks!
    3. The skybox is simple but pretty dense. I can save ES from drawing a bunch of polygons by breaking up the mesh, or even rendering the sucker out to a super high-resolution cubemap texture since I have plenty of texture memory to spare.
  4. Targeting - Starfighter auto-targets the nearest enemy light craft when your current target dies, but the concept of targeting is weird to some new players. This was never specifically taught in the PAX demo, but it's still something I'm worried about.
    1. I can bring back the concept of auto-targeting, using a scoring system to take a best guess at what you want to target based on your crosshair.
      1. Guessing player's intent is often super tricky and in the end, only noticeable when it isn't working correctly.
    2. Teach this better. The "real" tutorial has a section specifically on targeting that lets the player move at their own pace. I'm going to focus on this and do some more testing with it.

There's a lot more on my list, but this is the major work that lies ahead.