Floral Kombat: FIG complete

This past weekend was Boston FIG, and so I got some excellent feedback on Floral Kombat — both during the event and leading up to it.

I unfortunately did not get a chance to explore the rest of the show floor to see other games friends were working on, since I did have a fairly regular flow of people coming to my booth — probably because of the title and very flash attract screen I used as the win screen:

Sep-16-2016 04-32-00.gif

I’m very glad I set up the game to be playable by 2, 3, or 4 people via a debug key rather than the character selection screen, since it was one fewer thing for players to have to do, and was literally as simple as asking “for N?” and pressing the debug keys.

The booth set-up involved a large monitor, 4 colored controllers (they roughly matched the character colors and were further marked with tape), and a vine-y plant (alas, of which I have no pictures).  I was able to fit everything more-or-less comfortably/uncomfortably on my bike, with its newly added milk crate.

FIG provided 2 chairs, and somewhere during the showcase, a third appeared.

Overall, I think I did a pretty effective job at making an attractive demo?  People who understood the game seemed to enjoy it, and I received NO comments that player interaction was meaningless.  This is really big for Floral Kombat, as that’s been a pretty consistent critique in the past.  In fact, I may have made attacking too advantageous, as it causes the hit player to reset entirely.  A lot of people thought that was unfair, and it did feel really upsetting to get hit when at ~99%, only to have the opponent win at the last minute.  I do like the ability for the match to totally change pace near the end, but I think players were right to suggest that attacking be nurfed from losing all pollen to losing at most 2/3 pollen.  Players also suggested making the total amount of pollen in a round never decrease, i.e. making pollen pickups not have a lifetime and making sure that no pollen pickup winds up out-of-bounds.  Also, pretty much every player tried to suck up the pickups rather than touching them, which is natural, as that’s the method of interaction that they’re taught to use by the game earlier.

The biggest points of confusion were:

  • What the goal is/where progress was displayed
  • What the rainbow trail means (some people thought it was a homing attack and was to be avoided)
  • What the point of the recharge flowers is – a common misconception was that they were the goals, or the things that give YOU pollen. A lot of people would put bees there and just wait.
  • Holding down A vs pressing A
  • What the arrows pointing to the recharge flowers meant – a lot of people also thought that there was some button they needed to press in order to give the bees, but more on that later
  • That the logs didn’t block bees — probably water would have made more sense for what those barriers were, but also adding blocking barriers inside the level is a thing players seemed to want/expect, which makes sense, given how important taking cover/creating bounces is when it comes to avoiding/aiming bee launches.

About Recharging Bees

Or… Bee-charging… in this world of portmanteaus.

I think the recharging mechanic needs to be redesigned for a few reasons:

  1. People find it unintuitive to donate bees; it’s a passive action and an odd one at that
  2. It’s easy to accidentally donate bees, they can get sucked into the vortex just by coming in contact with it. If this happens, it’s possible to win the game without ever actually understanding how recharging works.
  3. The stations were not very clearly intended for recharge, and so were often interpreted as other things
  4. The pollen level on the recharge flowers is technically readable in 2 places, but apparently unintuitive in both. Also, with how busy everything is, it’s really difficult to pay attention to minutia like the size of the recharge flower’s head and/or its heart fill amount

The current system has a few good things going for it mechanically though, and these should be preserved:

  1. Recharging takes time and is fairly camp-proof; unless you’re sneakily sitting in a corner, you can’t safely camp on a recharger.
  2. The act of recharging requires bringing the bees to a specific place and allows some bees to be more or less valuable than others.
  3. It’s easier to take bees from rechargers than to give them – well… arguably anyway, due to radius differences in orbits of players and rechargers.

What I’d like to propose is a system that’s activated by launching bees, not only for the reasons listed above, but also to include a prompt to teach the launch mechanic.

I would impose the design constraint that rechargers would only be allowed in places that can only be reached via launching (so not within orbit or the walking path).

To recharge a bee, a player would need to use X to launch the bee into the recharge area (which should be fairly forgiving, and should have some fall-back, in case of a miss). The bee would take some time to recharge, and then be launched out in some direction –not necessarily the direction from which it came, to discourage camping.

These new recharge stations should be labeled, and may even have a 1-bee capacity, though that may really slow down recharge, so maybe not.

I’ll try this and see how it feels.

Release Date and Future Plans

Going to FIG also gave me a clearer picture about what the ultimate fate of Floral Kombat will/should be.

In its current state, it is playable, and people do seem to like it. I don’t think the game will be very big, nor should it, but I would like to finish it and submit it to Steam with at least 3 unique stages, the fixes to the mechanics (and a few more) I’ve mentioned, and MAYBE customizable flower heads (beyond the ability to pick a pre-built head).

When will the release date be?

When it’s ready.

But! I’d like to aim for the end of September. Floral Kombat has reached a state where I’d like to finish it sooner than later.

This means that I likely won’t add any AI or Networked play, but I think that’s okay.  I like the idea that this game can only be played by friends who are in the same space.  It’s a smaller, cozier game, and I like the idea that it breeds gatherings rather than isolationism.

Ideally, I can get the conveyance upped to a pick-up-and-play level, because, right now, conveyance is the single biggest issue with the game. It can’t be easily described as “It’s just like [popular title] but with [tweak],” at least as far as I know†, and so players need to learn something totally new in order to play it.

†The closest I can come up with is “It’s like Sweet Day meets Wand Wars.” A lot of people also have likened it to Tower Fall, and I suppose it does have the amo-reuse mechanic in common, though it doesn’t have the elimination component — in fact, with the current version, catch-up is so easy, it practically doesn’t have places until the end (which, yes, I would like to fix via the 1 -> 2/3 pollen loss change).

The end of September is 2 weeks away, which should be feasible for the changes I want, and, if not, I can give myself extensions if need be.  I do want to be sure not to allow too much feature creep, and, instead, focus on getting the Minimum Viable Game published.  I can always extend it later if I’m feeling motivated and if players want that to happen.

Until next time,

~Zach

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