Lessons Learned From Beta Testing

mapsample

After just shy of a month of my open beta test, with 30,000 downloads, I have learned a few things. Thought I’d post some thoughts, as well as give people an opportunity to point out other stuff I might have missed.

First the good news, it seems Something’s In The Air is a critical success. Everyone seems to like it the way it is, and thanks for that.  Most of the bugs are in the form of spelling and grammar errors, which are likely to always be a problem.  For me this is good news because I do not have to post any patches, and it is good news for you players, because you do not have to download the latest version.  I am planning an official version 1.0 release, but I can take my time on it.

The bad news, or more accurately less good news, is my surprise at how players played the game. The addition of “endings” was practically a last minute suggestion from the Lemma Soft Forums that only took a couple of hours to implement.  The primary focus of pretty much all players is in reaching the magic 40 endings, instead of what I would hope would be the focus: the over arching story.  There are also a lot of details people miss while rushing to reach the 40 endings.

These observations have led to four changes that will come out in version 1.0:  1.) In order to help people find the 40 endings, I am adding a single page map indicating which endings have been reached, and visual hints to where to find the missing endings. You can see an example of this map in the above picture.  2.) whenever you reach a new ending, a pop-up message will appear on the last screen of the story.   3.) There is now a second section to the gallery called the Player Notebook to point out content likely to be missed in the rush to 40 endings. This includes a Game Clues page pointing out 6 mysteries found in the first 3 stories.  Once at least 5 of the 6 clues are found, then story 4 will unlock, which solves the mysteries.  4.) Another part of the Player’s Notebook is a list of “facts” on 12 different female characters in the game.  Because it is fairly easy to finish all the endings and still miss some of this stuff, this will give you some additional end game goals to work on.

These changes for the most part I have already finished.  What I have yet to finish is some new content like a new Ariane “ending” which ties up a few loose ends.  This will give Ariane 12 endings.  To keep my ending map pretty, I dropped the “Do You Know Any Gymnasts?” ending from Paula (it will still be there, it just will not count as one of the 40 endings).  Why drop it? Because an expanded version of that ending will be shown as a reward of getting all 40 endings. Currently the reward is a lame sight gag, the new reward will basically be Story 4 part 2 with a big dramatic suitable ending to the whole visual novel.  The idea for Story 4 part 2 comes from a rather interesting discussion regarding the ethics of “What Paula Did” over at the Shark’s Lagoon Forum.

My goal is to finish these last two stories over the summer and have 1.0 available then.

In the mean time, if anyone has some more mistakes to point out, or improvement suggestions, please leave a comment.

18 thoughts on “Lessons Learned From Beta Testing

  1. Derrick C June 1, 2013 / 10:34 pm

    not sure if you saw my comment of loosing the mouse cursor when you go to full screen. you can expand it manually and it works fine. the problem is/was if you enable mouse ‘pointer trails’ the mouse doesn’t show up in full screen. maybe you could add something like use ‘hardware cursor’ or something. or maybe its not that big of a deal. just thought I would let you know

    • arianeb June 2, 2013 / 2:48 am

      That’s either a Renpy bug, or an OpenGL bug. There’s a newer version of Renpy that fixes some of these issues, but has some font problems, so I have not upgraded yet. Hopefully when I get around to releasing the final version, I can use the newer Renpy engine too.

  2. Niauropsaka June 1, 2013 / 10:57 pm

    Given the tendencies of players to be completists and/or puzzle-workers, the online culture is going to talk a lot about endings. And once you say, “You have received X of Y endings,” you can end up making it seem like that’s the point.

    I did appreciate the overarching story, and I suspect others did as well. I’m sorry if that doesn’t get said enough.

    I’ve managed to map out enough to see nearly the whole story. I never did get all the Ariane and Rachel endings, and honestly don’t know if they were scenes I completely missed or ones I passed on the way to something else.

    I think I did eventually get through all the Rachel conversations, though.

    • arianeb June 2, 2013 / 3:06 am

      I’m OK with completionism of gamers, In fact I am thinking of using that “get all the endings” attitude in a deceptive way. For example, there are many choices in SITA that ultimately matter not, they are there to add a bit of interactivity, then there are choices that lead to different endings. What if, say in a future game, I were to hide a personality test of sorts within the “it matters not” choices, and the game ends in either finale A or finale B or finale C based on that hidden personality test.

      • David August 13, 2013 / 7:58 pm

        About the endings/conversation issue:
        I have a slightly different idea, as the different conversations sometimes brings the user “closer” or “further away” from the character they are meeting, make meta-endings out of the different forks, it could have only one or two different frames, but the story that leads there will be different.
        This way, people who want to get through all the endings see everything, and you don’t have to complicate the game logic as much.

        In addition, in the bar conversation with Rachel, the “camera” moves abruptly in some frames.

  3. Wilfred June 2, 2013 / 4:26 pm

    I actually liked all the alternative – how shall I call them – sub-endings of the Bonnie arc. This can keep people busy for a long time. On the other hand, I don’t know how I ever would have found the topless diner sequences if you didn’t give the spoiler (and the 80 score from the original game seems terribly low so stumbling on it by accident might be remote?)

    Any chances of more Wendy story lines? Please?

    I hope that many of your downloaders donated, you deserve it!

  4. Kether June 3, 2013 / 2:04 am

    First of all, I want to say I’m really loving this game.

    While I am currently trying to find all endings (I’m at 36/40) I did pay attention to the plot developing in the background. In fact, I must praise you on how it’s made, with both explanations in the dialogue and subtle appearances of characters in the background.
    I’m also trying to get all the conversation options not just for the sake of endings but for learning more about the characters with every response.

    If I can make a suugestion, a good idea for v1.0 could be to mark the already taken dialogue routes, like some VN like 999 do.

  5. T June 4, 2013 / 4:17 am

    Beta testing,

    (other people play/test your game) a good thing?(or does it take took much time, also (
    don’t really want people giving out secrets of game before its out) I am just wondering as I am making a indie game I plan on selling (currently in 2nd year of AA Game Desgin Degree) and was just gonna play test it a few times myself and leave it at that. My game a 2d old school RPG(in the style of Final Fantasy 4 or Phantasy Star 3/4), has over 30 locations (only about half done though) and about 120 npc besides main npc and over 40 encounters..So far everything “seems” to be working.

    • norsegraphics June 5, 2013 / 9:20 pm

      The ‘big guys’ usually send an NDA (acronym stands for: Non-Disclosure Agreement), that says testers can’t talk about your project. Maybe something for you, T?

  6. SYH June 5, 2013 / 2:38 am

    I like the new layout.

    The completist in me has latched on to part of the gallery picture: there is/will be a Cassandra ending?

    That said, your hint about the diner in the previous entry has made me question how completist I could be if there was a whole tangent I’d missed because I’d originally played LARPing with Arch Angel without a typed date code.

    • SYH June 5, 2013 / 2:40 am

      I submitted before I could reiterate I really enjoy this game!

      This downloader definitely donated.

    • arianeb June 6, 2013 / 2:06 am

      Well, the Cassandra ending is basically “Game Over”, since that ending appears in the first half of story 4 before Paula even shows up.

  7. Nick June 10, 2013 / 6:26 am

    I actually didn’t like the game. I preferred the original where it was more open and you could craft your own story. This was way too scripted.

    • T June 10, 2013 / 1:28 pm

      I did like the new one overall, but its true in the original you could try to be a nasty guy sometimes and try some naughty things..like walk i on her when she was changing…the problem with the new game system is there is not much of those kind of things.

  8. dodo June 16, 2013 / 6:01 pm

    We can’t have sex with Stacy, what a shame…

  9. MO June 27, 2013 / 10:48 am

    First off, the new game is great. I haven’t donated yet, but will certainly do so.

    I have had a couple of technical difficulties, namely the game window being empty when first starting up. Bringing another program into the foreground and then switching back to SITA solves the problem. A similar effect sometimes occurs when switching from windowed to full-screen mode.
    I’ve also noticed that the background music stops every time the ‘rollback’ feature is used. It’s a very useful feature though, makes exploring the many paths much easier.

    These technical oddities aside, I’ve really enjoyed the game. It’s quite different from DA, with all the interactivity being in the dialogue, and it took me a while to get used to the new style, but it definitely delivers the same good writing, interesting characters, multitude of stories and overall polish.

    I like both the overarching story, and hunting for the fourty endings, so think the idea of an overview showing the endings reached is a very neat idea.
    So far, I’ve found 37 endings, missing, I think, two Rachel endings, and the elusive ‘Do you know any gymnasts?’ Paula ending. Though Bonnie seems to have many endings rolled into one. By now, I’ve found four different versions of the ‘Bad Sex’ ending, without knowing what triggered the differences. Is it based on how the game played immediately before ended, is it randomised, or how does it work?

    I also wonder, and think that a little more info about it could be given in the read me, about how the prequel settings really affect the game. I’ve found three Ariane endings that seemed to trigger only with specific prequel settings, but I wonder if the settings have an effect on the other storylines as well. As far as I could tell, that’s not the case, but it would be nice to know.
    Speaking of prequel settings, some of the prequel options are marked with an asterisk, but I haven’t seen an explanation of what this indicates.

    As I said, most of the game is really great, there is one bit though that I find really annoying: spotting raptors in Story four. Finding green dinosaurs hiding behind green grass is a challenge the first time. On every following playthrough, it’s just painful. Maybe you could a little option to skip this bit after completing it once?

    In story four, I’ve also found a logical error. Apparently, the player has been in the guild for four years. The name of the guild, as Tom explains, is ‘The Chamber’. Yet at no point does the player make the connection between the mysterious ‘Chamber’ sending him around town, and his guild of the same name …

    Lastly, I would second Kether’s suggestion to somehow mark dialogue options that have already been taken, to make it a little easier for people to find paths they haven’t explored yet. Because I’m now seriously out of ideas where to look for the endings that I’m still missing. Especially with Paula it seems that all dialogue options lead to the same ending where clouds get made, and then everyone goes home.

    • MO June 27, 2013 / 12:08 pm

      Regarding the technical problems, I should probably mention that I’m using the Mac version – which apart from the things outlined above – works great. Thanks for thinking of us Mac users!

  10. Amusing Alias July 25, 2013 / 9:37 am

    In the gym when you are doing leg lifts for Wendy, if you negotiate down, Wendy sometimes refers to your target as 25 reps and other times as 20. It should be one or the other. Also when Rachel is lecturing the player on climate change she says the main culprit in trapping heat in the atmosphere is carbon monoxide (CO). It should be carbon dioxide (CO subscript 2).

    Great game/novel btw.

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