The user testing that took place during the making of Dead Time occured at two distinct stages of the production; the first round of testing took place before the final production of the main level of Dead Time, but after the core movement systems for the player character were in place. In this informal user testing session I took feedback in note form from several people on my course and who I know personally who played the game in its early stages; I recieved feedback that significantly influenced the functionality of my game, which was recorded and is shown below.
- “It should be easier to turn in the air” – to start with, I had reduced the speed at which players were allowed to turn when jumping and in mid air to introduce some realism, as in real life it is impossible to change direction once is airborne and your trajectory is decided. However, players were confused with the system and repeatedly missed platforms or their intended target for landing due to how certain players needed to be of their direction and speed before initiating their jump. Due to this, I decided to remove the limits on turning in mid air, so that players could have a much greater level of control over how they manouvered mid-air, sacrificing realism for a greater gameplay experience.
- “It’s hard to turn around in a small space” – I had decided to use quaternions to “smooth” the player character as they turned, instead of instantly snapping them as they rotated, with the intention of making the turning less jarring; however this seemingly impacted upon the gameplay, as one of my testers noticed that small adjustments to the player’s direction were not possible without turning in a larger “turning circle” than was anticipated; I ended up solving this by having the player character change rotation instantly only when the speed of the character was under a certain value. This way, the player character still turned smoothly when running or sprinting, but would also have finer movement when at a standstill or moving very slowly for exact positioning.
- “Holding the time control button is tiring after a while” – At this stage in production I had not yet added the heat meter and functionality which stopped the player from endlessly using time control, meaning the player could activate it as long as they wanted; the activation was triggered by holding down a button and deactivated by letting go. After a while, the player got tired of holding the button down to activate the mechanic, so I decided to opt for a toggleable control instead, so that with one press time control could be turned on or off rather than having to hold the button for the duration of usage.
The second round of user testing took place towards the end of the production, at which point the player character’s model and the level were nearing completion. I was able to act upon the majority of the feedback at this stage, but some I was not able to follow up on and implement; I will likely take into account the remaining feedback if I pursue further development past the deadline.
Feedback that affected the production of the game
- “There should be a button to drop from ledges” – Implementing a ledge drop button was straightforward; whilst pressing the jump button whilst ledge grabbing made the character let go of the ledge and launch upwards, the drop button simply made the character let go without jumping, causing them to descend and go into the falling animation. Before this implementation, the only way players could move downwards from having been latched onto a ledge was to jump, forcing them to move upwards before being able to move down.
- I observed some players failing to jump on occasion due to having pressed the jump button very shortly before fully landing and the player character registering itself as being grounded; to rectify this, I made the jump button valid for 0.2 seconds after being pressed, so even if the player pressed the button too early it would still be a valid input for the next 0.2 seconds in case the character were to land in that time.
- “There should be a walk button” – at the stage of this feedback there were two speeds of movement in the game, either running (the default move speed) or sprinting (facilitated by the use of the shift button) so on request I added a third speed enabled by another button and added the framework in the animation system to blend from running or sprinting movement into a walking one.
Feedback which I was not able to respond to before the deadline
- “there should be more of a visual change when the time control activates” – If I implement this change I would likely use some sort of colour-shifting effect to emphasise the ability being activated; right now the rods on the character’s back depress and a subtle depth of field blur effect can be seen on objects in the distance, but if objects in the distance can’t be seen as well as the rods, there is no way to tell that the player is activating time control aside from the heat meter increasing. A colour shift would be the clearest signifier that time control has been activated.
- “you should be able to move left and right on ledges” – currently the player detects where ledges are vertically in order to determine whether to grab them or not, but introducing the functionality for moving along grabbed ledges to the left and right would involve a different type of horizontally aligned detection system that ensured that there would still be more ledge to move onto when moving, but the main reason I was not able to implement this functionality was due to a lack of animations that would make the ledge movement look convincing. If I decide to develop past the deadline and produce a character from scratch, I would be able to create custom animations suited for such a purpose.