PLAYTEST FOLLOW UP
Thanks so much for all who played our demo. Over 300 people requested the demo and over 100 returned the survey. For those unfamiliar with the games industry, that’s a very good return rate! We’re encouraged by the interest in this game.
After reading feedback on the demo we clearly have a diverse group of blind and sighted gamers, many of whom are very familiar with audio games. Our goal for this game is ambitious. We are hoping to make a game that can straddle a wide range of gamer experience. Many people in the blind community have reached out to us with the hope that this game might be a compelling introduction to what gaming has to offer them while others are hardcore Swamp players looking for new challenges. In addition to these groups, we hope to introduce more sighted gamers to audio focused gaming. This is important to us because our long term goal is to be making accessible mainstream experiences with broad appeal and for both sighted and visually impaired gamers. Without further ado, let's get to the feedback we received. Combat Movement
Comment: About 25 percent of respondents wanted the player to be able to move during combat. Take Away: We are not surprised that more advanced gamers would want this. We may consider working on a more fluid run and gun system in future games. For the Vale, we decided to expand on existing games like A Blind Legend… adding more narrative, choice, exploration, and RPG elements to proven mechanics. We did this for the following reasons:
We wanted a system that could allow for pick up and play for people new to gaming. Making Swamp style game play more accessible would have been a bigger stretch than making Blind Legend mechanics deeper. For the uninitiated, Swamp is an all-audio multiplayer first person shooter where players have free movement during combat. Blind Legend is an all-audio action adventure game with mechanics more similar to The Vale.
We felt fight-in-place mechanics were more fitting and realistic for the tone and time period of our game. Medieval dueling and sword warfare relied on subtle technique, weapon and shield placement and timing. Combatants generally faced one another, and running around was tiring and inefficient. There are good reasons to add some elements of movement into combat as we develop our combat system, but the demo represents the starting point, and potentially where our first title (The Vale) is going to land.
We WILL have a number of combat scenarios with elements of movement. Open spaces with distracted or unaware enemies will exist throughout the game (open “dungeons”, camps, etc.) Players will have the option of sneaking around enemies to reach objective locations… rushing up to enemies to engage in melee combat… or taking out (or softening up) enemies from distance with ranged attacks. In many cases, isolated moments of locked-in melee combat will release the player back to movement where they can move onto other enemies in the space fluidly. We hope to show this off in later demos.
Comment: We received a significant amount of feedback asking for more exploration. Whether that is village exploration, exploring combat areas, or quests surrounding exploration. Take Away: We hear you. We are aiming to have more exploration all around. Villages in particular will have more interactions leading to bonus items and coin, quests and special story branches. Comment: There is some interest in more complex village layouts with streets and alleyways like in A Hero’s Call, another audio game. Take Away: We have decided to steer clear of maze navigation in Villages. We want exploration to happen in ways that feature Alex’s abilities. There is little context for making Village navigation complex, considering the sighted Shepherd could easily lead the way down twisted streets. We want Alex, our player character, to drive the action. The Player should be able to navigate easily to basic locations (tavern, blacksmith, etc) while optionally listening for details in the soundscape... subtle cues that could lead to interesting interacts and quests. We intend to add more of this to the game, both in villages and other explorable locations. Comment: A number of you were interested in open world navigation to quests, instead of moving directly to quests. Take away: Our decision not to include this comes down to team size (we simply don’t have the resources to make open world environments) and our desire to avoid excessive menu navigation (We move players right into quests to remove need for the creation and management of quest logs or extensive maps.) RPG Mechanics
We know that many of you requested more RPG elements in The Vale. Even before the playtest we were aware of the demand for classic RPG mechanics such as loot/equipment, grinding, experience. In our efforts to create a game that is accessible to as many players as possible and to play to our strengths as a studio, we are seeking to make an narrative driven action adventure game with some RPG elements. While we want players to be able to have choices for weapons and equipment, we do not want to bog people down with needing to listen to extensive menus. We feel that having too much focus on menus, min/maxing, and other statistic tracking takes away from the immersive experience we’re creating. That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for games with tons of stats, menus, number crunching, and the like - it just isn’t going to be The Vale. However, we do not want to abandon these tenants of RPGs either. To that end, we are experimenting with different ways to give players choices, without taking them out of the narrative of the game. For example, instead of analyzing every piece of loot that drops from an enemy, players will be notified when certain weapons or armor are better or significantly different than what they are wielding. Instead of dealing with equip menus with a heavy focus on statistics, the blacksmiths will allow players to switch between gear while making comments that indicate the difference in your equipment (e.g. You can swing faster, you can take more hits with this, etc). In Summary: The Vale seeks to innovate on games like Blind Legend in a number of directions. We know that given our resources, we can’t produce a fully featured RPG with full 3D combat, a myriad of locations, and dozens of playstyles - but we can deliver an immersive experience with a great story that harkens to the gameplay qualities made famous in RPGs. Whether you’ve followed us in the past or just heard of The Vale, we’re so happy to have you along with us on our journey to release in the summer. Yes, that’s right, mark your calendars ambiguously because The Vale is coming to you this summer! “But that’s so long!” you say - well fret not, because we’ll be filling that void with more updates, more information, and even a demo to show off all those dynamic combat features we’ve been mentioning. We’re so excited and we hope you are too. From everyone at Falling Squirrel, thank you!