We ran a public playtest over the weekend. 13 brave souls came and tried their hands at playing Nova Blitz. Having brand new people try out your game is always a nerve-wracking experience! Will they like it? What will they say? Will the game even work properly? Especially when the game’s in a pre-alpha state – so much can go wrong, and in so many ways.
As it turns out, we needn’t have worried. Our testers LOVED the game! Especially, they loved the fast pace of games, the combination of speed and strategy, the back-and-forth combats, and how the real-time play allowed for lots of interactions.
And, we got tons of very clear feedback on how to improve the game. That’s way more useful than people liking the game! This feedback fell in a couple of areas:
1. Improve the UX
We were testing a playtest build; not all the user experience (UX) functionality was in, so it was hard to see exactly what was going on. This didn’t dampen the spirits of our players – they were having a great time! The three biggest requests were to make gaining energy more clear, to make playing cards more intuitive, and to make it easier to tell when you’re in combat.
For our demo build (yes, there will be a demo build that you can download and play – stay tuned!), we’ve made some great improvements to each of those. The game displays combat with a red glow across the arena; when anyone gains energy, you see the energy card being played; and it’s much clearer where cards go when you play them! All these make the game much more user-friendly, and help players pick it up quickly.
2. Make a good tutorial
We dropped our playtesters into the game with no tutorial. We were amazed to find that everyone got comfortable with game play after 3-5 games. But that’s not good enough. Nova Blitz isn’t a simplistic game – it’s got a lot of depth, and the deeper the game, the more a good tutorial is needed, one that lets players feel comfortable as they’re learning the ropes. A good tutorial is on our roadmap – we need one before we go into open beta later this year. Of course, great tutorials are hard. Really hard. So we’ll be putting a lot of work into that over the next couple of months.
3. Stacks are bad
We’ve been playing for the last 2-3 months with a build that includes a Stack. We’re all comfortable with it, and know what to expect when we play a card. But, it’s not intuitive – it’s not something you come across in day-to-day life. And the biggest area of confusion we saw in the playtest was “how do my cards resolve?”, which was directly related to all of them using the stack.
For our demo build, we’ve made some changes, with the biggest being that unit cards don’t use the stack – they just resolve when you play them! We’ve been playing a bunch with this build today, and I have to say – the game is even more fun now (and it was really fun before). It’s really satisfying to drop your unit and get its effects right away! And there’s still lots of time to respond to what your opponent just did, so we really didn’t lose much, if anything at all, by taking units off the stack.
Powers still use the stack – they often have a bigger effect on the arena, so having some buildup feels good there. Of course, since it’s a rare turn where there’s more than one power on the stack, the fact that there even is a stack hardly ever comes up. We think this is a good balance; we’re definitely going to watch as people play, and listen to the feedback we get. So, when the demo build comes out, check it out, and tell us what you think!