One. Last. Push.
It’s been 3 weeks since our last blog post, and you have every right to wonder why the hell we’ve been ignoring our blog post duties.
I agree, it’s practically unforgivable, but I promise you it will have been worth it, because we’ve spent all of that time playtesting the glowing, angular arse off Fragmental.
During that time we found a range of bugs, usability issues and aesthetic oddities, and we’ve been fixing as many of them as we possibly can before we finally release Fragmental on Steam Early Access.
Holy shit, just writing that down made my stomach flutter a wee bit there!
Playtest, Bug Fixing and Refinement
As I briefly mentioned in a previous blog post, we’re lucky enough to have the fantastic Abertay University just along the road from our studio, and it just so happens we know most of the lecturers on their Game Design & Production Management course. So they very kindly asked if anyone from the course would like to spend some time playing Fragmental for us, and then provide some feedback. The response was overwhelming, we had over 40 students come in to play the game over the course of 4 full afternoons, and we had to turn down more than double that number as we simply couldn’t handle that many people over the course of 4 days of planned playtesting.
Each afternoon, a different group of students played the game for a solid three and a half hours, constantly switching who was playing after each match. Their reaction to the game was great to see – even the fuckers who refuse to use their Right Stick to aim. Some of them were seeing the game for the second time, so it was really encouraging to hear that the usability and balance concerns they had experienced during their first playtest back in October, were all gone. For the students who were seeing Fragmental for the first time, it was every bit as gratifying to see them pick the game up and get right into the action with no explanation other than the controls of the game.
The last time the Abertay students gave us feedback, we spent the next 5 or 6 weeks of development, focused entirely on the most frequently reported usability and balance issues that they provided in their feedback. To say that their visit and the feedback that they supplied was useful, would be an enormous understatement. So, a massive thanks goes out to all of the students who came along and gave us their feedback.
This time around, their feedback was more directed towards requests for additional features that they might like to see, or minor subjective opinions that we’re not going to work on right now, but we will look into fixing if more players are of the same opinion. Basically there were no major issues with the game, which was a big difference to the previous playtest in October. Result!
All in all, we came out of that 4 days of playtesting feeling really positive about the current state of the build, as well as the work we had put in to solve all of the issues that they flagged after their first experience of playing the game.
We may not have revealed any new major issues during the playtest with the Abertay students, but over the past few months our two man QA team – Kev Black and Paul Conry – have been finding a lot of genuine bugs, and our team have been fixing them as fast as Kev and Paul could find them. Unfortunately as any dev knows, you can end up getting into a bit of a whack-a-mole situation where you end up fixing one bug which then leads to a new one being uncovered behind it. Rinse and bastard repeat.
We’ve been finding bugs and fixing them for the past 6 weeks or so, and we’re in a really good place with how the build looks and plays, it still has some rough edges, but it’s definitely ready for the gaming public to get their hands on the game through Steam’s Early Access.
During the bug fixing period, we were also adding a new Front End and replacing all of the placeholder in game HUD. We’ve gone through 3 or 4 iterations of these and we’re really happy with how it’s all turned out. We still have some more Front End work to do, to add more functionality to allow players to do things like enter their names, and customise their matches, but we think we’ve nailed a look and feel, and we think we’ve got the in game messaging working well for new players. The beauty of Early Access is that the people who buy and play the game, can tell us if we have got this stuff right, and if not, we will do everything we can to change things until we have.
We’ve also done final passes on the Maps as well as overhauling all of the audio and VFX in the game.
The game definitely looks, feels and sounds like a consistent and complete package now, which has been tricky due to our abstract style. Again, we think we’ve got the balance right, but only time and the feedback of the community will tell us if that’s true.
Are We Nearly There Yet?
“Pfff, yes of course we are, totally… well, kind of, we think so, christ on a wireframe bike we hope so!”
As I said, we think we’ve caught all of the major issues in the build, but without a huge amount of testers playing the build for thousands of hours, it’s hard to tell. So, while we’ve done everything we can to ensure that Fragmental is spot on, there’s always a chance that someone, somewhere will uncover something that we’ve simply not encountered. If that happens, we’ll get it fixed and updated as soon as we can. We plan to have regular updates every 2 or 3 weeks, so we’re quietly confident that we’ll be able to keep on top of any issues that the players discover.
Right now, we’re sending out Steam keys to a group of popular YouTubers who have very kindly agreed to spend some of their time, playing and broadcasting Fragmental for us on their channels. We’re hoping for some good reactions to the game, but you never can tell how people are going to take to the games you create and then release. Proper squeaky bum time.
From our point of view, we all love the game at Ruffian, it’s everything and more than what we had hoped it could be when we first started work on it last August. Fingers crossed the YouTubers agree.
We’ll share every Let’s Play video that is recorded when they’re made available to us.
I hope we won’t need it, but wish us luck anyway.