The Balance That Was Off

The Turtle Who Had Wings Logo (Placeholder 4)

Well, it’s time that I got to going over the feedback I got recently on the latest build of The Turtle Who Had Wings: The Best Forgery Ever™. There’s a slew of issues, though I’ll exclude things like minor glitches that I’ve already fixed and long-standing known issues that I just can’t quite pin down for good.

The first major thing to note was the sheer lack of people who provided feedback. I posted it on Twitter and /r/IndieGaming, and I got a decent amount of clicks, but I could count the amount of responses on one hand. My data tells me that most people who clicked the download link gave a response, however, so it’s not the build itself scaring them away. Rather, it seems a lot of people clicked on the name of the game on the top bar to try to learn more about the game. One response on Reddit outright told me why: I have no screenshots or videos showing how the game plays. Because of that, nobody wants to bother downloading the game.

Okay, now that I have the amount of responses and know why I got so few, let’s take a look at the responses themselves. There are a handful of key points, though I had to filter several people for not reading/following instructions. I didn’t ignore these people, but I examined what they said, and had to spend time figuring out which problems are actual problems and which were caused by their own slip-ups. Often, the issue is not what they think it is, like one lengthy response that came off as condescending despite being entirely well-intentioned due to their own mistakes leading to incorrect assumptions all-around.


Spark OP, Pls Nerf

I any case, the first problem was a pretty major one out of the game: the character Spark is inherently overpowered. Not only does she have the ability to spam her moves (something none of the other characters in the game have), but her health and defense make a combination that results in the second-highest set of defenses in the game. In exchange, she’s slow and doesn’t hit hard, but she also has a swiss army knife moveset (revival skills, landmines, a simple fireball, etc.), and she can trade some of her spammability for raw power.

Let’s compare this to the nicely-balanced Magnet. His health and stamina are less than half of Spark’s, he deals twice the damage with his attacks, he moves faster, and his movepool is inherently limited in what it can do. All is to support his main offensive move, which does enough damage to defeat the strongest enemies in 1-2 attacks if they’re kept in range of the move for its whole duration, but keeping them in range is the problem. He can also only access this move up to 2 times by default without having to wait for his stamina to recover. He has a more reliable power move, but it costs so much that he can’t even use it with the stamina he starts with. Compare this to Spark. Night and day.

So I’ve been looking into ways to fix this. There have been two suggestions, which aren’t mutually-exclusive. One is to buff all of the enemies (I intend to do that anyway, but for different reasons, and it doesn’t really fix the issue of Spark being better than everyone else). Another is to flip Spark’s role around. I believe this conversation speaks for itself:

[8/5/2014 5:36:40 PM] No Limit: …Okay, roll with me here:
[8/5/2014 5:36:44 PM] No Limit: Lighting Bruiser…
[8/5/2014 5:36:53 PM] No Limit: But with the WORST DEFENSE POSSIBLE.
[8/5/2014 5:37:12 PM] No Limit: Like, so bad that she dies really fucking easily.
[8/5/2014 5:37:37 PM] burnpsy: …What in the actual fuck?
[8/5/2014 5:38:36 PM] No Limit: Anyway, my thought process is that phoenixes are really powerful creatures, but they are really easy to kill, thus that is why they have that natural “rebirth” ability.
[8/5/2014 5:38:44 PM] burnpsy: …
[8/5/2014 5:38:56 PM] burnpsy: I never thought of it that way.
[8/5/2014 5:38:58 PM] No Limit: =3

It’s a crazy idea, but it just might work here. You see, being bulky, spammable and diverse is basically the killer combination that’s ruining everything here. If I can either cut the former one or the latter two, Spark will end up fine.

Now, drastic measures may also not be strictly necessary. When first making sure stat distribution was fair and balanced, health and stamina was, in a total brainfart moment, excluded from the balance calculation. Now that I’ve added them to the calculation, Spark has higher overall stats than everyone else while Magnet has the lowest. Lowering that may fix the issue without completely repurposing Spark (and could likely result in making her less bulky or spammable in the process). Overall, plenty to do here.

Level Design Is Poor

As things currently stand, the level design is too basic, to the point where only the really cheap enemies and any obstacles are the threats. One issue was that most enemies are only fought in a room with no obstacles, and in small numbers.

I could probably buff all the enemies, and I’d recently optimized the third-party pathfinding library to allow for much higher enemy density, so I could easily fix the enemy issue. However, if I place enemies next to the obstacles and the like, I’d need to remove some of my optimization and tank the framerate a bit. This is because part of my optimization was implementing line of sight to not waste the use of the slow pathfinding script.

Most players apparently don’t seem to realize that they can simply dash through the lava in the test level, opting to fly around it instead, which is also an issue. I kinda want to set it up to force the player to figure it out, perhaps with the word “DASH” written somewhere in plain sight.

In any event, I need better level design. It’s as simple as that.

Some Buttons Are Confusing

Another issue is that people try to hold the jump button to fly when the way to do it is to press the button once in mid-air. As such, people who don’t figure this out end up assuming it glitched out and let the stamina run out instead of turning off flight when they’re done with it.

The control scheme in general is still a major annoyance for many. Even putting aside that I forgot to bind something to Q on the keyboard layout, the left shift, Z and X buttons are too out of the way when using WASD to move and 1-5 for special attacks. When dealing with a controller, people have, once again, questioned my binding the 5 special moves to the right stick (which was done because that was the most sensible way to handle it without wasting buttons).

Perhaps the most amusing thing to happen, however, was that my younger brother managed to make the game accept a Gamecube controller. While he couldn’t use the Drop button, his fifth special move, he was otherwise able to play as normal, which was surprising. If I were to rearrange a few inputs, I’d be just one button short of being able to fully support a Gamecube controller. It’s actually pretty hilarious that the layout fits on a Classic Controller, but not on a Gamecube controller.

This, however, is a simple issue that can be fixed by discussing the layout with people and figuring out the best way to handle it. Not to mention that letting people customize their control schemes, including button combinations and alts, would completely remove the problem anyway (and I have plans to – it’s just not a priority to implement right now).

These are the main problems highlighted by the responses. I’ll be handling these at my own pace, but level design has been an issue for so long that I don’t know how I’ll be fixing that.