Dev Blog May 9, 2020

Playtest Feedback Thoughts

Welcome back to the Little Squid Dev Blog!
This week, we’re getting more into the nitty gritty stuff that happens behind the scenes, so it’ll be longer than our previous update. There’s still some high level stuff as well, like how we’ve updated everything that used to say Hindsight to now say B-Side. Yay! It’s like it’s real now. If you missed our last update on why we renamed the game, make sure you check it out!
But anyway, down to the nitty gritty. Mike wanted to address some of the more common feedback that we got from our first playtest way back when (has it already been 2 months?). He’s going to discuss some of the design decisions that led to this feedback, decisions that have been made as a result of it, and just talk about some of his thoughts on it all.
Let’s get to it!

We'll cover a bunch of things:
  • Overview
  • Common frustrations
  • Common suggestions
  • Common successes
  • Other interesting things


We had a great turnout for the playtest with more people wanting to give it a whirl than we expected! Our following was all really new and small (it still is) so we expected a few people to be interested in trying the game out and had a couple specific people in mind to send it to and ask for help to get a bigger pool of testers. We ended up having 31 people express interest in testing, 14 of which ended up filling out the survey! There were also 5 people who recorded their screens while playing, which was an immense help in understanding behaviors and how players navigate the game.

These 14 testers that completed the survey spanned across the entire spectrum of types of gamer. We had ‘casual’, ‘avid’, and ‘in-between’ gamers, gamers who like competitive, story-based, and mobile games, and gamers who like every kind of genre that we could think of. This is awesome! That means we were able to reach every corner of the market just with this little playtest and could get an idea of how each gamer type would respond to the game.

The majority of these testers described themselves as ‘avid’ gamers who like ‘story-based’ games, specifically RPGs, action-adventure, and puzzle games. Core audience found? Perhaps...

Core Audience = Rocket league fans?

And what did we learn from all of these survey responses? Overall...people really enjoyed the game! The general concept and main mechanic were intriguing to most people and they wanted to play more! Success!

Common frustrations

Of course, there were aspects of the demo that caused a bit of frustration. This is the one we saw mentioned most often:

  • Controls – specifically when another character is introduced

This sentiment was shared by many; that the process of switching between characters to use their abilities was not the smoothest. Some players were confused at the prospect of using the same button (space) to use the new character’s ability. “I thought space was to flip the world” was something that a few testers wrote. Some other players were thrown off by using the mouse buttons to switch between characters. “Which mouse button do I use, left or right? Does it matter? Taking my hand off the keyboard feels weird/bad just to switch characters”.  

Here’s a few of my thoughts:

I get it. I shouldn’t require the mouse to be used to switch between characters:

  • If someone is using the arrow keys to move around, they’ll need to physically move their hand off the keyboard each time they want to switch, which in some levels is quite often. That feels bad. 😢
  • If they’re using WASD to move, they’re probably not moving their hand as much or at all but still, the mouse shouldn’t really be necessary.  

The spacebar was designed as the ‘action’ button. Each character in the game has their own ‘action’ that would be used with  spacebar. However, it was not very well defined in the playtest demo that the flipping mechanic is specifically the main character's 'action', so many players just associated the spacebar with an overall ability within the game to flip the world, causing some confusion once another character is introduced.  

Oh and also, using a controller works and feels much better but we didn’t have anyone test using a controller so...just have to get the keyboard/mouse combo feeling just as good.

Common suggestions

There were some opportunities to offer suggestions on what players would like to add, remove, or change about the game and here's some of the more common ideas.

  • Get rid of the green box that marks your position

Hoooo man this is a huge topic. Too big to cover in this post really. So we’ll probably do a post just devoted to this topic in the future because, really, this hits the heart of what gameplay means in B-Side and is a design challenge that’s been plaguing me since the beginning of development.

For now, I’ll say that there were way too many people that said the green box made the game too easy to ignore. However there were also a couple of testers who said the green box was really helpful and they relied on it. This suggests that making it an option to turn on or off is a possible way to go but more exploration is needed because, TRUST me it's almost impossible to figure out a puzzle without at least something.

  • Easier way to tell what character you’re controlling

Yep, this is an issue. Guess there’s a bit of UI/UX work to do between this and the whole switching between characters thing. The UI is too small and doesn’t catch your eye enough so it is quite hard to tell who you’re controlling unless you move around or use an ability. There’s many ways I could tackle this, from increasing the size of the UI, making it more dynamic with different colors or shapes to highlight the active character, or even just including a little cursor over the character itself in the level.

Common successes

A lot of the things testers said they enjoyed made me really happy because they are things that I really wanted to get right in the game. So if people are already enjoying those aspects, something’s being done right.

  • Music/atmosphere

This one makes me the most happy. Many testers enjoyed the music and overall atmosphere of the demo. That’s something that I’ve wanted to present in a very specific way since the beginning so it’s so gratifying knowing people liked it. Now I just have to keep that going with all the rest going forward!

Brittney & I are slappin' the keys weekly, hoping something comes from it
  • Main mechanic – flipping the level

SUPER good sign that people overwhelmingly enjoyed the main mechanic of the game. Even better sign, perhaps, that basically no one disliked the main mechanic. This is what the whole experience is built around and is what sparked the idea of making the game in the first place a few years back. I’ve hoped that the mechanic was interesting enough to base the game around and this feedback really reinforced the potential it has (and the narrative connection isn't even implemented yet!).

Other interesting things

We collected so much valuable feedback from the surveys that we could go on for days about it, but I think I’ll just mention one other thing that we found interesting. There was a question on the survey that asked players if they had played any other games that were comparable. Here’s some of the answers:

  • Feels different to anything I’ve ever played
  • Not many games come to mind when comparing it to something
  • I haven’t really played any games like this
  • I’m not sure

Admittedly, that last one is kind of nothing, but they tried. And it still supports this idea that people had a tough time comparing B-Side to other games.

I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

On one hand, we love the fact that the game is possibly unique enough to be something people haven’t seen before. I definitely didn’t want to make something standard or just another platformer (there’s nothing wrong with that at all, I just wanted to try something different for this one). So maybe we’re on the right track there.  

On the other hand, it might make it difficult to get the game out to the public if they don’t have anything to compare it to before playing. Not everyone is just going to take a blind shot on a unique game. There’s a much better chance of someone trying out a game if there’s another game that they’ve played (and enjoyed) that is similar.

Thankfully a good majority of the testers could describe B-Side as a 2D puzzle game. That’s something that most people can recognize, so should be a good step towards getting it in front of people.

Anyway! If you've read all of this and reached this point, we applaud and thank you. Rest assured, not all of our updates will be this long but we really appreciate anyone who is interested enough to check them out!

Stay tuned for the next one!

- 🦑

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