Tokyo 42 – Solving a Problem

Tokyo 42 – Solving a Problem

When I reviewed Tokyo 42 earlier this year, I talked about the skill required to control the isometric(ish) camera across its eight angles. I didn’t think there were any problems with the camera, I accepted it as part of the game, but did highlight that “Controlling the camera during the action is as much a skill as the running, gunning and jumping.” The devs at SMAC Games have seen similar feedback elsewhere, and have made some subtle, but important, changes to the game.

You might remember that Tokyo 42 was published by Mode 7 Games, and co-found Paul Kilduff-Taylor has long done a great job of promoting this excellent action game. With the game out in the wild for a few months now, Paul hasn’t let up on his enthusiasm, and has written an interesting, and detailed, blog on the feedback Sean and Maciek at SMAC Games received regarding the camera, and how they dealt with it – by introducing a new silhouette system.

The blog is something of a must-read for any developers out there – game developers, software developers, UX people – in fact, it is a blog that a lot of people will probably find insightful.

Paul starts the piece saying:

When there’s a problem with your game, there are four questions you need to ask:

  • Can I solve the problem?
  • Is the problem worth solving?
  • How do I solve the problem?
  • How do I communicate the solution?

Then goes onto breaking down some of the feedback the game has received, both from professional media outlets (The Reticule being a leading, nay, trend setting example of professionalism in this industry) and the paying consumers, with Steam Reviews proving to be very useful here. He quickly makes the point that being defensive to feedback isn’t the right approach to take. He goes on to say:

When looking at qualitative feedback on a game (or indeed anything), there are Two Big Rules:

  • Search for trends
  • Feedback shows you the question but not the answer
The silhouette system in action.

From here, Paul starts to go into the detail of how Sean, Maciek and himself took on board the feedback, and worked to resolve the problems:

We initially classed the camera issues as being innate to the design, but with some time and perspective — this is not a pun — the devs felt that they could take some steps to mitigate them.

Mitigation has a lot of value. If a problem is truly innate to a game, taking the edge off can be immensely wise.

Towards the end of the blog, Paul highlights the difficulty indies can experience when trying to get their message out to the public after the initial release window has been and gone. Tokyo 42 doesn’t have the marketing budget of something like Destiny 2, so taking a different approach to sharing the growing pains of game development is key:

The only thing you can do when other means are unavailable to you is fall back on creating some additional content yourself, usually by trying to tell the story. My hope is that this will be somewhat interesting both to game developers and also those players who genuinely want to inform themselves about the process of making and releasing games.

Often, the thinking behind a decision is something that interests players, particularly those who are very invested in a game and will go out and advocate for it. As always, making something like this public is an experiment: the reaction can be deafening silence, vitriol, adulation or something in between. We’ll see!

And you know what? Paul has a point. This type of blog exploring the thought process behind making a change to a game after receiving user feedback is a fresh way of getting the message out there. Hopefully it works.

While I didn’t necessarily find the camera system too troublesome while playing the game, I did point out that it was a challenging game, requiring precision control and awareness of your surroundings. Something I seemed to lack, so another update the game has received has introduced an easy mode granting you in effect, the chance to be hit three times before death comes for you. That can only be good, as I was pretty hopeless at the game in all honesty. The below video blog shows off the new silhouette system, easy mode, and a few other tweaks that have come to the game since release. Enjoy.

If you didn’t read Paul’s full blog, what are you waiting for? Find it here.

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