So our demo went live on Steam today (7th September). It’s been hard work to get the game to a state where it was ready for public release – we faced all the challenges that VR gaming has (optimisation, compatibility, scaling, varying controllers…), and in addition to that when it came to making a demo – we faced another one.
How do you squeeze 40 levels of puzzles that build on one another down into 5?
In case you’d like to give the demo a go it’s available (for Free!) in a few places.
The game itself is built to be a fun game you can pick up and play alone or socially, and for those of us who like a great combination of action and puzzles – quite addictive. To do this with the full game turns out to be quite doable.
The locomotion in the game actually forms a core part of the puzzle, and we slowly introduce the players to it and speed up the reactions they need to have using this innovative principle mechanic slowly over the first few levels. This is where we encounter our first problem with a ‘demo’. The first few levels – have to be the whole game.
This presented a problem. The first 5 levels in the full game balance quite well. We’re able to introduce the movement mechanics, the concept of ‘switches’, the concept of ‘death blocks’ and that ‘red is bad’ – fundamental things to the game in a comfortable manner over about 4 levels. Over the next 10 levels we then introduce even more complexity – homing missiles, creatures, darkness, ghosts, rocks, black holes and even maths are just some of things you’ll come across. But in 5 levels – how do we fit that all in?
Honestly speaking the answer is: we don’t. The demo is very much a cut down version of the full game, and no matter what we did – it was never going to do the puzzles of the full game justice. However we did squeeze in quite a bit.
When you play the demo, you’ll find a nice slow start – the same as in the full game. A full tutorial will teach you the basics, and level 1 really acts as a check to make sure you didn’t somehow get through the tutorial by ‘luck’.
Level 2 ramps things up though – without giving to much away in this article we train the player to learn the value of efficient locomotion, and not just spending 10 minutes or more crawling across the levels. In level 3, we’ve combined this – and made it tougher, and also introduce the switches we mentioned above. This was a tough one to call – the switch isn’t obvious – but we’re hoping players will put two and two together in this level and figure out the answer (this is not the maths I referred to earlier!).
Level 4 we had to include – it’s actually level 9 from the full game, recreated in its entirety – but it’s been such a popular level in testing – we couldn’t not squeeze it in. We have tried to tune it slightly to take account of the fact it’s a little tough for new players – but honestly speaking (again) some of the levels in the full game just aren’t that easy (where would the fun be in that?!). Level 5 brings everything together – mixes puzzles, speed, lateral thinking, and surprises in a way much more typical of the full game. Again – level 5 in the demo is actually our level 11 from the full game, and is also quite a popular one – tuned slightly for the demo.
The TLDR of all of this is, whilst the demo is fun – it’s nowhere near as fun as the full game – and actually we apologise if it’s a little too hard! We’d love to hear feedback from you on this – please share your thoughts on the difficulty curve in the demo after playing – we’ve tested with everyone from our grandparents to 13 year olds – and tried to balance it to suit everyone, but it is a really tough job.
Especially compressed into 5 levels!
So let us know what you think – get in touch with us on any of our social media (just give Whitway Studios a search) or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
One last thing…
Our antagonist in the game is called ‘The Gamesmaster’. It made a special appearance in the promotional material for the game to announce the demo – and to be honest is a bit of an attention seeker. It asked me to share the video of itself again here, so… enjoy! J
Happy Gaming (and try the demo – did I mention it’s free??)!