This isn’t a postmortem, that’s still on the way.
I’m just sharing the one, big lesson that it’s taken me three Ludum Dares to finally get:
Nobody wants to read instructions!
It’s frustrating when somebody doesn’t understand your game because they didn’t read or understand the instructions. However, when you’re rating other people’s games it makes perfect sense; you don’t want to read a wall of text when it’s time to play a game!
Plinko Breeder is the most complicated game I’ve made to date and it’s easy for a player to play through and think they understand the game but really miss key aspects if they didn’t read the instructions.
After reading some of the comments on Plinko Breeder, I’ve finally realized that this isn’t a fault of the player; it’s just not fun to read instructions!
So, I’ve given Plinko Breeder a total overhaul. Now, I try to introduce players to concepts of the game bit-by-bit as they play. For instance, I let the player discover that they can move the chip by starting them off in totally flat level. This is a more fun and more effective (I hope) way of getting the player to teach themselves how to play the game, which seems to be how most players want to learn!
After that, I do rely on text instructions but I convey them in-game now, and break them up into little, digestible chunks.
Before: You can’t control your chip in free-fall, so how many players would even guess that they have some control over this chip, let alone figure the right keys out?
After: There’s no ambiguity; the player’s chip just sits there until the player realizes how to move it. I don’t even say what keys control the chip; the player will figure it out because I’ve made learning to play part of the game instead of an impediment to it.
From now on, I’m going to try to force myself to design every game around this rule: “You should be able to pick it up and play.”
Please give the new-and-improved Plinko Breeder a whirl and let me know how it went!