You’re gonna have to feed that cat before your shift ends: Meet ‘Pastry Panic (with cat)’
The star of the game is a cat. You’re hectically following the on-screen instructions to cut, knead, and prepare the dough for that ever-hungry cat. And you gotta hurry! The cat must be fed enough pastry dough before the end of your workday. If you manage to feed it the most dough, you get the highest score - ‘Pastry Panic (with cat) is another amazing Alt. Ctrl game (alternative controller game) we met at GDC - Game Developers Conference, created by Yong Zhen Zhou.
Affogata is a platform that enables top gaming companies to gather and analyze millions of player feedback data points for increasing retention, optimizing game experience, and more. However, there is something about Indie games that spark our curiosity - what’s the creative process of coming up with a new game? and how do the game creators collect feedback initially? Our curiosity led us to dedicate a space in our blog to these diamonds of the gaming industry.
Welcome to Affogata’s Indie Spotlight series covering the hits of tomorrow, before they know they are.
A game about swapping various inputs with different haptics to produce as much perfect pastry as possible before the time runs out, and of course, a cat.
We asked Yong Zhen Zhou a few questions, and here are his insights:
How do you start the creative process of coming up with a new game?
In the case of Pastry Panic, because it is an alternative controller game, I started development around the tech behind the controller, figuring out what I could do with it, then brainstorming suitable gameplay ideas based on the strengths and constraints of the interactions. I also had a loose theme for the game, again inspired by its’ medium of alternative control, about making more game elements in real life rather than digitally. These two things served as rough guides, and the rest is slapping stuff together and iterating to see what works.
How and from whom do you get your game feedback?
Mostly from people around me, classmates, family, and anyone around in the studio who has some time to spare. Having a physical setup makes it kinda difficult to reach out further for people to try it.
How do you decide which player feedback to employ in your design?
I consider it in the context of the goal I’m trying to achieve in the game, if it feels like it’ll make a fit or just sounds interesting in general, I’ll give it a shot and test out a rough prototype of the concept. Of course, there is some feedback that goes directly against what I might be trying to do, for example in Pastry Panic some people requested that I move some of the UI information onto the screen from outside (I tried having a physical recipe book that people needed to read), so I might not directly implement that. However, the feedback is still useful in that it tells me that people are having some frustration and I might need to change my approach.
Once applying feedback, do you keep asking for more comments?
Naturally, yes. But I also try to ask people who have not seen the state of the game before the feedback changes, as naturally those who have experienced the previous state and those who have not will have different comments.
What role does player feedback take in creating indie games and what does it look like?
I think like most creative processes, feedback highlights the holes in thinking that the creators, showing shortfalls and opportunities that come from different perspectives. It's easy to get wrapped up in your own point of view, so feedback is always a reality check. With interactive experiences, and especially games, you can’t force people to react in a certain way to what you create, which makes testing even more paramount to see whether what you’re doing is even working or if it's a waste of time. With a small team (or solo in my case) getting feedback is also stress testing and bug fixing time by getting other people to play the game for you.
How do you approach conflicting feedback from different gamers?
If I’ve got some info on the kinds of people who are giving feedback I can consider the feedback based on that, for example, if player X finds it too easy and player Y finds it too hard, but X is someone who plays games very often while Y is not, then that informs me about where the game stands. And then again, your own vision to guide what the game should come into play, how difficult it should be, where should challenge be occurring, etc. Sometimes when feedback is conflicting directly, it can show new info when taken together, why are there differences in the experiences, which parts of the game different players appreciate, etc.
If you could improve the way you gather feedback, what would you do?
Well, my process right now is basically just having a conversation with people after they play my game, so there's probably much to be improved on…
Getting more info about people who do try the game, as well as figuring out guiding questions to get comments specifically on the things that I want feedback about (without leading too hard) would be a good start.
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