After a few months of downtime, Playup Perth was back, and word had spread quick. Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was the allure of beer, but the SK Games office was packed out yet again, and whatever feedback the devs were hoping for they got in swathes. There were games for PC, board games, a mobile game, and games that people just brought along to try out, which meant there was something guaranteed to salivate everyone’s gaming tastebuds. So, how were the games?
Occupying the inside projector was Bytesprite’s Bamblebrash, a two player single-stick bullet-hell game that required communication to succeed. You control one of two flower-people joined together by a long strand of thorny bramble, which is your one and only weapon against the waves of poisonous enemies coming to get you. You and whoever is controlling the other flower-person must co-ordinate your movements to use the bramble, destroy the enemies and survive another wave. It’s a unique mechanic that works nicely, but a few niggly things bugged the testers.
The most prominent annoyance was one of the enemy types that spawned, lovingly coined ‘The Red Dude’ by those who endured it’s punishment. The Red Dude wasn’t red himself, but he did fire little red pellets that broke the bramble, which effectively stopped everyone from getting past that wave. Part of the problem was that there were no obstacles or terrain that could be used to block the shots, but lowering the frequency of the shots was one suggestion to avoid the feeling of hitting a wall.
Another suggestion was with regard to the pulling mechanic. As long as the bramble was still connecting the player, one could pull the other closer to them by holding a button. They couldn’t pull them from one side of the level to the other, but the player being pulled was invincible while being dragged. One suggestion was to make this ‘pull’ directional to open up some more interesting tactical movements, something the devs hadn’t contemplated including. Whether it’s included or not, the game was a hit with everyone who played it, myself included!
Out the back with another projector was Arbalest 3035, an Asteroids-esque multi-player game with a nifty power up system. It’s hard not to compare the game to Asteroids because it shared the game’s toroidal geometry mechanic (ie., one side of the screen joined the other), but there was more to it than just blasting rocks. The fact that it was multi-player focused added a completely different twist to a classic game that I had never even thought of, and while it was definitely cool, there were some possible improvements on offer.
One of the major suggestions was making the power up system more transparent. As you flew around, coloured orbs would show up. Pick up three of them, and you got a power up. Depending what order you picked them up in would determine what power up you got, but until you used it, you wouldn’t know what power up you had. Given the frantic nature of the game, holding off on a power up was an issue as well, since you’d be hammering away at the shoot button until your finger broke. Showing what power up you had, making them last longer and slower shooting speed were all thrown around as suggestions.
The other main aspect of the game was colliding into other players. Whenever you rammed someone, you’d both spin out of control for a few seconds and be unable to shoot. Some people (including me) thought this went on for way too long, but others thought it felt too short. One suggestion was to keep the duration the same but allow the player to still shoot wildly so that they didn’t feel totally helpless. Despite these issues, the game was highly enjoyable, and I’m excited to see what direction the Bear Studios takes it.
Set up on the mobile projector in our pockets was Hostile Encounters, a real time strategy game for mobile where the player must destroy the enemy space ship. The dev wasn’t to be at the event proper, but he was there in spirit (and through Skype) and hopefully still got some helpful feedback. I wasn’t able to speak to him at the event, but I did try the game out once I got home, and while the potential is there for a killer game, it just needs some tweaking.
The first time I played the game, I was a bit bewildered by what was happening. There were buttons to push, a ship to take down and not much in the way of on-screen feedback. I had a vague idea of what each button did, but there wasn’t any indication as to what they costed, how long they lasted or whether they were successful or not (which was a problem when it came to hacking). Putting in more visual feedback would help in solving the problem, as well as making it easier to break newbies into it.
The main concern I had was in the game’s simplicity. There’s a lot of potential for a great game, and it’s still early in development, but one of the key parts of star ships battling one another is movement. As it stands, the game boils down to shooting weapons without much in the way of deep strategical thinking. Adding in movement, firing arcs and all sorts of other mechanics should help bring the game up from a nice concept to a killer time-waster.
You can download Hostile Encounters from the Google Play Store.
Playup Perth was well and truly back, complete with free games and helpful feedback. It took a megaphone to kick everyone out, but, alas, it needed to be done. All the devs I spoke to were ecstatic to have all the advice from everyone that played their games, and all the players were just glad to have played them. Keep your eyes out for the next Playup, which should be happening very soon…