– Article By: Tito Aponte-De Leon
Of course the more interesting aspect of a game version update are the changes. So let’s go right into what we learned from the feedback we received from our target audience (kids ages 5-12), and discuss how we incorporated it to enhance the Math Invaders game experience.
Feedback: Confusing GUI Layout system:
Why we changed it:
Play testing with our target audience and adults revealed that they were not able to easily navigate or comprehend at first glance the stage selection mechanics. We had to walk about 90% of our play testers through the menu selection phase of Beta 1.0. We learned two lessons from this: first, kids need to be generally “guided” in small bits; second, kids love to interact with the touch aspect of the mobile device as much as possible! To make our Stage Selection process more interactive and intuitive, we decided to break the Stage Selection process into two parts.
What was changed:
Our newly chosen two parts stage selection system now allows for the player to select the Problem Type and then to select the Number Range of difficulty. We noticed that one of the MAJOR contributions to confusion for kids was that they are always more interested in clicking/touching the more interesting aspects on the screen, hence, the colorful planets rather than the GUI buttons. In this regards we decided to make the actual planets part of the GUI navigation process and then single out the number range process on a proceeding overlapping menu.
A simplified and more effective GUI system that not only serves as a better guide for kids but also enhanced the UI experience by making it more engaging. This was greatly proven in practice upon the Beta 2.0 test group at AIIDE.
HUD – Too much going on!
Why we changed it:
A big problem for most people that played the beta was having to constantly look at the problem given, touch the numpad/touchpad to input the correct answer, and then actually select a target alien to destroy. It was too much to handle all at once. It was more multitasking than people generally wanted to be forced to do when playing a game.
What was changed:
To alleviate the issue, we made the gameplay mechanics easier by having the actual target itself be part of the answer selection process and reduced the onscreen HUD elements. We decided to completely do away with the original Power Meter mechanic. A simpler timer “seek and touch” based system was implemented that allowed the player to have less to worry about to enjoy the game. This also allowed for the kids to focus on only one process, which was figuring out the answer. This made it easier to learn the math and allowed the kids to engage more with the aliens.
A more enjoyable game experience where the changes we made allowed for a better learning process. Having time being the main “enemy” of the player (not also building power meter) was enough to keep the player challenged to attain the highest score possible.
Graphics and sound:
There wasn’t too much of changes these particular components so I can sum it up into a brief section. Graphics wise, we updated a lot of the particle effects that were used. Some of the more distracting effects like Squirt’s engine smoke/fire (see image above) and the laser bullets were toned down because they seemed too distracting. For sound, the aliens made too many sounds too often that we’re sure would drive people insane (especially parents).
The great feedback we received has resulted in a more enjoyable game experience and a better learning process. Kids found the new Beta 2.0 version of the game intuitive and fun to play. We were very happy with the results and responses from our audience with the Beta 2.0 release.