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  • How Player Feedback Completely Changed Hero Syndrome

    [11.03.20]
    - Jacob Jameson

  • I had a decent-sized community on Discord (1500+ users) and through mailing lists (32,000 +) that showed interest in the game as well. The players from these groups were players that were attracted to the game based on the proposed multiplayer. It would be a more traditional 4v4 team deathmatch, an arena-style competitive shooter with building. The Discord community and mailing list both were generated over the period of a year on the website email signup.

    Any of these players that were kind enough to stream or record the game seemed to be underwhelmed, as expected. Anyone that plays competitive online knows that campaigns can't touch the excitement and skill required for online matches. The combat was so easy for players that are used to online multiplayer. They flew through it in 5 or 10 minutes, 15 on average. I don't think I saw a single one of them interested in the story or puzzle aspects.

    Mixing two genres can work, and I think even the ones I decided to fuse together could work too, but it would take a lot of playtesting and a lot of iterative design to get the balance right. Especially when a lot of the story is delivered through audio (the player is the focus of a test where the scientists that are observing can be heard, though not aware). The blend requires a delicate balance of downtime between fights so the dialogue can be delivered and high-intensity action during the fights.

    It seemed I was taking two target audiences, and neglecting them both. Neither were amazing in their own rights in the demo. They both wanted more of what they expected out of the game. One side combat and the other puzzles and narrative. In an effort to mix the two, I wasn't adding anything that was worthy of drawing the attention of the player, especially in a 30-minute demo that didn't get into the core of the story and didn't progress far enough to challenge the player by combat. It is not to say that it isn't doable, but for my goal of releasing a product that would allow me to stay in this industry developing games, it didn't seem like the right choice.

    I didn't want to abandon the story, because it had been developed so much and I really thought the story was great. I also had spent a lot of time on the combat side and thought that had great potential as well.

    I made a decision to split the two. Focus one title on the puzzle and story elements, and the other on the combat, delivering high action, and integrating building into the mode.

    Hostile Mars is the combat-focused title. It is a third-person shooter/persistent base building game. It has elements of item manufacturing and base distribution. It is like a third-person tower defense with the option to create your own army to defend the attackers. This is done while managing the automated distribution of ammo and power across turrets, traps, and gathering resources. It shares the same universe as Hero Syndrome and plays into that story, but in a very limited capacity.

    It will be there to explain the gameplay and the environment setting along with a structure to provide a tutorial. The main focus will be action, and creativity with the combination of different traps against a huge amount of oncoming enemies. It focuses on base upgrades and ridiculously large turrets, as seen in this Reddit post that went to the top of /r/Unity3d.

    Hero Syndrome will remain a story-driven puzzle game and will be completed after Hostile Mars. I am still extremely excited about the story and puzzle elements, and can't wait to get back into development.

    Right now, Hostile Mars is a part of the Steam Games Festival Autumn Edition. You can check it out here on Steam.

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