How 8 months in Early Access got our game done!
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted on Gamasutra for the last time but something crazy happened in my Studio and I’d like to share this experience with you.
3 years ago, I founded Dreamz Studio here in Paris. A lot of things happened and it turned out that the team has been changing quite often since then. As the main purpose of our studio was to produce a game despite an ongoing turnover, I had to rethink the way we worked. I had to rethink it so the turnover wouldn’t affect the progress of our game. To succeed in it I had to find a solid base that would be keeping up with our game and able to follow its evolution. This is where I turned to players.
I thought that instead of starting from scratch every time the team renewed, we should rather let new member get on a train led by gamers. As a result, the aim and the main ideas won’t change but would be improved by people bringing their skills joining our team.
Concerning the game, MagiCats Builder is basically a 2D sandbox platformer that allows players to create their own levels. Nothing new, right? But wait for it. Beside the fact that it’s a beautiful free to play with this intuitive coding interface the real innovation is the whole concept behind it: our studio fully relayed on our players during the 8 months of Early Access!
Ok, I had to confess that some people started to freak out thinking: “Omg, there’s no way you’ll create a good game if you’re not 100% into this kind of game. This will never go well - what have I signed for ?!”. Then they tried the game and surprisingly discovered a well done and beautiful game with both funny and technical aspects well balanced. So… How come?
Well, I believe that there’s no need to be a former Chef to make innovating pretty little tasty meals. Indeed, you just have to know the basics and then let you guide by the taste of your customers, right? This is exactly what our Indie Studio has been doing for the past 8 months. Through the Early Access period, we’ve been matching the knowledge of our members with the game experience expected by players.
By the way, I would like to thank all the players involved in gamer communities that help developers and studios finding bugs and more generally improving their games. I think that a lot of companies tend to create games regardless of what people and players want. This is actually sad. And it’s sad because gamers are the ones going to the heart of games. They are the ones games are made for, isn’t it? So why not fully rely on them and produce a video game that will provide them the best gaming experience: theirs.
For these who may not know, there are several platforms allowing exchanges between players and developers. Dreamz Studio uses social media, reviews on the different stores we’re proposing our game on and online platforms such as Discord. Punctually they met players in real life during events.
Thanks to their feedback, we managed to improve both visual and technical aspects of our game.
Starting with the most obvious, the game design has been deeply reworked. We kept the main idea the dreamlike atmosphere but changed so much things.
First and foremost, the main character: The MagiCats. At first it was a dog, but it evolved to something more charismatic, a cat. From the little space Corgi to our actual badass Nathan Drake-like epic cat, the MagiCat you know have come a long way to please you guys. Thanks to you its new look is more endearing for people than before.
The MagiCat Kingdom has strongly changed too. Thanks to players’ feedback and our own observations, we’re presenting with a game that has a strong and simple to read visual identity. We integrated graphic rules that help the reading of the game. Indeed, as you can see on the first picture the red environment was what we started with, but it turned out that the drawing outlines were too confusing. Because of the outlines, people thought that certain elements were interactive while they were in the background and not supposed to have any interaction with elements on the first plan. We also desaturated the colors and changed them for less flashy ones, so less confusing and more harmonious. As a result, with a desaturated and outlines-free background, elements on the first plan began to stand out naturally.
The coding interface of MagiCats Builder allowing people to customize their levels got more and more simplified and illustrated to become a more intuitive coding engine. It helped new users interact quite easily with the coding part of the game.
The gameplay of the game evolved according to what players expected. We integrated movements such as the dash or the possibility of hanging on walls for several reasons. The main one would probably be the fact adding these two abilities made the game more interesting. Dashing and hanging on walls provided players with so many ways to finish levels, which feels so much better gameplay and design-wise when playing tricky levels designed by other players. Also, dashing for whatever reason and hanging on walls are characteristics that we believe to be representative of cats.
A multiplayer mode has been integrated too. This one has been requested by our gamer community on every event we did and we kind of rushed for make it happened, but we made it and it works pretty well actually.
Beside it there’s an upcoming online mode we’re working on, there’s an item we put in the game that reverse the gravity… So many features in this game added thanks to our community that level up the game. There are so much things that our studio improved through these 8 months in Early Access that I can’t mention it all. The list simply goes for ever but the result was worth it. The perfect balance between developers’ knowledge and gamers’ expectations ended up in a pretty cute easy to pick up on game.
So yeah, I would like to thank all gamers involved in such communities. I didn’t know before starting this project that their point of view could bring so much. I didn't actually realize that some of them could be relevant enough to deeply structure the game.
Well I think that I’m going to stop here. That was my experience, I hope that you guys enjoyed reading it.
And again, THANK YOU SO MUCH! 😊