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Postmortem: Singapore-MIT GAMBIT's CarneyVale: Showtime
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Postmortem: Singapore-MIT GAMBIT's CarneyVale: Showtime

February 24, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

4. Lack of Control Scheme Page

Our game is fairly different from many other titles, so players really needed to be taught the role of the interactive "props" in the game environment to enjoy the game.

Some props were useful while others posed a potentially lethal hazard. We managed to convey this message successfully via a tutorial system integrated across the game levels, which explained new props when they first appeared.

This both allowed the player to understand the multitude of game props in a simple manner and allowed us to explain the multiple ways to use each prop in clear, easy-to-follow steps so that the player didn't need to learn all the controls at one go.

Fig 11: The in-game tutorial, which introduces new techniques to players, was so important to the game that we eventually expanded it into multiple frames.

Since we provided the tutorial system, we became overconfident and felt that we did not need a control scheme page. After all, the game only used two buttons and the analog stick. When we submitted the game to the Xbox Live Community Games playtesters, however, we were told that we needed a control scheme page that players could reference if they forgot the controls.

It was only then that we realized that, although we considered our game a platforming game, our control scheme didn't follow the conventions of the genre (such as including a "jump" button).

When we set about drafting such a control scheme page, we realized that the game's many props (which all operated differently) would have made such a page illegible. To meet the deadline, we had no choice but to omit this feature.

5. Testing with a Niche Audience

While testing was one of the things we did right, there were some blunders. At the beginning, we turned to local schools and institutions for testers, which seemed to provide us with a large pool of people to test our game.

However, it took us a while to realize that most of the testers who showed up weren't familiar with console games, which made it difficult for us to make sense of and interpret our test results. In fact, we spent close to a month or two testing with this audience before we realized our error.

Fig 12: Pinball was a big source of inspiration for Showtime.

Due to inaccurate test data, many of the early changes we made to the game were unnecessary. We needed to completely restart testing, putting in much more effort to find broader and more varied groups of testers.

We eventually succeeded, but that didn't change the fact that we had lost so much time and effort reacting to test results generated by a niche group of testers.

After All is Said and Done...

During one of our testing sessions we had three testers in our lab. All three were good friends and loved gaming. Their testing session started early in the morning and we had them play through the game from start to finish.

At noon we asked them if they wanted to stop for lunch, but one of them said that he wanted to beat the game first. He was on the final level, and was having some difficulty beating it.

The other two testers were experiencing similar difficulties as well. Before we knew it, the testers banded together and took turns at the level together.

They cheered when one of them made a particularly tough leap, and were collectively disappointed when Slinky narrowly missed a target. (Right -- Fig 13: Through much iteration, the acrobatic trapeze evolved into a claw-like grabber.)

Watching them, we knew that we had created something good. We had created something that three friends gave up their lunch to play. It's times like that when we remember why we make games.

Now that the game is finished, we are overjoyed to have been a part of the project. Although we suffered many setbacks, it was a very good experience. We learned many things about ourselves and how to manage a project. Now all we hope is that you will have as much fun playing CarneyVale: Showtime as we did making it!

Fig 14: Most of us aim to pursue further studies in college.

Data box

Full-time student developers: 7
Part-time student interns: 2
Length of development: 4 months
Xbox Live Community Games release date: Dec 22, 2008
Platform: Xbox 360
Development Hardware: HP Desktop PC (Intel Core2 Duo 2, 2.33 GHz, 2 GB RAM), 19" LCD screen, Wacom Intuos 3 tablet, Olympus LS-10 audio recorder
Development Software: Microsoft Visual Studio C# Express 2008, Microsoft XNA Game Studio 3.0, Microsoft XACT, Adobe Photoshop CS3, Steinberg Cubase 4
Resources: Farseer Physics Engine, XNA Creators Club, EastWest Symphonic Orchestra Silver Edition, Fonts: Ligurino, Biondi, Ozone, Bell Gothic

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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