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14 Feb 2012

There are few things more useful to me as a designer than watching somebody play my game. When I'm working on Starhawk, that's an easy enough thing to do: like any other AAA production we have formalized playtest sessions as part of the normal design process, and the feedback we generate from those sessions is invaluable.

It's a little trickier with Fail-Deadly, since most of the game's exposure is to random folks all over the world via the Internet, people I will most likely never meet. But fortunately for me, some of those people have a hobby of their own: playing games and posting video recordings of their playthroughs to Youtube. I've known about the "Let's Play" phenomenon for some time, but I didn't figure a little hobby project would find its way onto that radar.

But that's the cool thing about the freedom of information: anyone can play and post anything, no matter how niche. And suddenly, lo and behold, I've got a whole playlist of people playing Fail-Deadly. Some even have running commentary! Design jackpot!

I particularly enjoyed this one, by Youtube user crazyofengland. He seems so emotionless at the start, and then a few minutes in he just totally panics and starts cursing and losing his shit. It's amazing. :D


But entertainment aside, there is one very surprising, interesting, and slightly embarrassing thing that I discovered in pulling this playlist together: a plurality of players seem to be experiencing an issue whereby none of the projectiles, score pop-ups, or certain effects are rendered. I had received a bug report via Twitter a couple months ago about missing score pop-ups, which I've never been able to track down, but because the reporter is Russian I've been chasing a theory that the bug had to do with that locale (e.g. an issue rendering the Russian character set). But seeing this trend in the playlist, I don't think that's the case. It's too early to say for sure but I think it may be a z-sorting issue of some kind. Question is, what's the common element among the players who are seeing the issue? My best guess at the moment is that they're all on Windows Standalone builds, but that seems too broad.

It sucks, because the players who aren't seeing projectiles are seeing a pretty unpolished presentation. And worse, not seeing score popups means an entire layer of gameplay -- combo bonuses and quick drops -- is entirely invisible.

Anyway, consider the bug added to the list for version 1.2... and God bless you wonderful Internet people for uploading gameplay videos. :D

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fail-deadly game-design video-games