Devlog #134: shelter phase changes

Ah, feedback loops. Everyone in the IT industry knows that one of the crucial things when creating software is to keep these loops short. You really want to know what the end users think about your product.

This is even more important when creating a game. After all, there are no user requirements that came from the customer. I mean the players will have some expectations (if it's an XCOM-like title, they won't expect dynamic, real-time battles... or at least I hope so), but the main requirement is that the game should be simply fun to play.

(Shooting rats is fun! Though they sometimes fight back)
(I mean it was really the rats who started the fight, so it's the player who is fighting back)

And because it's not really easy (maybe even impossible) to define what "fun" is, iterating becomes the most important part of the game creation process. And I'm happy that I have a great community of playtesters that give me lots of awesome feedback!

Recently I've decided to take a closer look at feedback regarding the shelter phase, and I found some very interesting observations there. Here's what a shelter phase looked like in one of the older builds:

As you can see, there were shelter actions available at the bottom. The player was also able to hover their cursor above different things, and for some of them, a text near the mouse cursor was displayed.

When the player clicked something on the screen, two different things could happen:

if it was a lore-only prop, a short character message was displayed:

If it was something related to an action, a proper action button would become highlighted at the bottom. This also included characters - when you clicked on them, the "heal" action would become highlighted:

It turned out that players were getting confused when they first entered the shelter. The most common issues were that:

a) they didn't know that it was possible/necessary to change the active character to see different actions,


b) they thought that the whole phase has a point'n'click interface, and action buttons at the bottom are redundant, as all stuff could be reached by just clicking on different parts of the shelter.

Clicking on a character with LMB (so a legit way of switching characters during combat) was not working here (RMB was working, but it was counterintuitive). Also, seeing all the healing actions for every character all the time was implying that the actions menu indeed holds all the possible actions and that they don't depend on the currently selected character.

As a solution, I changed the approach to the shelter healing actions. Previously, every character had the possibility to heal every other character. Now I've made sure that only one "heal" action is visible at a time, and that it belongs to the currently selected character.

The other thing I changed (and it was slightly heartbreaking) was removing the mouse-clicking-on-screen thing completely. There are no more mouse hover texts over shelter objects. The only way to interact with the actions is by using the buttons. Yes, I had to sacrifice some of the coolness of clicking through shelter elements; on the other hand, that feature would not be available on a console port (assuming it will become a thing), as there'd be no mouse cursor there.

These changes helped make the shelter UI more readable, and that was confirmed during recent playtests.

Feedback loops are awesome. Still, the biggest piece of feedback that I'll receive will come from all the people who will try out the full game after it releases. And that's gonna happen in the nearest future. I am extremely thrilled (and scared) because of that!

OK, this post is long enough, so I'm gonna wrap it up already. Take care, have a great day, and do join me on the Discord channel!

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