The last few months have been pretty hectic, culminating last week with a little demo of Toryansé being shown at EGX London as part of The Leftfield Collection. It was the first time the game had been out in pubic in any kind of playable form (first time in a while I’d been out in public!) and there were reportedly 75,000 people in attendance…
Every now and then I find it really helpful to have a concrete deadline to work to, when working on my own I find it’s sometimes very easy to get obsessed with trivial things (“I need to get the lighting right on this door-handle!!”) and lose sight of the overall direction of a project, without a real sense of urgency, months can go by without much real definable progress being made and this, in turn can be pretty demotivating. So I figured the submission cut-off for Leftfield would be a good target to try and get a small playable build together. In the end it wasn’t quite playable in time, but I submitted a few screenshots and a short video at the last minute anyway, on the evening of the deadline, fully assuming I wouldn’t hear back. Then I heard back, and they wanted me to show my demo in a few weeks… There’s that sense of urgency!
The weeks between getting accepted and actually arriving at the venue with a USB stick in my hand passed by in a blurry instant, I scaled back a couple of times and in the end just focussed on getting a few rooms finished to a decent standard. I was still keen to include a couple of the different mechanics I’m implementing in Toryansé, specifically the speech/thought bubbles and the direct interaction between the cursor and the environment. It would have been nice to have a bit more variety in the environments as well, the start is necessarily gloomy and dark to provide a counterpoint to some of the more colourful and fantastical areas that follow, but I was very aware of spending time on content that people might end up not seeing. Point-and-click adventure is an odd genre to be presenting at a noisy convention centre and asking people to spend much more than ten minutes concentrating probably wouldn’t have worked so well.
The first morning was an absolute nightmare, on cursory inspection everything was working well, I’d fixed up a few bits-and-bobs on a Macbook in the hotel the night before and my concern that a build wouldn’t run on the show PCs, at first, seemed unfounded. It wasn’t until a couple of people started playing and progressing that I realized I had an issue; collected items were stacking on top of each other in the inventory instead of laying out in a nice ordered row, their hitboxes were overlapping making it almost impossible to select anything and therefore to properly play the demo. After much apologising and much scrambling around I managed to work out that the arrays that keep track of the collected objects were not being written to disk, the folders were all being created, just not the .txt file! Four or five builds later and having still not fixed the issue, I eventually managed to work around it by laying out the inventory items in advance. They wouldn’t organize themselves to match the order they were collected in, and it only worked because the number of items in the demo all fitted in the inventory bar at the same time, but at least people were now able to play the demo all the way though to the end!
After that, things went pretty smoothly. It was such an eye-opening experience watching hundreds of different people playing the demo, things that I’d thought I’d made too obvious were completely flummoxing folk, and they were making connections instantly where I’d worried I’d been a bit vague. It was incredibly useful as well, to be able to go back to the hotel in the evening, make a few subtle changes and the following day have hundreds of new players to test them out. On the first day, I’d say about 80% of people struggled with area in the screenshot below, the idea is that you spin the chair round with the cursor to move the card on the desk, I’d hoped that by having spinning chairs in the first area that people would instinctively do the same again, but they seemed to completely miss this one.
For the second day I placed a small yellow post-it note on the back of it, problem pretty much solved! It was just enough to draw attention to the right spot and it still left enough ambiguity that players still seemed to feel like they’d found it themselves! Having this kind of access to so many players has been so incredibly useful, and not something I ever really thought would be available to me, I’m already looking into applying to do something similar next year.
As well as meeting all the lovely players it was a great way of meeting loads of other developers too, all making super diverse and interesting things: @VariableState / @PolClarissou / @alightinchorus / @bryangale / @Haze______ / @BertramFiddle / @juhog / @untamegames / @Ungapants / @ChucklefishLTD / @NFTS_Games / @StitchGames