Rush Hour: Postmortem

Thank you all for the feedback! I'm glad that some of you enjoyed this game.

I had a reasonable amount of time this Pyweek but unfortunately I didn't manage it well enough to make a better game. Originally I was making a game where you would explore the secrets of a waterfall, but on Friday I realized it wasn't going to work because I needed much more time than I had, especially given at how slow I am at creating graphics (as a side note, I'm always impressed to see people creating games with great production value in one week). I had zero good ideas as I woke up on Saturday -- I also wasted my time twiddling on paper with a puzzle idea that I couldn't envision as being fun either -- and this is the best that I came up with.

Yes, this game was hard, and I apologize, but at the same time I don't regret it. :) Ok, I didn't have time for much tweaking and if I had, I would have created an actual learning curve, but I did intentionally know it was hard as I submitted it. I know from my past games that hard games get mixed reviews (despite me liking to make them), but I wanted to see if a series of 12 second bullet hell "levels" would be short enough to give players a chance. I personally enjoy quick restart games and I think the quick restart helps mitigate the difficulty. The results were again mixed; a few people liked it (and thanks for pushing through the difficulty!), some felt the difficulty was an issue, and that's all completely fair.

I think this is not the hardest game I've made, but it probably is the scariest-looking in terms of difficulty. This looks like a bullet hell, has the same mechanics as a bullet hell, but it's not truly a bullet hell. Maybe if I had hinted better at how the game is intended to be played -- which is, find a safe spot, stay completely still, and gun for it (except for the last level, which is actually kind of tricky and requires good dodging skills) -- then people might have had a better experience. But then again, I sort of wanted people to figure that out for themselves, so I just hinted at that in the README. As you would think, I didn't intend this before making the game, but as I realized that that was an option, I thought it was interesting so I tried to redesign the game around it. I made each level really short so you don't wait for too long. Then I tried to calibrate the levels so you'd still need some skill to dodge at the beginning and at the end, so it doesn't devolve to a simple gimmick. Well, it is a gimmick, but I tried to make it a fun gimmick.

Fun fact: you can solve the last level by pressing the up arrow key immediately after it starts and not letting it go until the end, and just use the left and right keys to navigate until you finish the level.

Mauve, thank you so much for all the changes to the website! I like how the site has evolved and I'm glad that you took charge in making those changes. Congratulations to rdb and The Larry And Dan Show for winning (excellent games), and to everyone for completing your games! I'm glad that I had time to rate games because there were a lot of fun ones in this batch. As always, I appreciate your feedback. See you all next time!

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I find I usually don't like hard games, but I had no problem with this because of the short restart. It took me a couple of goes to realise that the trick was to find "safe" spots: then the game is not too difficult: until you get to the last level :) ... given what you have said here, I will go back and try to finish this now :). 

Thanks for posting. Very interesting reading what you wanted people would get out of it. I'm sure many players did. I think I got about halfway there. I never found a single safe spot that worked. I would always choose a path with 2 or 3 safe spots, each of which I spent a couple seconds in.

I didn't have nearly as much trouble on level 7 as I did on (IIRC) levels 2 and 5. I think one potential issue is that there are so many different possible paths you can take, some of which require much more precise timing than others, and there's no way to really get a good sense of which paths are harder than others. I doubt that anybody is checking out more than a few different options. So depending on whether you chanced upon a relatively easy path, different players may get very different ideas of a level's difficulty. But I don't know how it could be done any differently. I guess that's a common issue with bullet hell games, but typically with those you spend most of your time on a small part of the screen, so there are not quite as many options. Tough design challenge, to be sure.
mit-mit: I hope that it was an interesting experience to figure out that "trick". Good luck on the last level. :)

Cosmologicon: That's an interesting point that I hadn't thought of. I balanced the levels basically by playing it myself in the last hour or so, but you're right that they're balanced based on an arbitrary safe spot that I chose, and that ignores all other possible spots, which could be easier or harder. In other words, it's like I balanced the game based on a fixed parameter that seemed good, whereas players have either the additional challenge of discovering what this parameter is, or the freedom of choosing an easier one, depending on the level. I guess if you truly want something like this well balanced, you need to have it playtested more.

Thanks both of you for your comments.
One of the reasons why I really liked your entry is because it proves that a game mechanic doesn't need to be complex in order to be fun, and that the graphics don't need to be ambitious in order to look pleasing and polished.  It's a challenge I find myself facing every time I design a game; keeping things simple, in spite of my brain's tendency to turn every idea into something more complex by continuously adding new elements.

I like games with high execution difficulty, but as you say, this works when combined with tight, responsive controls and a very quick iteration arc.  (Super Meat Boy is an oft-cited example of this.)  The key is that when failing and trying again is a necessary part of the gameplay, the game should not punish the player for this by getting in their way with annoying UI interactions and/or long parts of the game to replay.

Looking forward to seeing what you come up with next time!