Lightwing: Postmortem and PlaythroughHi everyone,
Thanks for the feedback on my game!
First off, I can clearly see from the comments that this game is difficult. :) Here is a playthrough of the game: https://youtu.be/v2EHZ6QngGg.
I'm wondering if anyone actually beat all levels. Let me know if you did. I have trouble balancing games, so it's not surprising to hear that it's hard, but I never really know how hard it is until I read these comments. I tried to make the first few levels simpler, but the difficulty does ramp up pretty quickly in the middle.
Lately I've been alternating between puzzle and non-puzzle games, and this was puzzle time. I find it really fun to design a compact set of mechanics that generates interesting puzzle dynamics. A couple of comments about this one:
1. Level design
Designing levels for this puzzle took me a lot of time, more than my previous puzzle games. I spent so much time just creating each level that I didn't have time to polish the game further. Unfortunately a bug with the undo slipped through (sometimes it fails to undo enemy position).
This time I tried to write a solver to help iterate through the level creation more quickly, but unfortunately the solver was too slow to be of much help for anything a bit more complicated. It was a simple graph search through states, and being able to move the enemies around blows the size of the state space up very quickly. Maybe I could have spent some time improving it but I don't think it'd be worth it. It wasn't completely useless as it helped me understand some of the simpler dynamics of the game and analyze some smaller levels. So not only I spent time writing a solver I barely used, but also I spent many hours designing levels by hand, especially levels 7 through 10.
2. Puzzle mechanics design (minor spoilers ahead!)
This puzzle is surprisingly restrictive in the types of solutions you can have. In particular, you can't have a square loop! The entire goal of the puzzle is to form a cycle in some sense, and you can't even have a simple loop. I was considering adding a mechanic to break this property because it reduces the diversity of levels, but I prefer to minimize the number of mechanics so ultimately I decided against it. The reason why you can't have a loop is because, in a square, you're always going to attract the attention of two of the enemies, and you can't use the "back turned" mechanic because you want them in a 90 degree angle.
As a corollary, if you have three or more enemies, you'll always have at least three enemies in the same line, at least one of which will return fire (haven't quite written a proof but I believe this is true). My hope was that attentive players would notice this, but it's not easy to. I added a distilled version of this property in level 5, and level 7 returns to this exact same property but includes the attraction mechanics. If you did notice this and use this to your advantage, let me know, I'm curious. :)
I'm not too confident that one could take this puzzle and easily expand it further without substantially changing it or adding to it. The restricted level structure is not great for level diversity, and scaling up the puzzle is difficult here. This puzzle requires guesswork from the player on what the final solution could be, and player progress could be nullified if their guess is completely wrong, which could easily be frustrating if the level is too large. I think this can also happen in the current levels, but hopefully their small size limits this issue.
Anyway, I had a lot of fun designing this one. I spent a large fraction of the time on the mechanics and level design. I wish I had reserved more time for polishing and bug fixing, but it's very hard to find the time.
Fortunately I was able to rate all games this time. This was a great batch, I've enjoyed playing all your games. Congratulations to the winners and thanks mauve for organizing! See you next time!