Avatar Runner… oh well

Avatar Runner was the game that I was hoping would be pretty fun to play, obviously not setting the world alight but fun to play and also actually get enough sales to meet the minimum level of revenue for Microsoft to actually pay you. It would have been wonderful to at least make back some of my game dev costs. Alas it hasn’t quite panned out.

I’ve been mulling over whether I can salvage it and of course reflecting on some of the main issues that people may be having. As part of that I took myself back into my mindset for coming up with the game.

You’ve had a long and stressful day at work with an infuriating demand. After being stuck in traffic on your way home and burning your dinner you just want to relax and play a game. Been there before? I have. The only problem is on days like that I more often than not die a lot or fail to spot the part of a puzzle to progress. I just want to relax, brain off and do something chilled. This is why I made Avatar Runner.

The core gameplay is of course based on HexStackIt, which is a reasonably twitch based game. With Avatar Runner I wanted to create something a bit more chilled. Something with mellow and relaxing gameplay that you can whistle to (well if, unlike me, you can actually whistle) and play without sweaty palms or rage quitting. Something that even with a hangover you won’t get beat. It does the job quite well in my opinion. Okay, it isn’t a pretty game but when I just want to slump on the sofa and play a game that doesn’t require focus, it is great. I enjoy it and it mellows me out a little. I also enjoy playing the intense difficulty runs that are bloody hard, especially with the songs Sports Shop and Dirty Blonde (i.e. songs not by me >_<).

Unfortunately by creating a game that intentionally allows everyone to get through a run pretty much intact, it has given a very poor impression for people expecting something with a bit more intensity from their gaming. There’s plenty runs in there if pace is your thing, but that first run is easy.

In total there are 30 runs with 7 available at the beginning. It makes sense that if you’re unlocking runs then the more intense and difficult ones should be the ones that you need to play a few times to unlock. Also they should go from easy to hard. It would be odd finding a random ordering of difficulties!  This however has meant that on your first couple of plays, you will be playing easy levels. These are kind of boring. Well mellow is what I’d rather think of them as but if you’re expecting something exciting and intense… these first levels are boring.

In hindsight I should have kept the initial runs down, just providing a small selection of runs to give players a taste for the difficulties and also meaning that the many players who’ll want the hard or insane difficulty runs have one to play straight away! Perhaps more people playing the trial would have bough the game if they were readily exposed to the more challenging gameplay.

Going forward my code is going to make this a tough one to fix as I can’t touch the order of the runs. The plan now is to make the first runs more challenging and engaging by increasing the spawn rate between items, making you react that little bit quicker. The player is already running a speed that would make Usain Bolt jealous so I won’t be touching the speed!

There’s one more big issue with Avatar Runner that needs addressing. When you skip the instructions and don’t read the game description, it isn’t entirely obvious that you’re meant to build a combo. I’ll be brash and honest… if the gameplay video commentators were playing someone else’s game, I’d be having a giggle at them. Alas it is my game that they are (in my biased opinion) giving unfair abuse so I kind of need to do something about it. I can’t quiz the player to test that they read the instructions and it is an incredibly simple game so a tutorial is pointless. I feel dirty but in the next release I am adding pop up messages to guide the player when they are being dumb.

Ah well. One day I might meet the minimum revenue to get my monies from Microsoft. Doubt it though.

I know I probably should be more professional but in truth I bet that just like my games, this ramble / moan / self-harm of word vomit will get no hits.

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