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Ryukaki

Ryukaki's Hack 'n' Slash Design Analysis

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I put this on the Steam Forums, but I figured I would share it here, too.

So, what is contained within is part labour of love, part of a personal exercise in testing my own design analysis skills, part walkthrough, and part giant suggestion document.

It's really big, but I've done my best to make it legible and enjoyable to read, and was a few nights up late well spent, I think.

Without further Ado, Ryukaki's Hack 'n Slash Design Analysis Document.

http://ryukaki.com/HackNSlash/HacknSlashDesignAnalysis.docx

http://ryukaki.com/HackNSlash/HacknSlashDesignAnalysis.rtf

I'm more than happy to receive criticism or feedback from anyone willing to brave it, and hopefully this can open some discussion about some of the less clear elements of the game from everyone.

Thanks again for an amazing game, DoubleFine :)

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Links fixed! Sorry, Double Fine's forums actually parse html code so my % 20 became a space and broke the links!

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My first criticism is that the document is not in a web-friendly format. :P

But seriously, good job going at this depth. I personally avoided going in detail with the level design when I did my own early access review post. I especially like the "what we learn" part, even if I wasn't always agreeing with it on a personal level. I did notice that you failed to mention some important elements of the game/level design (e.g. the multiple paths in SpookyForest, hints in dialogs, using the amulet to reset puzzles), but I think it's simply because you were mostly concerned with the individual puzzles. Overall, I agree with almost everything in your analysis when taking the game at face value, and while I don't agree with most of your suggestions I can definitely see merit into them and they are well justified. Congrats!

If I had some feedback to give you, it would be to stay completely objective in your analysis, since what you find awesome or frustrating may be different from player to player. For example, instead of criticizing infinite health exploits in lengthy notes, simply state that such possibility exist when it applies, and let the reader decide for himself whether that's a problem or not. If you want to include your own opinion or suggestion about some game element, you should do it separately from the main content.

By the way, if you want to get better at game analysis, I highly recommend reading Game Design Companion: A Critical Analysis of Wario Land 4. It's 600 pages analyzing pretty much everything in Wario Land 4, and for only $8.

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First off, thanks for the feedback! I appreciate your time and your criticisms both.

In general, the idea was to focus on the puzzles and game experience, there were things that got missed that are probably worth going back over, even just re-visiting the document now.

In part, I do actually take sides because the exercise was partially feedback, as well as analysis-- kind of hand in hand, wanted to provide my opinion and my observation, because they asked for it!

I've been studying (And working in) game design for a good deal of time, now, and player experience is kind of a central focus of that; how is the player going to be impacted by this decision or that choice. The infinite health thing was just a point in particular where it felt to me that opportunity was lost with little gain. That said, I might have made it more clear that either choice, to have it be a defining characteristic or not, is actually a fine choice, just that the current design of the game seems divided on whether or not tension-by-threat should be a device for leveraging an experience out of the player. I think we may agree on that part, because it's very clear, even if it's not terribly objective. (If the game did not have moments where it seems like the player should be paying attention to their health, the infinite health thing would be absolutely excellent-- it does provide very positive learning and experience in the context of a strictly puzzle-based game.)

I will have a look at that bit of literature. I've read through a couple of books on the subject of design already, but have not come across that one. (A book of Lenses, The art of Game Design. Few others.) It would probably be a good experiment on my part to try and do a wholy objective analysis in addition to having notes laying about in another area, might assist in clarity as well.

Some formatting issues arose with trying to make the documents web-friendly, but I could probably clean them up and make it into some other filetype without losing much.

Thanks again for your feedback!

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I actually agreed with most of the criticisms and suggestions in this document, and also liked the same sorts of things that you liked.

Stuff that in particular stuck out to me that I agreed with:

-Yeah, the hay in the bed and similarly the way you finish off the glyph puzzle is a bit off.

-I agree that if they want the player to treat the guards as a threat in the castle, then hearts need to still be in limited supply. It's probably not a good idea to deliberately place a health exploit in the game, then add in a subsequent section which is trivial without health limitation.

- I also agree with limiting the number of things you can change during the early Loupe puzzles.

That said:

- I didn't mind that turtle boss fight at all. I didn't use the approach you suggested because it was too tricky when I was doing it to position the turtles to do the ramming. So instead I just made one of the turtles good and gave him massive health and damage and he took out the boss for me, so in that way it did feel like a puzzle, to me.

- I didn't mind the sewer either. It's a bit platformy in comparison with everything else, but I thought it was a good moment for a change of pace.

- I didn't think the focal point of the dragon/lamp room was confusing at all, really. But I did think that the room was too big. It gave me the impression there was more to it, when there wasn't.

Also:

- I found the entire first section of the game confusing to navigate. I had no real sense of where I was supposed to be going, and just sort of blundered from one encounter to the next. You said somewhere in your analysis that you thought it would be unlikely that someone wouldn't find the infinite woods during the first part of the game, but for me, it was easy. I just wandered, until I hit a boss, and I was left with a sense that had I known that was going to happen, I might have taken more time to explore (but at least I got back to this area later).

- It might help someone understand how the flow of the Loupe machines works if it would actually show you the effects of changing variables. Maybe it does this already, but if so it wasn't clear to me, so for example if changing a value makes it so that the current state of the world will cause the left path to be taken instead of right, I should be able to see that on screen, perhaps by having that path highlighted. And if there are some that rely on world interaction, like a pressure switch, maybe there's a way that you could 'simulate' the flow from inside the Loupe room. So that you could hit a pressure plate button and then see a little blip go around the loop four times before the loop breaks, and then see how that changes when you change the values, without having to leave the room.

Maybe it would be too confusing. But I did often find myself wishing there was a way for me to test what I was doing without leaving the room.

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It might help someone understand how the flow of the Loupe machines works if it would actually show you the effects of changing variables. Maybe it does this already, but if so it wasn't clear to me, so for example if changing a value makes it so that the current state of the world will cause the left path to be taken instead of right, I should be able to see that on screen, perhaps by having that path highlighted. And if there are some that rely on world interaction, like a pressure switch, maybe there's a way that you could 'simulate' the flow from inside the Loupe room. So that you could hit a pressure plate button and then see a little blip go around the loop four times before the loop breaks, and then see how that changes when you change the values, without having to leave the room.

Maybe it would be too confusing. But I did often find myself wishing there was a way for me to test what I was doing without leaving the room.

I think it's fine that your changes are silent since this is what happens with real hacking. However, I agree that it's totally counter-intuitive that you need to reload a room to see the changes applied. I understand why it happens from a programming standpoint, but it's really difficult to understand from the player's point of view. Not sure how to fix this in a way that makes sense though besides an in-game hint.

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