Catcher is a sometimes fast-paced, sometimes almost meditative arcade game. Instead of weapons, the player controls two space ships connected by a net made out of energy. Enclose huge groups of enemies, build up combos and try to figure out those odd geometric shapes before they kill you!

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...in which Tobias visits the A MAZE./Berlin Indie Games Festival, finds and fixes lots of problems and mentions the next release.

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I've been to the A MAZE./Berlin Indie Festival last week - and apart from meeting a lot of fellow game developers, playing awesome games and making weird cat glitch art at workshops, I've also been showcasing Catcher!

It's been a rollercoaster of joy and frustration as I tend to be emotional when it comes to my creations, but I want to know what people really think - so often I just watched people play without telling them that I made the game. It's incredibly humbling to see people pick up the game, try it for a short while and then walk away frustrated because they don't get it. On the other hand, it feels so good to see people finishing sector after sector and still trying after dying countless times in the later levels!

I got lots of valuable feedback. The most important aspect to me are my observations regarding accessibility - it's okay if people decide that the game is not for them, but it's NOT okay if they just don't understand how to play. Here are the main problems and how I intend to solve them:

Using the right mouse button to close the net

Some players didn't get that they have to use the right mouse button to close the net.

While this was explained in the wordy tutorial text in the first screen, almost nobody read that. (I think the best way to hide secrets in your game is in long text passages.)

An image might help because it's faster to understand and draws the eye more:

The new image explaining the controls.
The new image explaining the controls.

This will be shown until you have finished a level where you catch at least one enemy with the right mouse button. (You can also catch enemies by making looping motions - but this is a lot harder to pull off later and players should definitely know the right mouse button method.)

Damage feedback

Some players didn't understand what to do at all, rammed their ships into enemies and didn't understand that this hurts them.

While I could explain this via text, I think that's mainly a feedback problem with three portions to it: What happened, where did it happen, and what was the result?

After my improvements, when you touch an enemy with your ships, the feedback looks like this:

  • What happened: "Ship Collision" is displayed. A damage sound effects plays. Bright damage particles spawn at the point where it happened.
  • Where did it happen: The ship that collided blinks red for a second.
  • What was the result:: A newly introduced healthbar at the top gets smaller. (Health was always in the game, but previously only expressed in % in the upper left.)
The newly introduced healthbar, collision particles, feedback text and a red blinking ship.
The newly introduced healthbar, collision particles,
feedback text and a red blinking ship.

The healthbar also refills visibly between levels, which will hopefully teach the players that their health is always full when a level starts. (One less thing I previously had to express through text, yay.)

Little movements

Many players had problems with little movements. In most games little movements will be tinier and more precise - in Catcher they just don't work at all right now and result in big unwanted turns.

I haven't tackled this yet, but I'll probably change the controls so they react less to little movements. This shouldn't change how the game is played too much because right now experienced players mainly make big movements anyway - because small movements are currently imprecise and useless.

Will this work? I don't know - but in two weeks there's a local playtesting event here in Berlin, and I'll watch players there. Keeping my fingers crossed! And if not: Back to the drawing board with me.

Other improvements for the next release

Other things the next release (probably soon!) will have:

  • Particle effects for nearly every enemy now. The game looks SO MUCH more lively now.
  • Lots of little bug fixes.
  • Visually improved catcher ships! This one was due for a long time now. They'll point to your mouse when being apart from each other, and dock when they get close.
The ships turn towards the mouse.
The ships turn towards the mouse.

The ships dock together.
The ships dock together.

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Catcher!
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TobiasW
Engine
Unity
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