I’m extremely happy with the comments that players of the alpha are sending in. Many of them help me identify and fix issues in the current design. This will certainly lead to a better piece than I could have made with only my own instincts to go on. Sometimes, when on your own, you simply overlook things. Also, the frequency at which certain issues occur in comments of different people, helps me judge priorities.
Though it can feel frustrating at times as well. Some comments recur and although I agree with them, I may not be able to fix the problem within the scope of this project. The suggestions that people make are great, I would love to see them in the game, but it’s impossible to implement them given budget and time available.
One could say just increase the budget and then the extra profits generated by a better game will make up for the higher production cost. But my mind doesn’t work like that. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life refining a single idea. There’s other things I want to make. I want to move on. Time is a more important factor to me than money. I cannot add years to my lifespan.
So perhaps the smarter strategy is to change the design in order to prevent the issues from occurring.
For instance, several players have mentioned feeling a certain discomfort with the café interior scene. They want to see the other player, they want to see more of the interior, they want to put their hands on the table, they want more control over the conversation, etc. All of these are valid and I completely agree that they would improve that scene. But I don’t think I can get all this done on time.
I think these issues are caused by the scene creating an expectation of fidelity that the game then does not deliver on. So maybe a cheaper solution is to not create this expectation. In this case, perhaps the interior scene should be more abstract, more stylized, more symbolic. Maybe the characters should not be visible at all. And maybe the table should not look so realistic. Maybe this should look more like a game, a board game, a game with abstract tokens, that takes place in the holodeck layer.
I don’t know yet. I personally like the realism in this scene. So I may ultimately leave it, optimize it where feasible, and leave the rest as a simple difference in taste. We’ll see.
A question still remains. Maybe it is a good sign that people have expectations. Maybe this means that the scene did work to some extent, that it did touch them in some way. And perhaps a more stylized presentation, while potentially less problematic, may not touch them. Is this a choice between unfulfilled desire and no desire at all? Can a work of art take the risk of imperfection?
While I am rather pleased with the look of this scene, none of the playtesters have made a comment on it. Maybe this is one of those cases where realism just goes unnoticed and thus is hardly worth the effort. Maybe it’s more interesting if the beach scene is the closest we get to realism in the game, its aesthetics being far less conventional.