Diver: Alpha Release Summary and Future Plans

About 3 weeks ago, I released the first alpha version of my Silverlight game, Diver.

Here is an update on how things went, the feedback I got, and my plans for Diver's future.

On April 24th, 2008 I posted the Alpha version of Diver to my site and made blog post stating such. My goal for the alpha release was just to get some first impressions and feedback from a small portion of the online gaming community. Up untill then, I had been the only one to play the game.

I made forum posts announcing the alpha release to the Fun-Motion forums and TIG Source Feedback forums. (I also posted it to Stumble-Upon, Digg, and .Net Kicks just for fun, but nothing really came of it.)

The Feedback

The feedback I got from the forum posts was great. Fun-Motion has some very passionate physics-game enthusiasts and most of the feedback was positive. The TIG Source Feedback forums aren't as focused on physics games, but I still got some good feedback.

Here is some of the positive feedback:

Wow! This is just so cool! Im addicted.
-antotabo (Fun-Motion forums)

Wow, just wow, awesome game. I just have one problem, though. It's punishing difficulty, I just barely got through the first level after the tutorials
-MrGreed (Fun-Motion forums)

AWESOME!!! I love it its great!
-meow-muffin (Fun-Motion forums)

Nah, it's fine. It takes practice sure. But i dont think it's too difficult. As an old time Ski Stunt addict i finally had to sign up to say thank you for this one. It made my day (actually the last few days to be exact :P ).
-instinct-vfx (Fun-Motion forums)

While there were some minor bugs found and some requests for various features, the overwhelming take-away from all the feedback was that Diver's learning curve is just to STEEP. Some more quotes...

Nice but too difficult
-futuramaguy42 (Fun-Motion forums)

this game is extremely difficult o.O
-
Gump (Fun-Motion forums)

Well it's a good concept, but seriously, the controls are a pain. How can I even jump forward far enough to reach the buoys (dive 5) when doing a backflip?
-Medieval (TIG Source forums)

This game definetly needs some sort of in-depth tutorial, with video explanations and practice levels. Besides that I like it, it's kinda relaxing.
-Massena (TIG Source forums)

I had a hunch this might be the case but I think I underestimated just how BIG an issue this would be for some people. 

Diver has a unique interactive dynamics control scheme borrowed from Ski Stunt Simulator. Essentially, the position of the mouse on the screen maps to the various joint angles on Diver.

This control scheme is very fun  once you get use to it, but it takes a bit of work getting use to it.

Future Plans for Diver

I have about 1000 ideas and features I'd like to add to Diver. Some are my own and some come from the Alpha feedback.  I really think Diver, even with it's steep initial learning curve, is unique and a blast to play.  That said, in the interest of time, I'm going to scale back much of the scope for Diver's initial release.  I only have a couple hours a day dedicated to game development, and if I try to implement everything in the first full release it probably wouldn't be ready until 2010!.

So what can you expect in the first full Diver release? I tried to pick the features that would let me finish the game in a reasonable amount of time while at the same time make it worthwhile for players to overcome the learning curve.

Planned for Diver's first release

  • The first release will consist of 24 dives.
    • 3 or so learning dives
    • 4or so with no diving board
    • 7 or so with 1 diving boards
    • 7 or so with 2 diving boards
    • 3 or so with 3 diving boards (ouch!)
    • This is all tentative. There could be more or less of each kind of dive, but there will only be 24 total
  • Subsequent levels locked until current level is completed.
    • This will force you to complete a dive before moving on. I prefer games that do this... it keeps me from getting lazy.  Once you complete a dive it will remain unlocked.
  • New scoring
    • Front and back flips will factor into the scoring
    • Will keep track of your dive scores per level, but for now there will not be a Internet based high score system. Scores will only be kept track of locally. An Internet-based high score system is one of the first things I'll add when I release a version 2 or do an update.
    • Some other stats I may display but which probably won't factor into scoring
      • Max height above sea level.
      • Total hang-time.
  • Better tutorials to decrease steepness of learning curve
    • Will either be video recordings or an ad-hoc level-playback system.
  • Better tuning of levels (dives)
    • I'm going to spend more time tuning the diving board positions and spring strength to make the dives as smooth as possible. They'll still be brutal, but not As brutal hopefully.
  • Some more sounds
    • Will add some background sound
    • Will add some collision sounds

Things Not in Fist Release but Possible Future Releases

  • Online record / playback system
  • Online level editor
  • Ragdoll effects
  • Online high score system
  • Mini Games
  • Achievements
  • Many others...

This post is getting long, so I will leave it at that.

Stay tuned for Diver's 1st full release.  I expect it to be sometime around August/September but no promises.

-Jeff Weber