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Surrealix
08-05-2007, 11:53 PM
I've been working on-and-off on this for what seems like ages, so it's great to finally be able to present a playable version of my new game, Synapse.

Synapse - 6.89 Mb Download (http://www.surrealix.com/file/synapse_serve.php)

http://www.surrealix.com/image/synapse/screen1_512x384.jpg

Synapse is an abstract enigma, which aims to test your lateral and logical thinking. It's difficult to describe the gameplay (and even more difficult to play), but I hope it will appeal to a subset of gamers out there who enjoy this type of game.

At the moment, I've only developed the three levels you'll see in this demo. If there's enough interest in it, then my aim is to make a full version with more levels to sell.

http://www.surrealix.com/image/synapse/screen4_512x384.jpg

I'd really appreciate feedback about any aspect of the game, but specifically:
-Game style
-Did you like the puzzles?
-What about the aesthetics/graphics
-Sound?
-The Puzzle difficulty, and the time it took you to solve the puzzles (if you did).
-And in terms of value, would you play this game more, if there were more levels available?

If anyone has suggestions about game sites or communities I should target this at, I'd really appreciate it.


Technically, Synapse was written in VB6 and dx8. It should run on anything with a 16Mb gfx card or better. I've tested it on a couple of different PCs, and had one case where the mouse cursor lagged badly in the second level - but havn't been able to reproduce it.

http://www.surrealix.com/image/synapse/screen6_512x384.jpg

<bit of a rant>
Synapse is a puzzle game in the "true" sense of the word. In my original descriptions I used the term 'puzzle game' to describe it, but got a lot of feedback that it was too hard and that people couldn't understand it. Synapse isn't meant to be a match-3-nicely-coloured-gems game, and I'm not aiming at this audience.

ChrisP
08-06-2007, 01:33 AM
Sounded interesting so I thought I'd check it out.

Take all the below with a grain of salt, because I don't claim to be an expert and I'm not your target audience - I'm not actually sure your what your target audience is, but clearly I'm not in it. :)

Negative comments first:

After a short while, I was stuck, so I decided to check out the question mark down the bottom-right of the screen. I needed help, and a question mark means help, right? Apparently not; it's the options. Sigh. Fine. Okay, let's check these out. There's a couple of mouse pointer graphics next to some unidentifiable widgets up the top... okay, you can click on the top one and drag the bottom one. Not sure what the top one is. Bottom one is... mouse sensitivity? But they don't seem to be changing anything. Oh well, moving on.

The bottom cluster makes a little bit more sense. I clicked around randomly a bit, switched to a window and back to fullscreen. Enough of this, back to the game. I guess that gear icon down the bottom-right does it...

Clicked the gear icon and it crashed:

---------------------------
Synapse
---------------------------
Run-time error '-2005530520 (88760868)':

Automation error
---------------------------
OK
---------------------------

Restarted the game and kept playing.

Was stuck on the first level for quite a while. At first I didn't know what I was supposed to do - but I worked it out about halfway through. The second half of my time was spent locked in a vicious battle with the controls! Seems like I can't move the same clock hand twice in a row; so I'd get two of them in place, but the third one would be too far away from its resting position to move it in one go, so I'd have to move one of the placed hands away from its current position before I could move it. Grrrr. Couple this with poor hit detection (figuring out exactly which invisible cluster of pixels you need to click on is not fun) and it was seriously annoying. Also, the level was tiny in the middle of my screen and I had to peer to see it.

I cracked it eventually, but by the time I did I just wanted to quit. Was confused by what I assume is a menu interface; clicked around randomly and somehow got into a different level (with the red and blue dots). Clicked around the second level for half a minute, got bored, quit.

I get the aesthetic vibe you're trying to give off, and I think it can work. But one can easily be too enigmatic, especially when it comes to UI design. I was quite confused when I tried to navigate any part of the UI or menus. Maybe this is intentional and it's all part of the puzzle, but if so I think this is a mistake. Confusing UI design is bad UI design. Also, I don't like to randomly click on UI elements that I don't understand because I don't know what I'm doing. I might break something!

If the menus are enigmatic because of aesthetics rather than deliberate obfuscation, may I suggest you display text when the player mouses over an icon. That way the player can at least find out what's going on and get used to your navigation scheme.

In summary, I think the UI is your main issue at the moment. Your other major issue is your target audience. I'm not sure who this game is supposed to appeal to. I'm afraid it didn't really appeal to me. As you say, it's decidedly not casual, but I can't think of a hardcore crowd that would definitely go for it either. Maybe there's a hardcore puzzle crowd which would like it? Not sure. That said, maybe you can find yourself a niche that I'm just not imaginative enough to think of. I have seen Flash games that are similar "work it out for yourself" logic enigmas and they seem reasonably popular - but not enough to write home about, and they're free, so they have it a lot easier. (And they had better interfaces - I've seen a puzzle about moving clock hands that just let you drag them into position. None of this tedious clicking on exactly the right spot. What's the enigma here - figuring out where to place the clock hands, or deviously tricking the interface into doing your bidding? The first one is more appealing.)

I don't mean to discourage you, because I do like the art style, and I'd like to see a game such as this find a market, even if I'm not part of that market (diversity is good!).

Surrealix
08-06-2007, 02:17 AM
Thanks for taking the time to comment, it's much appreciated.

And I'm not quite sure who my target audience is either, I really just programmed this game because the idea had been sitting in the back of my mind for a while :D

You were correct assuming those gears went back to the game - I'll look into that error you got. Your comments on the interface were also fairly on target, I think. While I tried to make the entire interface without text, or cliche symbols, I think I might have to revisit it - as the puzzles are meant to provide the difficulty, not the interface.

ChrisP
08-06-2007, 02:49 AM
And I'm not quite sure who my target audience is either, I really just programmed this game because the idea had been sitting in the back of my mind for a while :D

Heh. I know the feeling. :)


You were correct assuming those gears went back to the game - I'll look into that error you got. Your comments on the interface were also fairly on target, I think. While I tried to make the entire interface without text, or cliche symbols, I think I might have to revisit it - as the puzzles are meant to provide the difficulty, not the interface.

Glad to hear it!

I wouldn't worry about being cliché with interface symbols - when it comes to UI design, you need to be as familiar as possible. Personally I don't open up a word processor, look at the "Save" toolbar icon and say "oh, a floppy disk, how cliché" - rather, I say "oh good, there's the save command".

Desktop Gaming
08-06-2007, 03:08 AM
I haven't downloaded it and I'll tell you why - its the way it looks. It isn't obvious to me how to play the game or what its all about. OK so I don't expect to know how to play a game from a couple of screenshots, but I do expect to have a vague idea of what's going on.

I accept that this might be a shallow point of view, but you'll probably find it will pass a great many people by for exactly the same reason. Might be a great game, but the screenshots (your 'shop window', if you like) aren't selling it to me. If you can't get people's attention then you aren't going to get their money either.

oldschool
08-06-2007, 09:06 AM
I did download it. And I have no Idea what to do with it now. Please explain or was that the point, to see if we could figure it out.

Btw you make beautiful games. as understated as moopods is lush.
Have you checkout these games they are similar to your understated style
http://transcend.sourceforge.net/
http://cultivation.sourceforge.net/

Surrealix
08-06-2007, 03:20 PM
I haven't downloaded it and I'll tell you why - its the way it looks. It isn't obvious to me how to play the game or what its all about. OK so I don't expect to know how to play a game from a couple of screenshots, but I do expect to have a vague idea of what's going on.

Fair enough, however it's a very difficult game to describe in a single image. The gameplay mechanism isn't based on any other game (as far as I know), and due to the graphics, it doesn't look much like established games ether. If you've got any suggestions of what you'd like to see in a screenshot, I'd love to hear them.

On the other hand, if you didn't think the screenshots explained enough, I doubt that you'd have enjoyed the game anyway.



I did download it. And I have no Idea what to do with it now. Please explain or was that the point, to see if we could figure it out.

Btw you make beautiful games. as understated as moopods is lush.

The point of the game is to progress through the levels by solving the puzzles. Each puzzle is based on a different mechanism, and is solved in a different way. You use only the mouse (and only one button), and interact by either clicking or dragging things.

For example, in the first level, if you click on the hands of the dial, then they will rotate. Before you click, the coloured arrow shows which direction it will move in, or if there is no arrow (and the hand is red), then you cannot move it.

And thanks for the comment on the style, I've actually played both of those games you pointed out.

Thanks for the comments :)