Isn’t it loathsome how powerful a single negative experience can be?
They tend to stick in the head.
Well, for me at least.
For some reason I always assumed the larger population disliked Didgery. In the past few days I have discovered that not only is this assumption incorrect, but why such a hopeless belief developed in the first place.
A couple days ago I was editing the VideoLog/PodCast Leo and I filmed for our game Mind. There is a section in the video where I discuss Didgery, and how the game was lacking in certain ways that limited its audience. I decided it would be prudent to overlay some Didgery reviews over the video to help reinforce certain points. It was the process of doing this, and rereading the reviews with a clear mind (heavy development on a game over a year tends to create a layer of haze), that caused me to realize that the reviews were overwhelmingly positive. In fact, there is only one seriously negative review. Every single other review is either incredibly positive or expresses hope that the game can be improved with the addition of a casual mode.
That wasn’t quite how I remembered it.
Humans are, by nature, sensitive creatures. Observation shows that this sensitivity enters a heightened state, for some curious reason, when presented with a difference of belief. Political belief, religious belief, or even something as trivial and worthless as entertainment belief (the best sport team, PC vs. MAC, etc.), all generate great unrest within our spirit when challenged. Furthermore, it is natural for one to become deeply attached to something they had a hand in building. This is especially true for Indies who build entire worlds from start to finish, often spending years of their life doing so. Attacking the creation is attacking the creator. The human vice tightens its grip even further when mental strain and exhaustion are factored into the equation. Developing and releasing a game is a sort of high, if you will; everything feels larger than life, all emotions are heightened, including sensitivity. Through this distorted vision a single scathing review feels orders of magnitudes worse than it really is. It burrows into the mind and there sits, like a cancer.
They are an Independent Video Game Review site with the tagline, ‘We Love Indie Games.’ Neil Soika, a reviewer that worked with them at the time, gave Didgery a very negative review. Rereading it now, the negativity just seems somewhat silly at parts. At the time though, it wasn’t silly. It was deeply damaging to my frail, post-release mindset.
Let’s go through the review shall we? I’ll point out the parts that I think are…ridiculous.
The first phrase that got me frowning was this:
“I mostly felt like I was playing some Bejeweled clone only with a slightly tweaked gameplay.”
Didgery is a chaining game, Bejeweled is match three game. There is a huge difference between these types of gameplays. The above statement effectively states that all puzzle chaining games are ripoffs of Bejeweled. Silly.
“As you clear cards you also gain Harmony, which is Didgery’s equivalent to points. Obviously, you get more Harmony for longer chains and completely clearing the board. You are also constantly losing Harmony, and you lose it at a faster rate as you advance to each stage. That’s right, you are bailing water for a high score – not my idea of fun.”
This isn’t actually how things work, but to Neil’s credit things aren’t very clear. If the above case were true high scores couldn’t exist, as the structure of the game ensures that the player always loses, which means their total harmony would always be 0.
“Every match I played progressed the same way: I started out fine, but after a number of rounds my score would start to slip and I struggled to get back to where I was. Once the sliding starts there is no stopping it, which drove me nuts because of how long it took. I would continue playing (only out of a sense of obligation) until I was completely out of Harmony and the game ended. This was infuriating because the better at scoring Harmony you are, the longer the eye gouging will last. This isn’t a situation like Tetris, where even if you max out the levels you still have a chance to make each move. Didgery literally will reach the point at which you can no longer keep up with your draining score and will die a slow death of a thousand cuts. All of this could be forgivable if there were any game variations like a continuous mode or even *gasp* a multiplayer.”
Indeed, what a gasp I had. Neil says it like multiplayer is the norm for single player puzzle games. I understand the need for a continuous mode, but a multiplayer? Really?
“I couldn’t stand the music and recommend that you turn it all the way down immediately.”
I find it somewhat puzzling that Neil would suggest others to turn off the music based on his personal taste. I don’t much care for the derogatory tone either. Every other review I have read stated that they quite enjoyed the music. That doesn’t mean that everyone will like it, but come on, let the player decide for themselves.
“When starting up Didgery, I was greeted by white fluffy clouds and the outstretched hand of some unseen deity. This is related to the vague creation storyline that is revealed as you play the game. The idea that a card game needs magic to interest players is a bit insulting to me and seems to gloss over the weaknesses of the game. I had such high hopes because I generally really like card games of all types, but this is definitely not recommended unless you enjoy acid baths.”
…I just…don’t understand. Saying a feature is insulting just… It’s like saying the fantasy-inspired backgrounds of Bejeweled 3 is insulting because the gameplay isn’t immersive enough. The storyline of Didgery doesn’t weaken the game, quite the opposite. Like the backgrounds of Bejeweled it gives the game an extra layer of depth impossible through the direct gameplay itself.
The review was critical, but not in a constructive way. You want to see a good, constructive review? Read this review from Do It Yourself Gamer. This is one of my favorite reviews, because, though Mike Rose (the reviewer) didn’t care much for the game, he clearly pointed out the good points and offered suggestions on how Didgery could be improved.
Now realizing that I could not take the Armless Octopus review seriously, and regaining a large bit of hope for Didgery, I decided to check out the IndieDB page to see how things were going. To my surprise two people had rated the game, one a 9 and the other a 10, giving me an average of a 9.5. I glanced over at IndieCity where I am currently selling the PC version, and was greeted with a 4.5/5 rating from 10 players. It was then that I realized it: people actually enjoy Didgery. The person who gave it a 9 on IndieDB also posted a comment asking if I have ever considered releasing onto Desura. I told him that I had contacted them a year and a half ago, but was turned down because ‘our players don’t like card games.’ He replied and said that I should try again, as Desura recently changed hands to Linden Labs. So with renewed vigor I sent Desura an email.
I woke up at about 2:30AM this morning. I don’t really know why, perhaps the air conditioner wasn’t working right or something. I checked the mail on my Windows 8 Phone and saw a reply from Desura sitting in my mailbox. I hesitated for a few seconds, trying to prepare myself for the potentially bad news. After fully preparing my heart to enter shattered status I read it. And then I read it again. And then again. It read: ‘We are happy to have your game on Desura.’ Wow… Didgery, on Desura!? Really?! This is big news for me. Desura is a much larger platform than IndieCity or Indievania. A step up from Desura is probably in the realm of GOG or Steam. Suddenly, the possibility of Didgery reaching its audience is possible. I couldn’t sleep after that (I have been awake for nearly 22 hours so far.) I immediately got on my computer and started writing a list of improvements Didgery needs to reach a wider audience.
Since Neil Soika from Armless Octopus offered little in the form of constructive criticism I instead turned my attention to the review from Do It Yourself Gamer. Mike Rose had issues both with the gameplay and the visual design of the cards. I intend to fix both. For the gameplay I am going to implement a new Zen Mode that does away with the whole curse thing, and I am going to completely redesign the cards to be more visually appealing and easily recognizable.
Beyond that there are a few things I have noticed over the years that really just don’t work. The first is the trailer. Multiple people have been disturbed/put-off by the ‘Girdle [or Gird] Your Loins’ statement. This is a common statement in the Holy Bible that means to “Prepare Yourself.” Apparently few read the King James Bible, and of those few only a handful appreciate its writing style, so nearly no one knew what I was trying to convey. The trailer is also long and drawn out. I was trying to prepare players for the atmosphere, but it didn’t seem to work all that well, as my sales were…dismal to say the least. In addition, I have read several complaints about how needlessly long the trailer is. So, that in mind, I plan to trim out all the fluff and get right to the point. I’ll leave the atmosphere to the game. My first priority with the trailer is to get people to play it, not to chase people away with images of Loincloths.
In addition, I would like to make the tutorial much less verbose. I currently use the tutorial as an introduction to the storyline in addition to teaching the player how to play Didgery, but I’m under the impression that doing so is not the best idea, simply due to the length it adds. In addition, after watching people such as TheIndieGamePromoter play the tutorial I am under the impression that the tutorial isn’t particularly effective. The whole thing really needs to be redone.
I vaguely considered hiring an artist from oDesk or Elance to redo all art assets. My artwork isn’t awful, but it is certainly not as good as what an experienced artist can produce. I will more likely hold off on this at the moment though, simply due to time and monetary constraints. I plan to release Didgery onto mobile platforms in the future however, so that may be a good time to consider this more heavily. I am, though, heavily considering getting a professional piece of boxart created in the next few hours/days. The current boxart is dull and uninteresting.
I am also in the process of reworking Didgery’s game description. The previous description, like the trailer, attempted to form an atmosphere instead of explain what the game is about. I’m not going to make that mistake again.
An evil curse has gnashed a great wound into the four sacred elements. You have been set in place by the ancients to tend to these elements and restore the equilibrium of the world. Succeed in your task, and peace will fill the Earth. Fail, and all will delve into an endless darkness. Girdle your loins and steady your hand, the game begins here.
Current Description (WIP):
Didgery is a unique puzzler that blends the addictive qualities of Bejeweled and Solitaire with the depth of Chess. Unlock story fragments, discover special cards, and immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the most epic card-puzzle combination of all time.
Does Didgery have the possibility for a second chance? With the right changes and a few good choices, I think so.
Things are moving pretty quick. I have already been asked to submit media assets, and I have been given an upload link where I can upload Didgery onto Desura. I have a feeling that sleep is not going to be much of an option this week.
I’m keeping my eyes forward. And open. All week. I think I need an eye-drop.