Weekly Update: July 7, 2023

This week was a bit of trial: I went to the ER on Sunday for what seems to have been a stomach virus, then my eye doctor yesterday for an issue with my right eye. The good news is that neither of these are believed to be serious issues, although it sounds like I will need to have minor eye surgery in the next few months which will require up to a week of recovery.

In spite of these events, I had a productive week.

Besides working on several pieces of new content, I spent a good chunk of time working on the “stuck” problem, where players are unsure what to do next. This can be because a mission detail is unclear or they’ve done things in an unexpected order causing a bottle neck.

For example, in the mid game there is a sequence of events that unfolds over time, but is initially triggered by exploration of a particular object. If the player fails to explore the object until very late in the game, they could get to a point that expects the sequence to have completed, but there’s nothing else for the player to do.

In Ganymede, the game keeps track of open missions and partially uses that information to adjust pacing, but an issue with that strategy is that there are some missions that can remain open while there’s no specific action the player is expected to take.

So I’ve added more granular data at the mission detail level (the bullet points within missions) to categorize them as “informational”, “non-actionable” and “high/low priority actionable”. “Informational” could be a hint, explanation, or narrative detail. “Non-actionable” means that there’s something the player is expected to make progress on, but not necessarily at this moment or the action might be non-obvious. “Actionable” means that there should be an immediately obvious course of action to progress this mission. “High” and “Low” priority indicate whether or not completing this is required for the game’s main storyline.

I am now going through the missions to do several things:

First, scale long “pacing” delays down based on the number of active “actionables.” If the player has few or none, then these delays should advance faster.

And two, connect crew hints to how long a particular actionable has been open and the number of active actionables.

I’m also going to add some analytics to these to help track how long players spend particular actionables.

The goal is to have minimal periods in the game where the player has no clear course of action.

Since this is a new solution, I’ll have to see how well it works in practice.

Until next week,