This is my first official release of a game! Exciting!
Yup. Before releasing, always give your game to a newbie and have them try to play without any direction from you. If they can't figure out what to do (which we can't) then you either need on-screen instructions, a tutorial, or a manual. :)
Whatever we're supposed to be doing at the red/white phase is very non-obvious to us.
Ah sorry guys, Yeah it's multiplayer. Unfortunately, due to the limitations of PICO-8, I wasn't able to add AI to the game, instead you'll have to bring a friend along to play. Each player must be on their own controller.
I halfway plan to release a hotseat style so players are all on p1, but initially I had planned for AI to take up any unused teams, so that screen is leftover from that plan and now it's a bit clunky.
Yeah, it's not the multiplayer aspect that's throwing us off. We literally don't know how to control the UI at the point where you have the red and white vertical columns on the screen.
You're familiar with the controls for that stage and you can probably initiate a session within a few seconds. We, on the other hand, find the displayed information completely opaque, and there's really no indication of what exactly we're accomplishing when we press buttons. P1 and P2 might show up, or might move from one column to the other, might change color, etc., but there's really no indication of what we're actually trying to do, how to do it, and how to finish it.
Like, we're not just unable to figure out the controls to do the task at hand, we can't even figure out what the task is.
Like I said, find a friend or neighbor or someone who's never seen the game, sit them down with it, and watch what they do without guidance. I think you'll find they stall at that point and turn to you for help. At that point, your job is to ask them what they need to know, and then change the game or its documentation so it can help them know/discover that information without you actually telling them personally.
Like, if they say, "I don't know what I'm supposed to do here," then you either need to supply a manual to guide the player through that part of the UI, or you need to put directions on the screen during that part of the UI. Because we can't read your mind, and you can't be here at each of our desks to explain it to us.
This is one of the fundamental things about UI/UX design... the user either has to be able to intuit how to use your software, or they have to be told with a tutorial or a manual*. You're coming up short in this case.
* - These days, even manuals are considered a dubious choice; almost as bad as requiring the user to ask the programmer how to use the program. However, we're talking retro apps here, where the resources often aren't sufficient to allow runtime help, so a manual (or text on the page with the game, in these cases) is still kosher.
I have the fortunate advantage of having played the original game series upon which this game is based. Therefore, the controls were simple and intuitive to me and I found it plays very similar to the originals.
For those new to the game series here is a small intro but you can jump to the TL;DR below for a quick summary.
The "Wars" series of games are tactical turn-based strategy games, much in the exact same vein as the fire emblem series. The spanned across many Nintendo platforms starting on the Famicom/NES and making their way to many console and handheld generations after. The game is usually 2 to 4 players and involves maintaining control of cities on a map while ultimately trying to push in to your opponents base to take it over. You can select your factory building (the one with the jagged top) on your turn to produce units, selecting the unit you want from a drop down menu and it's cost is deducted from your total funds. You are awarded funds each turn at a base rate, you can increase this rate by capturing the grey cities along the map, this is why map control is important. *To capture a city you must move an infantry/foot unit onto it and select capture. Generally the rate of capture is equal to the strength/hp (same thing) of your unit. Most grey cities take 20 to capture, requiring two full turns of capture from a full healed infantry unit which has 10hp. However, not only the grey buildings can be captured! You can even capture your opponent's cities AND... if you manage to capture your opponent's Head Quarters then victory shall be yours! However, the HQ is usually more daunting to capture than the average city, so use caution!
SELECT A MAP
EACH PLAYER CHOOSES A COLOR(TEAM)
(You need to use both player 1 and player 2 controls for this.)
(Place your P1 or P2 marker on the COLOR(TEAM) you want to be and press button to confirm.)
(Game starts when both players have confirmed a different COLOR(TEAM).)
((For me on my keyboard this mean pressing Z for Player 1 as confirm and W for Player 2))
(Dark means confirmed, White means not ready)
BUILDINGS/UNITS OF THAT COLOR BELONG TO THAT PLAYER
Jagged Roof = Factory
Small Rectangular Building = City
Tall Rectangular Building = Head Quarters
Select the FACTORY (JAGGED TOP) building to build units.
Units cost FUNDS.
Units cannot be moved the turn they are made.
You can PASS turn by selecting any tile without a UNIT OR BUILDING.
Each turn funds are rewarded (to increase the amount, CAPTURE CITIES)
CITIES are the smaller, rectangular buildings.
You can CAPTURE GREY (unowned) cities or your opponent's colored cities.
To CAPTURE, place an infantry/foot unit onto the building and select the unit to bring up a menu for CAPTURING.
(CAPTURING may take multiple turns.)
*Formula for CAPTURING mentioned in long post above.
Similar to CAPTURE, your units can ATTACK enemy units by moving next to them and selecting "Fire" from the menu.
(The HP of the highlighted unit will be seen in the top right corner.)
Continue producing units, moving them, and attacking your opponent's units until you can take over your opponents HQ.
*(Certain units have advantages over other units, more movement, more attack, etc... I don't know if there's away to check these statistics in this particular game, but they seem to follow the rules of a general "Wars" game and can probably be looked up elsewhere online.)
There's no way to exit the factory after selecting it unless you select a unit which you cannot afford, if you select the factory but have enough funds available to build any unit type, then you must select a unit to build, there's no backing out of the menu. This is a bug, I'm most certain.
Also, I do believe the reason no documentation was given is that this really is a PORT/REMAKE of an existing game, so he expect it mostly to be played by fans of the existing game. Also, as he said, he ran out of space, probably leaving no room for any tutorial information. However, external instructions posted along with the game would have been nice. I do understand however, why this information didn't come standard. Since this is more of a remake for funsies sake and less of an original product, the need to inform the player was less of priority as the developer probably expected it to mostly be played by existing fans of the series. Hopefully my mini-guide will help clear up some confusion and in the future the author will make improvements to condensing the code or similar allowing for a tutorial or more informed starting process. Cheers!
This is an amazing game. Great job fitting all that content into Pico-8. I have played the original(on an emulator) and this is a very well done port. Me and my brother love the game and are having a blast on it. Too bad Pico-8 can't support all those battle animations too... That is a lot of sprites.
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