Jetsam #5: Designing a Beta Test

Jetsam, our upcoming iOS puzzle game, has a lot of moving parts.

explosion

It will be free to download, and will have a main “campaign” of no less than 50 levels, ranging in difficulty from easy learner levels to downright sadistic brain-benders.

It will also ship with the ability to purchase a full-fledged in-game level editor that allows the player to craft their own levels, using all of the game mechanics we designed and more. Level sharing mechanisms will allow people to show off their levels far and wide, and the best of the best will be collected into level packs that will give players plenty of awesome new content to keep coming back to after launch.

So – how on Earth do you beta test all that?

We concluded that we want to start small. Therefore, our beta test will start off with a small handful of levels – enough to give a taste of what our main game has to offer, but not so much that it spoils the main course when the time comes. We’ll talk plenty about the level editor in the coming months, but mostly through dev blogs and not hands-on testing.

We really want to nail down the level design and make sure we’re properly calibrating the difficulty as the game progresses. We also want to introduce players to a few of the mechanics that we’ve thus far kept under wraps, but do so in an open-ended way that leaves us with the ability to surprise players when they download the finished game.

So, we’ve settled upon a 12-level design and a really basic (not final!) UI to express it.

beta_ui

Each row represents a different mechanic – the top row consists of standard levels, the second row consists of levels where managing your fuel count is important, the third row consists of levels with breakable crates, and the fourth row consists of… a mysterious kind of level you’ll just have to find out about yourself! Difficulty escalates across the columns – so 1A is easier than 1B, which is easier than 1C. That same progression should be true for the other rows as well.

Because the final game will have a lot of secrets and unlockables, we figured we ought to reflect some of that in the beta. As such, the last row’s levels can only be unlocked by beating the levels in the first three rows.

We expect that a typical player will get somewhere between 30 minutes and 1 hour worth of gameplay from our beta test – enough for them to formulate opinions about our game and give us some useful feedback that we can incorporate into the game before we launch it later this year.

If you find yourself intrigued (and in possession of a device that runs iOS 11), sign up for our official TestFlight beta test at this link. We’d love to have your feedback.

If you liked this blog post, follow us on Twitter and check back regularly here for even more updates.

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