The Build-A-Better-Beta Blog

If you're reading this blog, you probably already know that we released an open beta of Rocket Rumble on Google Play at the end of May. If you didn't know that, I think you should take a long hard look at your priorities in life.

The beta's been a great success, and we've had some really useful feedback from our players. Thank you to everyone who took the time to get in touch with us with their thoughts and comments.

When we sat down to plan our first update to the beta, we discussed all the player feedback we’d received, along with our own thoughts and ideas. A common point made was that the opening of the game could be faster and more concise. This is pretty important for a mobile game, so for this update we chose to concentrate most of our attention on improving the intro and tutorials.

The original beta begins by giving the player a free welcome pack, containing a few things to get started with the game, such as currency and new spaceships. After opening the pack, there are 6 tutorial battles to play through before the game opens up into the regular flow of matchmaking and collection-building. We arrived at this flow very simply - by making a list of all the mechanics we might want to teach, and arranging them in logical order. The result was a thorough, but fairly lengthy, step-by-step guide to all the game’s mechanics.

After reviewing the finished product, we realised we were trying to teach too much, too soon. There are some things we have to explain for people to be able to play the game, but many of the more advanced techniques can be picked up naturally, as you rumble other players and build up your collection. We also felt that the pack-opening could be pushed to much later on in the flow, allowing us to get new players into a battle as soon as possible.

Bottom line - we wanted to make the introduction FASTER and MORE INTENSE.

We started writing a screenplay, the chief goals of which were:
a) Get players into a battle as soon as possible.
b) Reduce the tutorials in length and number.
c) Move pack opening to the end of the tutorials.
d) Make the whole introduction to the game more exciting and characterful.

Here's an extract from the start of the script:

 EXT. SPACE. START SCREEN

 The ROCKET RUMBLE logo flies onto the screen. A START GAME button appears underneath the logo.

 Player presses START GAME. Two ships SMASH through the logo and whip past camera.

 CUT TO:

 EXT. SPACE. VS SCREEN

 JACKRABBIT VS PIRATE CRUISER. Pirate wins the toss to go first.

 CUT TO:

 EXT. SPACE. BATTLE VIEW

A pair of ships broadsiding each other.

HUD appears: Turn 2, Player HP: 7, Enemy HP: 5

The player ship - THE JACKRABBIT - sustains a heavy blow to the hull. A highlight points to the player health as it drops to 4 HP.

Your robot co-pilot, CO-BEE appears in a dialogue pop-up.

CO-BEE (dialogue box)
Hull at 4 HP! We can’t take much more damage, Captain! We need to do something, fast!
 

We all liked this opening - having two fighting ships smash through the logo felt like a strong statement of intent, and gets the player right into the thick of the action without lots of set-up and clicking through dialogue boxes. This is an ethos we carried through the whole tutorial sequence, stripping it back to 4, much shorter, battles.

The new screenplay also introduced the character of Co-Bee*, your robot co-pilot. Co-Bee has actually been in the game for quite a while, albeit as a nameless background character; he's one of the two small robots who open new card packs. We'd always liked the look of him, so decided to promote him to a leading role. Having a fully animated (and kind-of cute) character taking you through the tutorials adds a lot of personality to the proceedings. We hope you like him too.

We still have plenty of ideas and plans on how to improve the opening section of the game but, as always, we welcome your feedback. You can play the updated beta now, on Google Play. Tell us what you think via feedback@smalljelly.com, or find us on Facebook or Twitter.

 Happy Rumbling!

 * The etymology of Co-Bee is: 'Co-pilot Robot' > 'Co-Bot' > 'Co-Bee'