Aztez – A Game of Conquest and Brutality

God Damn You, Devil May Cry!

Earlier this week I sent out a very early build of Aztez to a handful of friends. I chose these particular people primarily for their intelligence and articulation but also for their varying skill levels across different types of games. Mind you, there is little to no ACTUAL game in place just yet. I was simply looking for feedback on the basic sensation of the existing attacks but also on the difficulty of execution for two of the combos I had built on a Gap Timing mash flow, inspired by the elegance of Devil May Cry. The feedback that came back to me was fascinating; no one liked it or could do it reliably. No one except two people.

Person A is someone I had a feeling wouldn't struggle with the execution at all.  They are an avid skill gamer, someone who seeks out challenging gameplay, actively hunts down difficult and game changing exploits, and is in fact one of the three people I've ever met who have played as many games as I have. Turns out, I was MOSTLY correct. They were able to perform the gap timing combos 9 out of 10 times and didn't have a problem with the way they were implemented. They still had ideas on how to ease execution, but generally speaking they were not concerned about the thought of having to use them in game play.

Person B surprised me. Person B is not someone I would place on the lunatic fringe that Person A and myself occupy, yet they didn't have a major problem with the execution. With Person B it was more like 7 out 10 times that they successfully executed the combo but the number improved as they continued to play with it.

The point of the story is that the only people who saw it my way were a lunatic like me and and an inexplicable crap-shoot. And it's not even like they "saw it my way", they accepted it as is and rolled with it. Ultimately, it just doesn't make any sense to cling to mechanics that other people can't digest just because you think it's best, especially if you're trying to make a game that you want other people to enjoy. So it's back to the drawing board on this one. Luckily for me it's still super early and I have all the flexibility in the world so truthfully, I'm glad I caught it now. But I just wanted to share it so that you too don't fall into an assumptions trap that could compromise your potential player base...and all because you fell in love with a completely different game 10 years ago.

  • Dan MacDonald

    I’ve spent about 30 seconds with DMC a long time ago. But after an initial frustration I was able to execute the combos. The thing that helped me, Initially I was watching my character and I would mash X until I saw 3 attacks chain together (I may have pressed X 5 or 6 times during this interval) then I would wait a second and start pounding it again trying to make two more attacks execute.

    After a few tries, I realized the timing had to be in sync, one button press per attack with the correct gap in between. Once I was able to discipline myself in this way the combo’s came a lot easier.

    I wonder if the system would be more accessible if the whole thing hinged on the player leaving a “gap” in the attacks visually as opposed to an exact one to one matching of button to attack with a specific gap.

  • Dan MacDonald

    After my initial frustration in Aztez that is, I never got over my frustration with DMC :)

  • So what’s interesting to me about what you had to do in order to express yourself in DMC is that you basically had to figure out this weird barrier and then figure out your way over it. I think it’s one of the many problems with really hardcore games like DMC (they remained this way throughout the series, by the way) and I don’t want people to have to do that in Aztez. And while I’m super glad you were able to overcome the initial frustration, I’m essentially trying to engineer the quickest way to expression and abandoning the gap timing was the first step in that.

    Someday when I have the goal of making something really hardcore with maximum button real estate in every possible case, I’ll find a way to make gap timing work. I do have faith in it! :)

  • Pingback: A Combat Accessibility Fork « Aztez Development Blog()

  • Sonjool

    I almost feel a strange zeal for pushing mechanics like gap timing mash flow because I believe it rewards elegant play over a mashy one. Where it makes you feel like a suave badass who don’t need no button presses than required but in reality, most people just become frustrated by it :(

    For me, a lot of the difficulty of gap timing mash flow is that when you’re faced with threat in a game, your mindstate, which directly affects (for me anyway) how fast you need to react to the game in the form of pressing buttons. Which basically makes you go in a downward spiral; threat -> mash buttons harder -> don’t do combos -> frustration -> mash buttons harder -> die -> rage.

    • I completely agree about the elegance! But I couldn’t get over the fact that a lot of people struggle with the execution. On principle, I hate mashy games but giving the mashers a way in to the party is way too important.

      And I’ve never really had that issue (in fact I often find myself relying on the gap timed combos because I enjoy them more) but I’ve also been compulsively playing DMC for style for like 10 years. Haha!

  • Magus KilIer

    I didn’t know people had trouble with this kinda stuff, was the window really tight or something?
    After seeing some of the insane execution you need to do fighting game combos, and a combo that took me at least 2 hours to record in Abyss Odyssey, stuff like this is really basic