As we’ve had more people play Lumote, we’ve discovered that our puzzles were forcing players into committing suicide in order to progress. The nature of Lumote’s open-air level design means that it’s easy to lose a moving piece and puzzles are only reset to a solvable state upon death. However, forcing the player to kill themselves to reset a puzzle quickly leads to a sense of helplessness and frustration, which is what we want to avoid.
This is a horrible situation to put players in, it leaves them lost and confused and ultimately feeling cheated by the game. Once players caught on that the only way to reset, was either from the pause menu or jumping into the abyss themselves. It was only a matter of time before they put the controller down. On the other hand, we also have challenges where players would die plenty, but want to keep going. These timing and platforming skill tests can be punishing, but players felt they were fair. In those situations they always resolved to get better. We knew we needed to make the puzzles much less frustrating while keeping them difficult and dangerous.
To resolve the frustration we had to address 2 issues: Dropping things into the abyss and putting a piece where you can’t get it.
1. The first, is easy. When piece’s are lost, respawn them. Now each time you lose something, it will always reappear where you first found it.
2. Make sure so that no matter where in the level you brought a piece it could always be brought back to where you first found it. That way players could retrace their steps to figure out what was needed and the puzzles can’t be put in unsolvable situations.
Having as many people as possible play the game has been invaluable for refining Lumote, things that seem like a good idea are put to the test and iterated on. We’ll continue doing this till we have something we’re satisfied with and can present a Lumote we’re proud of.