GravityWell - This tiny drone would definitely appreciate your feedback

edited in Projects
So I made this prototype-ish game for a uni assignment around september, and if anyone can I would really appreciate your thoughts, opinions, constructive criticism.


Essentially, you are a tiny drone moving through a ventilation shaft by manipulating the gravity and velocity of boxes. Im open to all comments but in particular I'm looking for:

-heavy crit on my tutorial level (Im trying to figure out a better way to get the game's system across)
- the rating of fun for each level out of say 10(there are three levels as of this latest iteration) and
-any game feel considerations.(I have a few ideas, but still the more the merrier).

Even if you could list a game you think I should look at or does something i should consider I would be very happy.

Folder includes Mac and Windows builds

Thank youu!
Thanked by 2critic Jurgen


  • I played for a few minutes, the feeling is a somewhat confused one for me, but I would have liked to play more, there is some charm in it. Some thoughts below.

    [-]Entry screen basically blocks you from starting the game without a tutorial as you don't know what to do with the box without knowing about the KEMM system. There shouldn't be a blocker, if the player must complete the tutorial, remove the start game passage and make him go through the tutorial, on the other hand if you want the player to be able to play, remove that box that is blocking the start of the game.
    [-]Entry screen uses different zoom to the rest of the game and jumping is not balanced on this scale, so the jumping feels awkward.
    [-]The text that explains different concepts in the tutorial is hard to read, font and size is an issue. I like that the instructions are in the actual game-world and not just a pop-up box, but you can take this a lot further. For instance instead of telling the player to "go to zone 5", which is a bit straining, make signs on the game-world with arrows pointing to zones. For instance, zone 5 could be a green sign with the number 5 on it and an arrow pointing to it, you could even have more than one sign stacked if the same route leads to different zones.
    [-]I found myself hitting a lot of the 'ceilings' by the jumping section, it feels a bit uncomfortable, the character is hitting his head on all those obstacles, would be better if the level was a bit more spacious when it comes to jumping to make the player feel a bit more gracious when executing jumps.
    [-]Some of the falls on the tutorial level are scary, it's like doing a leap of faith, this might be a good thing if you don't punish the player at some point for dropping so far.
    [-]The gravity section in the tutorial is too long, you demonstrate the two different concepts and then make the player go through additional zones for the same concept, thing is the gravity section slows you down, so if you got it in the first zone, it feels like you are wasting the players' time.
    [-]KEMM is interesting, however it's not explained well, I was sitting in front of that first box where the KEMM is mentioned hitting the LMB and RMB, a little spark would be show sometimes, but nothing was happening. After giving up the next section actually showed me that you have to use the second function of the KEMM to disable gravity in order to use the first functions. Maybe introduce the gravity function first and make it a blocker, because it looks like it's a fundamental part of the game.

    Overall, there is something charming about the setting, I wanted to know what is this robot doing here, would I meet other robots, is there a story of some kind, also I liked that the level felt huge and that it felt that there was an actual design to the factory. IMO the best improvement that you can make with little work is to put signs everywhere, zone signs and direction signs, I would have spent a lot more time in the factory if location awareness was present.
    Thanked by 1Sigh_Leeeee
  • Firstly I'd like to say thank you for the feedback, and to respond to your points not too try and justify my points but show you my intention:

    The line of thought for that first box in the start screen is if someone understood how the game functions I.E. having done the tutorial already then they would know how to move the box out of the way. It was intended as a mandatory skill gate in a sense, but I see what you are saying.

    With the level including text for the tutorial, I haven't managed to suss out why players get stuck during the first phases of the tutorial and now that you point it out. I didnt realise my force push and pull mechanic was built upon the gravity mechanic so heavily.

    The jumping I will definitely fix. The springiness was more along the lines of the jump i wanted but the placement of platforms does make the player clunky and as you said ungracious ='].

    Thank you for pointing out that you had interest in the actual environment, character. and light hints towards a story. I'll probably assign more time to figuring out how i could improve and build upon that experience of the game.

    Thanked by 1critic
  • No problem, I would be happy to give criticism on the next build, hope you keep working on it.
  • edited
    My precious little project has come a bit of ways.

    I tried improving the tutorialisation.
    Added a level select screen.
    Two more levels
    and an overall design fix for all levels and platforming sections.

    Funnily enough the solution was to do less platforming or rather less demanding platforming sections. Anyways this is the most I'm going to work on the project unless the game breaks fatally at some point. I've pretty much gotten what i needed out of this platforming excursion, but if anyone feels i missed something or would just like to add onto what I've been doing please do so.

    Gravity Well Download Page -
  • I played your game. I like the idea behind it. Though I didn't really know what I was supposed to be doing. IMO I think the controls are overwhelming for a new comer. There are so many options but I don't know when I need to use what.

    Gradually introducing each control would be nice. So the player learns how to use the mechanic before getting introduced to everything without being tested on it. If I were you I'd find ways to simplify it more and get to that core game mechanic and then expanding on it. Currently it feels like you're focusing too much on the technical side with the controls and less on the actual game play.

    I hope my feedback is helpful. Good luck.
    Thanked by 1Sigh_Leeeee
  • edited
    Hey, I gave this a whirl.

    I didn't get very far, I got stuck at the point where it tells you "W" focuses up and "S" focuses down. I figured I could pull things towards me and push them away from me, but the big horizontal bar needed to be pushed to the right to allow the other thing to drop, and I couldn't figure that out (pushing and pulling the horizontal bar just jiggled it).

    I enjoyed the open-endedness of the puzzle space, pushing things around and manipulating things to form my own platforming sections.

    Though, unless I've misunderstood the controls, the part I got stuck on I think highlights where this puzzle system (the part I saw anyway) was a bit weak. In that it was quite difficult to achieve the things I was trying to do, it involved a lot of fiddle to move something to a place and use it.

    I loved that I could take things and I felt like when I built a platform to jump off of or climb up onto a higher place that it was me solving the puzzles. Again, I enjoyed the open-endedness of the system.

    The platforming was a bit frustrating, all the forces are really strong and fast. The character moves very quickly to the left and right and jumps up very quickly and accelerates downwards very quickly. It makes it easy to over shoot or miss the mark. I don't think there's much fun in leaping around over ledges and things, other games do that much better. I like that it's a platformer and I'm quite mobile in the game, because I think that's where the puzzles come from, but having to leap over static ledges and possibly falling and wasting my time I don't think adds to the experience here, and the way the protagonist controls makes it a bit un-fun.

    I do like climbing over the chunks that I'm manipulating. And doing things like standing onto of a chunk and moving it around to get somewhere. That's where I had the most fun (when I was surfing a block around and using it to get somewhere high up, that was the kind of unique experience this system delivers).

    In any case, I thought it was pretty rad. I'm not quite sure what the story behind the game is intended to be, but what it felt like was that I was a robot stuck in a garbage cluttered system, and I was clawing my way out. The debris that are just standing around and floating in places feel like broken down machinery, and the low gravity zones feel like left-overs of a now defunct ancient machine. the fact that you're a robot in an apparently abandoned space reinforces the broken down garbage processing plant interpretation.

    I think it'd be radder if it felt like I was affecting the environment more. Like pulling appart garbage heaps to get at the magnitizable chunks of machinery, or pulling chunks and machinery off of walls.
    Thanked by 1Sigh_Leeeee
  • edited
    Thank you very much for your input @EvanGreenwood and @Flobar. I really do appreciate both your critiques and praise, especially when you're under no obligation.

    @flobar as i was nearing the end of this project this thought occurred to me quite frequently as i noticed people struggle quite a bit and forget what each ability is for. It not even necessarily because the system is too difficult but as you said its a lot to take in all at once. I think this also speaks to Evan's point where I have been feeling like the controls do get in the way of gameplay. I would've preferred having only two settings (with all the functions of the 2nd to 4th being condensed into one) but i couldn't find a decent way of doing that in the time i had remaining.

    I find it quite interesting that you mentioned the technical versus the gameplay. The way i designed a lot of the early levels was very mechanical trying to teach concepts and move on, but in later levels i did try to put the player in situations where they could go nuts with the tools and the situation they find themselves in. If you dont mind, I'd appreciate any examples of games that do both that negative and positive thing your talking about, or ,maybe just a short description of what you would have preferred to do in game, found most interesting?

    @EvanGreenwood yeeaahh, I struggled for the longest time trying to teach people how the game works but I've never quite hit the nail on the head, so feel free to blame me instead ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Your point on the platforming frustration also rings too true in my head. The idea behind it was to get the character feeling more mechanical and weighty and the environment playing off that very clunky feeling but frustration is another thing all together.

    Just as a side note, Im very curious as to your mentioning of story and setting. If you wouldn't mind telling me, why is it that you brought that up as a comment? Did you want a small story out of the game, did the level design and flow lead you onto that or was it just that it was being hinted at through the tutorial? I did have a baseline story element present but to be honest i was trying not to do too much with it to give people false hopes as well as just to have a standard of elements present in the game.

    Im glad both of you had some form of amusement/fun/eureka moments. Ill keep trying to improve my craft and thank you for your honesty and suggestions!
  • edited
    I brought up the story stuff, because I think a lot of the fun in games comes from what we get to do in the games, and the way we frame the actions changes what we're doing.

    From what I gathered in your prototype, and I wasn't paying a ton of attention to the story, as it was written on the walls, but I think I was paying more attention than many players would because I wanted to give you some useful feedback.., the story was:

    I was a drone being tested and I was going to retrieve something after I was tested (or something like that).

    This isn't a bad story as a story. But this is how it frames the actions in the game:

    Moving a block around is a way of getting an obstacle out of the way so that I can finish the test before going to retrieve the thing.

    I don't know how you read that, but it sort of sounds frustrating. I think that's a fair reading of the story (as far as I understand the story)

    I don't know if what I was suggesting story-wise in that previous post is any better actually. I think what I'd like that same action to read as is:

    Moving a block around is a way of getting an obstacle out of the way so that I can get out.

    or maybe:

    Moving a block around is a way of getting an obstacle out of the way so that I can get out and find someone to repair me.

    or maybe:

    Moving a block around is a way of getting an obstacle out of the way so that I can prove I'm a properly functional drone and leave this place.

    Obviously converting the actions to text isn't a good method of testing this kind of thing. It's easy to misinterpret the emergent story, and it's possible to mislead yourself. I'm mostly bringing this up as a way of explaining.

    What you've currently got in the prototype is a kind of test-facility narrative. This obviously can work, it worked well in Portal. But in Portal the test-facility part was actually the painful part of the story, being a test subject sucked, it was framed as cruelty on the part of the AI, and the possibility of escaping was what was motivating, not the testing itself.

    If that makes sense? You've got the painful part of the test facility in the game, but with no acknowledgement to the player that it actually is painful. In what I've seen of the game the painful worthless drone narrative is played straight, the drone is expected to enjoy being a worthless test-subject.

    I obviously don't know how the narrative changes as it goes along. I haven't seen very far into it. But what I saw seemed to follow a similar approach to Portal but without suggesting to the player any escape from being a test-subject.

    I know this is probably not the part of the game that you wanted feedback on. It's not the mechanics bit. But I think the context in which players perform actions REALLY matters. I think the context can completely change whether an action is fun or not.

    E.G. If Broforce was about killing purple mushroom men, the game could be mechanically identical, but it wouldn't be nearly as good (except for the people who love killing purple mushroom men).
    Thanked by 2damousey Sigh_Leeeee
  • edited
    Just as a side note, Im very curious as to your mentioning of story and setting. If you wouldn't mind telling me, why is it that you brought that up as a comment?
    One other reason, and maybe the more direct reason for me commenting on the story, was that I felt the level design did not follow the story set out by the text in the game.

    In that, the story text said you were on some mission, sort of like a testing tutorial, but the way the obstacles were laid out was sort of scattered and random. The objects that the player manipulated felt like piles of trash, they didn't seem to have any specific purpose for being there and there were a variety of these cow tools (which is quite different to the purposeful design of the Friendship Cube in Portal).

    So why I was suggesting a derelict robot world narrative was that the environment seemed to be telling that story better than a test facility one, and I was feeling a bit of immersion breaking dissonance while playing.

    Of course, the alternative is adjusting the level design to reflect the desired narrative (rather than changing the narrative to reflect the level design).

    This isn't quite the same point as my previous post (which was about creating context for the player's actions). I think the primary thing you want to achieve with a story in a mechanics-heavy game is creating a motivating context for the actions. After that, once you decide on that narrative context (and have tested it in a prototype) then it's worth using the level design to help build that narrative.

    I don't know if this is something you've thought about a lot or was brought up at Uni. But environmental storytelling is worth thinking about. Personally I've enjoyed Harvey Smith's thoughts on the subject, I think what's particularly interesting is that environmental storytelling requires interpretation on the player's part (as apposed to passively listening to exposition), and stories that involve active participation on the player's part are generally the stories that players remember and care about most.

    Thanked by 1Sigh_Leeeee
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