Author Topic: Postbug  (Read 6390 times)

Jubal

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Postbug
« on: February 14, 2015, 02:51:40 AM »
POSTBUG

Game Type: Free Online Play
Genre: Puzzle/Skill

Link: http://hemingwaygames.com/

Graphics rating:
Gameplay rating:
Immersion rating:
Overall rating:

Yes, Postbug. It's like a postman, except it's a bug. Or more accurately, a ladybird, which a friend informs me is taxonomically very much not the same thing. But that's probably missing the point.

The point is that this is in many ways a simple digging game. The setting is an odd mix of cute and terrifying, in that you're an adorable little bug that dies. Frequently. You're trying to deliver mail around a bizarre invertebrate town where the recipients are usually dying as soon as they leave their houses, and where your role quickly shifts from mere postbug to one-man guerilla army, civil engineer, thief, and battlefield commander, as you try to avoid getting killed by the myriad enemies that are frankly everywhere. I'm pretty sure that logically the ratio of spiders to non-spiders is such that they should be dying of starvation or eating each other by now. Nonetheless, there's a job to do, and you've got to prove you're bug enough for the task. Even if there's nobody alive to read it, the mail's got to get through.

One of Postbug's key features is that you don't know most of the rules when you start out. It's intentional that you're somewhat wandering around in the dark (this happens literally in one of the levels). I like this, and feel that the experimentation aspect of it provided a lot of fun - the levels are well designed, too, to give you some rough idea of what's going on, but with a fair number of tries often needed before success is achieved. This is in many ways what gives Postbug its interest - you're constantly working out ideas and strategies to get through the game, looking at what order to complete different areas in, and formulating wider strategies (as to which boosts should be used where) as well as the skill-based play on any individual level.

So, into specifics. The minus points and suggestions first:
  • The crab shells and edible blues might've been too rare. In my winning run I didn't collect enough crab shells to use that powerup at any point. This is especially odd as those powerups are in many ways less powerful than the commoner firebugs (red). The fact that spiders usually ate the stage II blues before I could get to them restricted their number a lot.
  • It feels odd that we're not given any reason to care about our fellow bugs and mail recipients. In fact, murdering them often makes perfectly good sense (especially, for example, on the first Post Office level, so they don't eat the green bugs you want). If there was some way of getting bonuses/powerups/points for getting rid of all enemies on a level, pegged to survivor numbers, that might be good? Not sure. I certainly felt like I wanted to care about my clients more than i was actually encouraged to.
  • I'd like to see a few more places where there are puzzle options for solving things; there are already some great puzzle mechanics (mostly around "how do I not break this egg full of spiders that will kill me") but there could certainly be space for more cerebral puzzle styles in places.
  • It was perhaps a bit too easy to trap oneself by rolling boulders over bottom exits - though in fairness there was almost always a way round.
And a spoilered one:
Spoiler (click to show/hide)


And then a list of particularly neat points:
  • The bee mechanics are fantastic, and a very enjoyable part of the game indeed. There's nothing better, after all, than being able to really turn the tables on one's longtime spider-foes.
  • I made a fishpond in the first level, and it was great. Even though I killed one of the fish during construction by dropping a boulder on it.
  • The range of powerups is neat, and interesting in that they all behave significantly differently enough to be worth having.
  • The differing mechanics of the blocks (dirt, water, lava, grass) all make a good amount of sense and allow a lot of scope for creativity.
  • Watching the various animals pootling around always gives the right impression. The spiders manage to crawl suitably, you genuinely feel the fear you get when you've angered hymenopterans when bees are attacking you, etc etc. (I appreciate not everyone knows what angering bees etc is like - I have stepped on a wasp's nest before in my life. It's something that stays with you). The ladybirds manage to be pretty cute too. :)

In general, I think Postbug provides a pretty fun game, and for a first offering from its creator Hemingway Games it shows a lot of promise. There has been mention of a possible level editor in the works, which would add a great deal of new potential to the game. It'd be nice to see more expansion of the idea (I feel like a dragonfly could make a good boss level somewhere in the mix), certainly. Overall I felt very positive about it, and it was just about the right difficulty to give a few hours of testing and challenging gameplay without being eternal or life-absorbing on the one hand or mind-numbingly dull on the other. A good rating for a neat little game. :)
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HemingwayGames

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Re: Postbug
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2015, 02:30:55 PM »
Thanks for writing this review, Jubal. Your constructive feedback means a lot; including the time you spent analysing and finishing the game. I loved your humour and the way you described the Postbug world. This has been a very interesting read and I am very grateful.

I'm glad you like the game. I've gone against some game design best practises as it's advised to incrementally train the player as they progress through the game (eg first step is to learn how to jump or avoid an obstacles); whereas in Postbug, the player is thrown in the deep end and it’s left up to them to determine how they fit into the world. A playtester asked whether fish were dangerous and another deliberately walked into a spiderweb to confirm whether they would get caught. These are the types of questions and experimentation I wanted the player to explore. It’s also interesting to watch how children play because they’ll map out areas they feel comfortable with and slowly increase their comfort zone with time.

I share the game design concerns you listed in your review, Jubal. Red bugs are more common and powerful than blue bugs and shields which are more difficult to gather. I liked the idea of the 2 stage blue bug and crushing crabs to get shields, however this creates the imbalance as you mentioned.

My biggest design challenge has been working out what to do with the other ladybirds. I feel they need to be there in order to populate the homes. They however provide no other purpose, they get in the way, and they cause confusion with the players. I assume players have tried to talk to them, and one player felt sorry for them and tried to herd them back into their homes. Poor little suckers.. I feel that if there were additional objectives around the ladybirds (eg bonus points for performing certain tasks) it will complicate the main objective of delivering the mail. Another solution is to strip the game back by taking out the homes and the ladybirds to create a more traditional arcade game.

I’m very keen to get the level editor up and running. Hopefully this will help the game reach it’s full potential as people build their own levels and focus on areas you mentioned with puzzle design and civil engineering. It would be good to see what could be created in that space. I also think a lot more can be done with the water and lava in the level design. I also plan on adding more features which include giant spiders, a giant queen bee (which would have been perfect for the Hive) and I think your dragonfly idea would fit in nicely.

If anyone else is interested in this game, please give it a go and I’d love to hear your feedback. It’d also be great to see your name of the Pioneer Hall of Fame if you’re up for the challenge. My biggest challenge with this game has been finding an audience to appreciate Postbug’s level of difficulty. Good luck :)

Jubal

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Re: Postbug
« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2015, 08:38:28 AM »
I'd prefer increased complexity to removing the ladybirds, I think.

Also, fish can be surprisingly dangerous: I got trapped underwater and drowned by one at least once!
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HemingwayGames

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Re: Postbug
« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2015, 01:16:44 PM »
It would be a shame to see the ladybirds go. Maybe they can take a more active roll and instead of being victims, they can be used to defend their area (so homes become safe havens)..

I'm planning on allowing postbug to push fish and (the body of) jellyfish in the water similar to how he pushes boulders. It can be annoying to wait for them to move out of the way, expecially since they like to camp out a bit. I'm also thinking about ways how postbug can get past other ladybirds, bees and blue bugs because getting stuck by these bugs is also annoying.


Jubal

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Re: Postbug
« Reply #4 on: February 17, 2015, 11:29:37 PM »
Ooh, that might be an idea. I never really went anywhere near the jellyfish, somehow being electrocuted always seemed worse than other methods of death.

I think the ladybirds probably either need to fit into the category of "defend me and get a bonus" or "can defend their homes", aye. Not sure which would be better.

I keep thinking of new creatures that could go in, too: I'm sure woodlice could be in there somewhere. A creature that you could "set off" and which would lumber through and barge enemies out of the way could be quite fun, though not sure what that could be yet. We also haven't explored ants; a level with two duelling ant colonies that you have to get around could be fun.
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Battledrone

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Re: Postbug
« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2015, 02:06:25 AM »
‘Going that one more round when you don’t think you can – that’s what makes all the difference in your life’ – Rocky Balboa, Rocky 4.
 
This could not be truer for Post Bug, a game where giving up will get you nowhere. Persistence, courage and ‘going that one more round’ will provide you the tools to get through a labyrinth of puzzle and death to give you the ultimate prize of a feat of significance.

It is a very unsuspecting game which has multiple layers providing depth and intrigue to a world which requires different methods of survival that only you learn as you play the game. The more I played, the more I wanted to win which provided some colorful language for the neighbors to hear upon death.

If you have no cognitive skills, Will or strength of character you better stick to another game - this game is for the hardened warrior!

Jubal

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Re: Postbug
« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2015, 02:13:35 PM »
Hi Battledrone, welcome to Exilian :)

And yes - Postbug is in some ways like Judge Dredd but combining *even more* roles than judge, jury, and executioner :P
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TTG4

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Re: Postbug
« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2015, 06:27:09 PM »
combining *even more* roles than judge, jury, and executioner :P

Judge, jury, executioner and postmen. Heck I'd watch that. I might give this a try sometime, but I feel like I should make sure I can devote a few hours in one go!

HemingwayGames

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Re: Postbug
« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2015, 11:25:18 PM »
Hi Battledrone, this is one the funniest reviews I have ever read. Thanks for posting your thoughts on Postbug; it's very much appreciated.

I love the 'going that one more round' Rocky 4 quote and I can relate when you use words such as persistence and courage. When I designed the levels back in June, I had no idea whether the game could be finished. I had to finish the game myself to tick off the test case, and every time I started over (going that one more round), I felt like I was Mad Max preparing mentally for his confrontation with Nightrider.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7Bcov5SGU0

HemingwayGames

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Re: Postbug
« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2015, 11:58:29 PM »
Hi TTG4, don't worry too much about the difficulty level. The game was primarily made for its explore and experiment aspect. It's possible to traverse the small world and avoid most of the dangers. If however you wanted to finish it, then yes, you'd have to put some time aside. If you do get around to playing, I'd love to know what you think :)

Ha ha this is great: "Judge, jury, executioner and postman"
« Last Edit: February 21, 2015, 02:44:54 AM by HemingwayGames »

Jubal

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Re: Postbug
« Reply #10 on: February 23, 2015, 10:08:48 PM »
Possible to traverse some of the world - getting through Jungle safely is pretty damn hard :P
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HemingwayGames

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Re: Postbug
« Reply #11 on: March 17, 2015, 02:15:31 PM »
I've just written a blog post on Postbug's game design objectives: Postbug is a game which encourages experimentation, exploration, and strategy building during gameplay. An aim of Postbug was to create an emergent system consisting of objects with a diverse range of attributes and behaviours. These objects include grass, dirt, rock, water, lava, bugs, eggs, spiders, fish, and crabs. In order to survive, players will need to experiment with their environment to learn how these objects behave and interact.

More details here: http://hemingwaygames.com/blog/postbug-game-design-objectives

HemingwayGames

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Re: Postbug
« Reply #12 on: March 17, 2015, 02:19:47 PM »
You might be interested in this one, Jubal: I've recently released Postbug Canvas which allows you to create your own levels and experiment with the Postbug system. Currently you can play with one level at a time and the ability to save and share levels will be available soon. You can find the level editor by clicking on the > Canvas nav item in the game.

Jubal

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Re: Postbug
« Reply #13 on: March 17, 2015, 11:55:59 PM »
Ooh! *heads off to play with the canvas*
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HemingwayGames

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Re: Postbug
« Reply #14 on: April 11, 2015, 02:12:35 PM »
A new blog post on my experience exhibiting Postbug at the Melbourne iFest Games Festival

http://hemingwaygames.com/blog/postbug-ifest-games-festival