There are few experience more painful than to spend years working on a project only to have it poorly received. When publisher, aeiowu released their deceptively deep, dual-stick roguelike, TumbleSeed last month it’s lackluster reception was difficult to accept. After two months of reflection, developer Greg Wohlwend has published a blog detailing what went wrong for the action adventure title and how the team hopes to turn things around.
The critical consensus to TumbleSeed’s release was that the game was “too hard.” Critics and players alike found the gameplay unforgiving and unfair. An assessment that Wohlwend and his co-developers had not anticipated.
This reception, combined with tepid review scores from major media outlets proved hugely detrimental to early sales of the game. For every positive recommendation of TumbleSeed, there were five others declaring it “too painful”,” Wohlwend wrote.
While it would be tempting to denounce the project as a failure and move on, the team instead decided to find the root of the problem. Using data from the game’s leaderboards they were able to isolate exactly where players began struggling with the game. This lead to something of a revelation as the team discovered a way address the issue of the game’s steep learning curve.
“Players become desperate because they aren’t even close to ready for the kind of challenge Adventure Mode poses. It’s too hard. And it’s too hard because there are too many new things going on at once..” Wohlwend explained.
Picking It Up As You Go
Having to master so many variables at once left players feeling overwhelmed. Their knee-jerk reaction was to complete the levels as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, rushing through the game only makes it feel more difficult if you haven’t mastered each ability beforehand.
The developers realized that the problem wasn’t simply that TumbleSeed was “too hard.” If that was the case they could always tweak some variables to decrease the difficulty. Instead they discovered the root of the problem. The learning curve between the tutorial and the main game was too abrupt. To address this core issue they released an update to pad out the game’s inaccessible middle ground with additional content.
The “filler” content, dubbed the 4 Peaks Update, adds 4 additional mountains, beneficial auras, and several other changes. The team hopes the added content will give players more time to absorb different game mechanics and concepts without becoming overwhelmed and frustrated with the difficulty.
Wohlwend said that working on the update, creating a solution rather than wallowing in their mistakes, acted as a sort of therapy for the team. Even if it’s too late to completely change the tide of TumbleSeed’s success Wohlwend wrote,”it does feel really good to know we gave it our all especially when it was hardest to.”