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dougsha

ChipWits: Looking for feedback on this programming game

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ChipWits is a programming game that I co-developed with Mike Johnston in 1984. Players use an iconic language called IBOL to program robots for a variety of missions. We are opening up our beta to geek gamers, so I thought I'd announce here. It did very well in '84 - sold 20k copies and was well reviewed. We've updated graphics and are adding tutorial missions. Screenshot1 Screenshot2 Windows Installer 8 meg ChipWits website System Requirements: Medium-horsepower Windows 2000/XP/Vista machine. It's written in Flex/ActionScript 3 and packaged with MDM Zinc. Feedback wanted: Wring the game out and let me know what you think of it at every level - graphics, interface, playability... Since it's a programming game I expect to hear some strong opinions from Gamedev.net members. Known bugs Where the game is now: We are adding tutorial missions, expanding the help, tweaking animation, fonts, sound FX, high score keeping, and adding a number of Mini Missions. Please enter our contest. Send in your ChipWit - you don't have to have a registered copy. The ChipWit that scores the highest in the Doom Rooms mission earns its creator glory and a t-shirt. This is a trial version that let's you run the game 10 times and then disables saving ChipWits - you can still play. Let me know whether you think ChipWits is a game worthy of letting me re-enter the ranks of Indie Gamers. Gamely, Doug Sharp

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Original post by dougsha
Feedback wanted: Wring the game out and let me know what you think of it at every level - graphics, interface, playability... Since it's a programming game I expect to hear some strong opinions from Gamedev.net members.
Hi,

I downloaded your beta. Installation was painless and it seems to run fine. I'll try to give the game a workout over the next few days and then post back here with some comments.

I did notice on your blog that you referred to the Indie Gamer forums as 'the best forum I've found for independent game programmers'. I trust you wrote that before you stumbled across GDNet ;-)

Just kidding of course :) I do hope you get some useful feedback here, but I'll go ahead and mention that 'Your Announcements' isn't the most high-traffic forum or feature on the site. If you're really interested in getting as much feedback as possible and getting some exposure here, you might also look into the Image of the Day, Developer Journals, and the GD Showcase. (Note that some of these features require a GDNet++ membership.)

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Original post by jyk
Quote:
Original post by dougsha
Feedback wanted: Wring the game out and let me know what you think of it at every level - graphics, interface, playability... Since it's a programming game I expect to hear some strong opinions from Gamedev.net members.
Hi,

I downloaded your beta. Installation was painless and it seems to run fine. I'll try to give the game a workout over the next few days and then post back here with some comments.

I did notice on your blog that you referred to the Indie Gamer forums as 'the best forum I've found for independent game programmers'. I trust you wrote that before you stumbled across GDNet ;-)

Just kidding of course :) I do hope you get some useful feedback here, but I'll go ahead and mention that 'Your Announcements' isn't the most high-traffic forum or feature on the site. If you're really interested in getting as much feedback as possible and getting some exposure here,)


Glad it runs for you. The game's probably run on less than 2 dozen computers so far, so I am very happy to hear that it runs on another one.

Thanks for the pointers to places with more traffic. I look forward to getting to know Gamedev.net better.

Look forward to hearing your crit. I hope you enter this week's contest. Optimize a ChipWit for Doom Rooms and email it to contest @ chipwits.com . No game registration required.

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Ok, here we go...

I played all of the training missions, but stopped at the advanced missions. I can see that there's a lot of additional functionality included there, and I think the best (and easiest) way to learn about it is probably via the training missions. Once you get the rest of the training missions in place I might be able to give it another go and test out the rest of the features.

Note that I'm not familiar with the original version of the game, so my comments are based on the current beta only.

In short, this seems like an excellent game. I'm sure there are other 'programming' games out there, but your approach seems very clear and intuitive, which I like. In addition to being fun, the game seems like an excellent vehicle for introducing basic programming concepts. It's gratifying to figure out the best algorithm and then see it in action.

My comments, in no particular order:

1. The training missions progress in a very intuitive fashion, introduce the features in a logical order, and give you a chance to get comfortable with each feature before moving on. I'm guessing once the training missions are done, they'll leave players well prepared to tackle the advanced missions.

2. The electronic music track has a small delay (of less than a beat) when it loops. Since the track is rhythmic, this is a little distracting. I don't know what sound API you're using, but I know I've had trouble getting music to loop correctly with certain APIs. Anyway, you might look into it.

3. The UI seems a little sluggish to me; I think if items were more responsive when you dragged them, clicked on them, etc., it would make the 'programming' process more fluid. Especially when programming more complex algorithms in the later levels, I really wanted the effects of my actions (e.g. choosing an argument and having the command inserted in the queue) to be instantaneous. I don't know whether this 'unresponsiveness' is a product of the programming, my system, or the API. If the problem is unfamiliar to you, it may just be my system (although other games seem to run fine on it).

4. Around the 8th mission, it looks like there's a typo in the part of the briefing that says, "Don't worry about skating into thing." Should that be 'things'?

5. Another typo is that it says Coffee's on a couple of occasions, where it should be Coffees.

6. I don't know how you're handling fonts and text, but I think some font antialiasing would improve the look of the game (since it's fairly text-heavy).

I hope these comments will be at least somewhat useful to you. Good luck with it, and be sure to let us know when the next version is ready.

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Just downloaded and gave the game a few spins. I like your EULA btw ;)

I think you have something really nifty going here. The drag and drop programming commands is very nice. I felt like the actual 'world' section of the game was too small though. I don't really understand the movement either -- it doesn't seem very absolute. Like I tell him to move right and he just kinda goes somewhere. The precision just seems odd to me.

Hmm odd thing just happened. It seems to have frozen. I was on the level with the 9 bouncers all around. I put zaps in all three code slots. I push start and he starts zapping continuously (hitting one bouncer). I pushed stop. Then I removed the last two zaps from the code slots by clicking on them. After that, I tried to put in new code icons, but it wouldn't let me. I pushed restart. The 'world' cleared but didnt redraw anything but a green plane and I still couldn't put code icons in the slots. I went to options and the screen faded to a grayish color but there were no options or buttons to click. The music played throughout. Just clicking 'X' closed the window though.

I'll try again and see if I can duplicate that.

Edit: Found the Zoom button.

Edit 2: Tried the exact same as above but couldn't duplicate it. This time it let me remove all three zaps, and put in other code icons after pressing stop.

Edit 3: I can't duplicate that exact error, but I am getting other strange things. Sometimes just by clicking on an Icon in the Slots it will go away, other times I have to drag it from slot to the other or out of the slot area. At first I didn't notice anything, other than the removing wasn't consistent, and then all of a sudden my chipwit disappeared.

Screenshot:


I think both of the problems are relating to stopping the code execution, and then removing code icons and adding new ones.

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Thanks for the great feedback. Glad you like the game. I'll be spending more time here at Gamedev.net.

shadowcomplex:
"I don't really understand the movement either ...The precision just seems odd to me."
There is a bug in his movement when he bumps something, he gets off track. It will be dealt with.

"I think both of the problems are relating to stopping the code execution, and then removing code icons and adding new ones."
I appreciate the screenshot and will spend some time looking at this bug.

jyk:

"Once you get the rest of the training missions in place I might be able to give it another go and test out the rest of the features."
I'll re-post here when we've got a complete slate of training missions.

"The UI seems a little sluggish to me"
Great input. I will spend time tightening up that code. I realize that when you start to drag a chip it creates a graphic copy, might be able to get rid of that step.

I am going to replace that font and make sure I do better anti-aliasing.

Thanks for the typo report.

---
Thanks a bunch. - Doug

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Downloaded it and gave it a go. I finished all the training missions and was then pretty overwhelmed by the first real mission.

I'll guess there will be more training missions explaining more blocks.

I had a few questions about the programming grid: You cannot choose the way the connection to the next block goes. There's this training level where you have to pick up a certain number of balls. I overlooked the fact that i only need to pick up three so i started to do a complete roundup. At this point there is sort of a limit in the programming grid: Once you hit the right end the connections go downwards. Hitting the bottom end the connections turn left. At the left end the connections won't go on. So basically there's the big grid with icons on the top line, bottom line and right-most line, but empty between.

I guess the whole grid matters more if you get to the deciding blocks; with this particular level i hit a limit. It'd be cool to have a message telling that your program has hit a limit or got too complex.

Anyway, i'm liking it, there's not many games of this type :)

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Endurion,

"You cannot choose the way the connection to the next block goes."

In fact, you can. We just forgot to tell players they can do it. I will create an Intro Mission to teach chip wiring. Click on an arrow and it will move.

You were very patient to go through all that without knowing that basic functionality.

If you Hit the option button, go the Advanced Missions, and load a ChipWit you'll see that they can get way complex. There are even subpanels.

I guess this is why beta-testing is a very good thing.

Thanks for testing and I'm glad you like ChipWits. Hope you like the finished game even more.

Doug

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