Howdy everyone! It’s been a while since my last post so I thought I’d let you guys know what I’ve been up to.

To be honest, I was actually readying Dare the Monkey for release. I’d finished all my planned levels for the main game mode, and added two additional game modes to boot. I’d also spoken to a few publishers and done an additional round of play testing with people.

As always the response to the game was extremely positive but I was also seeing some niggling feedback coming back time and again and I felt it wasn’t right to simply ignore it. After all, I’ve spent all this time making Dare the Monkey and I didn’t want to sell myself short right at the end of the project.

So I’ve taken all the feedback on board and now have a list of things that I think will maximise Dare’s chance of success. Today I’d like to talk about one of those things – the game’s difficulty – and I’ll talk about the others over a series of upcoming posts.

Dare the Monkey is very much a muscle memory game. When I started the project I was inspired by the ‘one more go’ gameplay of Mr Jump and its hardcore nature. I felt this was a perfect nod to the classic arcade and console games of the past that I was trying to reinterpret for mobile.

However, it’s clear that the game’s difficulty is stopping a large number of gamers in their track and I really want people to stick with Dare for as long as possible rather than giving up in frustration.

Dare’s main game mode is split into nine levels, with each being increasingly harder to complete. From observing people play the game I’ve noticed a trend based on how good an individual is in general at video games. To illustrate, let’s split our audience into three categories:

  • Casual Gamer: Someone who doesn’t play too many games or is fairly young
  • Average: Plays a decent number of mobile and console games
  • Experienced: Will play just about any game and enjoys a good challenge

I’ve noticed that the majority of casual gamers top out at level two or three. Most get to three but a large number of younger players fail to complete the second level.

Average gamers fare much better and typically get to level four or five.

Experienced players managed to get to six. Some have even made it as far as seven, which is pretty impressive. No one other than my brother and myself have ever completed all nine levels.

Now the important thing for me is that, despite the difficulty, gamers are actually playing the game for long periods of time. Even those who don’t get past the first few levels seem to stick with it for hours, even days. Some of the more experienced gamers play Dare for several weeks.

But one thing’s clear. Everyone eventually gives up in frustration. They reach a point where they simply don’t have the muscle memory to navigate a particular part of a level. No matter how many times they try they simply can’t get any farther. Some will stick at the level for hours but will eventually give up and swear never to play the damn thing again.

Now I’m not expecting everyone to make it to the end but I do want to shift things to the right a little so that even casual gamers can get more from the game.

The nine levels are split across three game worlds: Jungle (levels 1-3), Lava (4-6), and Aztec (7-9). At the moment, casual gamers never make it to the Lava world. They know the Lava world is next but no matter how hard they try they just can’t get there and I can really feel their frustration.

It’s possibly even worse for the average gamers. Most never get to the final Lava world level. In other words, they don’t even come close to getting to the third game world. That must be pretty demoralising for them. So while session times and retention are actually pretty high, I feel I can actually do better by making things a little easier and less frustrating.

Muscle memory is very much going to stay at the core of Dare the Monkey but I’m going to make a few tweaks to allow players to react more easily to things they are encountering for the first time. Especially nearer the end of levels where brain fatigue can definitely set in.

I’m also thinking about better sign-posting within the levels to alert players of upcoming dangers. On top of that I’m going to spend some time making a few of the game’s obstacles more visible – there are occasions where deadly spikes and what not blend too much with the background making them hard to identify and avoid.

So lots for me to be getting on with and hopefully the changes will make Dare the Monkey an even better game than it already is.

Speak to you guys soon!