Thursday, October 21, 2010

On Game Center and difficulty

It's been almost a month since initial release of Portaball. It didn't conquer AppStore, but it's got good reviews and couple of fans as well. What I find really intriguing is its Game Center activity. There are currently 745 scores in Least Portals leaderboard. Portaball is sending total number of portals on each game launch. That's my way of guaranteeing that score gets uploaded, one can never rely on network connection.

The problem is out of those 745 only 47 are under 2500 portals (the initial value) which makes it roughly 6% of total user base (game center enabled user base to be exact). This begs the question: what causes such a low number? What comes to mind first is: few people bother completing those levels again - game is just boring to replay all over again. I see point in that.

There is just one thing that bugs me: there are currently two players that got better result in 'Least Portals' than me. That is correct. My best test run was 379 portals. They made it 370 and 373 respectively. Get Portaball and check for yourself ;). They've beaten game dev in his own game. This is quite fascinating! It makes me wonder how can I improve myself, where can I find those best paths to get better, even though I've completed each level tens of times. This means, that there is fun and thrill in playing Portaball again, though it's quite hard to discove. I guess it requires some kind of perfectionist nature, willingness to improve oneself in every possible way.

The other possibility of weak Game Center attendance is level of difficulty of Portaball. Is Portaball an easy game? I have absolutely no idea. Obviously, for me it's easy, I designed every single level. Test results on my friends introduced various feedback. Some found it relatively easy, they've burned over 40 levels in one hour. The other group struggled with some of the first levels. What might cause that is lack of step-by-step tutorial. On the other hand I've designed every introductory level with a self explaining puzzle. Right after starting the ball it shows how different elements behave. Player's only task is to get the idea. Some levels are more demanding. Level 4 is good example ('speedy thing goes in, speedy thing goes out'). However, once player understands that it's all about acceleration, it becomes trivial. Getting that acceleration thingy might be hard, however, I believe it's one of the crucial and most rewarding moment ('OH! So that's what it's about! I'm genius!')

To sum up: if you struggle with Portaball, keep playing. The satisfaction is well worth it. If you find Portaball to easy, give 'Least Portals' a try. Getting on top and competing with others, that's a real challenge.


  1. Hey there, Great post! I can't believe that i was actually better than the dev! I tied the score of that other guy with 378 at the beginning but then he got 370 and I tried to find a way to get first again but I only got 5 portals less! I really think that most people don't want to play least portals because they have to play through it again! It annoyed me too at the beginning. When you complete a level in least portals then it doesnt unlock anything in the normal campaign though they actually are the same as in the main game! Thats probably the reason. Also is it actually possible that I'm the only one who unlocked all achievements? That guy with 370 portals doesnt have the achievement for completing stop me once.
    And it seems that we 2 are the only ones who have less than 400 portals. And that is an achievement too. So that means I'm the only one with all achievements in portaball!


  2. Yeah, it seems so, congratulations!

    I agree on the boredom factor (though I still enjoy playing Portaball in my spare time). I guess playing all 50 levels is a lot to ask. Especially that there are levels you can't actually tweak, they are very simple. That's why I've decided on unlocking all levels for this mode. This should prevent boredom, at least to some degree. Anyway, next level pack (free update of course) will be shorter, say 20 levels. It should ease the struggle of repeatability.

  3. I really can't wait to see new levels! The more levels the better! And maybe you should make a multiplayer and release it on portal 2's release date ;)
    Anyway, I really like your game! You did a great job! I couldn't have thought of a better way to make a portal game for the iPhone! I hope it does well for you! :)