Mark Esparagoza

Being the farmer

I was the systems designer to...

  • Establish an engaging game loop

  • Build farming mechanics to create a relaxing experience

  • Rapid prototype the systems

  • Plan the long-term progression to have longer player retention in the future

All while doing this remote.

Chamomile Grove

18 Person Team | 4 Months

Single-player game where the player must farm plants to make potions. Potions are used to solve puzzles. Once the puzzles are completed, they gain a new seed and they must play the game again.

Lofi game to farm and brew potions

Growing

Once the growth cycle ends plant grows if it has been watered.

This creates a more relaxing experience because the player knows when the plant will grow and it's very simple to understand whether it will grow or not.

Unlike in Floravna, where the player has to track 3 different resources for each plant and the mechanics made the game more twitch like rather than relaxing.

The Cycle

The game starts with the farming game loop to the potion loop. Both of those loops are part of the core game loop. Then there’s the progression loop where the player must solve a puzzle to gain new seeds then the side loops for the player to buy more seeds in the game or to guide the player.

Shopping

Then the rewards from the harvest can be sold at the shop.

The shop allows the player to purchase various seeds or potions with their currency.

Digital Playtesting

Testing revealed that farming mechanics are intuitive and were easy to understand.

Even players not part of our target audience were able to understand the mechanics.

However, players wanted more things to indicate when the plants will grow and more feedback, like particle effects, when they grow the plant.

Digital Iteration

I thought of a change to add a progression bar to each plant to show how long until the plant is harvestable. I discussed this change with the UX designer on our team telling them the pros and cons of this change.

Pros

I told them that it would be good because it's giving the player a sense of progression and making their actions feel meaningful. 

Cons

The person that I playtested with is not part of our target audience as they only play strategy games and not farming games. Multiple of our high earning comparables don't show the progression of their plants with a progression bar but just the different stages like we have right now. It would encourage the player to not look at the plants as plants but as resources, they are waiting to acquire and not care for.

Conclusion

We didn't go with this idea but after some time, we figured out a way to show progression in our game without the cons listed.

The plants now grew all together similar to a day/night system so, there's a time to show the time until the next plant cycle.

Paper Iteration

Pros

Encouraged more varied gameplay instead of having them only planting a plant for profit.

Cons

It might take away from the relaxing experience and the person who playtested wasn't part of our target audience.

Conclusion

Ultimately I didn't do this change because we were near the deadline and this would be a massive change. Along with there wasn't enough data at the time to prove that this would be engaging to our target audeince.

Paper Playtesting

I wanted to test the systems of the game but, the digital prototype was still being developed. So I created a rulebook of what the farming section of our game could generally look like and conducted a playtest in Table Top Simulator.

When testing a paper prototype of the game, the player talked about how they aren't that engaged in growing any plant because they don't see any visuals. They didn't seem to care about the plants because they don't see any progression when growing them.

I quickly iterated so that a plant needs another plant's harvests to grow.

The player then talks about how they were making decisions on which plant they wanted to grow. Like using this specific plant to grow for a season then use its harvests to grow other plants.

Being stranded

Due to COVID-19, everyone in my team was forced to be remote. This created some challenges that I needed to overcome such as communication.

There was a lot of miscommunication that can happen in an online setting, one of the mitigations that I did was staying in a voice chat when everyone was working. That helped me know some of my teammates personally because now we can have those casual conversations and, it allowed us to communicate ideas quickly and effectively. 

When I was talking with other team members, I would always talk about what happened in my last playtest and what are their thoughts on the data I've gathered. It created a more collaborative environment allowing us to know what's going on with what I'm doing and I can ask what they have done.

Long-Term Retention Document

Still Growing

It was a challenge trying to playtest, communicate, and design while being remote. However, I learned how to map out a very complicated game loop and conduct playtest remotely even through unconventional means.

I would have liked to have done more playtesting, iteration, and have better communication amongst my teammates. However, what I accomplished in this project allowed me to better my communication skills and know my limits when it comes to a online setting.

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