An Invitation to Innovation

Stitchcraft is now in closed beta testing!  If you're interested in playing the game and providing constructive feedback, please read on to find out how you can get an early stall in the Azetta street markets right now!  Invitees will receive a key to redeem on Steam that allows them to play the current testing build on Windows machines.

Stipulations for Sanctioned Sorcery 

Please consider the following basic expectations I have for participants in the closed beta test.  Click on each one to learn more.  

My friends, family, and I have played dozens of games of Stitchcraft both solo and online already.  I have also played hundreds of games against the AI during my own development and testing.  The feedback I've gotten so far suggests that the game is a lot of fun, and necessary core for playing the game has been in place for months.  

desperately want you to have fun playing the game as well, because I've spent an enormous amount of time on this project trying to ensure that it is fun!  However, this is not an "early access" version of the game; the keys are being provided free of charge.  The whole point of this testing round is to identify problems in the game that need to be fixed; this practically guarantees that at some point, one of these problems is going to be a nuisance to you and detract from the fun you have playing.  If you think this may annoy you or detract from your opinion of the game, I would rather you wait until it's officially released to play it.  I intend to have all the bugs squashed by then! 

Please do me the favor of letting me know what you think of the game after you've had a chance to play!  I would prefer that you use the Contact form on this website; your feedback will reach me by email that way.  You can also pop in on our Discord server as well and strike up a chat if you see me online there!

I want your constructive criticism, if you have any, but I'd ask you to keep it to just myself and any communication group we assemble amongst the closed beta testers, for now.  This is related to the previous point; I'm asking testers to join me to help me make the game better before it is public.  I'm okay letting you see a few warts on it right now if you'll let me know what they are and don't hold them against me until I can fix them.

On the other hand, if you think the game is fabulous already, please go ahead and shout that to everyone you know!  ;D

Here are the kind of things I would like feedback on:

  • Gameplay experience: This is the most important one to me. I'm after the answer to questions like...

    • Did you feel like the basic gameplay mechanics were intuitive enough that you could figure them out on your own or with the help of the basic instructions on this website or the Steam page?

    • Did you have enough fun playing that you wanted to immediately play another game?  Did it captivate you enough you were willing to lose a little sleep, leave the house later than you should for work/class/dinner, or otherwise steal a few minutes so you could play another game?

    • Did you try all of the Patterns (Loom, Attrition, and Racketeering)?  If so, which one was your favorite and why?  Were there any Patterns you didn't like?

    • Do you feel like the AI plays with adequate skill?  Did you win your first game against it?  What was your win % against the AI for each Pattern?

    • Did you play the game versus any human players?  How did that experience compare to playing the AI? 

    • Do you think the game rewards skillful play?  Did you find there were sufficient strategic measures available to mitigate any problems with "bad luck" in your card draws?  How do these answers compare to other card games you enjoy?

    • How fast did you complete your games, on average?  Would you have preferred them to be shorter or longer?

    • Did you find any surprising card interactions that you did or didn't like?  There are a few you may notice if you're paying attention!

    • Are there any features you think are missing from the game that would greatly improve it?

    • What do you think is a good target price for which you would be willing to buy the game?  Would having more than 3 Patterns in the game make you willing to raise the target price?  Would you be willing to buy an inexpensive (~price of a coffee) DLC in 6-12 months to get access to 2-3 more Patterns?

  • Technical bugs: If you've found one of these, please take a screenshot, then check the "Known Issues and Planned Improvements" section.  If you don't see a mention of the problem there, send me the screenshot and a description of what was going on when the bug happened.

  • UI Improvements: If you have difficulty figuring out how to get any part of the game to work, please let me know.  If you have suggestions for how to make any of the gameplay interface better, I'm all ears!  Consider checking the "Known Issues and Planned Improvements" section for these, as well.  

 

In spite of the technical difficulty of building a game, the toughest part of having a successful release might actually prove to be simply getting the word out to everyone who would be interested in playing it.  I've only recently been participating on Twitter, and in just a few weeks, I'm floored by the number of quality indie games that are coming out by 1-2 person teams like me.  There are so many games coming out right now that I'd be surprised if the average gamer was even aware of 1% of them.  That's pretty scary for me.

You can do me a huge favor by helping me with this!  I know many people already participate on social media, so I would ask that if you want to be part of the closed beta test, please follow me @inDDev_Ryan on Twitter or Instagram and make a post about why you're looking forward to trying the game!  I'll send you a direct message reply with a key.

 

I also know that some people choose not to participate on social media.  I would probably still be one of those people if I didn't need adapt to using those tools for the success of the game (though I have to admit, I'm finding I like Twitter!).  I would love to set up a Patreon or Ko-fi page so that you can help out that way instead, but exchanging a key for a "donation" feels too much like selling them.  As I've stated a few times above, I do not intend this to be an Early Access phase, so that's right out.  Instead, if you can't help me by getting the word out about the game online, use the Contact form and send me a message about why your feedback will be invaluable to me.  I've found in years of non-gaming software development that a capable end-user tester who can articulate their findings is pretty hard to find, so if you convince me you're one of them, I'll reply to your email with a key for you, too!

 

One difficulty you're likely to run into during testing is that the automatic matchmaking is going to be really difficult to use until there are quite a few players that are routinely active in the game.  I'm hoping to engage, say, "dozens" of people for this test, but I doubt that number will become so large as to be "hundreds".  That means if you want to play a human opponent - and I want you to so I can get feedback on that, and not just the AI play - then you're probably going to have to schedule a match.  Of course the easiest way to do this will just be to get your friends to join the test too, then call them and say "Hey, let's play Stitchcraft!".  Alternatively, I've put a channel in the Discord server for you to post that you're looking for a match, and hopefully after the closed beta gains a bit of traction, you'll be able to find a match there.  I'll look forward to finding some new opponents there, myself!

You can skip reading this section for now if you haven't played the game yet; these will make more sense after you've had a chance to play 3-4 games.  I include these here to hopefully save you the trouble of writing up feedback for issues I'm already aware of.

Here is a list of problems that I'm already aware of:

  • An online connection is still required to play a solo game versus the AI.  Local loopback is a feature that's missing from the network service that I am using for NAT punch-through and relay.  If the vendor doesn't provide me that feature in time for release, I will work around it by using a different network controller when playing solo.

  • A few cards and messages in the game still have text templating bugs. They may say "discard" instead of "scrap", "deck" vs "chest", "card" vs "tapestry", and so on.  If you find these, please do report them, because I may not have caught all of them!

  • There is a limit (9) on how many tapestries can be placed in the Display, but the UI needs to be updated to prevent a player from trying to exceed this limit.  I think the attempt simply fails right now (but still consumes an action!).  I've never seen this come up in real play, only in testing intended to break it.  I therefore think this limit is reasonable, but I would consider an argument for raising this number if any of you encounter this in a real game!  

  • The AI is not yet implemented for the Racketeering Pattern.  In addition, while I believe the Loom and Attrition Patterns to be finalized, fun, and unique, the Racketeering one is still under review at a design level as well.  I'm not as satisfied with its current state as the other two, but that may simply be a function of not having been able to play it 4-5 dozen times since its AI is not yet available!

  • The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th tapestry of a given color in the Showcase should appear rolled up and floating in front of the 1st, hanging tapestry of that color.  Sometimes, the hanging tapestry can occlude the rolled tapestries, making it difficult to see how many tapestries of that color that the opponent has already showcased.  Fixing this is a complex problem due to performance constraints I've placed on the particle physics simulation (to support future mobile releases!) and potential major graphics and scene arrangement updates I am currently considering.  In the meantime, be careful an opponent doesn't sneak out a set victory you weren't expecting!

  • (Fixed in dev build) The trailing flag behind a displayed tapestry can appear to disconnect from the rolled portion of the tapestry when it is moving quickly.

  • The matchmaking server is still a test instance and is sometimes a bit flaky.  You're not likely to see this cause problems since it's only used for connecting players to a game and not for playing it.  The one exception to this is when starting a new game with "Find a Match!".  If this looks like it hiccuped, just click the button again and it should reconnect and work fine!  I haven't decided if I'm going to continue using the current mechanism or refactor to use Steamworks for this functionality.

  • The text marquee at the top contains code that resizes the game logs and scrolls off old log messages when the marquee gets too full.  I've found Unity's controls for accessing the dynamic UI scaling and manipulating it at runtime to be pretty flaky, and getting this working required some fiddling which isn't perfect yet.  You may see that a consequence of this is that if you are playing quickly enough to keep the buffer full and the marquee active, the most recent message fill rarely fail to display in the marquee because it didn't fit, even though Unity reported that it would.  Fortunately, you can simply open the game logs to double-check the full history of messages that were shown throughout the game, including the one that failed to display properly.

  • There is currently no countdown timer for actions.  An opponent who wants to be a jerk can just make you wait forever for him to act.  There's no score-keeping or matchmaking rating to worry about right now, so just forfeit the match in this case.

  • Displayed tapestries will sometimes exhibit z-fighting while rendering their flags when they overlap each other on the table.  

  • Colliders for the chests do not currently participate in the cloth physics simulation, so the tapestries can occasionally clip through them during a strong wind gust.

Planned Improvements:

  • Finalize the Attrition AI decision weight factors and implement the Racketeering AI.

  • Add a setting to make the marquee fade more or less quickly after activity stops while a player is considering their moves.

  • Add a timeout for player actions.  Each turn will have an allotted time, and each player will have an extra time bank for the match.  Once the turn time has expired, the match time bank will drain.  If a player's time bank is completely drained, they will automatically forfeit the match.

  • I'm working on a major overhaul to the background graphics which will place players in an outdoor street market and re-orient the scene with the Display tables running vertically and each player occupying a stall on the left and right side of the screen instead of the top and bottom.

  • Add sound effects for displaying, revealing, showcasing, scrapping, and removing a tapestry.

  • Improve the particle effects and animations for revealing, showcasing, scrapping, and removing a tapestry.  I'd like to actually shred and dissolve them in the latter two cases!

  • Set up the necessary UI to allow players to choose different tapestry skins.  The game code to support this has already been tested.  Matchmaking settings will have to take a new parameter indicating each player's skin selection.