Friday, March 21, 2014

Feature Friday #2 - Joust Legend

Every Friday on our blog I’ll feature a game that’s doing something unique, innovative, and truly noteworthy. This isn’t just an app review; it’s an analytical look at a fresh game from the perspective of someone within the game industry. ~~~ Complexity is a tough issue with mobile games. Financial success favors the casual market, but many developers continue to create the immersive, core gaming experience they love. Building a game that’s accessible to the masses, but deep enough to attract and keep a more core audience is crucial to any developer. Joust Legend by Rebellion Games strikes an interesting middle ground, but may take too long getting there. The game attracts users with fantastic visuals and a fun, fairly unique control system. The tutorial is extremely patient and will get you through the basics of gameplay, but ultimately is missing a lot of crucial information. They created some really cool mechanics - notably, a two-stage, two-control system for launching and landing your attack - but don’t fully explain them. You start your horse by timing your release with the launch meter, either with or against the ‘tide’, as the bar is in constant motion on its own. This task is far from impossible, but proves tricky every time. Your performance on launch - either “bad”, “good”, “great”, or “perfect” - affects how much damage you deal your opponent (though never explicitly explained). Post-launch, aim becomes the key metric of your jousting success. This mechanic is the most crucial - affecting both damage and score - and most fun to do over and over. If you deal enough damage to your rival you can unhorse him, instantly ending the match. Realistically though, healing powerups and improved armor make this fairly difficult, and most jousts end after three passes with the more accurate knight prevailing. The screen presents icons for your opponent’s helm and targe (shield), with blank spaces in between representing the body and crest of the helm. Each part of the body is worth a different score multiplier, and your precision within each region dramatically impacts your score. This is another area that wasn’t entirely transparent upon first playthrough, but the more centered your cursor is within a region seems to mean higher the accuracy for your score. Both of these systems are simple enough to grasp during the tutorial, but don’t really get any easier as you progress through the game. The combination of all these variables makes each joust different and challenging; after extensive playing, I’m still not guaranteed to hit, let alone pin the lance on the helm directly. This challenge is ultimately a very good thing for the game’s core appeal - put a notch in the complexity column. There are four game modes - Practice, Prize Fight, Wager, and King’s Tourney - all of which are required to progress through the story, but only the last changes as you play. The dialogue is largely irrelevant, but makes sense from all angles and doesn’t get in the way of itself. In short, I’m totally fine with the way they handled the 'story' element. Some of the modes lock themselves depending on where you are in the story, and while this is somewhat frustrating, it’s also understandable on the first playthrough. The problem lies in the fact that you can’t bypass these delays on subsequent runs through the game, causing a bit of a slowdown and some frustration. After you make your way through a few one-on-one matches and tourneys - each consisting of 3, 5, or 7 rounds (each round containing 3 passes) - you face Louis, the best jouster in France. Regardless of win or loss, the game starts over after this match and everything is reset besides your money and prizes.

I think the finality of this last joust is great, but the way the game progresses through each game mode and the sheer number of matches feels more than a little tedious as you strive for redemption or domination over Louis. This matrix on the Flurry blog shows some engagement and retention metrics broken down by genre, which largely reflect my (expected) experience with Joust Legend, itself a mix between Arcade and Action-RPG. While I can’t yet speak to my 30-day retention with the game, I don’t expect it to go much past this week, though my number of sessions has been well above average for those genres.  

Android Frequency and Retention resized 600

After the third go I’m less interested in continuing to joust, but the gameplay is still fun and certainly challenging, which is pretty good staying power for this sort of game. A big takeaway is that as fun as a lot of these mechanics are, they’re kind of confusing, and definitely not what I expected in a mobile game with this kind of appearance. Keith Andrew recently said in an article on, “If your game can't scale down to fit into a spare five minutes, they're going to stop playing it.” Joust Legend is accessible in small doses and is complex enough to keep the core audience engaged too. Where the devs missed the boat was properly explaining the game’s strengths (interesting mechanics, interlocking of different game modes) and emphasizing the process of grinding rather than the desired goal. Despite these odd quirks and holes, I can’t overstate how much I enjoyed the actual gameplay. Ultimately, you play a game because it’s fun, and Joust Legend is certainly that. ~~~ As of this post, Joust Legend is only available on iOS and is free to download. The app has been paid in the past ($1.99), so grab it while you can. Josh Dombro Community Manager

No comments:

Post a Comment