It has been 10 days since we published SparkLine’s Beta Test. So how did it went for us? An extremely hectic week to prepare for it and then a whirlwind 5-7 days. Since then the workload and activity has petered out a bit lately, offering me some time to rest.
That’s the gist of it.
On one hand, I felt we shouldn’t publish a beta test by weekend as it should be a rest period. On another hand, I promised to get it ready by the first week of May after I delayed it due to health reasons. Not having quick access to the Mac on weekends is one thing (I keep it in the office), but it’s another to potentially jeopardize my health. That would be… really ironic, given the reason to delay the test in the first place.
No matter the pashun and desiyah poured in (in which I know I poured everything), no game is above your health.
Let’s talk about the leadup to the best test, bugs (thankfully, the lack of it), the iterations, the charts, a little on Atelier of Picturesque Things, and… when will the beta test end?
It goes without saying, but preparing for the beta test made for a really busy week. For example, the whole Result -> Cutscene UX (and Splash -> Cutscene) was made last week and of course, that carries a lot of risk. However! It’s a beta test after all so bugs are bound to surface. It’s okay if it goes a bit wrong, but not if horribly wrong. That’s where the internal tests come in.
Thankfully, it appears to have went without a hitch for you. This is of course credit to our internal QA for thoroughly checking it out. Most of the bugs you reported are things that you’d have to purposely do to trigger. We quickly tried to reproduce the issues as best as we can to fix them.
On another note… Yesterday was the first time in a while that I didn’t get out of house as well. During weekdays, I go to office and otherwise, to malls in order to unwind. This also means it’s the first time in a while I actually took a good nap on my bed. I really needed that. I feel energized in a way I haven’t felt in weeks, which bodes well!
About 10 days have passed since the beta test was published and there has been 4 updates to the builds. There are bugfixes here and there, even added features (song progress bar) but most importantly, the gameplay is being refined.
Look at the videos above and see the build-to-build changes!
This is what you have been seeing in a majority of the gameplay showcases this year. We made changes that end up… reverted in the following builds.
In the second build, we changed the combo and hit accuracy locations back to the center of the screen. Note size is bigger, note hitbox is bigger (except mines which becomes smaller to compensate) and note speed adjustment intervals are more precise.
As for the third one, we decrease the note despawn time to prevent potential clutter and decrease the mines’ appearance time. It used to disappear by perfect late, but changed to perfect+. This is actually a major oversight from us that went on for about a year.
Note and Note Line animations (the thing you most often see coming towards holds) are changed. This is actually quite risky as little animation changes can give a really different experience.
And… we are not done yet! Many of you have commented on the difficulty to distinguish between single and paired/simultaneous notes. We are working on it, along with an experimental to the slide’s visual shape. Hopefully, it’ll be available this week and if not, the next one. Not to forget, we will test shrinking the notes’ black borders as well.
Unfortunately as I wrote this post I realized we didn’t record anything on the 2nd build. That was a period when we were at our absolute busiest. We’d probably do in the future for documentation purposes, but not published to prevent confusion.
Most of you that do comment about the charts are saying it’s fun and unique to each other. These are big compliments to see and I’m of course, very glad to hear those.
That said, you may notice that the lower difficulty charts feel… wonky. Free to be Falling didn’t feel like a level 1 until I edited it. Haten Code… all the charts are arguably a little too hard for their levels. There has been edits to the charts in this one week but more are definitely on the way. Maybe minor changes, maybe even revamps.
When I posted the reveal trailer I said that most of the 25+ songs we have for launch already have completed Master charts. This number doesn’t include the 2 Berry Melody songs as the collab idea was conceived about 2-3 months after that. In the end, we mostly likely have to revamp them as time passes, I learn new things and the fogging estandards have gone up.
If the chart is not good, then the song as a whole suffers as well. People can dislike a song because it has a bad chart so maybe that’s why I’m pretty hard on myself for it. It’d feel like I’m not doing my part to give you the best experience.
The only song added to the build since the last beta test… is actually the last addition to 1.0, and arguably last minute too. I listened to the album where the song originates pretty quick from its launch. At some point I reviewed the songs again and found that Atelier suits SparkLine and its story very well!
Sophia is a person with aspirations to become a illustrator but is unable to do so in the real life because of… spoiler alert! Play the story to find out. It’s available in the beta test already. The English translation of the song “絵空事のアトリエ” is Atelier of Picturesque Things. The word “Picturesque” immediately inspired me and the rest is history.
As we do with all composers, we are very grateful to Metomate for allowing us to host this song in our game.
My initial impression upon hearing this song was that it’d be suitable for DrumMania. With that in mind, I aimed for a relaxing chart but with attention to the drums. The song seems to be played a lot in the beta test. I’m really glad a lot of you like it and I’ll make sure to let her know of the kind reception to the song!
Right now, I can only say this won’t be the last time you’d hear of Metomate in SparkLine. So… please be excited!
By my own estimation, we expect to complete all gameplay changes by next week. In that case, we probably can conclude the beta test by the end of this month. I will update my decision on a week-to-week basis, but I will inform you of the actual end date about 3 days before it really ends.
Meanwhile, we should have handled most of the technical bugs you have reported, and gameplay animation changes are mostly done as well. Despite all the positive feedbacks received, we won’t be carried away. Still so many things to do!
For those of you who haven’t joined yet, you can join by signing up to our Discord server and following the instructions!
Finally! Special shoutouts to all of you who are playing this beta test, giving feedback, and even playing the heck out of it! I think the median time for demos in Steam is about 30 minutes. While obviously it’s not an apple-to-apple comparison, one of you even played 10 hours in like the first day!
It’s a good omen for us if people are willing to pour so much for what can be considered a demo. We cannot say this enough times: