We ran a pre-alpha test!


Over the last month, we ran our first semi-public test for our upcoming game, MEANWHILE IN SECTOR 80. For this test, we decided to only announce it to our Discord community to keep the audience small.

The workshop in the demo we released
The workshop in the demo we released

We released an initial build on October 7th and then pushed four weekly updates with minor updates to respond to player feedback. It was really fun to work with the community and get feedback on this huge project we've committed to.

Having a deadline to work towards was awesome! It made us get our ducks in a row and streamline a lot of systems in a very short period of time.

What We Learned

We learned a ton about how to run an effective test, as well as what we need to focus on improving.

Cables are cool, but our controls weren't intuitive

The test included a system for connecting objects together with cables. Players had to switch between two different tools, "Move" and "Wire", in order to build contraptions out of parts.

The wire system shipped in the demo

Overall, people really liked the wire system and thought it was fun to build things! However, our cable system had some major issues:

  • Players did not discover how to disconnect cables
  • Players thought it was strange that one socket could have multiple cables
  • It's very clunky to switch between two tools constantly

To remedy all of these issues, we've been working on a new cable system! It works with the same dragger tool that the main building system does, eliminating a modality that we didn't need to have.

Work-in-progress revamped cable system

The new sockets and plugs were modeled by Eryn and are based on the real life CeeForm connector. The models have snazzy animations and it's very intuitive to connect and disconnect cables.

We're going to be using a variety of colors and iconography to make the purpose of each socket clear. We also introduced multiple sizes of socket and plug to make connecting larger machines together easier and make building high power contraptions more interesting.

Players wanted more sandbox activities

A couple days before the demo was due to be released, we created a small story to serve as the game's intro and tutorial. We decorated a desolate planet with some rocks, some monsters, and a workshop for the player to use.

The crash site from the intro scenario
The crash site from the intro scenario

We found that the intro itself was fine, but it lacked a reason for players to build anything interesting with the game's systems. In the future, we're going to invest time to make compelling and repeatable sandbox activities instead of just linear puzzles to solve.

The demo featured a character to serve as the player's guide, W.I.L.S.O.N. It was a great opportunity to inject some fun into a game at risk of being far too bleak and serious.

It was WAY too much fun making W.I.L.S.O.N. — expect to see more of them and perhaps some other characters in the future!

Our next test should be announced publicly

I think we made the right call announcing this demo to a smaller community. It gave us a great mix of people we knew and people we didn't without putting too much of a spotlight on the game yet. The community found a number of technical issues and we're incredibly thankful to everyone for bringing those to our attention!

Our next round of testing is going to be announced publicly to bring in a wider audience!

Closing Notes

We post very frequent updates about MEANWHILE IN SECTOR 80 in our Discord community.

Thank you to everyone who participates in our community and who played this pre-alpha test. We're super excited to share a new build of the game and start another round of testing when we're ready!