I haven't been blogging through the course of working on Cafe Murder (an iPhone game I'm doing the design & graphics for), but, since it's finally nearing completion, I wanted to post about what I've learned working on it.
Cafe Murder started as a Kickstarter project a year ago, and, nearly from the get-go, we were really lucky to have a lot of beta testing opportunities with the general public. At first, when asked if we wanted to join an event, I was just like, "Sure, couldn't hurt," but in retrospect, it really helped to watch random people play the game and see how they respond.
And I mean all KINDS of people played. We had a booth at a few "Demo Nights" held by a local tech incubator in Athens, Georgia, where we live, and everyone from seasoned gamers, to newbie mothers, to programmers, to artists gave Cafe Murder a try. They all responded differently, but seeing their reactions helped me figure out how to make the game more accessible, easy to understand, and fun.
We even had the opportunity to join a game development camp for teenagers and get their feedback. They were by far the most positive and receptive audience we've had, and at that point we realized, "This is our target audience!" (11-17-year-olds)
Another awesome thing about all the beta testing was that it gave us regular deadlines. Having a deadline is great motivation for getting stuff done; I know we benefitted from regularly having a date to push for. It's almost all thanks to Four Athens (the local tech incubator) for hosting so many tech Meet & Greet and Demo Night events, so we were lucky.
In terms of designing the game, it was just lots of trial, error, guessing, and intuition. I just keep playing and replaying the game, to make sure I totally understand how it works, what it feels like to play, and what small things in the design can be improved. This is our first game, but we've learned a lot and I'm really happy with how it's coming together.
Wish us luck! Here's a trailer for Cafe Murder (not sure about the January 2013 part, though- maybe February? heh): https://vimeo.com/51028814