Drunken Robot Pornography

A Post-Mortem Design and Product Audit

Abridged for demo purposes
Overview

Drunken Robot Pornography (DRP), a first-person shooter by Dejobaan Games, creates a unique atmosphere that combines humor, exciting gameplay, and impressively unique enemies. While there are several fundamental issues, the game is generally well designed, polished, and enjoyable. While the majority of issues with the game itself surround lacking or overly light features, there have also been missed opportunities with the project that likely limited sales potential. If both areas are addressed, we see no reason why there wouldn’t be a resurgence of interest in DRP and Dejobaan Games as a whole.

DRP initially released on Steam with a $14.99 price tag with a 20% discount on the first week, while Dejobaan Games ran a series of live streaming events surrounding the launch to increase interest and visibility. Ever since, there hasn’t been significant community or media attention but reviews were positive overall, averaging around 65–70 out of 100 (66/100 on Metacritic at the time of writing). We believe that if the suggestions in this document are taken into strong consideration moving forward, significantly higher scores would be attainable as well as new and sustainable revenue streams.

Breakdown

Drunken Robot Pornography ultimately provides the player with an energetic and entertaining single-player experience. It effectively utilizes simplicity (with some instructional loading screens) to teach the player basic controls. While the early game difficulty ramp is far from steep, there are several elements that lacked proper instruction and could potentially prove to be frustrating for inexperienced gamers (for example, the fact that turrets are indestructible or the behavior of spam mobs). Thankfully, the fast paced nature of the game coupled with the visually exciting design should leave most players unaware of the lack of direction.

To summarize our six points of focus in a single thought, DRP features exciting and attractive, yet shallow, gameplay that ultimately suffers from lack of sophistication and commitment to visibility and proliferation of online content.

DRP Hexagon

Gameplay is fast, fun, and easy to learn. However, for being a self-described “bullet hell”, there is a disconnect between the pacing and style of traditional bullet hell games and what DRP has to offer. Not only are the Titan projectiles typically slow and easy to dodge, the weakness of Titan limbs makes them pose little to no threat to the player, regardless of the number of weapons attached. Not only are Titan weapons lackluster, but the player’s only available gun feels extremely weak without utilizing at least one of the few available buffs in the game. While it’s very satisfying to stack every buff and shred your enemies, it happens so infrequently it’s too irregular to confidently look forward to level-to-level. The low number of available power ups is also discouraging, especially in contrast to the visually and mechanically diverse Titans.

Accessibility is not seriously addressed in DRP’s game options, but control customization is available and gameplay works equally well between keyboard/mouse and a controller. Game dialogue and text is only available in English.

Polish is very well done throughout DRP; every asset fits within the aesthetic and even non-essential environment assets have a futuristic minimalism that fit well within the world Dejobaan created. While the world is minimalistic to the point where each level feels disconnected from the others, it works well enough to give the player a good variety of experiences without being repetitive or confusing. While the UI is mostly well designed, some menus would benefit from a rework. The Titan creation screen, for example, features what appears to be the default Unity UI assets. The bonus content (links to other projects and social media pages, etc) is unclear to anyone unfamiliar with the iconography, which is undoubtedly a high percentage of the audience.

Visibility and Sociability are key players in DRP’s success, but unfortunately there are just too many areas that were left unaddressed to give the game enough momentum in the market. While some Steam integration created opportunities for players to connect and discover new content, the design flaws previously mentioned gave communities little reason to explore original content other than momentary curiosity. The gameplay is perfect for Twitch (and other live streaming platforms), but other than early streaming by Dejobaan, there wasn’t enough original content or demand to keep an audience for long enough before it began losing public interest.

Monetization is a non-issue for the existing version of DRP, but there were definitely missed opportunities early on for additional revenue streams. We believe DRP was priced perfectly for the type of game and amount of content it offers, and would suggest any reboot or sequel is priced the same. We strongly believe that 14.99 is the new 19.99, and audiences will react positively to new future content at a familiar and accessible price.

Playtest Report

Although Drunken Robot Pornography features 52 unique levels with additional playable content, our playtest covered just the first 15 levels. We feel this sufficiently covered the essential player experience but acknowledge there are additional mechanics not covered in this document.

DRP Playtest Feedback
Level 1–15 rated by difficulty, entertainment, and design on a 1–10 scale

As an introductory sequence, DRP actually does quite well. Despite minimal explanation, controls and goals are intuitive and easy to master (movement, flying, shooting, powerups, item collection). However due to the slow levels early on, gameplay feels somewhat stagnant by level 6. It picks up momentarily and begins to introduce more challenging levels, such as level 8, but then unfortunately drops back down to simplicity and repetition until level 11. By then, the player has essentially mastered all mechanics and is ready for a greater challenge (thankfully, one can see the steady increase in positive experience from level 13 onwards). While it’s expected to introduce steady waves of difficulty, it’s fair to assume players will grow weary of the “three slow, three fast” pattern shown here until the final boss at level 52.

DRP Leader Standings
Online leaderboard standing from playtest session

One rational conclusion to draw from our playtesting data is to assume the levels with lower ratings are due to poorer performance. By cross referencing our leaderboard standings at the time of playtesting, one can see no strong positive correlation between high leaderboard placement and low feedback rating. One important point not covered in our playtest is how there there are steadily decreasing number of leaderboard positions as the game progresses, indicating players grew tired or frustrated at points throughout the game, never to return. A dangerous metric worth investigating.

DRP Ranking
Relation between leaderboard rank and cumulative level rank with linear trendline

Proposed Improvements

After a preliminary design audit, playtest, and analysis, we believe the points below would provide significant benefit to Drunken Robot Pornography if addressed. The benefits of these points may be in player experience, profitability, or just general polish.

Restructure level challenges to feel more like MMORPG raid bosses (a large systematic battle against a focal enemy, or enemies, that involves strategic multitasking and pacing). DRP is a game where giant sentient robots are destroying futuristic Boston, but right now the levels are small and centered around Titans that are less dangerous than being caught off guard by randomly spawning spam mobs. Reducing reliance on these mobs while increasing the difficulty and complexity of the Titans will improve player experience and reduce frustration (a). Auxiliary enemies could easily introduce unique challenges when generated from spawning units attached to the Titan itself, or shielded environment spawners whose behavior is linked to the Titan’s. A more advanced improvement (but certainly an appealing one) would be the ability for Titans to have a behavioral finite state machine, defining movement, weapons used, and fire speed based on health, available limbs, and other factors (b). This FSM would be integrated in the Titan creator, which would improve sociability and visibility, now that players can create more unique and challenging Titans. Even basic strafing and engagement with the environment (destroying platforms, etc) could introduce a novel amount of complexity, especially when accompanied by redesigned levels. While the existing levels are aesthetically pleasing and conceptually sound, many feel claustrophobic or inappropriate for the desired player experience (c).

a. Being damaged or killed by a random mob is as challenging as being killed by RNG. While it’s possible to keep track of enemies on the indicator by the crosshairs, it’s not easy or enjoyable to fight an interesting enemy while dedicating your attention to the chum.

b. Yes, this is a lot to ask. However it would drastically change the game to the point of essentially reinventing the title (which could be used if a re-release or paid DLC was of interest). One of the primary criticisms from players is the repetitive nature of the game as a whole, which undoubtedly is a byproduct of the static nature of the Titans (uniquely rotating parts simply don’t introduce enough character). While this would not only make Titan combat more compelling, it would be enough to add “personalities” to individual Titans based around their combat style.

c. Many of the more attractive maps turned out to be the least enjoyable to play. With walls, small and distant platforms, and low visibility, it felt like some levels were designed for one experience while the rest of the game was designed for another. See point 3 for further explanation.

While the time limit serves a purpose, it would be better served as an enrage timer (going back to point 1 and raid boss design). Make parts harder to destroy and Titans attack more often once a time limit has been reached. Visual and audio cues would accompany this change in attributes and behavior.

Tighten the player’s walking. Right now it feels like you’re running on ice, or still using your suit jetpack on the ground. There are too many maps where difficult controls lead to accidental damage or falling out of bounds.

Introducing more languages (even a simple implementation like subtitles alongside the existing voice acting) would allow further growth of DRP’s audience. A lot of DRP’s entertainment comes from humor and it shouldn’t be lost if an interested gamer is more comfortable in another language.

Conclusion

Ultimately, timing could make or break a release

Looking at Google Trends for “bullet hell” and “Drunken Robot Pornography”, a common pattern arises: the search popularity of the game peaks while the genre is a hot topic. DRP was released with great timing, but the downturn of the bullet hell popularity likely played a part in DRP’s relatively short tail. If it had been release in late 2013 when bullet hell games were increasing in popularity it may very well have reached audiences that wouldn’t have normally gravitated towards an indie game flying under the radar.

Drunken Robot Pornography is not a bad game, and easily revivable through a reboot or sequel. If the lack of complex gameplay was addressed and the new content was properly marketed, it could very well achieve Metacritic scores in the 90s, assuming everything had the same level of polish as the existing content. It’s safe to assume DRP was created by a highly talented and creative team that couldn’t add all the content they wanted to in a reasonable time frame and was too busy to dedicate full time to marketing and continue development long after release. We have no doubts that if the same team were to re-release the game with the same energy and intensity as the original, it would be a fantastic success.

Thank you for taking the time to read our first abridged demo audit. If you want to share your thoughts or have any questions, feel free to reach out to us for questions, comments, and business inquiries. If you found this interesting and informative, please share it with your friends and colleagues. We plan on releasing more audits like this on a variety of games to show how no two projects are alike and that for the highest quality service you need to hire an expert, like Pilone Consulting.

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