Untitled (Swordswallower) is a 2D platformer where the player cannot jump. Instead, they traverse the environment using a magic sword. I made the game by myself in Gamemaker Studio 2 over the course of two and a half months.
The player left clicks to throw the sword, which can be buried in walls. Once it's buried, the player can either left click to bring the sword back or right click to be pulled towards it. This is used as both the game's movement and combat systems.
ITERATION: WEEK 1
The first major problem I had to solve was how to theme the main mechanic. I had originally conceptualized the projectile as a tail in order to justify rappelling to the endpoint, but this presented three major problems:
Players wanted to swing with the tail, and couldn't.
The tail's length was strangely variable.
Players wanted to adjust the tail's length.
Despite the negative feedback, I still liked the core mechanic a lot, and fixing these issues by adding grappling hook-like features would mean completely changing it. I realized the error of my design wasn't in the concept or the code, but instead the depiction--by adding a line between the projectile and the player I had framed the mechanic as if there was some physical connection between the two when there wasn't, and the game felt bad because of it. I decided to remove the tail entirely and replaced it with a magic sword, which players could 'boost' to magically by right clicking. The game instantly made more sense to playtesters.
ITERATION: WEEK 5
For the next few weeks I explored how the player would interact with the environment by testing level and enemy designs. During this time, however, I left the main interaction mostly untouched, and playtesting during week five revealed a few serious issues I hadn't considered:
If a wall was between the sword and the player, boosting into the wall felt extremely awkward.
Players could be damaged mid-boost by the tiniest enemies, which felt unfair.
Clicking right click to boost multiple times to get to a location felt repetitive.
After making many timid tweaks to the game in hopes of solving the problems individually, I took a leap and decided to change a major verb. Instead of clicking the right mouse button, the player had to hold the right mouse button. When holding, the player would become unstoppable, going through walls and killing small enemies on contact. The difference was like night and day--players moved much quicker, boosting was a lot more nuanced, and in general the game felt a lot snappier and responsive.