In a very thoughtful blog post, developer Greg Wohlwend has written about “what went wrong” with the game’s release last month, and addresses feedback that the game was just too hard to be enjoyable (although the Steam reviews remain positive). He writes that sales have been slow, and the game may never recoup its costs. The whole thing is worth a read not just for a take on TumbleSeed, but on the dilemmas of development in general.
“In this case the verdict seems extremely clear. The game is ‘too hard’. Anyone who’s heard of TumbleSeed could tell you that. But it’s not so simple. It’s important to be precise, so I’d say the real core issue is that ‘Players find the game to be too hard’.
“Why do players find the game too difficult? The reason I make the distinction between the game’s difficulty and its perception is because after watching reviewers and players play our game over many days, it became pretty clear that we left a gaping hole in our game. Players become desperate because they aren’t even close to ready for the kind of challenge Adventure Mode poses. It’s too hard. And it’s too hard because there are too many new things going on at once. It’s undigestible.”
To address those issues the team have released a fairly beefy patch called Four Peaks, which adds new levels and a sprinkling of gameplay changes.
Up to now the themed levels have been procedurally generated, but the update adds four standalone mountains that are the same every time: Forest, Jungle, Desert, and Snow.
On top of that the team have changed how Auras work. Previously, these powers added a mixture of positive and negative effects but now they’re purely beneficial, and there’s also 8 more of them that can be unlocked by completing the new levels. They can do things like nullify any damage taken from falling in holes or allow you to bounce higher and fall slower.
There’s a new weekly challenge mode too, which will spawn a mountain every Sunday that you can replay as many times as you want until the next one comes out.
“While I don’t think this update will change the course of our success, it does feel really good to know we gave it our all especially when it was hardest to. Working on this update acted as a sort of therapy for all of us. We felt better working towards solutions than we did wallowing in problems.”
And once again, do read that blog post if you get a chance. It’s a great analysis of what went wrong with the launch.