Hydrophobia Pure Interview


posted 12/30/2010 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
One Page Platforms: 360
Hydrophobia was released a few months back to "mixed" reviews.  Some where positive but the overall ranking wasn't what the developers expected to see.  They took the reviews to heart and combed the negative feedback to heart and rolled all the changes into Hydrophobia Pure which was released last week (at a discounted price).  We wanted to see what all went into the patch and were granted this short interview with Pete Jones, the Joint Design Director for Dark Energy

Can you give us the nuts and bolts of what has been changed in the big patch?
Oh seriously, virtually everything in one way or another has been revisited

Our methodology has been well reported but I can give some specifics as to how we approached it. We took apart all the reviews by functional area of the game and statistically analyzed them. In this way we could rank all the issues that niggled the players the most and set about dealing with those first. The list is huge. I won’t bore the reader with every point but if they’re interested they can be found at www.hydrophobia-game.com/pure.php

My top 10 would be

1. New controls; gone are the quirky controls – they have now been re-mapped to a configuration that players will find much more familiar
2. Clear objectives; there is an objective marker in the world at all times or at the players’s election they can have the marker on Kate’s MAVI device.
3. A better camera system the camera is now much closer to Kate which really makes a difference to both the look and feel in this highly dynamic world
4. A revamped combat system Kate’s weapon is now considerably more lethal, shooting controls have been tightened. The cover system is MUCH improved Kate can slide in and out of cover easily with or without her gun drawn
5. An improved damage system – Kate is no longer killed by phantom hazards (leaving the player thinking what just killed me?) a damage map now clearly shows the direction of incoming fire…and Kate now has an oxygen meter for the underwater sections
6. Streamlined puzzles – the ciphers are now easy to find (they have an objective marker on them)
7. Many of the obtrusive comments from Scoot has been pruned
8. Much smother climbing and jumping controls
9. New lighting effects and upgraded graphics
10. The price drop from 1200 to 800 points

Criticism is sometimes hard to take, what was your first reaction to some of the more negative reviews?
Honestly, initially we were obviously very disappointed, you can't help but be disappointed. Criticism can be hard. You make games because you love games, perhaps on occasions we may of seemed a little too defensive and disappointed. Pride can be a big virtue as well because you need to be intensely proud of something you're creating in any endeavor. From the start we wanted to make a game that gamers really loved. That was our passion. That's what we wanted to do. And that's still our passion. That's why we created and spent so much time listening to what people wanted. Criticism hurts but we quickly picked ourselves up and set about examining what people had said in a systematic way – it’s the only way we could assemble a view of what people were saying

Did it take time to see the perspective of the critics?
It is fair to say we didn’t see their perspective from day one. The process of breaking down all the comments and then re-testing them one by one produces clarity. We also embarked on extensive market research. We tested the old game as a control group and then set about testing our changes one by one... This was a hard exercise as there is no hiding place. We took a very uncompromising line; if the community doesn’t like it we try and change it no matter whose toes we tread on.

As far as I can see our approach has been pretty much unique
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