Playtesting VR Game Balance: Shaping the Positive Player Experience
How VR playtesting helped Andromeda Entertainment and Solar Black discover the best approach to scale difficulty.
About Andromeda Entertainment and SolarBlack
Andromeda Entertainment is the first VR publisher to super-serve the growing interest in mindfulness and self-care with immersive transformational experiences. Andromeda Entertainment provides a full suite of global publishing services to those creating transformative XR content and virtual entertainment experiences.
SolarBlack is a rhythm-action game built exclusively for VR and created by an independent game developer Niel Widy.
Playtesting VR Game Balance—the Challenge
Andromeda Entertainment wanted to validate hypotheses about the difficulty scaling algorithm and overall gameplay experience (assess onboarding and user experience, evaluate the game's value, and gather feedback on the gameplay mechanics) ahead of the new update release of SolarBlack. Andromeda wanted to test with a specific audience and implement a structured VR playtest that would provide insights into the gameplay dynamics of SolarBlack.
Solution and Outcome
Andromeda partnered with VR Oxygen to organize and manage this VR playtest. The plan was to play the campaign and infinity modes, mark down how far each tester reached, and collect and document their opinions on inputs, controls, and gameplay.
To begin, the Andromeda team defined their target audience and profile requirements, ensuring a diverse pool of participants representing different demographics, VR experience levels, and platforms such as Quest 2, Pico 3, and Pico 4. The data were collected for analysis, enabling the identification of patterns and correlations between player profiles and their post-play survey responses and in-game behaviors.
For the deliverables, Andromeda selected videos, a post-play survey, and a test report with testers’ profiles. The playtime length and video duration were determined to align with the gameplay and specific test tasks. The post-play survey was created using the question library from VR Oxygen: Based on the selected goals, a set of suggested questions was provided to be customized by the Andromeda team.
“We thought that it was possible to create this algorithm for scaling difficulty but learned from playtesting that it wouldn’t be done as easily as we assumed. Then we decided to do it in a different way, and changed the main system.”
- Niel Widy, Game Creator & Developer
An important discovery emerged throughout the playtesting process: The initial assumptions about the difficulty scaling algorithm proved to be incorrect, highlighting the need for an alternative approach. This key finding enabled the SolarBlack team to redefine their main balancing system, paving the way for a more enjoyable gameplay experience. Furthermore, the playtesting round shed light on the areas that required improvement, particularly the tutorial.
The test report and consistent deliverables from each tester allowed Andromeda to gain the necessary insights on how to achieve the desired performance of the difficulty progression for specific player types and skill levels.
By partnering with VR Oxygen, the Andromeda team made important discoveries on how to optimize the difficulty scaling for SolarBlack and ensure a fair and engaging progression throughout the game. Playtesting VR game balance can be challenging but is pivotal in creating a delightful player experience.
Image credits: Andromeda Entertainment and SolarBlack