If I've learned any one thing following the "Make Something In A Week" competition on the CSC forums it is the importance of progression as a gameplay element. It sounds absurdly obvious but, partially due to time constraints, I didn't even consider it during the week I had.
JavaGame is a completely one trick pony, with the simplest excuse for a gameplay mechanic that it is possible to have. I was fully aware of this when I submitted it and expected plenty of comments pointing this out.
I got them, but not quite as I was expecting.
Hehe, a bit too easy to win, Java.
Still fun at first, though -Davik
This comment intrigued me, mainly because it's not actually possible to WIN JavaGame in its current state. You weren't supposed to. The idea was purely that you could select places to rob and gain money from this, the closest this got to being fun was the dilemmas, where you selected an option that, while not being completely random, was never certain to be the right one.
I, mainly for a joke, added Fort Knox to the target list, making it ridiculously unlikely to give you a positive dilemma outcome and giving you some very large amount of money if you successfully robbed it. This was in no way intended to be your goal; I didn't imagine anyone would see it as anything other than a silly addition, much in the same way that they saw the "Spam PCG Chat" dilemma.
Clearly I was wrong. Both Legandir and Davik took Fort Knox to be your ultimate goal and the reason for playing the game. I had no mechanisms to prevent the player from trying to rob Fort Knox from the start, it was just quite unlikely, though certainly not impossible that they'd succeed. Davik and Legandir both succeeded and said the game was too easy. They expected Fort Knox to be a long term goal, unattainable at first, while individual heists were the short term goals.
Gamers clearly expect their games to have a specific goal, viewable but not attainable from the outset. They assumed that this goal was Fort Knox and were somewhat perturbed that they could rob it from the outset, with nothing to stop them.
Having seen this I'm going to make a small but potentially far-reaching change. I'm implementing a rank system, where the player must meet certain targets, having an amount of gold, for example, to go up a rank. Going up a rank will unlock more "difficult" locations, different cars and more skilled team-mates. The difference now is that while players can see the presence of the locked targets through an entry in the target selection list showing "locked until rank #whatever" they cannot rob this target, the long term goal, unless they fulfill the short term goals first, i.e. getting enough money/successful capers/successful dilemmas to go up a rank.
This is what gamers expect and, I think, will make the game appear to have a lot more substance than it actually has. There's no particular challenge in completing a caper but they will do so to attempt to fulfill the goals they can see in front of them.
In my head I've likened this (fairly minor, really) change to my moving the spawnpoints of dasbooty, which was proof of how a carefully implemented change can completely turn around the feel of a game/map.
Don't get me wrong, JavaGame is never going to be great. It'd just be nice if it could be a little greater than it is currently. :p