Insights from Our First Playtest and Exciting Plans for GDC 2024!

Insights from Our First Playtest and Exciting Plans for GDC 2024!

Join us for our next playtest, or at our upcoming events.

If you read last month’s newsletter, you are aware we were preparing for our first ever playtest of The Rabbit Haul. And great news: it went amazing! From February 9 - 11, 2024, we had 30 playtesters try and review the early prototype of our game. The game was well-received, and we are looking forward to the next steps and future playtests (of which, the next date is announced at the bottom of this newsletter!).

In this edition of our monthly update, you’ll find out:

  • How we prepared for our first playtest
  • Results from our first playtest
  • Updates to The Rabbit Haul
  • Next Playtest Date
  • Caldera at LevelUP and GDC

Preparing for a Public Playtest

Our team began working on The Rabbit Haul in the second half of 2023, and has already made incredible strides in its goal to mesh tower defense and farming into a single, fun, cute, and replayable gaming experience. After multiple individual tests of the game, it became clear to us that our game was ready for the next level - having the public try it and give their feedback. However, for that to work, we had some additional steps we had to prepare for, and here are the biggest two:

Adding in a Title Screen, Pause Menu, & Analytics

One of the largest in-game preparations for the playtest was the addition of simple items that we would normally take for granted: a title screen, a pause menu, and an end screen with information about your run.

The title screen was designed to grow with our game, including two features we hope to soon have out, such as Upgrade Store and Leaderboard. It also has a link to the feedback form that we created for the playtesters to fill out once they complete their session.

The pause menu also included options to change volume of the game, with hopes to expand it later on. This also gave the players an opportunity to report bugs directly in the game, or quit if they needed.

Finally, the end screen would produce statistics for the player during their run, whether they won or lost. This would include information about how long they played for, how many waves of enemies they defeated, how many crops were in their haul by the end, and more.

Images of the The Rabbit Haul title screen, pause menu, and end screen with data

Building the Community Discord

One of the most important aspects of running a public playtest was giving folks the ability to gather and communicate with the team and with other players. With that in mind, it was our top priority to get a comfortable community Discord set up for people to join.

Part of this process included research of other popular game discords to decide what should be included, how we run our playtest separately from the main discord server, and determining bots that would assist in managing both the discord server and the playtests. We settled on MEE6 as our discord server bot, and KeyBot for handling and distributing playtest keys to everyone. Thankfully, from there, it was just a matter of following instructions and testing the best combinations before inviting folks in. I’d say so far, it's been a massive success!

If you haven’t joined the server yet, here’s your chance:

Results from our First Playtest

Despite our first playtest being semi-private - only being announced in advance through the newsletter - we had a resounding success with 30 playtesters taking part over the three days. In this time, nearly 400 runs of The Rabbit Haul were played! Our average playtime was over 20 minutes per run, with our most dedicated gamer playing over 19 hours of The Rabbit Haul during the weekend.

We also had great feedback from our playtesters, with a nearly 90% overall rating and over 85% of the players being likely to recommend the game to their friends.

Overall Ratings for The Rabbit Haul from first playtest - 12% neither positive nor negative, 88% positive review.

As this was our first playtest, it was expected to have lots of varied feedback on what we could improve on or add to our game to continue towards our goal. In this next section, we will detail the changes we made over the month of February in preparation for our next playtest! Thank you again to our playtesters who helped influence these changes through their responses.

Updates to The Rabbit Haul


Gif of the Touch Me Not tower shooting its pellets at enemies

Yes, we heard you! Planting just got a whole lot easier: introducing multiplanting. Instead of having to switch off the item and return, you can now plant all the seeds in one inventory slot in one go. This will help speed up the growing of your ecosystem!

Player & Tower Health

In preparation for some new enemies 👀, we’ve added health bars for the player and for the towers around the map. To view the health of a tower, simply walk up to it! And don’t worry, we’ve included ways to replenish health too.

New Enemies

You heard that right! The Trash Panda Posse is growing, and they’ve recruited two new baddies. We’re not ready to reveal them to you quite yet - you’ll have to playtest yourself to see them in action. Here’s a hint though: they’ve learned from your butt-kicking of the original raccoons, and they are ready to do what it takes to get your haul and defeat your defenses.

Transparency Shader

The forest may be our friend, but it also makes it hard to see behind! We heard the feedback from our testers, and updated our flora around the map to be transparent when you are behind it, giving the player the ability to see those pesky hidden seeds or crops behind trees and bushes.

Balance Changes

Think we were done with just those? Think again. We also made the following balance changes:

  • Walking faster up and down: it wasn’t as satisfying to see your character go up and down, so we made the animation faster. No need to limit yourself to left and right anymore!
  • More inventory slots: nothing makes a speedrun slow down like insufficient storage, so we added more inventory to allow you to focus more on the things that matter to you.
  • Enemies drop more items: the grass shouldn’t have all the fun! Now, enemies are more likely to drop loot for you to collect.
  • Shop pricing: the current pricing model makes some items cost-prohibitive to our players, and that isn’t what we intended! We are reworking the pricing of buying and selling items.
  • Weapon strength: we want to make each weapon competitive during your runs, so we are updating the strength of the weapons to accurately represent their ability.
  • Spawn rates: one of the biggest issues that was brought up in our first playtest was the grass spawn rate, and we have adjusted it. We also worked on enemy spawn rates.

Bug Fixes

Finally, we worked on some of the bugs that came up in our playtest, including stacking issues that made items disappear if the players inventory or haul was full, and inconsistent behaviours in the shop transactions. Don’t worry, there are many more bug fixes in the works as well!

Next Playtest!

That’s right! Next weekend will be our second public playtest. Come check out all of the changes we’ve made to the game, and continue to give us feedback to make The Rabbit Haul the best it can be! Make sure to join the discord to be a part of the experience:

Caldera at LevelUp and GDC

Finally, here’s a couple of events you can see the Caldera team at this month:

Saturday, March 9th – 12pm to 5pm MST
NAIT Productivity and Innovation Centre, Edmonton

LevelUP is the ultimate gathering for students who are passionate or interested in learning about game design, programming, and all things related to the Alberta game industry.

Caldera will have a booth at the event, and Isael will be doing a fireside chat. Come say hi to him or Courtney and play the game. Sign up here:

Monday, March 18th - Friday, March 22nd
Moscone Center, San Francisco, CA

GDC is the game industry's premier professional event, championing game developers and the advancement of their craft.

Caldera will be presenting at GDC Pitch, and also attending onsite networking events. If you’d like to meet at GDC, make sure to reach out via our contact form or say hi if you see us around! We will be at the Canada Pavillion booths from 2-4pm PST on Wednesday, March 20th.

We’ve written a lot here, so congratulations if you’ve made it this far! We are very excited to continue on this journey creating The Rabbit Haul to be a fun, cute, replayable game that everyone loves! We hope to see you at either of our events, or online during our upcoming March playtest.

Topics: Playtesting • Game Design • Community • Marketing • Rabbit Haul • Studio Update • Events • GDC • LevelUP