Wednesday, September 19, 2012

New Project Day 7 of 7 Recap (finally)

NOTE - So I'll admit this 7-day project ended up stretching out much longer than I thought it would in terms of the overall duration. I plan to do a postmortem regarding this project and some of the lessons I've learned to improve the experience when I do it again.

Spent my last day on this project getting my hands dirty with GUI stuff, which ended up swallowing most of my day. I decided to use the NGUI plugin for creating my UI's in Unity for this project, and while it's nice I was scrambling to learn enough to get it functional in my game in any usable form.  I did get a basic score and time display working and added a flare text pop-ups when you gain points, which feels good.

I also spent a bit of time improving the feel of the game by added sounds and animations for user input actions like pressing tiles, dragging times, flipping tiles and detonating tiles.  Below is a small clip to highlight the user feedback.

You can really see the tiles pop-up larger when selected or dragged over while creating a drag connection.  I deliberately made the tiles scale up very large because this will be an iPhone game, and I wanted the tiles to grow large enough so the player can see them under their finger.  I originally used a small scale up, however when I was testing on the phone it didn't read well, so I decided to make it crazy large and felt pretty happy with it.

As for the game mode I talked about earlier, I've decided I probably won't go with that for the final game I release. I kind of liked it, however it felt very un-directed and lacking in substance.  I'm going to spend some time trying out more of a simon-says type mode where you need to create matches based on combinations of shapes the game presents you.  I'll post updates on that as it develops.

I plan to doing a postmortem summary as a different post, however I just wanted to say this "7-day" project was an awesome experience for me and really pulled me out of a funk.  Once I digest some of the lessons from this first experience, I plan on doing another 7-day game in the near future to keep my momentum and creative juices flowing, so stay tuned!

And as a final note, a fellow Raleigh studio BitMonster Games released Lili, their first iOS game today.  I highly recommend you check it out, it's a beautiful game.
Lili™ - BitMonster, Inc.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

New Project Day 6 of 7 Recap

NOTE - What I talk about for today actually happened last week.  Some life circumstances, visiting family and getting sick on my travels, caused this recap to be delayed until now.

I settled on a game mode I'm going to use for the final game.  It's less ambitious than the mode I originally wanted to expand out, however it's also much easier to understand.  After showing the previous game to some friends, the generally feedback was the rules were too complicated to easily pick up in under a minute.  We all felt the game play was interesting once the rules were understood, but the time it would take to explain that would cause most people to abandon the game early.  I want to revisit this game in the future, but doing so will require gradually building the player's knowledge of the mechanics up over the course of a longer project.

The new game mode I'm doing is still match-3 based, however I'm doing some twists to try to make it a little more interesting.  The game will be similar to what I showed previously where the player will be able to move tiles around the board, then create connection lines between similar tiles to create detonations.

The twist will be in how the player's actions are scored. Rather than score only based on the tiles being destroyed, I want to score based on the link the player creates between the tiles.  I'm going to start easy at first, so I'll probably make diagonal links between tiles be worth more than up-down, left-right links.  It's not a groundbreaking idea, but it's a start to something different. One thing I've noticed is people think in the up-down, left-right quite a bit; so incentivizing thinking outside those directions will be a good initial challenge for players. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

New Project Day 5 of 7 Recap

In case you haven't read some of my previous blog posts about this project, I'm currently working on making a Match 3 type tile game.

I spent a bit of time today working on a new game mode and then showing it off to some friends to get feedback on the mechanics.  For the new game mode I wanted to try something a little more interesting than the usual generic 'score x point in y seconds' or 'play this to infinity' type goals you see with a lot of Match 3 games.  I've taken some inspiration from the iPhone app 10000000 (Called 10 million) which uses Match 3 game play to drive game play in a larger context.  

The new game mode prototype I created is kind of like a boss battle; you fight against a boss that continuously spawns new minor enemies.  You must make frequent small tile # matches to remove the minor enemies that spawn to prevent too many from building up.  In addition you must also create large tile # matches to damage the boss and eventually kill it.  I put up a web player build for anyone who wishes to play it:

NOTE - There is no win/loss condition for this prototype, and everything i describe above is purely represented by the text values displayed on the upper left of the screen. There's no time limit, I'll probably add that at some point so the game doesn't go on forever.  Also this is a very very prototype build I'm sharing for the sake of being open about this project. If things don't work I apologize.

Boss Battle Game Type Prototype

Overall I like the direction of this game type. There's definitely a bit more of a challenge than the normal game play you see in a Match 3, however that may not be a good thing.  Casual players may be turned off by having to manage # of enemies + boss health + time limits + tile management.  That's a lot of concepts to drop onto someone at once, if this were the culmination of some other game modes with introduced these elements slowly, I think this could be very powerful.

I'd love to hear comments!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New Project Day 4 of 7 Recap

NOTE - I'm posting this one a day late, I worked very late into the night yesterday and didn't get a chance to do the recap before I hit the sack, sorry about that!

*Warning* Some programmer talk here, skip to the next paragraph if you're not interested*

Today I made a push to start implementing more game modes without gutting the existing game functionality.  The existing general game logic is working very nicely, which you've seen from my previous blog posts.  One thing I'm fighting against is the code isn't well organized given how fast I had to create it.  The majority of the game logic is in one class, however there are some snippets in other areas as well.  I don't want to start modifying that too much in order to implement new game specific logic.  In the past I would have used inheritance to extend the existing game logic class and add the new game specific stuff.  However since the logic is a bit scattered, and that fragmentation will likely get worse as I continue, I decided to try something different: a form of composition.  For each new game mode, I create a custom game logic class that registers delegate callbacks for certain events generated by the core game logic. This lets me modify certain areas of the game, and add entirely new things, without changing the underlying game.

Very simple code org. chart

I showed off a build of the current game to a friend today and got some great feedback from him.  We ended up talking for about an hour about some new ideas and game modes I should try to flesh out tomorrow.  In addition, he whipped up some new art assets for me, little cubes that animate!  Adding these instantly made the game look 100% cooler, hopefully we can get some more stuff in there to really spice things up.

I put up a web build of the game here for those feeling adventurous.  There are no directions on how to play, no scoring and no end goal, this is just to show off the mechanics I have in there right now.  Feel free to leave comments/suggestions if you have any.  Depending on how productive I am, tomorrow I'll try to add a build with one of the new game modes implemented.

UPDATE - I'm told by Bryce, who gave me the blocks, that the blocks aren't rotated correctly. Guess I'll add this to the blooper reel. Tomorrow's update with show a better view of them.

In case you missed it, link to the web build: Build1

Monday, September 3, 2012

New Project Day 3 of 7 Recap

Today was both a productive and unproductive day.  It was very productive on one hand because I got a good bit of stuff done; however it was unproductive because most of what I did ended up not being used. That's the life of prototyping games though, sometimes you only make forward progress by seeing what doesn't work and throwing those ideas into the trash bin so other ideas rise to the surface.

Sometimes this is a little discouraging and other times it's a lot of fun throwing a bunch of ideas out there to see what sticks.  What's more important is sometimes the failed ideas lead you down the path to better ideas you end up using.  Here are a couple pictures, one is trying to do some of my own art for the tiles (horribly failed). Other one is a feature I'll probably end up keeping.

Tried adding an icon to the tiles, decide my art skills aren't up to the challenge

Added the circles to the tile drag line to indicate connections between tiles.  Pretty sure I'll keep this. 

And to cap it off here's a video of one of the game mechanics I tried out.  In case you don't want to hear my silky voice narrate, this video shows off shifting tiles around the board before linking groups of them together (they're linked by color) in order to create an explosion.  It's an interesting idea I may continue looking at, it does feel gratifying to move the tiles around and create a large link and explosion.  I may show it to some friends to see what they think, please leave a comment if you have an opinion too!


Oh and on the project name front, one of my old bosses suggested Drunken Falcon Punch.  I'm not going to say it's a horrible name, but if anyone comes up with some better suggestions I would definitely welcome them :).

Sunday, September 2, 2012

New Project Day 2 of 7 Recap

Unfortunately I didn't get much tangible work done yesterday through a combination of sleeping late and going out with friends.  I felt a little guilty about not making much progress, but then figured I need to have fun like everyone else.  Being a game developer and small biz owner, it's very important to balance work and life so you don't get burned out.  Anywhoo onto game progress....

Spent a bit of time thinking about game and scoring mechanics to use with this game.  I know I'll eventually try out several different ideas, but I want to keep the ideas as constrained as possible so I don't go too far down a path that won't work.  In addition to brainstorming, I created a puzzle board management system that will link with the front-end display system.  I made a system like this previously for Shatter Crash and figured I'd use it for this game; however I'm starting to think I will not use this system for this project.  If this were a longer, more in depth project I probably would, but for such a small and short game, I think it'll just add another layer of abstraction that will get in the way.  Oh well lesson learned...

The one cool thing I did get done was add the ability to randomly colorize the tiles on the board.  I'm pretty sure I'll eventually change this to use unique icons instead of colors, so the game is color blind friendly, but this is a cool step for now.  As an additional cool note, this screen shot is the game running on my iPhone.  It's funny to think of publishing to the iPhone for the first time on this game as a small step.  Just one of the benefits of using Unity.  In fact I could have had the game running on the phone yesterday, but I was actually too busy to take my mac out of my bag and set it up (I started making the game on my PC).