This month didn’t start off particularly well. I had one idea planned out in my head ready to go. I wrote out my to-do lists on the whiteboard as usual and got started with some temporary art to use. Then things went downhill…
The idea was okay, nothing groundbreaking, but okay and I think that was the issue; I wasn’t inspired by it enough to muster the creativity needed. Everything I drew I hated and when I moved into the editor I just hated it more. After a few days of struggle I decided to start fresh and I think I’ve found something potentially cool.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce ‘Jumper.’
I’m trying to keep this game super simple in terms of input but adding touches of complexity via power ups and bonuses. Overall, I want Jumper to be much more addictive than Jelly so gameplay needs to be challenging to the point where the player is pushed but not left feeling frustrated. I’m particularly happy with how the touch controls (tap anywhere above the character and he’ll jump up, tap anywhere below him and he’ll jump down) are helping this goal by giving some degree of freedom and even purity to the player’s response – they assess, strategise and react as quickly as possible.
As I write this, I’m currently trying to figure out how to best handle difficulty as I’m using procedural generation again. At the moment the plane formations are designed prior and spawned at random. My plan is to take these formations and rank them by difficulty – eventually trading out easier ones with more difficult ones. I’ll see how that goes.
I’ve had a bit of a wobbly start but the game is really taking shape. Right now I’ve got more or less all of the core functionality working (including some sound effects!) and will soon start work on adding some of my desirable/secondary tasks next week.
So Jelly has been coming along very nicely. This week I added:
falling obstacles in the form of a toxic barrel and tyre
a second enemy in the form of a turtle
updated the HUD somewhat (though still needs tweaking to suit iphone 5 resolution)
added a pause button
added a basic high score system
started work on a dash ability
implemented a wave based difficulty system
On the dev sides of things everything is going swimmingly (yet another terrific pun there) but testing has complicated things somewhat. For the first week or so I was only showing the game off to close family members. This has been super helpful with one major feature in particular (the ability to drag jelly around as well as tap) was born from their feedback. However I need as much feedback as I can get while everything remains relatively easy to tweak so I put the call out for testers over facebook.
SIdebar: I’m using testflight for distribution to testers and was finding implementation with unity somewhat overwhelming. Luckily enough there is a really handy solution on the unity asset store called Autopilot. It is really terrific and makes the whole process much easier.
Then things got a little trickier…
I came out of my dev bubble on Friday with the impression that the game was too easy and that there were too many moments of downtime in which nothing was happening (my notes packaged with the build can attest to that). Oh boy was I wrong! Every tester I spoke to said it was too hard – looking at their play sessions via testflight and that is pretty obvious (most lasted well under a minute). I also noted that all but one tester hasn’t played again since the day the received the build though I’m unsure whether this means it’s not fun/too hard or simply that they haven’t had time. So I start thinking up ways to make the game easier when *RECORD SCRATCH* I get feedback that it’s too easy and that there are moments where nothing is happening… if you remember from a few sentences earlier this is exactly what i thought.
Too easy and too hard at the same time
Now what do I do? Well my current plan is:
add some more variety to gem collection – at this stage meaning different sizes with greater value correlating with smaller size
work to remove the boring downtime moments – there are more features/set moments I think should help this
in regards to difficulty I’m pretty stumped (it’s so tricky as my skill level obviously skews everything). I had already considered moving Jelly’s collision off of his tentacles so I’ll definitely be trying it this week. I thought that the increase in enemy numbers and speed was gradual enough but this can’t be the case if the majority are dying so quickly. I need to find the balance so that both ends of the spectrum are happy – if that means introducing easy, medium and hard difficulty settings then that’s what I’ll have to do.
continue with the features I already had on the cards – figuring out the dash for example
To summarise. Making procedurally generated games are tricky business.
10 days into may and this month’s game is going swimmingly (return here in a moment to chuckle at the genius of that pun). I proudly formally introduce Jelly, my first iOS game!
Jelly came out of a weird fact I heard about a type of jelly fish that is considered immortal as it never seems to die from natural causes. Put two and two together and you get a simple survival game where the player directs the protagonist away from danger for as long as possible.
Click to play a web build
The game is really easy at the moment as I am yet to add the difficulty element, and has a few bugs but should give a decent idea of what I’m going for. With most of the core functionality more of less out of the way (including, you know, getting it on to an iPhone) I should have plenty of time this month to refine and add some juicy extras.
It has been really fun being able to just hand my game to people this time around and get instant feedback – expect iOS games to become regular from me from now on!
Hopefully I will be able to figure out TestFlight at some point this month so I can get the actual final(ish) product out for some testing.
I’ve been surprised how well things have gone thus far and am still waiting for the inevitable ramp up in confusion/frustration/difficulty…