Category Archives: Game Design

November 2015 Game Making Progress

Finally, my first mini game is roughly finished!

  • The gameplay design is set with all the balancing and tweaking. The first time I played the prototype it was a very difficult game (almost impossible to beat. LOL). Along the way, I try to reduce the difficulty by changing the parameters in the program and adjusting some features. Actually, it is still a hard game to beat but along the way you will learn and adjust your play style. After several tries, I finally get the hang of it. In order to beat the game, you need to ‘delicately’ master your ‘swipe’ sense of control. Relax your thumbs and you will soar!
  • I have tested the game on several of my friends. Some of them did not find it interesting enough but there is this one girl that keeps playing the game for more than half an hour until I said to her to quit the game. She said that she feel challenged to get a better score. I do not expect anything from this mini game. I just want to release it and see how it goes.
  • I have done all the sound effects, the main character dead animation, game over windows, option buttons to retry or quit the game, option setting to turn on/off sound effects and background music, crushing new bugs, etc.
  • I still need to make a different background music version for the main gameplay event, to add game over music background, to make program code of leaderboard and achievement features for Android and iOS devices, to incorporate interstitial ads into my game and to create an option to remove the ads for each related devices.
  • I plan to use AdMob for android target and iAd for iOS release. I do not have time to research other advertisement providers. For the time being, I just want to get experience of using those two ads providers.

That’s all for this month. Now, I need to get back to Ableton and my mini MIDI keyboard controller to create two fine musical pieces.

P.S: I haven’t touch the textbook draft until now. It is very likely that the book draft will not finish in time by the time I get back to Indonesia. I will re-plan this matter later.

Adding Features and Crushing Bugs

I have just realized that the state of my game now is actually a bit different from my early design plan. The main idea is still intact, but the overall design has gone through an ‘evolution’. After playing the prototype of the mini game over and over again, and changing the parameters numerous times, I felt the necessity to add some features and of course crushing the bugs.

I decide it to add some features into the game to make it ‘more challenging’. Before adding these feature I have already found some small bugs in the prototype but nothing major. I ignore the bugs temporarily since it did not disrupt the testing process. But, after I add the new features into the game it creates some problems. One of the features requires four days of coding. Well, actually it is a small program since it is only a mini games. But, it took me three days to solve the coding problem in order to ‘smooth’ the new feature. Also, by adding this new features I found some major bugs in the prototype. After understanding the bugs, I realized that it actually come from my lack of coding skill and experience. Now, I understand that by adding a feature, you need to somehow ‘synchronize’ it with other related codes. If you unforeseen the conflict of the new feature with other instances within the game, it will break the flow of the gameplay.

Some other features are relatively easy to code and as time goes by I feel more confident to do the ‘proper coding’. In the process, these features compete with each other. The superior features are the outcome from ‘survival of the fittest’ criteria. The shape of my new mini game has becoming much better.

Also, there is a small bug that come from the game engine. I try to find a solution in their forum but no one seems to care since it is treated as a ‘very minor’ bug. Although considered to be ‘minor’, it still annoys me very much. After a series of ‘trial and error’, I finally come up with my own coding solution. I do not know if it is the proper way to work around the bug, but I do not care as long as it works perfectly.

It seems my plan to publish the game at the end of this month is going to fail again. I am very sorry for those who are waiting. I want to make this first mini game as good as it can be. I will write a more detailed progress report at the end of this month. Stay tuned!


Opening Menu Design of My First Mini Game

In these last two weeks, I poured my sweats on refining the opening menu of my first mini game. It is almost finished. I only need to add two last pieces: the back button menu for exiting the game and the background music. I always aim to make my opening menu interesting, engaging and colorful. I have done simple animations for the title, start button and copyright font. If you touch/click the copyright font, it will open a window consisting information about my identity as a developer and the address of my personal website. I also have added a nice animation of the main character in the opening menu, with a simple interaction option. If you touch/click the character, it will create a new simple animation. Some of the animations are made using the tools inside the game engine while other more complex ones are made using Adobe Flash Professional. I also have added sound effects for the animation of the main character and the corresponding ‘clickable’ objects (start button, option button, copyright font, etc).

In the option menu, the player can choose to turn on/off the music and/or the sound effect. Creating this kind of options required some focus in writing the code. It might seems simple but it actually does require some mental thought in refining it. For example, to achieve a seamless effect when you choose to turn off the sound effect while it is playing require a ‘trick’. If you code it the wrong way, the sound effect will be off only after it finishes playing. But with the ‘trick’, I can turn off the sound effect instantly while it is playing and back to play immediately if I choose to turn it on again.

Making the exit button option is quite straightforward. In android, you can click the back button to open the window of this option to exit the game. Although the presence of this exit option is actually not that necessary (especially with modern phone that has a manual button to exit an application to the main/home menu), it is a standard option that exist in almost all phone applications. Regarding the background music for the opening menu, I want to create an atmosphere where you can sort of imagine the game play that I will present after you touch/click the start button. I hope the opening menu can lure the player to try the gameplay.

Learning from Flappy Bird

Today, a friend of mine informs me of a new game made by a man from Vietnam, Flappy Bird. He says the game is very addictive. I instantly go to my phone and download the game. It struck me on how simple the design is and the gameplay is very very hard to master. After 15 minutes, I manage only to get a score of 6. later, I found out that I actually perform a little bit better from most people. May be if I invest more time I can do a lot better. The game reviews usually contain an ambiguous statement. Something like it is too simple, having poor design, very hard but super addictive. People who went playing on it saying reviews on google play something like I wanna throw my phone away, it is satans work, etc but in the end they all cannot resist on how addictive the game is.

Now, the interesting question from a developer’s point of view is: What makes the game so viral? After playing and looking at it from many different perspectives I can only think to two simple positive aspects: hard gameplay and simplicity.  The first aspect is the key in my opinion. The design is very simple. It even reminds us to some other games such as Super Mario Bros (the resembling pipes) and Angry Birds that rhyme with ‘Flappy Bird’. A review even smash the game by saying “that’s a game design no-no“. The sound effects of the game are also average and it has no background music. The only sound I like is when the bird hit the pipe or fall down to the ground. It feels very mocking to our failure. In a way, it feels as if the game trying to play with our psychology. This support my main argument in the key design of this game: hard gameplay.

There are some game designer that try to avoid this aspect and opt to a more fun, casual and cute game. But probably with the right blend, there is a large demand on this aspect. I remember there is a review saying that Candy Crush Saga level is very hard and sometimes close to almost imposible. The reviewer also added King’s scheme plan to push people to buy power ups in order to finish the game. If we look at it from a different perspective, it can actually works because when you finally conquer a gameplay or a level, you feel this unyielding satisfaction. May be this is a game design perspective that need to be reconsidered. I am an indie game developer and I am open to suggestion.