Ugh, super late progress report >.<
(it’s One Game a Month after all, not One Report a Week)
So, in case you don’t know, right now I’m participating in OneGameAMonth and currently building a game called Black Holes. Black Holes is a mobile game (Android, specifically) where you must pull away enemy bullets from your spaceship by placing black holes. This is the second progress report, you can read the first one here.
Okay, with that out of the way, let’s proceed to the confession: I cheated.
Cheated? Well, yes, the original plan is to work on the game every weekend, but I ended up also working on it in the middle of the third week. It’s not without reasons, earlier I got a suggestion to slow down the bullets and I thought that’s an interesting idea. So I tried to implement it since I thought it would be quick (it’s just some value-tweaking). It is indeed quick, but the resulting game is so much better that I started to tweak other values, changed the interface, and all those incremental improvements since I finally felt like the game is moving on the right direction.
I also ended up adding a pause screen and a result screen. After all, there’s a game developer meetup in the middle of that week, and I wanted to make sure I have a functional game that I can give to people at the meetup. My ultimate test in finding out a game’s level of fun is by giving it to people and see if they’re retrying the game or not. And that’s where the result screen comes in, since I needed a place for the retry button.
So, how did it go? Well, poorly. While people seems to be interested in the mechanic, they’re not interested enough to keep playing it. It’s quite different compared to when I tested out my previous game, Project Claw. When people tried Project Claw, they keep hitting the retry button when they died (which made me quite confident that people will like the game), but not on this game. From the beginning I already had doubt about this game, and seeing this kind of reactions actually confirmed it.
So, what should I do? From what I see during the meetup, people seemed lost and confused while playing the game, not really sure of what to do in it. It looked like the game is too passive, since the players don’t have any immediate goal to accomplish.
To remedy this passiveness, I thought of adding enemies. Having enemies would give player a much clearer goal since they can quickly associate enemy = bad = needs to be destroyed. So now instead of bullets coming from the sides of the screen, the game would have enemy ships firing at our spaceship. On the weekend I quickly implemented the idea and came out disappointed. Apparently it’s so easy to counter enemy ships, all a player need to do it just put a black hole near the enemy and the bullet will randomly hit it.
With that plan unsuccessful, I shifted my focus to the gameplay. I remembered feeling pretty fun at one point in the game, when there are tons of bullets and I hectically tried to catch all of them. That led me to think of a new gameplay where players would try to catch the bullets instead of bending them with black holes. But then I figured that it would totally beat my purpose of doing OneGameAMonth, which is to test out new mechanics. So I scrapped the idea and stick with the current one.
Okay, another try. What if the gameplay is actually fun, but didn’t feel intuitive enough because it didn’t behave correctly? After all, I just used my own hacky calculation to add gravity accelerations to the bullets. And so I opened up Wikipedia to learn how to properly calculate gravity acceleration. Apparently the real formula used distance squared, while I only used distance in my calculation. So I quickly changed it and…
…HOLY CRAP IT WORKS MUCH BETTER!
Seriously, once I used the correct formula, the whole experience feels way better. It is so much better now that a lot of nice additional mechanic kept popping out from my head. One of them is “near miss” mechanic where player would gain bonus score if they managed to make the bullet barely reached the ship. It’s a true risk VS reward mechanic. I also changed the scoring system so players would gain score when they managed to deflect a bullet out of the screen.
Both of this scoring mechanism made the game feels much more active. The players are now being directly rewarded when they do certain things so they understand what they should do in the game. And I really like how the floating text notification (it shows up when the player gains score) turns out =D
And so, at the end of the third weekend, this is what I came up with:
It is really close to the finish line now. I got most of the experience nailed and all that’s left are minor things like the title logo, highscore, game icon, etc. Stay tuned for the final progress log!