Digital Minimalism Part II

I ended my previous post noting that I have more to say about Digital Minimalism. This is a follow up post with some more personal thoughts about the approach and a general catch-up.

Firstly, I’ve not done a brilliant job of acting in the spirit of a digital minimalist. I started on a good path but have noticed bad habits creeping back in. After unfollowing >1000 accounts, Twitter quickly worked out how keep me hooked, showing me distractions from my friends’ ‘likes’, or just random ‘popular tweets’. I’m being extra mindful of my rules and am spending another 30 days being incredibly strict with them. If my feed keeps being filled with trash, I may have to abandon the service altogether.

Secondly, I’ve recently hit a bump in my relationship with technology in the form of mobile gaming. In a surprising development, I’ve started to replace social media downtime with Clash Royale. (And other games but seriously CR is great).

Mobile Games

This presents a potential problem for me. I create mobile games in my day job, so cutting mobile gaming out of my life altogether is not a path I want to go down. It is important for me to examine how games evolve over the course of many months. Many games now have years worth of content.

This is a symptom of a wider problem with mobile games – one I try to actively avoid in my own work. Many mobile games addict and manipulate in the same way as social media apps. As a game designer, I do not consider many of them to be nourishing, or even to be a force for good. There are many that I don’t consider to be games, merely funnels.

I want to write more about these problems, but I feel that many other commentators are much more qualified than I am and are already making brilliant points. After release, I will describe how my current project is designed to be engaging, rather than addicting.

For now, I am using this next 30 days to hiatus from all mobile games – even my favourite picross puzzles! Our development team selects one mobile game per week to play together and analyse, which is my only exception. Replacing this time with writing blog posts or focusing more on music, I hope to find new ideas from other disciplines.

Try it

Until then, I encourage you, too, to look at how you’re using technology and how technology is using your time. I’m drinking a lot more espresso and writing a lot more songs. Procrastinating just as much but with more creative outcomes.

Crocodile Cat: Got some art in

I’ve now passed a threshold on development of Crocodile Cat:

THE GAME IS NOW VISUALLY APPEALING

I’ve been really lucky to have Rebecca Deakin working on the art for the game.
Rebecca has been great at working with my slightly nonsensical ideas (It’s a cat in a bubble trapped between the jaws of an infinite crocodile) and making them appear practical and, most of all, gorgeous. The bubble has been replaced by a jetpack. See, I can’t draw a jetpack. But Rebecca can.

Checklist:

☑ Can draw cats

☑ Can draw jetpacks

☑ Can draw anything

I spent a bit of time last week incorporating some of these new assets, which meant working with (and adapting) Unity’s animation system and creating some parallax layers. It takes me away from game design, but it’s important and interesting work.

There’s still some placeholders in the above gif, so more to go in, more things to change, but it’s a great step towards sharing the project with more people.

The jaws are now at an angle with the screen, which makes it look amazing. This design change required a lot more behind-the-scenes work than you’d expect! The advantage of starting a project without an artist is that you can focus solely on game design, but the disadvantage is that by building things quickly, you can sometimes lock down things you don’t expect to change. I’m really pleased to be working with Rebecca since it’s little changes like this that really add to the visual appeal of the game, which will be really important in the coming months.

Find more of her work at http://www.rebeccadeakin.com/

Introducing: Crocodile Cat

I’m at a stage in my current commuter project where I think I’m ready to start sharing and writing about what I’m making. 

Introducing: Crocodile Cat 

It is a very silly and simple one touch mobile game about a cat in a bubble who is trapped between the jaws of an infinite crocodile. Currently it features art made by myself in MS Paint, but it will look good one day. 

The gameplay is basic, the player cat is moving up and down vertically between the crocodile’s jaws. The player must tap to change direction before they touch the jaws, and the jaws move to the position that the cat was at when the player tapped.

This encourages the player to test their nerve by changing direction as close as possible to the jaws, since the play area is shrunk with every tap. 

The jaws are opened again by collecting special coins that fly through the scene, disrupting this game of chicken by offering a reward and brief respite from the increasing pressure. 

A .gif below shows the game working in it’s current state. Early days yet but the mechanic is already testing well. I’m looking forward to seeing where I can take it!

Pun Driven Game Design: Square Rave

Time for another installment of my infrequent blog on pun driven game design. This time I turn the focus to Square Rave, an absolutely superb music game with a very punny title!

For those who don’t know, Square Rave is a game in which you must drag your finger across different coloured squares, and make sure your finger is in a blue square at the end of each bar of music. Sounds easy, but of course there is a twist in that you drop red squares behind you which block your path. Uhm… take a look:

So it’s a bit like Chime and a bit like Snake but not very much like either. It’s its own thing, and it is superb!

Enough about that, what about the pun? Well, Square Rave is a game that contains squares, dance music and square waves, so it’s pretty descriptive. The title of the game does not disclose the gameplay concept, but the user knows they are in for a music led square-party!

I asked, and this game’s was not completely driven by pun, though it’s art style and musical direction has clearly benefitted from it! The game is great pun and you can nab yourself a copy here (iOS)

Time for some arbitrary scores:

Game: 9/10
Pun: 9/10
Pun implementation: 7/10

Pun Driven Design: Cat-a-pult

I published a blog recently about pun driven game design. This started, mostly, as a joke between friends, and since then we’ve been coming up with pun-led game concepts. There are many fine developers already working in this area, and so I thought a few blog posts acknowledging their work would be a welcome addition to this blog whilst I decide which game I’m going to make next.

This post is dedicated to Cat-a-pault: Toss 8-bit kittens, the wonderful single mechanic mobile game in which you fire cats across the screen in order to stack them. You want to download it already, right? Here are some links:

Android
iOS

The game is as simple as it sounds. Pull back on the cat to launch it, Angry Birds style, and with some skill you’ll be able to land it on the podium. Any following cat must land on the cat pile, to which it will adhere as if it’s fur were made of velcro.

The game is as tricky as it is addictive. If you’re lucky enough to reach the top of the screen without the tower falling, your game view will rise and you’ll be able to keep on building. Be warned, creating a sturdy structure on just one cat is a huge challenge!

But back to the puns. Assuming the developer started with the pun and went from there, there is one disappointment in this game. There isn’t a catapult on screen. The cats just launch themselves using an invisible force. Luckily, the game is hooky enough that you don’t care, but come on. Good puns need good follow through, and this is the one area which leaves you wanting.

I’ve decided, as is my whim, to award some arbitrary scores to this and any upcoming pun-based blogs.

Game: 8/10
Pun: 9/10
Pun Implementation: 2.5/10