Colour Puzzle Game Prototype

First of all, Happy New Year everyone! I hope you are feeling optimistic about the new year and feel relaxed after the holiday season.

In this blog post I’m going to talk about a new game prototype I have been working on. You can download an apk of my progress here: prototype.apk(18mb)

I’ve been working on this puzzle game idea sporadically over the past few months and I’m pleased to share some progress with you. I’ve programmed a few simple rules and a level editor, and have been doing most of my level design on paper. Over the last few days of the year, I finally programmed a few levels into the game.

I’d love to hear what you think. Particularly, I’d like to hear feedback on:

  • Were the rules clear? Did you get stuck on any of the early levels?
  • Which levels did you find particularly puzzling?
  • Did you find any levels boring?

Release Notes

Below is a list of known issues / work in progress

  • UI is very placeholder: coins and hint buttons do nothing
  • ‘Zen’ levels not ready – button disabled
  • You will pass with a blue (pass) or purple (perfect) star. Occasionally, the game awards an incorrect star.

Download link: prototype.apk(18mb)

Crocodile Cat Released

The archives of this blog show how long I have been working on Crocodile Cat. It was my “teaching myself unity” project for a while, it was a commuter project when I was a junior, and now I am a lead designer at a larger studio – I don’t have so much time for personal projects. After a few days of -actual- relaxation over the holidays, I decided to finish it.

Task list

The biggest unfinished task was the audio. I enjoy making sfx and music (and I’m quite good at it). Unfortunately, I left all of my audio gear behind in the UK when I moved to Canada. Still, I have done my best using freesound and a few synths I still have a licence for.

The game design challenges also needed attention. Digging into old code is hard. When that code was written by a beginner, harder still. Through some user testing, I believe my tutorial is better than it has been but the game does not do a perfect job of teaching itself. Chance affects the difficulty curve more than I would like. But the game is stable, playable, fun and it is complete.

Play on Android through this link.

Completion

It now sits on the app store and a weight is off my mind. I can move on. Perhaps foolishly, I’m excited to start on another Unity game. I should wait until I’m back at work to decide if I can handle this though, or I will be sitting on yet another unfinished project. Rebecca Deakin created the wonderful art for this game and I took too long to share it with the world!

Crocodile Cat

Crocodile Cat is a game where you control a cat that has become trapped between the jaws of an infinite crocodile.

It is a reflex game where you must tap the screen before the cat reaches the jaw of the crocodile. Once you tap, the jaw moves to the location the cat was when you tapped. This makes the play area smaller with each input, so consistent skill is important to reach a high score.

The player collects power coins to open the jaws. The power coin distracts the player’s attention and encourages to make a decision: risk collecting the coin to extend the run or make a mistake and greatly increase the difficulty.

The player can unlock cats by collecting gems to spend in order to free them and use them. Each cat has a unique power: extending or increasing the chance of seeing a different power coin type. Spending gems gives cats nine lives. Buying a key from the store gives cats infinite lives.

The artwork for this title was created by Rebecca Deakin. Rebecca is an obviously talented artist and illustrator who I had the pleasure of working with back at Plug-in Media.

This is the first game I coded and published myself using the Unity engine. It was my “Teaching myself Unity” project. It is now available to play on Android through this link.

Collaborating on RememBear

Remember RememBear, the third of SeptemBear!

As a solo, hobbyist game designer I have made some dreadful games. I have made some OK games. I have seldom followed a game through to its fullest potential. I think this is because we seldom do our best work alone.

I’ll often show people my prototypes at Brighton Indies if the mood is right. So many people’s opinions and ideas have contributed to RememBear, some which have been directly added, some which have been tweaked, and others which have been ignored. In fact, the game was almost finished when someone pointed out that the design itself was broken. That was embarrassing, but this is how we learn.

More importantly than showing your game to people is working closely with others. This is the first time that I have worked a project through to release with other people (professional employment aside). It has taken me a while to realise the importance of this, which is a further embarrassment. You love your game, you think it’s ace. You’re probably not conceited enough to think it’s the best game ever, but still you don’t realise how important other people’s input is.

With that in mind, I really, really need to thank Faye for her work on RememBear. I needed someone to fill in my coder art and she did so much more – coming up with amazing ideas like the bear-mugshot for the score counter, and literally helping me think outside the box with the bear attack effects. The game would not be worth even looking at without her talent and ideas and she is awesome.

I spend a lot of time looking at the art on her website, tintreas.co.uk and I encourage you to. Also please follow her twitter and tumblr accounts.

Secondly, Joe is an amazing writer, who gave the game a voice. The tutorial text in game was a bland “press x to y” instructional text, and by rewriting it in a Drill-Sergeant Ranger character it became so much more engaging and just as instructional. He also advised and revised the tutorial design, because RememBear is a pretty difficult game to explain to someone – as easy as it is to play. Joe also helped when writing the verse for the trailer (and came up with the idea), tidying my terrible rhymes into something more sensible.

Follow Joe’s twitter and read his stories.

If you’re making a game on your own and you want to release it, find incredible people to work with. You’ll thank them.

The Making of RememBear’s Trailer

Hello!

By now you’ve probably seen the trailer for RememBear. This post is going to discuss how it came together and look at some of the decisions I made whilst creating it. Just in case you haven’t watched it yet, it’s linked below:

The original creative direction for RememBear was to revisit woodland characters as they might have been portrayed in old fairytales. No child should survive an encounter with a bear. This fairytale element led Joe (the game’s writer) to suggest delivering the tutorial in rhyme.

This was a brilliant idea and caused me to make this remark on twitter:

But is was not to be. It’s more important for a tutorial to be clear than it is for it to be awesome. Nevertheless, the seed had been planted and come trailer time, I knew that I had to explain the core concepts of the game through rhyming prose.

But how to go about that? I’m lucky to have been working on some animation production at work recently, so I’ve gotten quite handy with After Effects and Premiere Pro. It would be great to have seen my characters fully animated, but I’d run out of art budget and I believe that a game’s trailer should reflect its content, so I had to compile something awesome just using the in-game sprites.

I flick through the asset source. This is going to be easy.

First off, I storyboarded the trailer in a few panels, just to get a feel for the story I was telling. The image below is an early revision, but is the tidiest(!) image I have to share of this. On a small & personal project, this process is more like brainstorming and its aim is to create the foundation of the story you are telling. Putting your ideas into shots helps visualise the narrative.

(If you’re working with an animation team, please make sure your storyboards are tidy and well composed. Please.)

With the structure in place, I moved on to the script. Since I had my framework, knew I had to set the scene, introduce the baddies (bears), introduce the heroes (rangers) and end on a cliffhanger. Easy. “It’s picnic time in Bearsville park…”

I handed my completed script to Joe who smoothed a few things out. Meanwhile I wrote a quick ExtendScript that would let me generate a large forest scene in Photoshop (using the 4x Assets for the iPad) to use as my background. I needed a larger forest than the game’s play area to allow for lots of camera movement to keep the viewer’s interest. The production pipeline became clear:

I’d create a set in Photoshop, direct the actors in After Effects, then choose my shots in Premiere.

Just as I’d finished exporting the forest foreground into After Effects, Joe got back to me and I started recording voiceover.  

I recorded the voiceover to a metronome because the poem was very rhythmic and I knew I’d be adding music. This would prevent me from having to retime my animation at a later date! I added the sprites in time with the script recording and got ready to export. At this point, I could see everything coming together. Very exciting!

The next job was adding zooms and pans in Premiere, much as I was tempted to start on the music. I’m used to receiving a final cut of a video when I work as a freelance composer, so I thought I’d treat myself in the same fashion! Of course I knew I had the luxury of adjusting any cuts that weren’t quite fitting with the music.

Music composition will be the subject of my next blog post.

With everything timed, cut and looking beautiful, I added the app store buttons, blood splats, some SFX from the game and exported at good settings. Video encoding can be an artform in itself, so I took great care with this step and I advise you to.

How long did the process take? Working evenings and weekends, I’d say the Trailer took about a week to produce. It’s time well spent and I got to exercise my skills in areas outside of game development too. I’m really pleased with my trailer and I hope that you have enjoyed watching it!

If you’d like to know more about RememBear you can follow me on twitter, like the Facebook page or subscribe to my blog.