TRANZFUSER WEEK #7

In this week, we focused on the aesthetic of the game and punched through a list of miscellaneous tasks that needed to be completed.

As part of the feedback we received. People like to plan 2 moves ahead. We’ve changed the seeds that are displayed on the launchers so that the game shows the next two colors instead of one, to provide more information. Along with this, we’ve iterated the style of the launcher which animates the first part to bounce the seed in to the grid, and then catches the next one. This will be iterated further in the coming days so that it feels nicer and more fluid.

 

Launch

 

We’ve added 3 power ups…

The Bomb:

 

Bomb

 

The Switch:

 

Switch

 

The Color Bomb:

 

CBomb

 

On difficult levels, these tools will be used to complete the level. This is where level designing will be very important to find the right balance between difficulty and skill and which encourages the use of these items that will be in-app purchases and rewards. We want the player to feel happy and clever for using them, as they foresee the sequence of events that will happen, to enable them to swipe that very last shape they need to complete the level.

More work is needed on the flowers that represent the individual power-ups. More clarity on which power up is which, the on/off states and an animation of it, as one is used.

 

This is an example of the different moods we’re trying to create for the different chapters of the game. We now have the ability to choose 3 layers for each level. A background that will splash the colour pallet of the level, a mid-ground for the arrangement of stars & weather effects and a foreground where it shows flowers and rocks. We can set a combination of these to create a larger amount of content and will tie in with the narrative and Ruya’s journey.

 

ContentAndMoodVariation

 

Taking into account the direction of the game design that has been made in the last couple of weeks, we realised that the up-tempo, bouncy themes already written for the game weren’t really fitting the new mood. The new Ruya wants to communicate a sense of peace to the player, the gameplay has a more relaxing pace as we got rid of any time restrictions. This needed to be reflected by the background music which has been stripped down to fewer layers and dropped in bpm, from the bouncy 120, down to a more chill out 90.

Long sustained chords replaced the short staccatos of the original theme but still keeping the same catchy melody that received good feedback from our testers.

We’re also experimenting with matching some ambience sound to the music to enhance immersion. Sounds like rain, fire, wind, crickets and waves are commonly known for their calming effects on the listener. So after gathering some recordings of these elements, we played them during gameplay together with the music, and we’re now looking to implement matching visuals.

 

TRANZFUSER WEEK #6

End of Week Six

During this week we had the pleasure of speaking to Ian Turnball from Square Enix. It was interesting listening about his career in the games industry and afterwards he played Ruya which he enjoyed and said that it was very well scoped.  He gave some excellent constructive feedback.

At first he didn’t understand what to do. He didn’t understand the two parts to the game, the first part on how the player taps the coloured seeds to place them and the second part in trying to swipe them. When we come to create the tutorial we are going to split these two parts up. So on level one they will learn how to swipe, then on another level they will learn how to tap and place the seeds.

Once he understood how to play, he wanted to jump to some more challenging levels so that he could understand how the game will progress. A large amount of testing in level design will need to be made to find the perfect balance in difficulty for new players, but still challenging enough as the player’s skill increases so that they stay in the gameflow.

He questioned the direction of gravity. He found it unintuitive that when a shape is swiped all the ones below move up, instead of the other way around. It also didn’t make sense that gravity was the right way up when the seeds bounce on the pod, but not when snapped to the grid. This leads me on to our first major change. We have re-ordered the cells so that gravity acts normally. Interestingly, once we had this in, I gave it to people who’d already played it and they had to be told of the change before they realised what’s different. It’s now much more intuitive for first time players, they learn how to stategise faster. It’s also been made in a way so that we can easily reverse gravity which could potentially lead us down even more game play routes.

 

gravity

 

During the develop conference we got some really good advice from Leanne Bayley. Part of the feedback she gave, was how we could show the player that there is a shape available to be swiped. Similar to candy crush flashing candy when a match 3 is possible. We’ve now got a system which checks if there is shape available and flashes to let players know.

 

Hint

 

An issue that we’ve been having is what happens when the player runs out of spaces. Before, it was a lose condition but this felt unfair. Sometimes the player could be playing the best they could but be unlucky with colours on the last few cells. Running out of cells and failing was not a perceivable consequence. Instead, we’ve used the same system but to check where a potential shape can be swiped. It moves the seeds to that position and shuffles the rest then shows a quick hint.

 

Shuffle

 

Feedback has shown that this is feeling great. The game no longer takes you out of your immersion state and its one less constraint for the player to feel pressured on. It makes the swipe count that more meaningful. One problem its caused is that people can spam the grid and keep using the shuffle to complete the level. We’ve found an elegant solution to remove the multiplier every time the shuffle is activated so the player can never get to the higher scores that will win the game.

We are separating levels into chapters with each one expressing a different emotion. Our artist is in the process of creating different styled backgrounds to conjure different moods. We want the player to experience different states in the game where things may look sadder or less bright than before and vice versa to change their emotional response. This will be reinforced by weather particles and ambient sounds.

 

ContentVariation

 

We have the first 10 levels designed. These are currently being tested by a handful of players so we have the insight we need to scaffold our mechanics and refine everything.

 

Levels

 

We can control what colour seeds there are, what shapes to make, size & style of the grid, the swipe count, the score objective and placement of bubbles. Not to mention the block cell which completely reshapes the players strategy. Difficulty gets layered on to the game by increasing the colours and reducing the number of columns by restricting the sorting areas. Bubbles being located high in the grid and forcing the player to complete the level in a certain number of moves, allows us to create so much content, and so many dynamics with just a few simple rules.

We are extremely busy. We have a massive list of tasks that we need to get complete and ideally we’re aiming to get these tasks done by Sunday 14th August. We can then spend the second from last week on play testing, balancing and refining the tutorial. Next week is going to be a real push!

TRANZFUSER WEEK #5

End of Week Five

During our 5th week we focused on refining some of the core elements that we’ve been working on.

Two of these critical elements have been Ruya and her coloured companions. We are now beginning to feel happy about Ruya’s character design. As we carry out tests and show her to people, we start to get the emotional response from our target audience we are looking for. We are beginning to observe their body language and first impression to tell us how they truly feel about what they’re looking at.

 

ruya_01

 

Since beginning this process Ruya has changed a lot. It has ultimately led to a game tailored for a specific audience, that we believe will generate a special kind of trust between us as designers and our players.
We’re exploring the idea of anthropomorphisation and non-verbal communication to establish a bond between the player and Ruya. We want players to feel a sense of empathy towards her and this has influenced how she is constructed. She is built to animate in a way that allows us to make simple gestures during gameplay in order conjure up different emotions.

 

seeds

 

When testing different game pieces, the negative space around the shape has been very important to us, so that it is very clear to the player what can be connected to what as the player swipes. Not just through colour.

We’ve been honing in on our mechanics and exploring how they can be dressed to imply an overall metaphor for the game. We believe it’s important for our games to have meaning. From this we have developed the idea that the coloured game pieces are the seeds of her character, which when awakens, blossoms into a flower. The score is represented by the flower which snap to her horn.

 

flowers

 

This presented us with a problem, the multiplier was now meaningless because there is no number. So we thought of an idea that instead of a number being multiplied, the flower would become more elaborate, larger and more beautiful to imply the player was doing very well! This would be displayed on her horns so that they can see how well they have done throughout the level.

 

Along with these tasks we have been refining our UI, removing the points and the bubble information as these can now be communicated in the game world.

 

points

 

We’ve reviewed where we want to be in 5 weeks and we’ve concluded that removing the balloon mechanic would be a sensible option and instead work and refine the mechanics we already have. We are aiming to create 30 refined and engaging levels. It allows us to keep the UI clean and more readable. The 3 cell types that have been added are providing an enormous amount of variation and strategy to each level, making it less priority to add new mechanics.

 

From lots of art changes comes animation tweaks and this has been very important to keep right as we introduce new things, the game-feel must not be forgotten about. So this has been an ongoing process as everything gets iterated.

The image below is an example of how our artist creates an info-graphic of how the animation states should be hooked up so that everyone understands exactly what to do.

 

Comunnication

 

We are continually pushing for more immersion something which other casual games lack. We are trying to create a space that is multi-sensory. We’ve experimented with a handful of weather effects and sounds in order to achieve a sense of awe and wonder in players.

 

immersion

 

In the coming weeks we will be working on:

  • Refining the power ups
  • Refining the bouncing pod.
  • Level designing.
  • Tutorialising the mechanics.
  • Game world backgrounds.
  • Level selection art assets.
  • Game menu and banner UI.

TRANZFUSER WEEK #4

End of Week Four

This week we have been working on many things and we also got the opportunity to attend Develop down in Brighton. It was a fantastic event that all four members went to see and thanks to UK Games Talent we even got a free ticket for the Indie Dev Day sessions. The talks were really inspiring which has been really beneficial for all of us. We played some great games and spoke to some interesting people. Not only that but we managed to play test our own game with whoever we could and got some great advice from other game developers. We’ll definitely be going again next year.

 

This has been our fourth week and we’re starting to add new art assets in to the scene. One of these is the new multiplier. From where it was originally to the left, we have now centred it down the middle underneath Ruya. We’ve added rotating flower petals to spin in unison with the multiplier timer and it helps with the whole awe and wonder of the game. This along with Ruya’s arms opening when the multiplier is active creates a warm and welcoming aura about her.

multiplier

 

From internal playtesting we already can feel the difference. It’s much more centred and takes up a larger area of the screen, this is focusing the player’s attention on how to gain more points in less amount of swipes. Remember, the player’s objective is to reach the target score. Each game piece within a swiped shape gives you 10 points. If the multiplier is at x2 then this will be 20 points. The level limits the player with a certain number of swipes. So to have an increased chance of success, players need to swipe quickly. The multiplier design encourages this through different coloured flowers for higher levels of multipliers to give an increased sense of achievement.

Surrounding Ruya is her dream catchers. These are diegetic UI components designed so the player is kept immersed and are tangible to Ruya herself. These show the swipe count, target shape, score and bubble count.

A first pass on the character designs have been created. These are like Ruya’s traits/characteristics that you need to wake up.

 

gameplay Ruya

 

Characteristics

 

 

Ruya_2

Ruya

We have managed to get a new type cell implemented. This is an empty/invisible cell. It creates a different level of strategy the player needs to deal with. It restricts the player’s movement from swiping shapes across the other side of the empty cell. The logic behind shape swiping and re-positioning the game pieces below is fairly complex. One of the greatest challenges we’ve been having is implementing the logic behind these different types of cells to alter the movement of the lower game pieces.

 

Some of this weeks core tasks will be:

  • Finishing the block cell.
  • Finishing the balloon mechanic.
  • Second pass on the character and re-design for Ruya.
  • Second pass on the shape and design of each of the coloured game pieces testing different shapes for clarity.
  • Second pass on the bouncing pod.
  • Second pass on the power-up button art.
  • Sound implementation.
  • Fixing bugs.

Tranzfuser Week #3

End of Week Three

This week we have been working on level tools and focusing on our target audience.

We have added a fantastic system to build levels that will create a huge variation of game play. We are planning to implement 4 types of cells.

  • Normal cells
  • Bubble cells that needs be popped
  • Block cells that game pieces cannot pass through
  • In-active cells that allows the game pieces to jump to the next available cell.

The dynamics of the grid along with setting how large the grid is will provide fresh challenging experiences that will keep the player interested. This process needs a fast iterative development tool to make changes to the level design. This week we have been developing just that.

GridExample1

This GUI Inspector code modifies an array of integers and presents the values as a button. Clicking the button circulates the integers from 1 to 4. Clicking ‘Save LevelData’ will then write to a json file the row, columns and values of the array specific to the level. When the game initiates, the grid controller reads the json file and applies the correct size and values of the cells.

GridExample2

1’s represent bubbles and these need to be popped to complete each level. Having a visual representation of the level will make the level designing much quicker. Writing to a json file means the integer array doesn’t need to exist for each level displayed in the level select scene and will only be initialised once the game scene is loaded.

GridExample3

GridExample4

 

As we are going through the process of re-designing some of the UI and visual narrative its important that we keep centered who our target audience is so that we can make decisions based on who the game is for. We spent sometime together defining who that person is that will play our game based on research from other similar games.

target-audience-infographic1a

Its important that that target audience is at the forefront of what we do, so that we have a cohesive experience for the player.

One of our biggest inspirations has been the game TwoDots. The player swipes same coloured dots to complete levels. The game is similar however Tidal requires the player to strategise where to place game pieces for the specific shape to be swiped. Its been interesting to read some of the statistics to understand who their target audience is so we can understand ours better:

  • Audience demographics: 68% women, 32% men
  • Top countries by installs: US, UK, Japan, Russia, Canada, Brazil, and South Korea
  • Installs by platform: iOS: 22m, Android: 6.75m, Amazon: 0.25m, Facebook: 1m
  • Woman:
    • 18-24 (33%)
    • 25 – 34 (33%)
    • 35+ (33%)
  • Men:
    • 18-24 (34%)
    • 25 – 34 (38%)
    • 35+ (28%)
  • Player Types:
    • Diehard (9%)
    • Determined (13%)
    • Casual (55%)
    • Deserters (23%)

Ruya is the type of person that only plays iPhone games on the train or in boring lessons. Tidal’s game play has been specially paced and designed to appeal to the quick, pick up and play gamer. There are no timers, no way that it becomes too stressful to play. She wants to pick the game up and have small bursts of play and when she has time after a long day, to sit back and immerse herself into the levels while the telly is on in the back ground. The rounds system within levels allows Ruya to have resting points, just in case she needs to look up in class and pretend shes listening.

Cute eyes on each of the characters are irresistible to her and her motivation stems from wanting to see more across the unexplored level select screen as well finding out why the small creatures all seem to be asleep and cannot wake up. She’s desperate to beat the level she’s stuck on but might give up if its too difficult. She wants to feel clever again with each tricky level that has a small grid size, and swipes shapes quickly when shes in the flow, gaining high multipliers and variable rewards.

We have a busy week this week. We are working on:

  • Finishing the balloon mechanic.
  • Adding the logic behind different grid types.
  • Adding the characterised game pieces.
  • Adding new in-game UI elements and animations.

We’re also working hard to get a stable build for Wednesday and Thursday for the Develop Conference in Brighton that we are looking forward to!

Tranzfuser Week #2

End of Week Two

This week has been busy and we’re coming up with new ideas each and every day, showing just how dynamic and changing, game design is. The core game tasks have mostly been complete such as the level system, level unlock process, transitions from the level select to the game and back again once achieved/failed. As well as the bubble mechanic.

The bubble mechanic is where a shape needs to be swiped on specific cells/bubbles for the bubble to pop. This creates a whole new experience, one that is more challenging and much more strategic. Instead of swiping a shape as soon as you see one. The bubbles at the lower end of the grid require the player to build up the game pieces and in turn create more risk of running out of spaces. The optimal way is to group the game pieces via colour and then be able to swipe shapes in an emergency. But this risks running out of swipes on the swipe count per level. It’s going to be a great balance, with immense amount of tuning but I think will create a real fun and challenging experience, different every level.

We’ve also designed the star system that grades the player on each level. The first star is measured on the lowest requirements to complete the level – achieving the score, removing bubbles etc. Then it measures on how many swipes are left and swiping shapes in quick succession gaining higher multipliers.

The Week starting today is focused on

  • Adding the second game mode, rising balloons. – Every so often a (helium)balloon will be placed at the bottom of the grid and will rise to the next closest creature who will grab it. Each time a shape is swiped the creature lets go and it will be grabbed by the next creature until it can reach the top and float away.
  • Menu to level select transition and music.
  • Implementing different grid sizes.
  • Adding new music to get a sense of feel to the new game modes and level transition.

 

This will give us a great foundation to start building new and varied levels.

Progress Update

In my last blog post I spoke briefly about the challenges we’ve been having with player motivation. The key way we are trying to overcome this is with levels so the player can visualise, where they’ve come from, where they are going and that each level is given a grade so they can see how well they have done throughout the game.

What we have also been working on in the background and coming up with ideas for, is sparking an emotion on the player. From feedback we’ve had we know the game is enjoyable. The previous mechanics kept some players going for 30+ minutes and holding a 20% 7-day retention. This however isn’t enough, we know the game has serious and hard fun elements but we’re only working with non-emotive mechanics. This past week we’ve been working hard to come up with something that will make us stand out, that will separate us from other simple casual games such as the match 3.

This idea we’re pushing with the level select with planet-like characters is good but only provides a small narrative edge. We need to go further and create a more meaningful experience, we need to create more emotion. We’ve had many ideas, but the one we’re settling on, and this week started to iterate upon, is based around a small girl in a deep sleep.

We are in the process of testing the idea that the player is experiencing the dream of a girl that is in a coma. It will mostly all be centred around the level select screen and will only provide a subtle push towards an emotion not heavily forced on the player. The menu screen will show the girl sleeping in her bed, with small clues of her condition. The player taps dream and there is a transition from the bed room to the level select screen and her imagination lighting up the sky with playful characters and cheerful upbeat sounds. It’s also heavily influenced on Alan Watts and ‘the real you’ and questioning yourself if you’re ready to wake up. In terms of making the game stand out, it’s really important to try and take things not too literally. The world is a pallet of influences and we can literally pull from anything, the challenge comes from knowing what components to bring in to appeal to our target audience.

 

Notes1

 

Last Thursday we had the chance to present the game to the UCS Game Design lecturers and people from the Eastern Enterprise Hub. This provided us with valuable feedback which we noted such as:

  • Reducing the pink. Although our target audience is mainly female we don’t want to alienate other potential players.
  • Keep it cute. The game pieces look very playful. The X shaped characters with eyes are very likable.
  • Don’t limit the game with one X shaped character. Becomes derivative.
  • The bounce sound effects are cheeky and enjoyably child-like.
  • Arranging the X shape game pieces to swipe shapes feels highly addictive.
  • The game name ‘Shape The Mix’ is not very catchy

 

Notes2

 

This has made us think about where the game can go and to push ourselves to do more.

The original X character will be among other cute alien like creatures and planets in her imagination who will help guide the player along their journey of awakening or enlightenment. When playing the actual game, it will also help to clarify what shapes can be swiped if each creature is its own colour and shape-design.

Here is one of the mock-up ideas we’ve had.

GameplayMock_02

 

We’re thinking of new game names:

  • Within
  • Inside My Head
  • Nothings Real
  • Waking Up
  • Nothing
  • Same Voice
  • Beyond
  • Tilde
  • Cathersis
  • Far Away Look Up
  • Tidal

Tidal is a favourite like a wave passing over her mind and covering her conscious self.

Trapped in a coma, Ruya explores her dream on a journey of self-realisation. Tidal is a game where waking up is everything.

The names for things can change. But the meaning of Ruya means “vision, sight”.

Tranzfuser Week #1

End of Week One

This week has been very much design driven. Key areas being Art style, level system, intrinsic rewards and new game modes, and how this will all come together.

We’ve also re-worked our milestones putting some things such as character and mixy shape designs into the back log while we focus more deeply on to the UI design and readability for our target audience.

Our core objective within this competition is to increase player retention and strategizing how we can monetize the game. Before the competition, the player’s progression was based around passing rounds/waves of new objectives. Objectives such as:

  • Swiping shapes until reaching the target number of shapes.
  • Swiping shapes to reach the number of points required.
  • Swiping any type of shape.

The problem we face is shown to us through the analytics. From 100 play testers people start to give up at Round 15. The player finds less motivation to carry on and the rounds begin to get increasingly more difficult only in terms of quantity of shapes to swipe.

The player needs to know how well they have done and where they are going. A Level system is how we plan to do this and to give the player a sense of progression and each level being graded a star. This is what I have been working on this week along with Patryk. We are changing the core round system so that it works based on levels. Levels are placed on a vertical map which you scroll up as you progress through them. We have also cut the number of game types because 3 wasn’t clearly understood and created a lot of clutter in the UI. Instead we are having just one, swiping shapes until you have hit the number points required and this will help with readability.

Within the Level map there will be characters that play as a sort of visual narrative similar to TwoDots. This is what Bradley has been working on, first sketching out some ideas and then progressing through into Photoshop. He has also been working on the UI layout for the upcoming game modes and defining the color pallet.

In the coming week once the level system has been implemented we will be moving on to the two new game modes:

  • Bubbles and,
  • Balloons

Once the player has been introduced to the core mechanics. The player will be given another objective. Along with swiping shapes, they will need to swipe the shapes in specific cells to pop bubbles. All of the bubbles must be popped for the level to be complete. Balloons will need to rise among the cells until it can float away meaning the player needs to swipe a shape above the balloon to keep it floating. All these objectives will be dependent on a swipe count and great balancing will be needed to pull these mechanics and grid sizes together to keep the player in the game flow.

Enrico has been refining the gameplay music and theme along with creating varied versions for the different game modes to create a different feel of gameplay similar to Candy Crush Saga.

We have made good progress. And once the level system is complete. Work can start on the new challenging game modes.

Tranzfuser Application Success!

I have been accepted on to the Tranzfuser programme created by UK Games Talent. It is fantastic news. The game I have submitted is called Shape The Mix which can be viewed on my portfolio here. It is one that I began at University and I am thrilled that I have managed to get it recognised and funded by UK Games Talent.

I am team leader for our team called Miracle Tea Studios which consists of 3 others. Bradley who is the main artist/UX designer/animator. Patryk who will be involved with coding/level design/social media and Enrico who will be creating all the sound effects and theme sounds.

I have a strong team and I am confident we can produce something really great in 10 weeks. It is however going to be a testing time balancing full time work on my other project with this, so I’m going to have to manage my time effectively.

Starting on the 20th!!