Monthly Archives: August 2012
For a bit of context, before developing our game, I developed (and still develop, at least until we magically stumble onto this mythical ‘income’ and ‘success’ stuff I keep hearing about at the IGDA Sydney events) helpdesk and financial systems, mostly database-driven web apps.
After years learning my trade at a tech-shop, I began to work on my own, and for the past few years have built helpdesk systems internally for a mob with the money to do so. Thing is, that while I had it beaten into me savagely that documentation and in-line comments were the most important things about what we did at the tech-shop (proven every time someone failed and profanity-laced verbiage took to the air come deadline-time) years of working as the sole programmer in the wild west that is my current place of employment… I began to worry that I was getting lax.
At the end of the last tech blog, I said I was going to write next about the problems we’ve had with our choice of framework. I’ve decided to postpone that a post or two and instead discuss something which has dominated much of my brain over the past few manic weeks: user interfaces in mobile games.
So, as of the milestone we hit a couple of weeks ago, we have a character who walks about a world in which plants grow, rocks can be decimated, trees chopped down and all manner of mayhem ensues (there’s even wildlife flying overhead). You can move your little character about, and you can interact with the world.
There’s a full functional inventory system, and it can be filled up with any number of tasty little items from [redacted] to [redacted] all the way up to the popular crowd-pleaser [redacted]. (Although we can and have confirmed TURNIPS! – Leigh)
Which meant it was time to take our design document’s user interface section and… well, implement it. There’s one small problem with that: our game is aimed at mobile phones and tablets, and while they use the same kind of APIs and languages, and are even binary compatible with each other in many cases, the difference in screen size between a typical smartphone and a typical tablet is nothing to be sneezed at.
There’s an old saying that no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy. In this case, mobile phones were the enemy… sneaky little buggers.
As evidently seems to happen when you’re designing a game, I continually receive input from the world around me and think about how it might affect the game.
I recently read an article on The Conversation outlining the multitude of ways in which pain is understood by the brain, already having some understanding of the vast and seldom grasped notion of how we each interpret pain differently.
“…[T]he brain draws on every piece of credible information – previous exposure, cultural influences, knowledge, other sensory cues – the list is endless.”
If the brain can adapt something as seemingly animalistic as pain based on cultural influences, surely we, as developers, ought to think along similar lines when creating motives for players.
Musing on this further, I find that the best answer a developer can give to the wild and untamable human mind’s propensity to interpret cues and signals in a game is with an open game.
When I was a youngling and wasn’t playing purely action-oriented games, I tended towards games which let me build something.
Creating something from very little was a hugely rewarding experience for me, but I always had trouble reconciling the binary objectives of aesthetically pleasing creations and efficient ones.
So much so, in fact, that once the two became mutually incompatible in RTS games, I stopped playing them.
In Age of Empires, the enemy would descend upon my hallowed halls, their majestic facades sending a symbol to all the lands that herein lies the greatest empire the world has ever known. The daunting walls housed but a portion of my available troops – a handful of archers manned the gates.
My message was clear – these walls speak for themselves. Approach and face the wrath my lack of visible army implies! (It’s worse still when you have to do it in Stronghold. So little space inside the castle walls! So much need for farmland! –Rohan)
At this point, quaking with fear, the enemy would march on my gates only to find…. that those few archers were in fact my army because I’d essentially been playing Sim City inside the walls and had a magnificently crafted and perfectly symmetrical city properly divided into districts.