Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Zombies! Aughhh!

It's that time again to begin the next project! I do have a fixed-shooter bunny project on hold and I plan to keep it that way. I could go on with the reasons, but it boils down to me just wanting to salvage the art and scrap the severely flawed 3-4 designs that came about.

I came back to it after a couple months; it was easier to see its drastic flaws so I have no doubts of this decision. The most critical mistakes I made were insufficient prototyping, ignoring early signs of lackluster gameplay, and changing the genre too many times.

With that said, I do have plans of what I would rather create in the next few months. It will more than likely involve zombies, lots of weapons, and fast action gameplay accompanied with simple controls. I have experimented with different control inputs for my handheld devices to ensure I have one that just works well. My games tend not to feature strong story, nor bring out strong emotions in a player, so I need to focus on the fun factor and adjusting the controls so it feels right.

Here is my first attempt for the Kindle Fire. As you can see, I am attempting to make a defense game where the player is barricaded by a wall and must shoot down enemies as they run from the right side of the screen.

The controls function similarly to Geometry Wars, where the left analog "stick" is movement, and the right controls the aim, but it just did not work as well as I hoped. It felt a bit clumsy, especially since the player is restricted to part of the left side of the screen.

My second attempt works much better. It restricts the player to vertical movement and allows easy shooting with three buttons that always fire to the right. This makes movement and positioning critical (plus, speed upgrades become more important) and allows for more tactics based on enemy distance (e.g. shotguns for close range, rifle for long distance).

All this may seem trivial, but it is these things I want to address before moving forward. I also did some experiments to ensure the game will play similarly across all devices that vary in aspect ratio and resolution. The easiest thing is to force a standard one, and draw black borders over unused space. Pigs Will Fly supported 480x320 (iPhone, Android phones) and 1024x768 (iPad's resolution), but Kindle Fire and NOOK have larger aspect ratios so a lot of the screen went unused

I will be supporting 700x400 for the web version, 1024x600 for most/all Android tablets, 1024x768 for iPad, and 480x320 for everything else. Backgrounds will be cropped horizontally if necessary, and the time it takes an enemy to run across the screen will be consistent across all versions. Interestingly, the game may feel harder on the widescreen displays because enemies will appear to be covering distance more quickly relative to the background, but it's just an illusion.

I'll be traveling along the east coast to see family for the next 10 days, so I'll be doing only a modest amount of development for the next two weeks using my laptop. I plan to read "The Art of Game Design" by Jesse Schell and listen to some Indie Game Podcasts on the plane. Also I'll be passing through Asheville, coincidentally the exact evening Indie Game: The Movie will be playing so I have a ticket ready for that.

Lastly, on a random note, here is something I drew for fun...

I took that zombie to stress test how many could be drawn and animated on the Kindle Fire and iPad using six-piece paper doll animation.. the number seems quite good.

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