Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Star Prober - Officially Launched!

So over the weekend I finally got around to releasing Star Prober, the game I made for Mini Ludum Dare #49. It's now available as a free-to-play game on the Google Play Store (get it here).

Taking the game from a jam game - basically a gameplay prototype - to a (mostly) finished product on a commercial platform was an interesting journey. That was the point, really - I wanted to learn about the processes involved in taking a game all the way and publishing it. Google Play is probably the easiest publishing platform for developers, as far as I'm aware, but it was still something that needed to be learned.

The decision to include In-App Purchases was based on two things, the first of which was, quite honestly, a whim. The second reason I decided to do so was that I wanted to learn the technical requirements and methods of implementing payment solutions into Unity applications. I generally don't play much in the way of free-to-play, or indeed mobile at all, but since this is a tiny game that's easy enough to play, I didn't feel that the freemium elements were particularly mailcious.

The gameplay itself is identical, though I touched up the graphics a bit and expanded on the interface. Most of the changes went into expanding on the GUI and fitting it to Android devices, and setting up an IAP system for a few small gameplay bonuses. I didn’t actually change the gameplay balance to accommodate the IAP scheme – the game is perfectly playable without them.  Instead, they basically just make the game easier, if that’s something you’re interested in.

Challenges


I spent a lot of time struggling with the whole in-app purchasing thing, in fact. I used the OpenIAB plugin for Unity, which has a few issues – it’s hard to figure out when OpenIAB is ready to start performing billing and inventory operations, and the event-driven structure means that there are delays involved in getting feedback from it, so you need to use round-about ways to get information at the right time relative to the rest of your code. Since it’s fairly new, the documentation isn’t yet completely clear, though that’s something that the developers seem to be working to fix. Took me about a day and a half to get running properly, a more experienced developer will be able to figure it out sooner.

The game was tested on Nexus 4, 7 and 10 devices, and has screenshots uploaded for each of those screen sizes, but I still get the “Designed For Phones” tag, and I don’t know why, so that’s something I need to figure out. Sometimes there are also stuttering issues, which I still want to get to the bottom of, though they don’t appear to impact gameplay all that much.

Conclusion


Overall though, I’m happy that the game works and is out there. I decided to release it mostly as an experiment and as a learning exercise – how do you make Android games ready for release? How do you actually build an IAP scheme into a game? How do you Beta test and publish using the Google Play Store? I feel I’ve learned a good deal with regards to all these questions, and that’s really what I set out to do, so I’m happy with that.

I hope Star Prober brings you at least a few minutes of entertainment!  Once I’ve waited a bit to see if there are any outstanding issues for other users, it’s off to the next game. Maybe MiniLD #50?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Star Prober - Day 3

Star Prober, probing asteroids and dying oh gods this is hard
So today I finished work on my Mini Ludum Dare #49 game, Star Prober (formerly Space Prober, because reasons). It is available over at its submission page, here. What I ended up with is a decent little one-button game that I feel like fleshing out a bit more over the coming weeks. I didn't have a whole lot of time or energy to dedicate to this, unfortunately, but I did the best I could, and I'm fairly happy with the result. I had a lot of fun playing around with the basic mechanics!

It's rather difficult and a little aimless, so I need to work on providing the player with a stronger sense of progression or direction; I also want to make the game both difficult as well as compelling. The balance isn't quite there yet, but I'm confident that, if I can motivate myself to work more on it, I can arrive at something fun. I am also planning on porting it to Android (actually, I have already done so, but there are some bugs and optimization issues to be solved).

Anyway, I hope it provides you all with a few moments' enjoyment at least! Till next time!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Space Prober - Day 2


So today I got a bit more work done on Space Prober, including deadly asteroid collisions, planets, infinite universe generation, and so on. Most of the gameplay is already in place; from a design perspective, all that's missing is some kind of time pressure that forces the player to keep moving. I have a few ideas!

Otherwise, I hope to spend tomorrow focusing on polish - adding sound, particles, touching up the graphics, improving the GUI, etc. Hopefully, by tomorrow evening, I'll have something that's at least somewhat juicy and is fun to play around with for a few minutes!

I also successfully ported the game to Android, which was a nice moment after some struggling with Java directories. So maybe one day, in a few weeks or months, Space Prober will land on the Google Play Store!

Anyway, we'll see how that all goes. For now, I need to go get some sleep.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Space Prober - Day 1

This shows the space probe orbiting a star.
I have successfully worked on my game, Space Prober, today! I've actually already got the core mechanic working, though it needs a lot of polish. The probe swings around through space and starts to orbit any planet it hits.
Tomorrow's work will be implementing planets, asteroids, battery usage and recharging, and otherwise getting the core mechanics working. Sunday will be for polishing, tuning, and making the game look and sound nicer!
I'm already liking the swoopy feeling of slingshotting the probe around, and I can't wait to get down to really making it feel right!
Get some rest, everyone, and enjoy the jam!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Female Characters in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

So today I played through Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons in a single sitting.  It was an aesthetically beautiful game that did a great job at featuring thematically appropriate and fun mechanics, and it had what was in some respects a touching narrative.  But there was one particular subplot of the story that really bothered me even while playing it, and as I sit down now and think about the game in retrospect, I realize that that one subplot is in fact part of a larger problem the game has - namely, the way it handles its female characters.

From this point on I will completely and utterly spoil almost all the plot twists and surprises in Brothers.  If you plan on playing it, only come back here once you're finished, or if you don't mind having the entire plot spoilered before playing it.